Esko Kilpi on Interactive Value Creation

The art of interaction, the design of digital work and the science of social complexity

Month: December, 2009

The Individual and the Social

There are two distinctly different approaches to understanding the individual and the social on the social web. Mainstream thinking sees the social as a platform or a community, on a different level from the individuals who form it. The social is separate from the individuals. A totally different approach to social media sees individuals as social. Both the individual and the social are then about interaction, where the individual is interaction “inside” and the social is interaction “outside”. The interaction inside is silent and private, while the interaction outside is vocal and more public. The main difference from the first approach is that the inside and outside cannot be separated or understood separately. Here I repeat my friend, Professor Ralph Stacey, and his work which builds on that of Norbert Elias and George Herbert Mead: here both the individual and the social are sides of the same process of communication.

The individual is the singular of interdependence while the social is the plural.

If we subscribe to the second approach, the main importance of social media is in the formation of who we are. An individual recognizes herself, as a self, in the recognition of those she follows and who follow her on Twitter, who like her updates on Facebook etc. In this way of thinking, we leave behind the notion of the self-governing, independent individual for a different notion, of interdependent people whose identities are established in interaction with each other as Professor Doug Griffin, my close friend and teacher has put it. From this perspective, individual change cannot be separated from changes in the groups to which an individual belongs. And changes in the groups don’t take place without the individuals changing. We form our groups and our followerships and they form us at the same time, all the time.

Identity is a pattern in time.

People in companies are often stuck in narrow, repetitive patterns of conversation that provide them with numbing, repressive and even neurotic experiences. We should look at communication as the most predictive group activity there is in forecasting viability and agility. The opportunity provided by social media lies in the widening and deepening of communication leading to new voices taking part and to new conversations that cross siloed organizational units and stale process charts. A key management challenge today is to understand that the only way to guarantee agility and resilience is to actively and widely participate in the conversations that matter.

Richer, more challenging, more exploratory conversations leave people feeling more alive, more inspired and capable of far more creative action.


Thank you Doug Griffin and Ralph Stacey.

Contextual Leadership

Information overload and distractions have been understood as something that knowledge management takes care of. The task of knowing what to pay attention to has been tried to solve through corporate guidelines. Companies have also worked on information processes to mine nuggets worth the attention of knowledge workers. None of the approaches have really helped because it is really not about knowledge management, but about leadership, understood very differently than before.

Our attention is a result of the filters we use. These filters can be a mix of habits, media and tools. Increasingly these filters are social. They are the people in our network who we recognize as experts. Our most valuable guides to useful bits of insight are trusted people, people whose activities we can follow to help us advance and make sense.

Leading, then, is not position-based but recognition-based

There can hardly be a follower without a leader. A lot of management research has focused on the leadership attributes of an individual in the hierarchical organization. Leading and following in the traditional corporate sense have seen the leader making people follow him or her through motivation and rewards. The leader also decided who the followers should be.

Leading and following when seen as a two-sided relationship, not as attributes of individuals, follow a very different dynamic. Leading in this new sense is not position-based, but contextual and recognition based.

People, the followers, decide who to follow, why and when. The leader is someone people trust to be at the forefront in the area, the context, which is temporally meaningful for them. People recognize as the leader someone who inspires and enables them in the present. Another difference from traditional management is that because of the diversity of contexts people necessarily link to, there can never be just one “boss”. Thus, an individual always has many leaders as a default state. You might even claim that from the point of view taken here, it is highly problematic if a person only has one leader. It would mean attention blindness as a default state.

We are now at the very beginning of trying to understand leadership in the new contextual, temporal, framework. The relational processes of leading and following should be seen as temporal and responsive, not only on the Internet but also inside companies.

These patterns can be restricting or enabling. Knowledge work is not about acquiring facts or consuming information. It is about associations. Links are more important than information. Knowing in the brain is a set of neural connections that correspond to our patterns of communication. We don’t only connect with people; we link with topics, with contexts. The challenge is to see all the filters and linkages as communication patterns that are either keeping us stuck or open up new possibilities. We need new skills of dynamically connecting to people, topics and places. This is a growing challenge for our tools. Social media tools have developed tremendously on the publishing and sharing side. The next developments need to take place on the sense making side.

Following is at best a process of learning through observing and simulating desired practices. It is about growing the network and filtering at the same time. Leading is doing one’s work in an inviting and transparent way and being reflective. Leading is thus helping people link to information, filter information and to make sense of the world.


Thank you Stephen Downes

The changing media ecosystem: from channels to contexts

The Internet is disaggregating media content and media logistics. To get to the desired content, you don’t need to go through a channel or subscribe to a newspaper. The number of people going to a newspaper or a TV channel is going down because more and more people don’t get any value from this detour, turning the channel into an extra transaction cost as Paul Graham has pointed out. In this situation what you do, is go straight to the source following the easiest and most direct route, which is what all kids do. However, the traditional role of the channel was not only delivery, but to charge for the content and pay the authors. This creates the problems we have today.

For decades, media companies enjoyed a geographically defined monopoly over the ad market. The iPad and the efficient Apple sales people prolonged the situation and supported the false idea of a digital channel. This is still evident as newspapers are trying to cling to their earnings models, and now try to force customers back to outdated modes of user experience.

The earnings model crisis has been emphasized because of the criticism of the inefficiency of the sales funnel. Advertisers claim that they have overpaid the channels and been under served by them. So is the challenge of the Internet really about people not wanting to pay for content, or what is going on?

The future-oriented alternative would be following what young people do and learning from that. The information related habits of digitally native people are much more efficient and create much more value than the models we were forced to in the past.

There is a fundamental change taking place that is perhaps not fully understood yet.  Aggregation, meaning the decisions on what to include and what to exclude, why and when, is changing from the server-side to the client-side, typically to the smartphone and the user. The context the customer is in matters more than who the customer is. The server-side aggregation/editorial process was largely about decisions on servicing defined customer segments. But because what really matters is the context, the situation the customer is in, the reader/viewer is becoming the editor and wants to decide for herself what to bring together in a bundle. This means that the buyer, not the seller, makes the editorial decisions. Again, why then pay for something that you do yourself?

The Internet is not about channels and sites but contexts and purposes. The concept of a digital channel is not only unhelpful but wrong. For media organizations this means that the unit of competition is changing. For example, newspapers don’t only compete against other newspapers. The articles about a given topic are in competition with writers outside of channels writing about the same issue. Newspaper articles compete against the best stories on the Web and newspaper staff members compete against the best writers on the Net.

People are willing to pay for content, but it has to be good content. The relevance of an article is easy to measure on the Net: how often is it recommended or linked to? Channels can turn into a network also for newspapers, radio and TV. “Social Proof” is the new content filter and an example of future media logistics. Why pay for content of lesser quality when a recommended alternative is available, and often much easier, with fewer clicks, and for free?

The Internet makes the traditional, institutional model of journalism harder to sustain but not impossible. However, if media organizations don’t see what is happening around them, and don’t change their content and channel based focus towards understanding the purposes of people and contexts people find themselves in, we are going to see an irreversible shift from the old types of institutions to a very different information ecosystem.


Thank you Paul Graham, Ralf Blomqvist and Clay Shirky

The death of the sales funnel

The perspective behind the mainstream approach to marketing and accordingly to digital marketing is to create attention, to create eyeballs to feed the sales funnel. That perspective is heavily biased towards the selling side. Its point of view starts with sellers, not buyers. Everybody knows the old saying in advertising: half of the money spent on advertising is wasted. We just don’t know which half. Google has radically reduced the amount of money wasted. But it too produces a lot of wasted expenses because of the inherent, systemic inefficiency of the sales funnel process transforming attention only marginally to leads, and leads only marginally to buyers. The high cost of this process is not normally questioned because the low-returns nature of sales and the sales funnel are taken for granted.

Digital marketing is really about reversing the sales funnel

Digital marketing could reverse the sales funnel and develop business, starting in a people-/context-centric way from the intentions of the buyers, and not from the intentions of the sellers. If you are present on Facebook and if you listen to what people say via Twitter, you hear buyers notifying the market of their intention to buy all the time. It is called demand-side advertising. Unfortunately, and unbelievably, there are still very few sellers who think that it is worthwhile to have a social media presence and to be attentive to this reverse advertising: the digital demand funnel. They are stuck with the sales paradigm of yesterday, the physical world.

But the digital demand funnel does matter. Markets are essentially digital networks of communication. The nodes of the network are people and the links between the nodes are conversations. This is where reputations are earned and reputations are lost. Brands are more about reputations earned in those live, everyday conversations than about the messages bought from advertising agencies to transmit brand promises.

Digital marketing succeeds best if the old ideas of attention are complemented with new ideas of participation. Every company today should know where the conversations that matter take place, and how to take part in a value-creating way. Digital marketing should not only be about creating company sites and marketing messages. It should be about participation in social media.

The challenge is to be where your customers are and to join the conversation.

Social Media requires us to see communication differently than before

In the sender-receiver model of communication a thought arising within one individual is translated into words, which are then transmitted to another individual. At the receiving end, the words translate into the same thought, if the formulation of the words and the transmission of those words are good enough. Then the receiver of the message selects a response and gives feedback. The meaning is in the words. Following this thinking, the most demanding task in communication ends with the transmission. The sender’s focus is on the best possible translation of thoughts into words and on choosing the best possible transmission channels. There is however, a completely different approach to communication. The alternative view is based on the work of George Herbert Mead. This model does not see communication as messages/things/content that are transmitted or shared between senders and receivers, but as complex social action.

In the social act model, communication takes the form of a gesture made by an individual that evokes a response from someone else. The meaning of the gesture can only be known in the response. If I smile at you and you respond with a smile, the meaning of the gesture is friendly, but if you respond with a cold stare, the meaning of the gesture is contempt. Gestures and responses cannot be separated but constitute one social act, from which meaning emerges. Meaning is not in the words alone but also in the responses. Neither side can independently choose the meaning of the words or control the conversation. Thus you can never control communication. When working with Social Media, we need to see communication as a social act in which actions evoke reactions. Gestures call forth responses. These responses are not selected independently. The responses are elicited at the same time as they are selected. It pays to be involved and it pays to try to keep conversations going. The really demanding task of communication only starts with the transmission!

Thank you Doug Griffin and Ralph Stacey

Johtaminen ja digitaalinen työ

Liikkeenjohdossa ei yleensä puhuta siitä mitä tapahtuu, vaan siitä mitä pitäisi tapahtua.  Sille, mitä juuri nyt tapahtuu ei tavallisesti anneta aikaa koska ihanteena on ollut pitää huomio tavoitteissa ja niitä ohjaavissa visioissa. Mutta mitä jos juuri ajalla ja paikalla, kontekstuaalisuudella, onkin huomattavasti enemmän merkitystä kuin olemme ymmärtäneet? Mitä jos toiminnan tuloksellisuus onkin merkittävällä tavalla kiinni intensiivisestä läsnäolosta juuri siinä tilanteessa missä ollaan? Mitä jos kontekstiherkkyys ja siitä nouseva luova oppiminen ja ketteryys ovatkin liikkeenjohtamisessa huomattavasti tärkeämpiä asioita kuin aika- ja paikkariippumattomat yleistykset menestykseen johtavista kausaliteeteista? Mitä jos toiminnalla on aina parasta ennen päiväys? Mitä jos jälkikäteen tapahtuvalla mittamisella ei voi ymmärtää sitä mitä tapahtui, puhumattakaan siitä, että toimintaa voisi tehokkasti ohjata mittareilla?

Organisaatioiden toiminta on toisistaan riippuvaisten ihmisten vuorovaikutusta. Vuorovaikutus on aina kontekstisidonnaista. Se tapahtuu aina ajassa ja paikassa, kontekstissa. Tässä vuorovaikutuksessa ihmiset sekä mahdollistavat asioita toisilleen että rajoittavat toisiaan. Samaten kutsumme ihmisiä mukaan, mahdollistamme osallistumisen tai jätämme ihmisiä ulkopuolelle, suljemme pois. Vallankäyttö verkostoissa perustuu juuri näihin muuttujiin: mahdollistamiseen – rajoittamiseen sekä mukaan kutsumiseen – pois sulkemiseen.

Tärkeää tänään on yhä intensiivisempi osallistuminen tilannetta rikastavalla ja ajattelun liikettä edistävällä tavalla.

Johtaminen on vaikuttamista, joka tapahtuu kommunikaatiossa. Tämän johdosta johtajaa ei voi nähdä erillisenä, ulkopuolisena rakenteiden ja prosessien arkkitehtina. Ainoa mahdollisuus vaikuttaa on kommunikaation kautta – siihen osallistumalla. Johtajan tapa osallistua vuorovaikutukseen selittääkin merkittävällä tavalla organisaation menestystä tai menestymättömyyttä tänään. Johtaja on erityisen näkyvä ja arvovaltainen osallistuja kommunikaatiossa. Johtajalla on myös erityisen suuret valtuudet mahdollistaa asioita, jotka eivät muuten olisi mahdollisia tai kutsua mukaan vuorovaikutukseen tavalla, joka ei olisi kaikille mahdollista. Käänteisesti voimme kuvitella johtamisotteen, joka pelkästään rajoittaa tai estää osallistumista.

Johtaminen verkoston suhteiden ominaisuutena

Yhtä lailla kuin puhumme johtajasta vuorovaikutuksessa, meidän tulisi nähdä, että me kaikki mahdollistamme ja rajoitamme toisiamme kaikissa suhteissa koko ajan. Johtaminen, vaikuttaminen, onkin suhteiden ja vuorovaikutuksen ominaisuus verkostossa yhtä lailla tai jopa enemmän kuin (johtaja)yksilön ominaisuus asemalähtöisesti.

Johtamista tuleekin tarkastella verkoston toiminnassa yhtä paljon tai jopa ensisijaisesti kun pyrimme ymmärtämään johtamista tänään. Vaikuttaminen ei ole vain aseman kautta syntyvä mahdollisuus. Verkostossa tapahtuukin aina paljon enemmän johtamista, ja harhaanjohtamista, kuin mihin esimies voi tai ehtii osallistua. Mielipiteet, joille annetaan arvoa, vaikuttavat samalla tavalla kuin mihin vaikuttaja asemastaan käsin pystyy.

Johtaminen vaikuttamisena syntyy samanaikaisesti johtajan suhteena alaiseen ja alaisen suhteena johtajaan. Esimiehen arvostus alaista kohtaan ja alaisen arvostus esimiestä kohtaan tarvitaan samanaikaisesti. Alainen tekee johtajan hyvin samalla tavalla kuin olemme ajatelleet johtajan tekevän alaisen. Esimies ei voi enää olla esimies ilman, että alainen haluaa olla alainen. Kielenkäyttömme liittyen vaikuttamiseen verkostossa on kuitenkin liian kapea ja stereotyyppinen. Kuvittelemme, että siinä on vain kahdenlaisia toimijoita: esimiehiä ja alaisia. Meiltä puuttuu sanoja, jotka paremmin selittäisivät verkoston toimintaa ja siinä tapahtuvaa vaikuttamista, johtamista ohi esimies – alaissuhteen.

Vuorovaikutuksen laatu, epävarmuuden sieto ja kyky riskinottoon

Jos ymmärrämme organisaatiot toisiaan tarvitsevien ihmisten vuorovaikutuksena pitää huomio kohdistaa vuorovaikutuksen määrään ja laatuun. Johtamisessa korostuu tänään luovuuden ihanne. Vuorovaikutuksessa se tarkoittaa, että ihmiset hakeutuvat kohti niitä, jotka pystyvät luomaan merkityksiä syntyville, kaoottisille, vielä epäselville uusille teemoille. Johtaja on silloin henkilö, joka pystyy artikuloimaan sen, millä ei ole vielä hahmoa muiden mielessä. Käyttäessäni sanaa johtaja tarkoitan sekä mahdollisuutta vaikuttaa asemavallasta käsin että mahdollisuutta hajautettuun, emergenttiin vaikuttamiseen. Johtaja luovassa työssä on vastaavasti hän joka pystyy kestämään luovuuteen aina liittyvää epävarmuutta kauemmin kuin muut ja hän joka mahdollistaa suuremman riskinoton luottamusta lisäämällä kuin muut.

Johtaminen tarkoittaa myös toistuviksi ja kapeiksi muuttuneiden aiheiden uudelleen määrittelyä vuorovaikutuksessa. Kaikki ihmisten välinen toiminta on kommunikaatiota. Johtaminen parhaimmillaan syventää, laajentaa  ja rikastaa vuorovaikutusta. Tämä on erityisen tärkeää organisaation pyrkiessä parantamaan tuottavuutta, tai tilanteessa jossa vanhentuneet, liian kauan jatkuneet toimintamallit ovat kriisiytyneet. Tarkasteltaessa kriisiytynyttä tilannetta, on hyvin tavallista huomata, että vuorovaikutus on loppumassa tai jäykistymässä. Se on joko loppunut, sitä ei ole ollutkaan, tai vuorovaikutus on kapeaa, samoja asioita neuroottisesti toistavaa ja samaa kehää kiertävää. Dominoiva osallistuja myös vaientaa helposti keskustelun ja siten jumiuttaa organisaation paikalleen. Johtajan tärkeä tehtävä on saada paikalleen juuttunut tilanne liikkeelle tuomalla vuorovaikutukseen uusia elementtejä tai kutsumalla mukaan uusia näkökulmia tai ihmisiä.

Tietoverkko mahdollistaa jatkuvan organisoitumisen ajassa

Toisiaan tarvitsevien ihmisten vuorovaikutus on yhä useammin perinteisiä rajoja ylittävää. Toisiaan tarvitsevuus ei siten ole ainoastaan fyysisesti paikallista. Tietoverkkopohjainen vuorovaikutus määrittelee uudelleen aikaisemmin fyysisesti paikallisen vuorovaikutuksen digitaalisesti kontekstuaaliseksi ja sitä kautta määrittelee myös uudelleen sen mistä puhutaan, kun puhutaan kilpailukykyisestä toimijasta globaalissa kilpailussa. Ei ole välttämättä hedelmällistä nähdä maata kilpailemassa muita maita vastaan, tai puhua yrityksestä kilpailemassa muita yrityksiä vastaan. Vaihtoehto on kilpailun ja yhteistyöverkostojen jatkuva dynaaminen, ketterä muodostuminen ja uusiutuminen.  Tavoitteena olisi nähdä elinvoimainen toiminta jatkuvana, joustavana organisoitumisena ja toisiaan täydentävyytenä. Toisiaan tarvitsevien tahojen vuorovaikutukseen osallistuvat muodostavat koko ajan muuttuvia, eläviä ryhmiä digitaalisessa verkossa ja sitä kautta koko ajan muuttuvan ja kehittyvän hahmon ja dynaamisen identiteetin.


Miltä liikkeenjohtaminen näyttäisi jos se keksittäisiin tänään

Liikkeenjohdon tematiikka, leadership/management, niin kuin me sen tunnemme tänään yritysten ja organisaatioiden maailmassa, syntyi 1800-luvun lopulla ja 1900-luvun alussa. Liikkeenjohto uutena tieteenä haki olemassa ololleen validiteetin tuon ajanjakson tieteellisestä paradigmasta. Erityisesti luonnontieteissä aika oli voimakkaasti kiinni valistuksen ajan ihanteissa ja Newtonilaisessa fysiikassa. Elettiin insinööritieteiden kulta-aikaa. Todellisuus ymmärrettiin objektiiviseksi, todeksi todennettavaksi maailmaksi havaitsijan ulkopuolella. Jos käytettiin oikeita havaitsemisvälineitä ja ajattelua, tuo, joskus hyvinkin monimutkainen maailma voitiin mallintaa ja siinä voitiin havaita rationaalisia syy- seuraussuhteita, jotka antoivat mahdollisuuden löytää oikeat tavat vaikuttaa.

Johtaja on tässä maailmassa rationaalinen toimija ja päätöksentekijä, jonka tehtävänä on tietää mitkä kausaliteettien ketjut tuovat organisaatiolle sen tavoitteleman menestyksen. Samalla tavalla kuin reduktionistinen tiede toimi,  organisaatiot voitiin parhaiten ymmärtää niiden osittamisen kautta. Erilliset osat muodostivat puolestaan mekanistisen, systeemisen aktiviteettien kokonaisuuden, joka toimi johdon suunnittelemalla tavalla. Huomio johtamisessa tuli tämän ajattelutavan mukaisesti kohdistaa niihin olemassa oleviin ja tarvittaviin syy – seuraussuhteisiin, jotka toteuttavat organisaation menestyksen parhaalla mahdollisella tavalla.

Yhtä tärkeää oli motivoida mukana olevat ihmiset yhteisiin, johdon luomiin tavoitteisiin, sekä prosessien säätelemään vuorovaikutukseen. Organisaatioihanne jäljitteli konetta vaihdettavine osineen. Koneen toiminta taasen perustui tehokkaisiin input – output suhteisiin, joissa resurssit muuttuivat suoritteiksi. Työtä tekevät yksilöt olivat tässä maailmassa yksi resurssi muiden resurssien joukossa.

Organisaation rakenne ja prosessit kuvattiin tässä lähestymistavassa tavallisimmin yleistyksinä. Yleistäminen tarkoittaa, että rakenteet ja (vuorovaikutus)prosessit eivät ole tilanteesta, kontekstista, riippuvaisia, vaan yleisesti päteviä aikariippumattomalla ja tilanneriippumattomalla tavalla. Kontekstilla ei ole merkitystä. Yleistävästä ajattelusta seuraa myös, että tavallisesti voidaan löytää, usein organisaation ulkopuolelta uusi, paras tapa tehdä joku asia. Tämä uusi tapa voidaan sitten siirtää tilanteesta toiseen ilman, että historiasta tai paikasta tarvitsee välittää.

Epävarmuuden maailma

Arkikokemuksissamme korostuvat yllätykset, muutokset ja kehityskulut, joita ei ole voitu ennustaa tai joita ei ole edes suunniteltu kenenkään toimesta. Epävarmuus on elimellinen osa yritystoimintaa ja osa elämää. Epävarmuus ei liity pelkästään siihen mitä tapahtuu seuraavaksi, vaan myös siihen mitä juuri nyt tapahtuu tai hyvinkin erilaisiin tulkintoihin siitä mitä on tapahtunut. Yhteisten, ”ylempää annettujen” tavoitteiden ohella yksilöiden omat tavoitteet, omat agendat, arvot, tulkinnat ja suunnitelmat ohjaavat ennakoimattomalla tavalla sitä mitä tapahtuu. Rationaalisuuden ohella tunteet ja poliittiset päämäärät ohjaavat toimintaa ja päätöksiä. Väärinymmärrykset ja väärät tulkinnat vaikuttavat yhtä paljon kuin oikeatkin. Suunnitelmat toteutuvat hyvin harvoin juuri niin kuin oli tarkoitus tai kuten oli suunniteltu.

Johtamisen taustalla olevan rationaalisen, lineaarisen kausaliteetin ihanne on hyvin kaukana siitä arkitodellisuudesta, jonka tunnistamme. Näyttäisikö liikkeenjohtaminen erilaiselta jos se ottaisi lähtökohdaksi toimimisen epävarmuudessa ja jos sen tieteellinen maailmankuva päivittyisi tämän päivän tasolle?

Johtaminen kompleksisessa ympäristössä

Yritystoiminta on aina toisiaan tarvitsevien ihmisten vuorovaikutusta. Miltä johtaminen näyttäisi, jos lähtökohta olisi, että ihmisten välisessä vuorovaikutuksessa kausaalisuhteet ovat  aina ei-lineaarisia: osittain tiedämme mitä tapahtuu seuraavaksi, osittain emme. Osittain voimme ennustaa, osittain emme. Toiminnassa on aina mukana epävarmuus, jota ei voida poistaa. Johtaja voi suunnitella mitä itse tekee seuraavaksi, mutta ei voi koskaan täysin tietää mitä muut tekevät seuraavaksi. Johtajan pyrkimykset kohtaavat kaikkien muiden, aina osittain samanlaiset, osittain erilaiset pyrkimykset. Mitä tapahtuu, on seurausta kaikista näistä toisiinsa vaikuttavista erilaisista pyrkimyksistä. Se, mikä on tulema kun erilaisten ihmisten erilaiset tulkinnat, pyrkimykset ja toiminta vaikuttavat toisiinsa on aina enemmän tai vähemmän piilossa ja epävarmaa. Kukaan yksittäinen toimija ei voi kontrolloida sitä, mitä lopulta tapahtuu, vaikka siihen voikin vaikuttaa.

Tästä seuraa että emme voi enää pitää erillään, eri vaiheina suunnittelua ja tekemistä, ajattelua ja ajattelun ”jalkautusta”.  Suunnittelu ja toteutus eivät ole käsitteellisesti kaksi erillistä vaihetta ajassa, vaan saman asian kaksi puolta samanaikaisesti. Suunnitelma on suunnitelma, vain siinä määrin kuin se toteutuu. Tämä johtaa tilanteeseen, jossa suunnittelu on ehdottoman tärkeää, mutta joustavuutta vähentävät suunnitelmat eivät. Paradoksaalisesti, mitä paremmin suunnittelemme, sen paremmin voimme tarvittaessa toimia ketterästi muuttuneissa tilanteissa. Mitä paremmin osaamme ja tiedämme sen paremmin voimme improvisoida.

Koska emme voi perustaa toimiamme ja päätöksiämme täydelliseen tietämiseen, pitäisikö meidän paremmin ymmärtää miten toimimme silloin kun emme tiedä? Vaikka emme voi poistaa epävarmuutta, voimme varmuudella tietää miten toimimme, kun pyrimme elämään epävarmuudessa.

Jatkuu postissa: digitaalinen työ, tietoverkot ja johtaminen


The problem of strategic choice

Either or thinking in strategy arises from the Aristotelian logic, which requires the elimination of paradoxes and dilemmas. Examples of these dilemmas are competition and collaboration or saving money and creating more value – at the same time. These dilemmas, if not resolved through choice and decision were seen as a sign of faulty thinking. As an alternative one could think of the problem of competition and collaboration or saving and providing a better service as a creative dilemma and a positive paradox. There are many different definitions of a paradox. It may mean a contradiction, a situation in which two conflicting elements exist at the same time. A paradox in this sense can be removed by choosing one side instead of the other or by reframing the problem to remove the contradiction. A paradox may also mean a state in which two opposing needs are simultaneously present, neither of which can be eliminated. There is therefore no possibility of a choice between the opposing poles or possibility of locating them apart without halting the process in time.

What is then required is a different kind of logic, such as the approach of Hegel instead of Aristotle. In Hegel’s thinking, the word paradox means the natural, and necessary, presence of conflicting ideas at the same time. A paradox is then the essential requirement for creativity and transformation. Paradoxes are a requirement of life. We live in a time when we have compartmentalized ourselves into disciplines, using engineered processes. Instead of these separations, we need to cross boundaries and interact to make new connections and insights. Crossing boundaries is always about working with differences. Differences are potentially conflictual in nature, and this is something we should now welcome. Conflicts give rise to the possibility of innovation and the potential for finding new solutions. Another example of this is the mathematical concept of chaos in the sciences of complexity. There the edge of chaos is a dynamic pattern in time that is stable and unstable at the same time. Stability and instability are inseparable. The dynamic is paradoxically both predictable and unpredictable. It is about predictable unpredictability or unpredictable predictability, stable instability or unstable stability. The contradiction and dilemma between stable and unstable cannot be resolved, but gives rise to the potential for creativity and innovation. It is time to refresh our thinking about strategic choice. It is time to embrace complexity and the enormous creative potential of live paradoxes.

Thank you Doug Griffin, Tomi Laamanen and Ralph Stacey

Interactive value creation

The division of labor reduces organizational effort and the cost of work. The division of labor also increases the quality of efforts through specialization. For this reason all societies and all enterprises are heading, at least to some extent, towards specialism. The assumption has been that the further the division is carried, the greater are the savings and the better the quality of the contributions. This has led managers to focus on the efficiency of activities separated from other activities and organizational design and management are seen as the planning and execution of a collection of independent activities forming the organizational system.

The function of the line manager was accordingly to be the representative of his box, his domain of action and resources. The manager enjoyed a high degree of autonomy and was accountable only for that domain. The grounding principle in practice was: “Don’t tread on my grass, and I won’t tread on yours”.

As demands for higher value and creativity are the norm today and the complexity of offerings has grown, we have begun to see that the division of labor has reached its point of diminishing returns. What managers have learnt is that the division of labor always implies a scheme of interaction by which the different divided activities are made to work together. The lines between the boxes are starting to matter more than the boxes! Complex value creation is impossible without interaction. This is because any higher-value activity involves complementary, often parallel, contributions from more than one person or one team. In fact, the more complex the offering is and the more specialized the resources needed, the greater the demand for the amount, quality and efficiency of communication, because of the inherent interdependence of the activities.

One-dimensional approaches to interaction have involved top-down command-and-control or sequential workflow-based communication, where the action of one part is meant to set off the action of another. Interaction has thus been seen as one-way signals, a system of senders and receivers (Shannon and Weaver 1948). These approaches seemed to work in simple, low-value environments, but are not creating the desired results any more. What managers have lately found out is that in the pursuit of higher value and when facing the growing demands of complex offerings the value of actions is limited by the value of the interaction. The two are mutually dependent

A system of partial activities that go into the completion of the total offering always implies a scheme of interaction among the persons concerned. If the scheme of activities changes, even somewhat, the scheme of interaction should change too. As the two are mutually dependent, it means accordingly that if there are changes in interaction, so the activities will change.

The mainstream management paradigm is based on the presupposition that activities are the independent, governing factors and the scheme of interaction conforms to the planned division of labor as a secondary feature. The organizational structure, as a number of independent activities, comes first. Then an appropriate system of co-ordination and communication is put into effect. If, however, action and interaction are mutually dependent, it means that low-quality interaction leads to activities that are poorer than planned, just as enriching, high-quality interaction may lead to higher-value activities than planned.

We need to understand how the present ways of dividing labor have been historically based on a very different communications environment than the one we are living in at present. The earlier high cost of coordination and communication is the reason behind many of the organizational forms that are taken for granted and which we still experience. The digital world we live in today is totally different when it comes to the transaction costs associated with coordination and communication and allows us to experiment with totally new value creation architectures.

The activity systems and units of activity can no longer be seen as a collection of independent activities and independent high-performing specialists. There are, however, many challenges ahead if we adopt the way of thinking of seeing interaction as the governing factor in organizations. One of the challenges is our language. That is the way we speak about work following the system of subjects and predicates. Our language of work is geared towards handling one independent factor and one dependent factor at a time: “someone is doing something to somebody”. Linear causes and effects, rather than thinking in terms of mutual interdependence and non-linearity, are built into our management speech. And yet, a situation that can be described accurately in terms of linear, rational causes and effects is the least common one in social contexts. An organization consisting of people is always a social network following a different logic – complex causality. Organizations as social activity processes are about interdependent people working in complex interaction.

If we take this view, it means that people and actions are simultaneously forming and being formed by each other at the same time, all the time, in interaction. Instead of thinking in terms of spatial metaphors, of organizational levels, boxes and lines, this explanation focuses attention on how the actions of people create patterns in time following a very different approach to communication than the sender receiver model.

Organizations can be described as patterns of communicative interaction between interdependent individuals. All interacting imposes constraints on those relating, while at the same time enabling those people to do what they could not otherwise do. Supportive, inspirational, energizing and enabling patterns of interaction are the most important raison d´être of working and being together. If we see interaction as the governing factor and see organizations and organizing as relationships between interdependent people, our methods of sense making need to change. Social interaction does not follow linear causality, seen as a system of senders and receivers, but is fundamentally non-linear, responsive and complex. Following this logic, organizations today and information-based value creation in general can only be understood if seen as complex, communicative patterns of mainly digital interaction.

Resource allocation has always been one of the main tasks of management: planning what is to be done by whom and by when. In integrated systems and with homogeneous resources, this allocation can easily be performed top-down and in advance. Planning can take place separately from action. When knowledge resources are the decisive factors of value creation and when work takes place in digital, global, decentralized environments, this top-down process is increasingly inefficient. A manager cannot know who knows best or where the most valuable contributions could come from. The solution has been so far to try to “know what we know”, and, even more importantly, try to “know who knows”. Neither of these approaches has quite fulfilled expectations. Knowledge databases have not met the situational needs of their users. Accordingly, people have not been able to explain what they know to others or even to themselves in a meaningful way

Because of the aforementioned growing needs in daily organizational life a new, different approach has to be adopted. One could even claim that a new mode of knowledge based production is now emerging in, and because of, the digital networked environments. The most important platforms for the new production systems are social media platforms.

This new production method refers to a new economic phenomenon: people from the whole network contribute pieces of their time and expertise to tasks, emergently, according to their interests, availability and experience, working in a transparent, open environment. This method has systemic advantages over traditional production hierarchies when the work in progress is mainly immaterial in nature and the capital investment involved can be distributed. For most knowledge-based products and services, this kind of production is the most efficient method of creating value from a resource allocation point of view.

The system is developed as much in a bottom-up manner as a top-down one. In a top-down system everything is created and provided by the organization to the user. The user has no or very little control over what services, information and people are available to him. Instead of forcing people into predetermined groups in the way groupware does, social media facilitate the natural formation of groups based on spontaneous, contextual needs for interaction. In social media, people affiliate through personal choice and need. Understanding this difference in community formation is crucial for building self-sustaining, dynamic communities.

A Wiki is a typical knowledge production medium, a platform for interdependent people to work in parallel interaction. A Wiki provides the most efficient way for a group of people to contribute, edit and interact with information that is meant to be shared. A Wiki can be seen as a way to create and iterate collective information, thus developing shared iterative learning. It’s about making visible what has been learnt and the road that leads to it. This leads to a better sharing of experiences, use of skills and utilization of the total number of brains in the network.

The primary goals are increasing the value and quality of information and the value and quality of interaction and at the same time lowering the transaction costs associated with information and interaction. Even more importantly, open interaction platforms such as Wikis are a medium for sharing what we would like to know next, where we would like to go, and what we would like to explore. A Wiki is a medium for continuous, creative learning. This thinking is based on a belief that everything can and should develop in iterative interaction among the network of users. In practice it means voicing questions and concerns for others to answer of their own free will: the small deviations, the small questions that we don’t normally pay much attention to or have time to explore. These are, however, the starting points for change, improvements and learning. There is a shift in thinking from sharing what we know to sharing what we don’t know.

All organizations essentially operate like Wikis. Every organization has it’s own language, resulting in a unique, iterative understanding of concepts, terms and ongoing sense making. There is always a lot of information that is continuously evolving in the “encyclopaedia” of an organization. The articles are things like strategies, customer databases, product information and manuals.

In these kinds of contexts, information artifacts that don’t connect with ongoing live conversations are often of less value, even obsolete and most probably out of date. Because of this, we are now moving away from a focus on content to a focus on conversations. Content should be seen as the by-product of conversation. Perhaps in the future of digital work IT will not mean Information Technologies, but Interaction Technologies.

This view focuses attention on the way in which daily, mainly digitally mediated communication between people organises value creation and, at the same time, creates value. An organisation should today be understood as complex, self-organising, iterative patterns of interaction, through which both continuity and innovation emerge as patterns in time.