2011 was a year of major breakthroughs. The creative economy is here and looks very different from what we have been used to. I try to sum up some of the most important findings of the year.
The industrial logic was most vividly captured in the idea of the value chain. Value creating activities were sequential, unidirectional and linear. In the model, value was not really created but added step by step. The output of one task was the input of another. The image of work was the assembly line, meaning that work could be fragmented and individual performance goals could be set for each worker. The world was all about people and boxes separated from one another.
Physical tasks can be broken up in a reductionist way. Bigger tasks can be divided by assigning people to different smaller parts of the whole. For intellectual tasks, it is much harder to find parts that make for an efficient division of labour. Intellectual tasks are by default linked and complex.
Reductionism does not work any more.
Knowledge workers are often put in a position where they have to negotiate some understanding of what they face. The same event means different things to different people. The cognitive opportunity lies in the fact that as we don’t all select the same things, we don’t all miss the same things. If we can pool our insights in a creative, enriching way we can thrive in the complex world we live in. The challenge is that people often treat the existence of multiple views as a symptom of a weakness and conflict rather than as an accurate and needed sign of uncertainty.
Higher performance occurs through the combination of different perspectives and supportive, enriching communication.
Social interactions also play a role in shaping our brain. Repeated experiences sculpt the synaptic connections and rewire the brain. Accordingly, our relationships gradually frame the neural circuitry. Being chronically depressed by others or being emotionally nourished and enriched has lifelong impacts. Our mental life is co-created in an interconnected network. The human mind is not located and stored in an individual. Rather, what we have called the individual mind is something that arises continuously in relationships between people.
Supportive, energizing and enabling patterns of interaction have proven to be the most important explanation behind creativity and business success. The quality of action is always constrained/enabled by the quality of the interaction. The lines between the boxes matter more than the boxes! Communication either accelerates or slows down. Communication either creates value or creates waste. Communication either creates energy and inspiration or demeans and demotivates.
Communication forms much more than informs.
What is now needed is to unlearn the reductionist organizing principles that are still the mainstream. Knowledge used to be understood as the internal property of an individual. Today knowledge should be seen as networked communication.
Work is interaction between interdependent people and the network is the amplifier, and at best a supportive and enriching enabler.