Esko Kilpi on Interactive Value Creation

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

Category: Complexity

Kohtaamiskyky on tärkein kilpailutekijä

Jokaisen yhteisön kehittyminen on kiinni siitä, miten erilaiset ihmiset ja ajatukset kohtaavat ja mitä näistä kohtaamisista syntyy. Usein ei synny mitään mutta joskus maailma muuttuu. Liike yhdessä eteenpäin edellyttää kaikissa tapauksissa kykyä kohdata, neuvotella ja kykyä sopia: sopimuksia siitä mistä puhutaan, tai mistä pitäisi puhua, mikä on tärkeää ja mikä on vähemmän tärkeää? Työyhteisöt ovat myös sopimista siitä, kuka tekee päätöksiä, mitä vaihtoehtoja on olemassa ja mitä lopulta valitaan.

Ongelmat syntyvät kun uskomme, että juuri meidän näkökulmamme ja meille tärkeät merkitykset ovat yhtä lailla tärkeitä myös muille. Emme näe aitoja ympärillämme ja niitä värittyneitä laseja, joista kaikki katsovat maailmaa, myös me. Mikään tuotoksemme ei ole objektiivinen fakta, vaikka mediateollisuus on pitkään näin omista sisällöistään väittänytkin.

Olemme ehkä hyviä ilmaisemaan itsellemme selviä asioita itsellemme, mutta ilman vuorovaikutuksessa tapahtuvaa asioiden avaamista ja tulkitsemista, ne merkitykset, joita herätämme muissa ovat jotain aivan muuta kuin mitä kuvittelemme niiden olevan. Olemme silloin kompromissien ja nollasummapelien vankeja. Voimme puhua jostain asiasta kuukausia pääsemättä yhtään minnekään, kuten monen yhteiskunnallisesti merkittävän asian kanssa on tilanne.

Kognitiivinen tietotekniikka tutkii tätä ongelmaa ja pyrkii lisäämään ymmärrystä niistä vaihtoehtoisista, usein digitaalisista, rakenteista ja tavoista kommunikoida, joita meillä on käytettävissä. Emme useinkaan tiedosta nykyisten valintojemme kapeutta jonka takia kommunikaatiomme on helposti entistä toistavaa automaatiota. Eräs politiikan- ja työmarkkinoiden veteraani kertoi minulle: ”Samassa tilanteessa sanon aina nämä samat lauseet, koska minulta odotetaan niitä. Puhun julkisuudessa enemmän omille taustajoukoilleni, kuin pöydän toisella puolella istujille”

Tämä uudelleen ja uudelleen samaa toistava malli on erityisen tyypillistä poliittiselle puheelle.

Puhumme, kuten oletamme, että roolissani tulee puhua, emmekä kuten tässä tilanteessa voisi uutta rakentavasti puhua. Valinnat ovat aina sidonnaisia johonkin käsitykseen todellisuudesta, joka on tavallisesti sekä historiallisesti että sosiaalisesti määrittynyt. Eteenpäin menon sijaan jäämme jumiin, koska näitä perusolettamuksia ei oteta rakentavaan tarkasteluun.

Kognitiivisen neurotieteen tutkijat korostavat, että tapamme kommunikoida muovaa meitä itseämme enemmän, kuin kuvittelemme puheemme muovaavan muita.

Omat sosiaaliset viitekehyksemme määrittävät myös mitä nostamme tarkasteluun ja miten lopulta tulkitsemme maailmaa. Opimme ”oikean” tavan kommunikoida tullaksemme hyväksytyksi yhteisöön ja sen jäseniksi. Oikean puheen kautta säilymme myös yhteisön jäsenenä. Mitä pidempään olemme olleet mukana, sitä vähemmän usein kyseenalaistamme ajatusmallejamme ja sitä vähemmän ymmärrämme niistä poikkeavia ihmisiä. Sama mekanismi toimii niin, että koska ”Me” olemme lähtökohtaisesti oikeamielisten joukko ja koska ”He” eivät ole meitä, heidän täytyy olla väärässä, kaikissa tapauksissa.

Mitä vahvempaa tämä heimoutuminen on sitä vaikeampaa on erilaisuuden kohtaaminen ja myös asioista sopiminen ”heidän” kanssaan. Sosiaalinen hyväksyntä omien taholta menee aina muiden, ulkopuolisten, kanssa yhteisen ajatuksen liikkeen ja yhteisen kehittämisen edelle.

Vallitsevien, usein ajasta jälkeenjääneiden, ajatusmallien ylläpitäminen on keino pitää yllä yhteisöä, vaikka kaikki ympärillä olisikin muuttunut. Mitä vaikeammaksi ja kaoottisemmaksi ympäristö koetaan, sen enemmän turvaa oma muuttumaton yhteisö ja omat muuttumattomat ajatukset antavat. Erilaisten käsitysten kohtaamiset ovat silloin televisiokeskustelujen tutuksi tekemää raivokasta puolustustaistoa, jolla yritetään ylläpitää uhan kohteena olevaa henkilökohtaista ja yhteisöllistä identiteettiä.

Tässä tilanteessa ihmisten kohtaamista ja näkemysten luovaa rakentumista ei voi syntyä. Yhteisten asioiden käsittely muuttuu mahdottomaksi.

Demokraattinen yhteiskunta on vuorovaikutukseen perustuva luottamusjärjestelmä ja samaan aikaan luottamukseen perustuva vuorovaikutusjärjestelmä. Kompromissien sijaan, parempi kohtaamiskyky ja kyvykkäämpi neuvottelu tarkoittaa uusien mahdollisuuksia ja vaihtoehtojen luomista yhdessä, jolloin päätöksenteossa voidaan päästä nollasummapelistä plus-summapeliin.

@EskoKilpi

Omistajuus verkostomaisissa organisaatioissa

Liike-elämä ja työ ovat kehittyneissä maissa ehkä eniten ihmisten elämään vaikuttavia voimia. Useimmat meistä tekevät työnsä erilaisissa yrityksissä. Ne vaikuttavat suoraan ja välillisesti siihen millaista elämämme on. Jos voimme vaikuttaa liike-elämän lainalaisuuksiin, voimme vaikuttaa elämän lainalaisuuksiin. Jos muutamme liike-elämää, muutamme maailmaa.

Yhä suurempi osuus asiakkaiden arvosta syntyy erilaisella logiikalla, mihin olemme massatuotannon aikana tottuneet. Kasvava osuus tuotannosta, oli sitten kyseessä tuotteet tai palvelut, syntyy yhdessä asiakkaan kanssa tehtyinä tilanne- tapauskohtaisina ratkaisuina. Asiakasta ei enää nähdä arvoketjun lopussa, sen viimeisenä vaiheena, vaan sen ensimmäisenä vaiheena, ketjun liikkeellepanijana. Asiakkaan oma panos arvon luonnissa on keskeinen ja usein ratkaiseva. Asiakas ei ole enää passiivinen vastaanottaja, vaan aktiivinen toimija ja elimellinen osa arvoprosessia. Arvoketju kääntyy toisin päin kuin ennen. Työntö muuttuu imuksi. Työ muuttuu toistosta tilannekohtaiseksi vuorovaikutukseksi, luovaksi ongelmanratkaisuksi yhdessä asiakkaan kanssa.

Käytännössä tämä tarkoittaa kompleksisuuden kasvua. Monimuotoisuus ja keskinäisriippuvuus lisääntyvät, kun ei voida suoraan toistaa aikaisemmin kehitettyä ratkaisua tai etukäteen mietittyä prosessikaavaa. Tuotannon rakenteiden täytyy muuttua enemmän verkostomaisiksi ja hajautetuiksi, jotta päästäisiin lähemmäksi asiakasta. Keskitetty hallinto ja keskitetyt rakenteet osoittautuvat lähtökohtaisesti liian hitaiksi ja jäykiksi vastaamaan aktiivisen kontaktin ja asiakasvuorovaikutuksen vaateeseen. Tänään liian moni työntekijä on liian kaukana asiakkaasta ja siitä mikä on asiakkaalle tärkeää. Matka asiakkaan ongelmankuvauksesta sen ratkaisuun on liian pitkä, jos tie kulkee aina johtajan ja keskitetyn hallinnon kautta.

Arvolupauksen täytyy myös modularisoitua mahdollistamaan yhä laajempi potentiaalisten ratkaisujen kirjo. Tämä tarkoittaa kehitystä kohti alustataloutta ja rakennetta, jossa itse yritys on enemmän verkostoaan ja muita, itsenäisiä tahoja, yhdistävä, sekä ongelmia ja niiden ratkaisuja yhteen tuova linkittäjä, kuin itse rajattua ratkaisujen määrää valmistava perinteinen tuotantolaitos.

Yritys on lainopillinen ja sosiaalinen konstruktio. Yritys voi siten olla mitä toivomme ja osaamme kuvitella sen olevan. Muuttuvassa ympäristössä pärjätäkseen yrityksen ehkä pitääkin olla hyvin erinäköinen kuin nyt. Perinteisen yrityksen olemassaolon oikeutus on syntynyt sen kyvystä koordinoida arvoa luovaa toimintaa markkinoita tehokkaammin. Yritys ja sen arvontuottoprosessit ovat ihmisten yhteistyötä. Aivan samaa yhteistyötä voisi teoriassa tehdä ilman yritystä, tai erilaisten, esimerkiksi verkostomaisten, rakenteiden kautta. Yrityksen olemassaolon filosofinen lähtökohta on se odotettu tehokkuus, joka syntyy toimintaan, kun markkinoiden sijaan johtamisen kautta hoidetaan tarvittava kommunikaatio, allokoidaan resursseja ja tehdään päätöksiä siitä, miten ihmiset tekevät yhteistyötä ja miten koordinoidaan yksittäisiä tapahtumia. Teoreettisesti nämä samat sopimukset voisivat tapahtua markkina-transaktioina, joissa vapaa hinnan muodostus, kysyntä ja tarjonta ajaisivat saman asian, minkä nyt tekee asiasta päättävä työnantaja tai johtaja.

Yrityksen arvontuottoprosessien kääntyessä työntämisestä tilannekohtaiseen imuun ja osaamisvaateiden kasvaessa, keskeisimpiä päätöksiä on ketkä ovat yrityksessä ”sisällä” ja ketkä toimivat yrityksen ja sen alustan kautta, erilaisissa sopimussuhteissa verkostossa ”ulkopuolella”.

Tämän päätöksen näkyvin käytännön lopputulema on tähän asti ollut kompensaatioperiaatteiden erilaisuus eri toimijoille. Jos kyseessä on ”ulkopuolella” sopimussuhteessa oleva toimija, lähtee kompensaatio mitattavissa olevasta ja etukäteen sopimuksellisesti määritetystä tuotoksesta. Tuotoksen tekemiseen liittyvä tarvittava muu panostus, kuten oppiminen ja sen kustannukset, ei tavallisesti ole esillä. Toimittajan on kuitenkin yleensä pystyttävä jollain tavalla takaamaan kykynsä suoriutua kyseessä olevasta tehtävästä. Riski siitä, että toimittaja ei pystykään vastaamaan lupaukseensa on tavallisesti toimittajalla, eli jos tuotosta ei synny, tai se ei vastaa sopimusta, ei kompensaatiotakaan tule. Riskiä ei lähtökohtaisesti jaeta, vaikka sen toteutuminen saattaakin aiheuttaa suurta haittaa työn tilaajalle.

Yrityksen sisällä periaatteet ovat erilaiset. Riskejä, jotka liittyvät puutteellisiin tuotoksiin, alisuoriutumiseen, tai vääriin panostuksiin, on hyvin vaikea kohdistaa nykyisissä tuotantorakenteissa oikein. Tämän vaikeuden johdosta nämä riskit tavallisesti jaetaan. Yritys, ja lopulta kaikki sen työntekijät kantavat kollektiivisesti tämän piilossa olevan riskin. Kollektiivisuudesta riskin kannossa seuraa, ettei toiminnan tehostamiseen liittyviä ratkaisuja ole aina helppo tehdä. Hyvät, toimivat osat joutuvat kantamaan taakkana myös toimimattomien osien painon. Sisällä riskit jaetaan, mutta ulkopuolella, verkostossa, ei.

Palkkasuhteen, tai muunlaisen sopimussuhteen valintaan yrityksen ja toimijan väliseksi sopimukseksi on myös vaikuttanut keskeisesti juuri helppous tai vaikeus arvioida työn tuotosta ja sen arvoa.

Jos arviointi on helppoa, painottui valinta sopimussuhteeseen. Jos arviointi on vaikeaa, on palkkasuhde ollut todennäköisempi vaihtoehto. Teollisen yrityksen perusteisiin liittyy tämän johdosta koordinaatiokyvyn kääntöpuoli, systeeminen tehottomuus, jota ei ole helppo paikallistaa, koska se on rakenteellista tehottomuutta.

Kaikki voivat omista lähtökohdistaan tehdä parhaansa ja myös saavuttaa omilla mittareillaan hyviä tuloksia, mutta lopputulos on kokonaisuuden kannalta kestämätön.

Työn tuotoksen arviointi on sisällä ollut vaikeaa, mutta ulkopuolella, verkostossa, helpompaa.

Yrityksen omistus syntyy tavallisimmin niiden riski-investointien seurauksena, joita omistajat tekevät sijoittaessaan rahaa yritykseen ja sen tuotantolaitteisiin. Omistajat valitsevat sitten yritykseen johdon, joka palvelee omistajien tavoitteita, joista tärkeimpänä on pidetty omistuksen arvon turvaamista ja sen kasvattamista. Mallista seuraa, että yrityksen omistamiseen ja sen toiminnan suuntaviivojen valintaan, sen johtamiseen, liittyviä seikkoja tarkastellaan tavallisesti erillään työntekijöiden työpanosten ja yrityksen välisestä suhteesta.

Riskin käsite liittyy tässä mallissa finanssi-investointeihin ja riskinotosta seuraa omistusoikeus. Työntekijä ei tämän ajattelun mukaan kanna (yrittäjä)riskiä. Työntekijän panos on turvattu, mutta omistajan ei.

Gary Becker otti käyttöön termin inhimillinen pääoma (human capital) osoittaessaan, että suuri osa niistä taidoista ja tiedoista joita työ vaatii, olivat mahdollisia omata vain jos työtekijä sijoitti niiden hankkimiseen aikaansa ja resursseja. Erityisen tärkeitä olivat havainnot, joita Becker teki inhimillisen pääoman arvosta eri yhteyksissä. Hän osoitti, että usein osaaminen ja tieto olivat arvokkaampia juuri siinä yrityksessä, siinä kontekstissa, jossa työntekijä työskenteli, verrattuna tilanteeseen, että hän olisi vaihtanut työpaikkaa tai alaa.

Tietointensiivisen työn yhteydessä tiedon ja osaamisen tuottavuusvaikutukset ovat ilmeisiä. Tämän johdosta työntekijöiden panosta tai kuluja ei voidakaan enää arvioida geneerisinä, homogeenisinä henkilöstöerinä suhteutettuna käytettyyn aikaan tai henkilöstön lukumäärään. Oikealla osaamisella oikeassa tilanteessa on valtavan suuri merkitys. Kun erilaisella osaamisella on erilaisia tuottavuusvaikutuksia, niin tulee tärkeäksi nähdä kuka tekee mitäkin, missä ja milloin. Oikean, ehkä ulkopuolelta, tulevan henkilön läsnäolo oikeaan aikaan arvoverkon solmukohdassa saattaa muodostua yhtä lailla tärkeäksi kilpailutekijäksi, kuin mitä yrityksen perinteinen henkilöstö oli.

Tietotyöntekijän kannalta katsottuna mallista seuraa, että osaaja ottaa myös riskin hyvin samojen periaatteiden mukaan kuin rahaa sijoittava omistaja tekee. Jos jostain syystä työntekijä ei voi jatkaa toimimista ympäristössä, johon hän on kehittänyt osaamistaan, on todennäköistä, että tähän kontekstiin liittyvällä osaamisella on pienempi arvo jossain muualla. Hankittu osaaminen menettää markkina-arvoaan, eli riski toteutuu.

Riskin käsite ei siten liity vain finanssi-investointeihin, vaan myös henkisen pääoman investointeihin. Tulevaisuuden verkostomaisissa yrityksissä ja usein lyhyemmissä työsuhteissa toimiminen edellyttää uudenlaiseen riskinottoon kannustamista. Teoreettisesti riskinotosta pitäisikin aina seurata omistuksenkaltainen suhde siihen toimintaan jossa ollaan mukana. Omistaminen ei kuitenkaan tässä liity yhteisten tuotannontekijöiden omistamiseen, vaan osuuteen yhteisön tulevaisuuden tulon odotuksista.

Jälkiteollista taloudellista toimintaa tulisi tarkastella kaikkien niiden panostusten summana, joita siihen tehdään. ”Yritys” on kaikkien näiden investointien lopputulema. Osaamista voidaan tarkastella investointina monien samojen periaatteiden mukaan joita olemme käyttäneet finanssi-investointien kanssa. Yritys-spesifin osaamisinvestoinnin tulisikin ajatuksellisesti noudattaa oman pääoman ehtoisen investoinnin logiikkaa, vieraan pääoman ehtoisen investoinnin sijaan. Näiden kahden ero on se, että vieraan pääoman ehtoisen investoinnin tuottovaade on ennalta määrätty. Oman pääoman ehtoinen investointi tuottaa hyvin, jos yrityksellä menee hyvin. Jos yrityksellä menee huonosti on tuottokin huono. Tavoitteena pitäisi olla tilanne, jossa osaamisen tuottovaikutukset voitaisiin jakaa tulevaisuuden tuloista sopimusteknisesti pidemmällä aikajänteellä, erityisesti siitä katteesta, jota yhteistyö tuottaa. Tämä mahdollistaisi uudenlaisen riskinoton nyt syntyvissä hajautetuissa, verkostomaisissa rakenteissa, joissa työpanosta ja siihen liittyvää kompensaatiota on vaikea kuvata etukäteen. Teknisesti tämänkaltainen riskinjako on nyt ensimmäistä kertaa toteutettavissa lohkoketju-pohjaisten älykkäiden sopimusten kautta.

Olemme siirtymässä uuteen taloudellisen toiminnan ympäristöön jossa on usein vaikeampi arvioida ulkopuolelta tulevaa panosta kuin sisällä toteutettua työtä.

Uudet taloudelliset tilat ja verkostomaiset, tilapäiset, työsuhteet edellyttävät uudenlaista riskinottoa, uutta riskin jakoa ja uutta, oikeudenmukaista, tulosten jakoa. Uuden (työ)suhteen pitäisi olla samanaikaisesti sekä palkkasuhde että omistuksen kaltainen suhde, kolmas suhde, jota meillä ei vielä ole. Mallista seuraa, että investoijan tulisi saada sitä suurempi osuus tulevaisuuden tulon odotuksesta, mitä tilanne-spesifisimpiä investoinnit ovat ja mitä vaikeampaa niiden tuottovaikutuksia on arvioida etukäteen ja sopia niistä.

Tavoitteena tulisi olla kaikkien yritystoiminnan osapuolien vapaaehtoinen sitoutuminen yhteiseen toimintaan, sen perustehtävään ja tavoitteisiin. Tämä tarkoittaa aktiivista osallisuutta, mutta myös uutta työn suhdemaailmaa, joka on paljon monimuotoisempi kuin nykyinen työnantaja – työntekijäsuhde ja esimies – alaissuhde. Uusi työ tarkoittaa myös vastuunottoa sijoitetusta panostuksesta riippumatta sen luonteesta. Tavoitteena tulee olla sijoituksen arvon säilyminen ja kasvu sekä kyky sopimusteknisesti hyötyä sen mahdollistamista tuloksista. Kaikilla investoijilla on silloin sama tavoite: saada hyöty investoinnin kautta syntyvistä tulevaisuuden tulon odotuksista ja osuus pitkän tähtäimen tuotoksesta. Teknologisesti tämä on nyt ensimmäistä kertaa mahdollista toteuttaa. Investoinnin ja sen tuoton välisen kausaliteettiketjun todentaminen tulee olemaan tulevaisuudessa helpompaa uusien lohkoketjupohjaisten tietokantojen avulla.

Tietotyön ollessa yhä tavallisempi tapa tuottaa arvoa yhteiskunnassa tarvitsemme uuden käsitteistön, joka antaisi kestävämmän lähtökohdan ymmärtää kuinka jälkiteollinen yritys voisi olla houkutteleva kohde sekä finanssi-investoinneille että osaamisinvestoinneille. Voi olla, että työkin on jatkossa samanlainen investointiportfolio kuin mitä finanssi-investoinnin tekijä tänään tavoittelee. Riskin jakaminen useaan kohteeseen voi olla paljon järkevämpää kuin laittaa kaikki munat samaan koriin. Vanhempamme tekivät yhden pitkän työuran. Meillä on ollut niitä useita peräkkäin. Lapsillamme voi olla useita työuria samanaikaisesti. Kaikki riski-investoinnit eivät koskaan tuota hyvin, mutta jotkut niistä saattavat olla hyvin kannattavia – jos olemme omistajia!

The Snapchat Economy

We inhabit a world of emergence, uncertainty and unforeseeable change. The greatest opportunities for advantage lie in the combination of fast-changing markets and emerging technologies. Because of this complex landscape, instead of preparing ourselves for a knowable future, we need to explore and probe for openings. We need to build on successful ventures and shift flexibly among opportunities as circumstances change.

The strategic logic is temporal rather than spatial. When following a spatial, foresight metaphor, there is a territory that can be mapped and understood, but here the territory is seen as being under continuous development and in formation by the exploration itself. It is impossible to map an area that changes with every step the explorer takes.”

The significant point is that no one can predict how long an advantage will last. It is a Snapchat economy. The responsible and resilient way to think is that it could all end tomorrow. The key insight is then that we should be where the flow of opportunities is the fastest and most promising.

Biologists explain the way social insects do this. If two ants would leave the nest at the same time and follow different routes to a new food source, they mark their exploration trail with pheromone. The ant that found the shorter route will return first. What happens is that this route will now be marked with twice as much pheromone as the other path taken by the second ant, who hasn’t yet returned.

The other ants will now be attracted to the shorter, more efficient path because of its concentration of pheromone. Individually, these ants have little intelligence. They don’t have managers or any supervision. Yet, collectively they create a thriving community.

For social insects, teamwork is organized and coordinated through the interactions of the members of the colony. Their collective intelligence emerges from the encounters, not from the insects. The success of the colony is a result of the collective activity of the individuals following very basic protocols: (1) make successful behavior visible to others, and (2) follow successful behavior.

The principle is basically the same, even if instead of ants and pheromone, we were to talk about human beings and blockchains. Today, the most valuable assets can be open. When success leaves tracks that others can follow, it can be beneficial not only to the follower, but also financially to the one who is followed with the help of post-blockchain smart contracts. Successful organizations always scale up learning. Now there is a financial model for it. Work itself is learning, meaning observing and simulating desirable practices. On the other hand, work is teaching, meaning doing one’s work in an openly reflective and transparent way, just the way the ants do it.

Every company and every individual is a particular combination of opportunities and (enabling) constraints. The biggest constraint, however, is that we are not used to thinking that we may have thousands of opportunities available every day. Thousands of potential trails to study and possibly follow. We just don’t know yet where to look for inspiration, but AI is going to change that.

The dominant business organization of the future may not be a permanent corporation but rather a dynamic network. Network knowledge can merge into temporary bundles whenever and wherever necessary to solve problems. The network makes it possible to pool the knowledge residing in millions of nodes into an ad hoc front end with massive problem-solving capacity. There is very little or no centralized control. The role of the manager changes dramatically and often disappears completely. There does not need to be any single point of oversight.

The Internet follows this same philosophy and logic. The things you have to obey are the communication protocols. Protocols make connecting possible. They are really the backbone of cooperation. Similarly, post-blockchain based protocols and smart contracts make the new, temporary economic spaces possible.

Protocols don’t need to take the form of technical specifications. They can also make human interaction possible, as we can see taking place in operating theaters. When surgeons, anesthesiologists, nurses and supporting staff gather to perform an emergency surgery they all know the protocols they follow and learn very fast how they’ll interact with one another, even if they never worked together before. A work role for many individuals in the future will be to take part in networks that neither they nor anyone else controls. The key metric is how long it takes for people to cooperate efficiently.

Modern science explains the theory behind this.

Quantum theory says that each quantum entity has both a wavelike and a particle like aspect. The particle like characteristic is fixed but the wavelike one is a set of potentialities that cannot be reduced to the existing (parts of the) entity. If two or more of these entities are brought together, their potentialities become entangled. Their wave aspects are interwoven to the extent that a change in the potentiality in one brings about a corresponding change in the potentiality of the other.

A new shared reality emerges that could not have been predicted by studying the properties or the actions of the two entities. The interconnected patterns in human interaction are the results of self-organizing processes across the particular network forming the temporal organization. Local interaction generates emergent outcomes that cannot be traced back to any specific action or actor.

Ilya Prigogine wrote in his book “The End of Certainty” that the future is not given, but under perpetual construction: “Life is about unpredictable novelty where the possible is always richer than the real.”

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Credits Chris Meyer and Stephen Downes

The complex future of work

We live in an age of simplistic explanations. We build simple systemic models and crude abstractions. As a result, both our sense making and our decisions are built on an inadequate appreciation of the complex systems we are part of.

We have seen what it can lead to: industrial farming has caused a radical reduction of variety in nature in order to meet the goals of productivity. The simplification of crops was economically very efficient, allowing specialization in machinery and lowering the cost of learning, but it often damaged the local ecology in an irreversible way. The result was a fragile ecosystem, with a growing dependency on artificial fertilizers.

Every time we replace natural, complex systems with simplified mono-cultures we gain in short-term productivity, but at the cost of long-term resilience and viability. The less diverse a system is, the more vulnerable it is, and the more unsustainable it becomes.

Farming is now changing. New voices within agriculture say that “all farming takes place in a unique space and time”. These scholars claim that a mechanical application of generic rules and principles that ignore these contextual particularities is an invitation to catastrophic failure.

The principles of simplification still apply to the social systems of work: most of our firms can be described as mono-cultures. We also do our best to productize humans to fit the job markets. Many organizations are productive in the short term, but fragile in the long term. As long as the environment remains the same, simplified systems are very efficient, but they immediately become counterproductive when the environment changes even slightly. And it always will.

Our view of efficiency in firms still follows the line of thinking of efficiency on farms.

Job markets need standardized workers who are uniform in their skills and motivations. People are interchangeable labor. These people have no uniqueness. They have no original ideas to contribute to work. The focus is on the price of work; supply and demand.

In classical economic theory, markets are assumed to tend to a state of equilibrium. If there is an increase in demand, prices rise to encourage a reduction in demand and/or an increase in supply to match the demand. This is the principle behind Uber’s surge pricing. A market, then, is a simple cybernetic system: any significant change is self-regulating adaptation. There is no learning.

One-dimensional social designs have the same inbuilt risks as simplified natural designs. Simplified social systems can cause the same kind of damage to the human ecology as simplified farming systems have caused to the natural ecology. People become dependent on artificial motivation systems, the human equivalents of fertilizers. We call them incentives.

Just as all sustainable farming is now seen as taking place in a unique context, all human work takes place in a unique space and at a unique time. Human work is situated and context-dependent. It just hasn’t been understood that way. The digital architecture of this kind of work might resemble Amazon Dash buttons more than Uber.

Technological intelligence helps farmers to be more context-aware. Technological intelligence can do the same for human work. Mass systems were built on general knowledge and generic competences. Perhaps post-mass systems are going to be built more on situated knowledge and contextual competences.

An example of this might be the difference between the general knowledge of seamanship in open waters and the contextual knowledge of piloting. When a ship approaches land, the captain often hands over control to a local pilot, who then navigates the ship to the port. Pilots know well the dynamic peculiarities of the area, the winds and the currents. Much of this situated knowledge would be irrelevant somewhere else, at another harbor entrance.

A job market, as a concept, is a radical abstraction of human work. Every time we replace practical, local knowledge with general, standardized knowledge we gain in productivity, but at the cost of more environmental adaptation in the future. Learning debt is created and the whole system (of jobs) is less resilient and may even become dysfunctional. Short-term gains turn out to be extremely expensive in the long run!

The post-industrial era is too complicated to boil down into a single slogan describing work, but three scenarios seem to be emerging: (1) processes are automatized and robotized, leading to an algorithmic economy: (2) generic work is found through platforms, or turned into tasks circling the world, leading to a platform economy, and (3) context-specific value creation takes place in interaction between interdependent people, leading to an entrepreneurial economy.

I believe that the future of human work is contextual. Even after the captains are automated, the pilots may still be human beings. Even after the surgeons are robots, the nurses may still be human beings. Some people doubt this because there is some very advanced research going on that explores sensor technologies and responsive algorithms. The collaboration between sensors and actuators is getting better and better. Despite that, if you are a human being, it is better to be a tour guide than a travel agent.

It is a more profound change in work patterns than what the present platforms offer. It is not about employees becoming contractors. It is about generic, mass solutions becoming contextual and about interchangeable people who are now, perhaps for the first time, being seen as unique. The case for networked small units, such as human beings working together in responsive interaction, is stronger than ever. Local, contextual knowledge is needed not only for sustainability in farming but also at work.

What is most desperately needed is a deeper understanding of the complexity of life.

Farming is starting more and more with a true understanding of the particularities of the land. Work should also start with an understanding of the particularities of human beings.

Thank you Doug Griffin and James Scott

Collaborative and Competitive Creativity

Pablo Picasso visited Henri Matisse often during the spring of 1946. Matisse was pleased to see him. Matisse was 76 and had endured arduous colon surgery. Much of his work was now done either in bed or from a wheelchair. Simon Schama tells the story that after one of these visits Henri Matisse wrote to his son Pierre: “Picasso came to see me with a very pretty young woman. He could not have been more friendly and said he would come back and have a lot of things to tell me. But he saw what he wanted to see, my works in cut paper, my new paintings. That’s all he wanted. He will put it all to good use in time.”

Art historians claim that the relationship between Picasso and Matisse was by turns collaborative and competitive. It was a kind of an on going sparring match between two great masters.

The new technological environment of business has something in common with the world of Picasso and Matisse. It is marked by conflicting constraints, variables that shift very rapidly and value-creating relationships that change constantly. It is a complex environment.

In complex environments, the way to proficiency is to recombine successful elements to create new versions, some of which may thrive.

As a result, not just the user interfaces, but the operating system of work is starting to change in a radical way. The traditional industrial approach to work was to require each worker to assume a predetermined responsibility for a specific role. The new approach represents a different logic of organizing based on neither the traditional market nor a process. Whereas processes involve relations based on dependence and markets involve relations based on independence, the new networks involve relations of dynamic interdependence. A bit like the relationship between Matisse and Picasso. Minimal hierarchy, organizational diversity and responsiveness characterize these architectures. They are a necessary response to the increasing fuzziness of strategic horizons and short half-life of designs. Because of greater complexity, coordination cannot be planned in advance. Authority needs to be distributed; it is no longer delegated vertically but emerges horizontally. Under distributed authority work teams and knowledge workers need to be accountable to other work teams and other knowledge workers. Achievement depends on learning by mutual accountability and responsiveness.

Management and strategy used to be about rational choice between a set of known options and variables. The variables of creative work and complex environments have increased beyond systems thinking and process design. Under circumstances of rapid technological change, the management challenge is to create openness to possibilities and plausible options.

Success is based on continuous redefinition of the organization itself. It is about recombining options and contributions in a competitive and cooperative environment. Creativity is the default state of all human work. Even the most creative people are more remixers of other peoples’ ideas than lone inventors. Technology and development in general are not isolated acts by independent thinkers, but a complex storyline.

The democratization of technology that is taking place at the moment does not determine social and organizational change, but does create new opportunity spaces for new social practices. The opportunity we have is in new relational forms that don’t mimic the governance models of industrial firms. Network theory suggests that what the system becomes emerges from the complex, responsive relationships of its members, continuously developing in communication.

Like Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso.

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Thank you Simon Schama

Disrupting Unemployment

The concepts that govern our thinking and language in relation to work are not just semantic entities, but influence what we perceive and what we think is possible or not possible. Usually we are not aware of how these concepts prime our thinking. We simply think and act along certain lines.

A seminal concept related to how we perceive work is the division of labor, the notion of work as activities separated from other activities, as jobs. The industrial management paradigm is based on the presupposition that activities are the independent governing factors of creating value. The organizational structure of jobs comes first. Then an appropriate system of co-ordination and communication is put into effect. The scheme of interaction conforms to the planned division of labor as a secondary feature.

What if the increasing global competition, the Internet and the huge advances in communication technologies made it possible, or even necessary, to think differently? What if interaction was seen as the governing factor? The smartphone has now become information technology’s key product. Surely, then, it has an impact on the way we work. As jobs and communication are mutually dependent, it means that if there are changes in interaction, so the activities will change.

In the mainstream conceptual model of communication (Shannon & Weaver 1948) a thought arising within one individual is translated into words, which are then transmitted to another individual. At the receiving end, the words translate back into the same thought, if the formulation of the words and the transmission of those words are good enough. The meaning is in the words.

Amazingly, our conceptualization of value creation has followed the very same model. Companies transform ideas into offerings that are delivered to customers. At the receiving end, the products translate back into the same value that the company has created. The meaning is in the product.

Management scholars have lately made interesting claims saying that although the product is the same, different customers experience the value potential of the product differently. They say that it is in fact wrong to say that companies create value. It is the way the offering is contextually experienced and used that creates value, more value or less value. The bad news is that our present conceptualizations of work make it very hard to do anything about it. The good news is that for the first time in history we can do something about it. Companies can connect with users and be digitally present when and where their products are used.

Tor Arne

But we need a new conceptualization of communication if we want to have a new conceptualization of work. Luckily, there is one. A completely different approach to communication exists. The alternative view is based on the work of George Herbert Mead. This model does not see communication as messages that are transmitted 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 from the response, not from the words. There is no deterministic causality, no transmission, from the gesture to 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.

Gestures call forth responses and products call forth and evoke responses. Value lies not in the product but in the (customer) response. Accordingly, work should then be conceptualized as an interactive process, a social act, because the value of work cannot be known in the separate “job” activity or be understood through the capabilities of the worker.

If we subscribe to this relational 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. Perhaps in the future it will not be meaningful to conceptualize work as jobs or even as organizational (activity) structures like the firms of today. Work will be described as complex 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. Enabling and energizing patterns of interaction may be the most important raison d’être of work.

The relational view is a new conceptualization of work, potentially opening up new opportunities to disrupt unemployment. Perhaps it is time to change the focus from creating jobs to creating customers – in new, innovative ways. To quote Max Planck: “If you change the way you look at things, the things that you look at change.”

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Thank you Katri Saarikivi

The magic power of transparency and links

Eugene Garfield founded the Institute for Scientific Information in 1960.  His pioneering work was in citation indexing. This allows a researcher to identify which articles have been cited most frequently and who has cited them. Garfield’s studies demonstrated that the number of citable items, i.e. the number of papers, together with the frequency of their citation, meaning how many scientists link to the paper, is a good measure of scientific success. The system effectively measures quantity and quality at the same time.

The whole Web is a densely interconnected network of references. It is no different from the practice of academic publishing and citation indexing. Links on the Web are also citations, or votes, as the founders of Google realized. The observation of Larry Page and Sergey Brin that links are in fact citations seems commonplace today, but it was a breakthrough at the time Google started on September 7, 1998. What Google did was essentially the same as had been done in academic publishing by Eugene Garfield.

But at this time, relevance and importance were measured through counting the number of other sites linking to a Web site, as well as the number of sites linking to those sites. What Google has proved is that people’s individual actions, if those actions are performed in a transparent way, and if those actions can be linked, are capable of managing unmanageable tasks.

Cooperation and collective work are best expressed through transparency and linking.

The mainstream business approach to value creation is still a predictive process designed and controlled by the expert/manager. This is based on the presuppositions that we know (1) all the linkages that are needed beforehand, and (2) what the right sequential order in linking and acting is. Neither of these beliefs is correct any more.

The variables of creative work have increased beyond systemic models of process design. It is time to learn from the Internet

By relying on the unmanaged actions of millions of people instead of experts/managers to classify content on the net, Google democratized scientific citation indexing. To be able to manage the increasingly complex organizations of today, the same kind of democratization needs to take place in the corporate world. The transparency of tasks is the corporate equivalent of publishing academic articles. Responsive linking, rather than predictive linking, as in hierarchies and process charts, acts as a measure of contextual relevance.

Complex, creative work requires new approaches to organizing. The Google lesson for management is that the more work is based on responsive processes of relating and the more organizing is an ongoing process in time, the more value we can create!

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On the perceived relevance of academic papers.

Resilience, rationality and how we make decisions

We have been studying companies’ connections and disconnections for more than twenty years and have worked inside a huge number of them. Across all this research, common themes have emerged and intensified during the past few years: good communication in the era of the Internet and the new interactive tools does not mean any more that companies should listen carefully to their customers or that leaders should talk clearly with their subordinates. The linear view of communication, the movement of messages or sharing of content between people is giving way to a totally new understanding of what interaction, and work, are all about.

The first emerging theme is that communication is in fact a process of continuous coordination and knowledge creation. Knowledge is not shared as contents, but arises in action. Knowledge is never transmitted from one mind to another. It is a change from the movement of messages to a joint movement of thought. The future and viability of an organization depend on this process.

Economics still makes the assumption that individuals, the agents, as they are called, operate autonomously, separately from the influences of others. When choosing something, making a decision from a set of alternatives, the agent compares the attributes of the alternatives and selects the one that corresponds to her preferences. It is a world where independent individuals carefully weigh up the costs and benefits of any particular course of action.

However, scientists have emphasized the limits of our understanding. An important point is that these limits apply to everyone. They apply to politicians, to central bankers and to top executives of multinational companies. John Maynard Keynes once wrote that we have, as a rule, only the vaguest idea of the consequences of our actions. Herbert Simon and Stuart Kauffman on the other hand have argued that the number of future paths open to us at any point in time is so vast that it makes no sense at all to speak of the best or optimal decision.  But we still think the world works like a predictable machine operated by rational agents

Behavior that does not follow an economist’s definition is often called irrational, but it may be that in a world of ubiquitous networks, a proliferation of choice and an abundance of information, the economic definition of rationality has itself become outdated and irrational.

We need a new model of rational behavior and a new understanding of how we make decisions. We need a new decision model!

The second emerging theme is that the assumption that people make choices in isolation, that they do not adopt opinions simply because other people have them, is no longer sustainable. The choices people make, their buying decisions and their political views, are directly influenced by other people. That is to say that we construct our world together in communication. Network scientists such as Duncan Watts and Mark Granowetter have proved that the world comes to be what it is for us in our relationships. In the end it all depends on the company you keep and the conversations you have.

This leads to the importance of emphasizing relations instead of reductionism and separations. Reductionism means that the organization is understood as being split from its environment and one functional team is seen as being separate from another function. The worst mistake we make as a result of reductionist thinking may be that we assess and reward employees as if they were disconnected from other employees.

Links and communication are at the centre of organizational life. Depending on the quantity of interdependent links and the quality of communication, the organization lives or dies. Work is interaction between interdependent people.

The third emerging theme is that communication creates patterns. Words become what they are through the responsive actions of the people taking part. The relational view means in practice that if a conversation goes badly, it is always a joint achievement. On the other side, a conversation can only be successful if both participants join in and make it so as Ken Gergen points out. In management, it means that there is nothing one person alone can do to be a good manager. Good ideas don’t count as good ideas, if other people don’t treat them as such.

New leadership is about an awareness of creative and destructive patterns and having the ability to influence what is going on. In a creative pattern, the participants build on each other’s contributions. The conversation, thinking and action are in a process of forward movement.

Destructive patterns are the most harmful in terms of organizational viability. These patterns don’t contain forward movement but running in circles. People and organizations get stuck! People slow down in bitterness and silence, or even to the breaking of the link. The most destructive patterns often begin subtly, but unless they are worked with soon, not only will relations suffer but the whole network will deteriorate.

Being aware of the patterns includes being aware of the roles that we play. Whenever we speak, we do two things: we subtly define ourselves and define the other. Does the speaker in a company context define herself as one who can talk down to others or as an equal? What we say is important to the viability of the organization but the way we say it can be equally important. Talking down or talking up between people creates an asymmetry that leads to bad decisions and inefficient movement of thought.

The machine metaphor meant that we tended to think that the people “above” us have significant power. They are in control. We thus talked up to them. They should decide. They should do things for us because they were the ones who were responsible, not us. Knowing that they are not in control raises the question of a need for a new distribution of responsibility. Bottom-up as a metaphor is as harmful as top-down when the common goal is resilience.

There is no aspect of work or leadership that takes place outside the realm of communication. Human agency is not located or stored in an individual, contrary to mainstream economics. The individual mind arises continuously in communication between people.

Being skilfully present in the forward movement of thought and relational action is the new meaning of being rational.

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Thank you Ralph Stacey, Doug Griffin, Ken Gergen, Marcial Losada, Katri Saarikivi and Paul Ormerod

Links: “Resilient Performance in an Age of Uncertainty” “Possibilianism” “Stanley Milgram and the uncertainty of evil” “The fluid core“. “On functional stupidity and trust“. “Tulipmania” “Neuroeconomics

Business and complexity

Up to now, we have seen the world around us as systems that, we thought, could be described and understood by identifying rational causal links between things: if I choose X, then it will lead to Y. If, on the other hand, I choose A, it will lead to B. We are accustomed to drawing boxes and arrows between those boxes. We try to model the world as predictable processes based on knowing how things are and how they will be. We want to be certain, and we think we are.

Management thinking is based on the sciences of certainty. The whole system of strategic choice, goal setting and choosing actions to reach the given goals in a controlled way depends on predictability. The problem is that this familiar causal foundation cannot explain the reality we face. Almost daily, we experience the inability of leaders to choose what happens to them, to their organizations – or to their countries. Things may appear orderly over time, but are inherently unpredictable. We live in a complex world.

Complex systems are, as their name implies, hard to understand. Social systems, like organizations consisting of people, are accordingly complex and hard to understand. There is no linearity in the world of human beings. There are no arrows and people are not boxes, or fit inside of boxes. This is why our thinking needs to develop from the sciences of certainty to something more applicable, the sciences of uncertainty, the sciences of complexity.

Complexity refers to a pattern, a movement in time that is, at the same time, predictable and unpredictable, knowable and unknowable. Chaos theory explains how these patterns form. A parameter might be the flow of information in the system. At low rates, meaning no input or more of the same input, the system moves forward displaying a repetitive, stuck behavior. At higher rates and more diversity the pattern changes. At very high rates the system displays a totally random behavior. The pattern is highly unstable. However, there is a level between repetition/stability and randomness/instability. This level where simultaneous coherence and novelty are experienced is called the edge of chaos.

Classical physics took individual entities and their separate movement (trajectories) as the unit of analysis in the same way we have analyzed and rewarded individuals. Henri Poincaré was the first scientist to find that there are two distinct kinds of energy. The first was the kinetic energy in the movement of the particle itself. The second was the energy arising from the interaction between particles. When this second energy is not there, the system is in a state of non-dynamism. When there is interactive energy, the system is dynamic and capable of novelty and renewal.

Interaction creates resonance between the particles. Resonance is the result of coupling the frequencies of particles leading to an increase in the amplitude. Resonance makes it impossible to identify individual movement in interactive environments because the individual’s trajectory depends more on the resonance with others than on the kinetic energy contained by the individual itself.

We are the result of our interaction. We are our relations.

The conclusions are important for us: firstly, novelty always emerges in a radically unpredictable way. The smallest overlooked variable or the tiniest change can escalate by non-linear iterations into a major transformative change in the later life of the system.

Secondly, the patterns are not caused by competitive selection or independent choices made by independent agents. Instead, what is happening happens in interaction, not by chance or by choice, but as a result of the interaction itself.

The new social technologies have the potential to influence connectivity and interaction as much as the sciences of complexity are going to influence our thinking. The task today is to understand what both social business and complexity mean. The next management paradigm is going to be based on those two, at the same time.

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John Hagel on “harnessing the power of randomness” and “resilience

Patterns

Social sciences are concerned with understanding and representation of what is going on and what has happened. Earlier, social scientists took great leaders and their personal characteristics as the topics to be explained. Context and time did not matter. More recent approaches to the study of social phenomena can be summarized as trying to understand temporality; the processes of becoming, live movement in time, which, in the world of business, either gives rise to viability or makes us slowly, or rapidly, obsolete.

The life stream of individuals is the new focus area. Life streams are also called social activity streams. The term “lifestream” was coined by Eric Freeman and David Gelernter in the mid-1990s to describe a time-ordered stream of documents that functions as a diary; every document created and every document received is stored in the lifestream.

In management studies, the questions of becoming, remembering and forgetting are not only new concerns. They are the essence of modern knowledge management, especially in the time of Big Data, when “it is cheaper to keep than to throw away”.

There is a fear of memory loss in business, but there is also the opposite fear, that memory produces practices in the present that should best be forgotten.

Anthropologists claim that reproduction of the past is easier than change. This often leads us into situations where the past is no longer an adequate guide to the present, leading to a situation where an information asset turns into a liability.

Knowledge-intensive work takes place in communication. The process of knowing is the process of communication. The most important knowledge management challenge is to understand what takes place in that interaction: what is being discussed? What is not discussed, what is silenced? Who is included in the conversation, who is excluded? The most important measure, however, is how the common narrative develops, how fast, and where to.

This is why an organization should be seen as a pattern in time, a lifestream, a continuing story without beginnings. Everything we do is built on what has happened before. New people join this narrative and people leave. The patterns that emerge do so because of what everybody is doing. It is what many, many local interactions produce. Work is dynamic participation and influencing how the story develops.

Without understanding and visualizing where we come from and where we are heading, it is impossible to know whether we move at all, whether the flurry of daily activities is actually keeping us trapped in repetitive patterns without any progress. The same people having the same conversation again and again, as often seems to be the case.

Our past, together with our intentions for the future is present in the daily, mundane actions and interactions that often pass without notice. A lifestream is the ongoing reference point and visualization of progress in place (a map) and time (a calender). It is the means for pattern recognition to help create the future we truly desire.

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More on the subject: Euan Semple on Patterns. Doc Searls Weblog. Big Data and pattern recognition.