Esko Kilpi on Interactive Value Creation

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

Category: Uncategorized

A working class manifesto for the post-industrial era

Gregory Bateson wrote that the major problems in the world are the result of the difference between how nature works and how people think. Mainstream economics still sees the economy and society as ultimately predictable and controllable rational processes, although the repeated crises have shown how deeply flawed this view of the world is.

Today, more and more scholars see organizations as being more analogous to complex networks. There, it is not about predictions and controlled outcomes, but about uncertainty, perpetual co-creation and fundamental interdependence. Their claim is that we should study links and interactions. Many aspects of our social and economic world would start to look completely different from this complex network perspective.

Knowledge work is understood as creative work we do in interaction. Unlike the repetitive business processes we know so well, where inputs are acted on in some predictable, structured way and converted into outputs, the inputs and outputs of knowledge work are problem definitions and exploration for solutions. Even more, there are no predetermined task sequences that, if executed, would guarantee success.

Knowledge work is characterized by variety and exception rather than predictability and routine.

It is thus impossible to separate a knowledge process from its outcomes. Knowledge work is about human beings being more intensely present for each other. Thus, a post-industrial business today needs to be human-centric by definition. But people still tend to see their work and personal lives as two separate spheres.

Although this conflict is widely recognized, it is seen as an individual challenge, a private responsibility to manage. It is now time to challenge this and see the conflict as a systemic problem. It is a result of the factory logic, which saw human beings as resources and interchangeable parts of the main thing, the production machinery. The employee gave her time and skills for the employer for certain duration in exchange for money. The context and logic of work are dramatically different today. In knowledge work we need to create an explicit, new connection between work and personal life. We talked earlier about balancing work and life. Here we are talking about connecting work and life in a new way, with a new agenda. Human beings in interaction are the main things, not the processes of production.

Traditional management thinking sets employee goals and business goals against each other. The manager is free to choose the goals, but the employee is only free to follow or not to follow the given goals. This is why employee advocates mainly want responsible employers, nothing else, and the employers want committed employees who come to work with enthusiasm and energy.

Must we then choose between the goals of the people or the goals of the business, or can the two sides be connected? As we know, passion and commitment are best mobilized in response to personal aspirations, not financial rewards. The aim, however, is not to have a single set of common goals, but complementary goals and a co-created narrative for both!

Linking personal lives with corporate issues may seem like an unexpected, or even a strange connection. But if we don’t learn from psychology and cognitive neurosciences, and continue to try deal with each area separately, both individuals and organizations will suffer.

The lack of a connecting agenda may also be one of the big challenges facing the emerging post-industrial society.

We need to study the intersection of business strategy and personal narrative and use the new agenda to challenge our industrial age practices and flawed ways of thinking. Knowledge work needs whole human beings. People, who are more fully present, people with responsibility and ownership. We are accustomed to taking work home, but what would the opposite be?

We need an approach to work that appreciates whole human beings, their passions and voluntary participation. Rather than focusing on accountability, community design should concentrate on energizing, enriching participation.

The new structures of work and new designs for value creation are about communities continuously organizing themselves around shared information, shared interests and shared practices.

Post-industrial business is about doing meaningful things with meaningful people in a meaningful way.

Joulukirje

Elämme suurta mahdollisuuksien demokratisoitumisen vallankumousta, mutta samaan aikaan yhteiskunnalliset ongelmamme ovat ehkä vaikeampia kuin koskaan. Charles Dickensiä vapaasti lainaten: “It is the best of times and the worst of times.”

Aikaamme kuvaavat toisiinsa kytkeytyvät ja toisistaan seuraavat ongelmat ja yllätykset. Kompleksisten ongelmien ymmärtämiseksi ja ratkaisemiseksi tarvitaan aina ihmisten yhteistoimintaa ja hyvin monenlaisten kokemusten ja erilaisten osaamisten luovaa yhdistämistä.

On kuitenkin hyvin vaikeaa muodostaa yhdessä ymmärrystä tilanteesta jossa olemme koska tulkintoja on niin monta ja keinot tulkintojen yhdistämiseen puuttuvat. Elämme samassa maailmassa, joka kuitenkin näyttäytyy eri ihmisille erilaisena. Eri ihmisten luomat kuvat samoista tilanteista ja asioista poikkeavat merkittävästi toisistaan.

Miksi näin on? Yksi syy on se, että elämme ympäristössä jota kuvaa pitkälle erikoistunut työnjako, moniarvoisuus ja monikulttuurisuus. Tästä seuraa suoraan, että ihmisten kokemukset maailmasta ovat lähtökohtaisesti erilaisia ja toisistaan usein hyvinkin kaukana. Kukin lopulta kokee maailman perspektiivistä, joka ei ole täysin samanlainen kenenkään muun kokemusmaailman ja näkökulman kanssa.

Toinen syy on se, että ihmisen kuva maailmasta syntyy sosiaalisen toiminnan ja yhtesöllisesti koetun ympäristön kautta. Kokemukset eivät muodostu yksilön pään sisällä, vaan maailma koetaan ja luodaan yhdessä. Havainnot, kokemukset ja asioille annetut merkitykset syntyvät aina yksilön ja ympärillä olevien ihmisten sosiaalisessa todellisuudessa. Ajattelu tapahtuu enemmän ihmisten välillä kuin yhden ihmisen korvien välissä. Se, mikä on totta yhden ryhmän jäsenille ei välttämättä ole tosi toisille ryhmille joiden kokemusmaailman on erilainen.

Olemme tottuneet muodostamaan jakoja ihmisten välille ja luomaan kuvaa maailmasta erojen, reduktionismin ja vastakkainasettelujen kautta. Ymmärrystä ei voi syntyä jos toisiinsa kytkeytyneitä, keskinäisriippuvaisia ja vuorovaikutteisissa prosesseissa syntyviä ilmiötä yritetään havainnoida erillisyyksinä, irrotettuina niihin vaikuttavista suhteista.

Sen sijaan että tänään puhutaan faktojen jälkeisestä ajasta, meidän tulisi olla kiinnostuneita siitä, miten nämä erilaiset käsitykset asioista syntyvät? Mitkä ovat eri maailmankäsitysten ja eri ryhmien ”faktojen” taustalla olevat kokemusmaailmat ja miten niiden yhdistämisen kautta voitaisiin luoda rikkaampaa kuvaa todellisuudesta.

Tavoitteena ei ole kompromissi, yhden, kaikille sopivan ajatusmallin ja totuuden löytäminen. Sen sijaan meidän kaikkien tulisi pyrkiä ymmärtämään omasta ajattelusta poikkeavien, erilaisten näkökantojen taustalla olevaa erilaista maailmaa.

Luova mahdollisuus on siinä, että toisistaan poikkeavat näkökannat voivat rikastavassa vuorovaikutuksessa täydentää, mutta myös kehittää toisiaan. Ihmiset voivat työstää yhdessä toisten erilaisista kokemuksista jotain sellaista mihin kukaan ei pystyisi yksin. Erilaisuus voi olla suuri rikkaus ja lähtökohta luovuudelle.

Oppiminen lähtee aina erilaisuudesta.

Tämä ei onnistu jos keskustelu on asetelmaltaan epätasa-arvoista tai jos ajatuksen liike jumiutuu konflikteihin. Nyt syntymässä olevan, teollisen ajan jälkeisen maailman hyvinvointi edellyttää, että ihmiset voivat kohdata toisensa erilaisina, mutta tasa-arvoisina yksilöinä, jotka yhdessä luovat todellisuutta vuorovaikutuksessa.

Sisäänpäin kääntyvä heimoutuminen on tänään helpompaa kuin koskaan, mutta myös vaarallisempaa kuin koskaan. Se johtaa helposti sosiaalisia rajoja ylittävän vuorovaikutuksen loppumiseen ja siten demokratian elinvoiman heikkenemiseen.

Ensimmäinen teollinen vallankumous demokratisoi kulutuksen. Aikaisemmin kalliit tuotteet halpenivat massatuotannon ja koneellistumisen seurauksena dramaattisesti ja tulivat yhä useamman saataville. Massatuotanto loi sekä uudet markkinat että kulutusyhteiskunnan niin kuin sen yhä tunnemme.

Nyt käynnissä oleva teollinen vallankumous demokratisoi tuotannon. Aikaisemmin kalliit tuotantovälineet tulevat yhä useamman saataville. Teknologian kehitys laskee tuotantovälineiden hintoja dramaattisesti ja luo tilan uudelle massatuotannosta poikkeavalle arvonluonnille. Se mikä oli aikaisemmin mahdollista vain suurelle yritykselle on nyt mahdollista myös pienelle. Se mikä aikaisemmin vaati organisaation on nyt mahdollista muutamalle, hetkeksi yhteen tulevalle yksilölle.

Elämme mahdollisuuksien demokratisoitumisen kulta-aikaa.

Yhteiskunnallisen demokratian ytimessä on sama ihmisten mahdollisuuksien lisääntyminen ja uusien toimintavaihtoehtojen avautuminen. Yhteiskunnallinen hyvinvointi on lopulta kiinni siitä kumuloituvasta ongelmanratkaisujen määrästä, joka on yhä useammassa tilanteessa tarjolla yhä useammille ihmisille.

Kysymys on siitä kuinka monelle ihmiselle ja kuinka moneen ongelmankuvaukseen meillä on ratkaisun mahdollisuus uuden teknologian tukemassa vuorovaikutuksessa. Demokratia tarkoittaa vapauden luomien mahdollisuuksien käyttöä ja niiden hyötyjen kumuloituvaa jakamista arjessa.

Demokratia on silloin sekä tuotannollinen paradigma että valtiomuoto, joka nojaa keskeisesti erilaisten ihmisten kohtaamis- ja vuorovaikutuskykyyn. Demokratia vaarantuu heti jos kohtaamishalu tai -kyky puuttuvat tai jos keskusteluyhteydet katkeavat tai niitä ei ole ollutkaan. Yhteiskunnan arvot elävät tai kuolevat tavallisten ihmisten arjessa.

Teknologisen kehityksen jälkeen demokratia on tärkein jälkiteollista maailmaa synnyttävä yhteiskunnallinen voima.

Mitä paremmin ymmärrämme myös muita kuin omia näkökantojamme, sitä enemmän potentiaalisia ratkaisuja ongelmiin avautuu ja sitä enemmän meillä on mahdollisuuksia ja vapautta valita eri vaihtoehdoista ja luoda uutta. Kaikessa inhimillisessä toiminnassa näkyy sama lainalaisuus:

(1) enemmän kontakteja erilaisuuteen luo kuvan

(2) laajemmasta mahdollisuuksien maailmasta, joka taas

(3) luo suuremman vapauden valita ja

(4) luoda uutta arvoa ongelmankuvaus – ongelmaratkaisu prosesseina.

Valinnat taloudessa ovat aina moraalisia kannanottoja. Kaikki valinnat mitä teemme liittyvät aina arvoihin ja eettisiin käsityksiin hyvästä ja siitä mikä on toivottavaa. Teollisen ajan mekanistisesta luonteesta juontuu se, että ihmiset kohtelevat toisiaan monissa käytännön tilanteissa esineiden kaltaisina välineinä. Kun ihminen määrittyy toiselle ihmiselle välineenä on suhde epätasa-arvoinen ja johtaa helpommin autoritaarisuuden ihannointiin. Tässä nollasummapelissä toisen vallan kasvu vähentää toisen valtaa. Autoritaarisesti johdettu toiminta on ollut tehokasta ja tuottavaa massatuotannossa. Tämän johdosta symmetriset suhteet ja tasa-arvoisen arvonluonnin teoriapohja on kehittynyt hitaasti verrattuna yhteistoiminnan hierarkkisiin muotoihin.

Käsityksemme tehokkuudesta ja tuottavuudesta on rakentunut kilpailulle. Internet on oikeastaan ensimmäinen yhteiskunnallinen arkkitehtuuri, joka mahdollistaa tasa-arvoisen, yhteistoiminnallisen arvonluonnin uudet muodot laajassa mitassa.

Yhteistoiminta on aina kompleksista sekä seurauksiltaan että keskinäisriippuvuuksiltaan. Tasa-arvoista ja vapaata yhteistoimintaa ei voi kontrolloida, siihen voi ainoastaan osallistua. Koska yhteistoiminta on epävarmasti etenevää yhdessä synnytettyä ja syntyvää (emergenttiä) liikettä ajassa, se edellyttää aina tukea. Valta uudessa ympäristössä määrittyykin toiminnaksi, joka liittää erilaisia ihmisiä ja heidän erilaisia pyrkimyksiään yhteen.

Olemme ajatelleet, että vallankäyttö väistämättä johtaa valinnanvapauden kaventumiseen ja tasa-arvon vähentymiseen. Monissa yhteiselämän ja työn muodoissa joissa demokratian ihanne on ollut johtavana periaatteena on kaihdettu valtaa ja uskottu, että ilman vallankäyttöä toiminta löytää optimaalisen muodon. Tavallisesti tämä toteutetaan ohjeistamalla kommunikaatiokäytännöt ja byrokratisoimalla yhteistyörakenteet yhteisön toimijoiden välillä.

Valtasuhteita välttelevä yhteistoiminta toimii tavallisesti aluksi, mutta on usein käytännössä lopulta hyvin tehotonta. Huonolaatuinen vuorovaikutus eri intressejä edustavien ryhmien välillä luo mahdollisuuden sille, että autoritäärinen, valtaa haluava taho saa yhteisön hallintaansa tukemaan omia pyrkimyksiä.

Uusi demokraattinen vallankäyttö lähtee kuitenkin erilaisista periaatteista: valta on osa toimintaa, se ei ole toiminnasta erillinen rooli. Vallankäyttö onnistuu tasa-arvoisessa maailmassa kun moni osallistuja tukee muita toisiaan tarvitsevassa verkostossa ja täydentää muita vuorovaikutuksessa pyrittäessä jaettuihin tavoitteisiin. Valta mahdollistaa.

Teollisessa massatuotannossa oli tiukasti määritetyt rakenteet ja normit kuvaamassa kommunikaatiosuhteita ihmisten välillä. Vuorovaikutus tähtäsi tehtävän hoitamiseen eikä toisen ihmisen kohtaamiseen. Jälkiteollisen, demokraattisemman arvonluonnin keskeinen idea on tekijöiden vapaus liittyä ja yhdistyä arvoa luoviksi yhteisöiksi. Työ on jatkuvaa organisoitumista ja toisiaan tarvitsevien ihmisten vuorovaikutusta. Työ edellyttää ihmisten kohtaamista ihmisinä.

Demokraattinen, vapaa yhteistoiminta ei poista tarvetta luoda johtajuus-suhteita. Johtaminen on kuitenkin hyvin erilaista kuin autoritäärisessä tai hierarkkisessa mallissa. Johtamisen tehtävänä ei ole asettaa päämääriä tai antaa tehtäviä vaan ohjata toimintaa niin, että päämäärät muodostetaan ja tehtävistä sovitaan yhdessä. Valta tarkoittaa myös vastuuta keskustelun laadusta ja ajattelun etenemisestä yhdessä valitulla polulla.

Yhteisön oppiminen, oppimisen skaalautuminen ja yhteinen ajatuksen liike ovat tavoitteina kaikessa toiminnassa.

Ilman oppimista ja ajattelun liikettä, vanhoista kokemuksista kiinni pitävät yhteisöt ovat kyvyttömiä ymmärtämään muuttunutta ympäristöä. Selitysmekanismit eivät tue uuden toiminnan syntymistä, vaan jähmettävät yhteisön menneeseen.

Paras lopputulos syntyy vuorovaikutukseen osallistujien lisätessä toinen toistensa kykyä tunnistaa olemassa olevia vaihtoehtoja. Ihmiset käyttävät silloin toistensa esiintuomia asioita oman näkökulmansa laajentamiseksi, rikastamiseksi, muuttamiseksi ja myös korjaamiseksi. Kun yksilö ottaa omassa ajattelussaan huomioon muiden esille tuomat, usein oman ajattelun kanssa ristiriitaisetkin seikat, voi ajattelu, luovuus ja ongelmankuvaukset perustua paljon laajempaan pohjaan kuin vain omiin, aina rajallisiin, kokemuksiin.

Elämme keskellä valtavaa mahdollisuuksien demokratisoitumisen vallankumousta. Sen toteutuminen on viime kädessä kiinni siitä tukeeko yhteiskuntamme osallisuutta, laajaa verkottumista ja vuorovaikutusta.

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Credits

Mary Parker-Follett, David Bohm, Martin Buber, Paulo Freire, Karl-Martin Dietz, Kai Alhanen ja Katri Saarikivi

Emmi Itäranta Helsingin Sanomat 30.12.2016 http://www.hs.fi/sunnuntai/art-2000005026627.html?ref=rss

Kai Alhasen haastattelu. Yle Areena http://areena.yle.fi/1-3768233

The brain, the Internet and the future of work

It is not uncommon to think that knowing is something that goes on in the brain. Perhaps astonishingly, the evidence that it is really so is not quite clear. Some scientists have recently expressed doubts. The mind, they have argued, is not a thing to which a place can be allocated. Intellectual life is essentially social and interactive, they say. Life is carried on through communication between people. These researchers claim that interactions are not secondary by-products of thinking. They are the primary sites of that activity.

The structures of the brain and the Internet look the same. In the brain there are neurons that link as a result of being active at the same time. This firing together creates a connection that increases the strength of their connection. On the Internet there are servers and people that are linked in temporary interaction, sometimes as a result of being inspired and interested in the same topic. This short-term communication sometimes leads to a longer relationship increasing the strength of the connection. No neuron links with all the other neurons at the same time. No server links with all the other servers at the same time, and no one person interacts with all the other people at the same time. So all communication is always contextual and local, whether in the brain, in an organization, or on the Internet. However, local here does not mean spatially local. The nodes in local interaction can be physically located far away, in different parts of the world. The Internet redefines what the local, in local interaction, means.

We often think of individuals as independent and self-contained. The view suggested here sees individuals as nodes of the complex networks they form, co-creating themselves and the reality in which they participate.

Our social interactions play a role in shaping our brain. We know now that repeated experiences sculpt the synaptic connections and rewire our brain. Our relationships gradually frame the neural circuitry. Being chronically depressed by others or being emotionally nourished and enriched has lifelong impacts. This is of course unwelcome news to someone whose relationships tend towards the negative but it also points to where the possibilities for repairing the situation might be. And they are not inside a person’s head.

We can no longer see our minds as independent and separate but as thoroughly social. 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.

This is why we need to focus on communication practices in addition to, and perhaps even instead of, communication technologies. Communication starts with acknowledgement. It is about paying attention to others and making room for them in our lives. Our attention should be on questions such as who is talking and who is being silenced, who is included and who is being excluded, who I acknowledge and who acknowledges me?

In a corporate context, an organization is still metaphorically a picture of walls defining who is inside and who is outside a particular box. Who is included and who is excluded. Who we are and who they are. This way of thinking was fine in repetitive work where it was relatively easy to define what needed to be done and by whom as a definition of the quantity of labor and quality of capabilities. As a result, management practice created two communication designs: the process chart and reporting lines.

In creative, knowledge based work it is increasingly difficult to know the best mix of capabilities and tasks in advance. In many firms reporting routines are already the least important part of communication. At the same time, much more flexibility than the process maps allow is needed. The variables of creative work have increased beyond systemic models of process design. It is time to learn from the brain and the Internet.

What if the organization really should be an ongoing process of emergent organizing? Instead of thinking about the organization as a structure, let’s think about contextual communication. If we take this view we don’t think about walls but about connections and how groups are formed around what we actually do. The new task is to make possible very fast linking and thus to make it as easy as possible to get the best contributions from the whole network.

The focal point in organizing is not the organizational entity one belongs to, or the manager one reports to, but the reason that brings people together. What purposes, activities and tasks unite us? What is the cause of interdependence and group formation? These contexts should create transparent, permeable boundaries between them, not walls. Instead of the topology of organizational boxes that are often the visual representation of work, the architecture of work is a live graph of interdependence and accountability. Yes, accountability, because the interaction itself constrains and not only enables the people in the interaction.

Changing the way we communicate is the way we change organizations. Changing the conversation is not a major programme or change process. It is about understanding and influencing participation. It is sometimes about new connections, new conversations, and new people actively taking part. It is often about asking different kinds of questions and pointing to different kinds of issues.

The human brain has more than 100 billion neurons. There are around 3 billion Internet users at the moment. So we are still far away from the cognitive potential of the brain when it comes to possible link combinations of communication between people. But this may be humankind’s most valuable untapped resource!

On any scale we choose to look at things, there can be no change without changes in the patterns of communication.

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More information: Learning rewires the brain.

Complexity

The way we want to make sense of the world around us often has to do with causality. The question we ask is what caused “it” to happen. The mainstream approach is that an arrow, or arrows, can be drawn. There is a variable, the “it”, that happened, that is now to be explained. In scientific study this variable is regarded as dependent. An independent variable, or variables, that cause it are then sought. Causality means that X causes Y. If there is more X there will also be more Y. This is the if-then model of management. In organizations, a familiar explanation for success is that a particular manager or a particular culture caused it.

But there is something significant happening today. Scholars are increasingly pointing out the fact that this view of the relationship between cause and effect is much too simplistic and leads to a very limited or even faulty understanding of what is really going on.

Cybernetics recognized a much more complicated causality. In this kind of system the arrows, the links, between cause and effect can be distant in terms of time or place. The system can be highly sensitive to some changes but very insensitive to some others. For the first time, it was understood that it is a non-linear world.

Complexity challenges the assumption of earlier systems theories that movement in time can be predictable in the sense that X causes Y, or that the movement follows some archetypes. The modelling differs significantly from all previous systems models.

Complexity means a different theory of causality.

The most important insight is that it is often not possible to identify specific causes that yield specific outcomes. Almost indefinite number of variables influence what is going on. The links between cause and effect are lost because the tiniest overlooked, or unknown, variable can escalate into a major force. And afterwards you can’t trace back, you can’t find the exact butterfly that flapped its wings. There is no trail that leads you to an independent variable.

The future of a complex system is emerging through perpetual creation. Complexity is a movement in time that is both knowable and unknowable. Uncertainty is a basic feature of all complex systems. It is a dynamic in time that is called paradoxically stable instability or unstable stability. Although the specific paths are unpredictable, there is a pattern. The pattern is never exactly the same, but there is always some similarity to what has happened earlier.

In the end it is about the combination and interaction of the elements that are present and how absolutely all of them participate in co-creating what is happening. None of the elements cause the end result independently. From this standpoint a lighted match does not cause a fire. Rather, the fire took place because of a particular combination of elements of which the lighted match was just one. In the same way, a rude remark does not start a fight. The argument starts as a combination of an offensive remark and a coarse response.

The big new idea is to reconfigure agency in a way that brings complex relationships into the center. The task today is to see action within these relationships.

Complex relationships cannot be understood through spatial metaphors such as process maps or network charts. Unhelpful or wrong models and metaphors are often a big obstacle to moving our thinking forward after the technological constraints are gone.

We need to move towards temporality, to understand what is happening in time.

An organization is not a whole consisting of parts. There is no inside and outside. An organization is a continuously developing or stagnating pattern in time. Industrial management was a particular pattern based on specific assumptions about communication, causality and human psychology.

Recent developments in psychology/sociology have shown that human agency is not located or stored in an individual, contrary to what mainstream economics would have us believe. The individual mind arises continuously in communication between people.

The focus of industrial management was on the division of labor and the design of vertical/horizontal communication channels. The focus should now be on cooperation and emergent interaction based on transparency, interdependence and responsiveness.

Looking at communication, not through it, what we are creating together.

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Thank you Ralph Stacey, Ken Gergen, Doug Griffin, Jim Wilk, Marko Ahtisaari and Katri Saarikivi

The wiki way of working

Physical tasks can normally 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 workflow. Intellectual tasks are by default complex and linked. Knowledge work is a social construct.

The machine metaphor led to the belief that if we can only arrange the parts in the right way, we optimize efficiency. The demands of work are different now: how efficient an organization is reflects the number of links people have and the quality of the links they have to the contexts of value, the things that matter.

How many handshakes separate them from one another and from the things that matter most? We are beginning to see the world in terms of  relations.

We have examples of new social architectures that redefine some basic beliefs about work and cooperation between people.

At the moment the wiki is the best departure from the division of labor and workflows. Wikis let people work digitally together in the very same way they would work face-to-face. In a physical meeting, there are always more or less the wrong people present and the transaction costs are very high. Unlike email, which pushes copies of the same information to people to work on or edit separately, a wiki pulls non co-located people together to work cooperatively, and with very low transaction costs. Email and physical meetings are methods which exclude. They always leave people out. A wiki, depending on the topic, the context and the people taking part, is always inviting and including. The goal is to enable groups to form around shared contexts without preset organizational walls, or rules of engagement.

In 1995 Ward Cunningham described his invention as the simplest online database that could possibly work. An important principle of the wiki is the conscious emphasis on using as little structure as possible to get the job done. A wiki does not force a hierarchy on people. In this case, less structure and less hierarchy mean lower transaction costs. A wiki always starts out flat, with all the pages on the same level. This allows people to dynamically create the organization and, yes, also the hierarchy that makes most sense in the situation at hand.

People work together to reach a balance of different viewpoints through interaction as they iterate the content of work. The wiki way of working is essentially a digital and more advanced version of a meeting or a workshop. It enables multiple people to inhabit the same space, see the same thing and participate freely. Some might just listen, some make comments or small edits, while others might make more significant contributions and draw more significant conclusions.

New work is about responsive, free and voluntary participation by people who contribute as little, or as much as they like, and who are motivated by something much more elusive than only money. Society has moved away from the era of boxes to the time of networks and linked, social individualism. Being connected to people, also from elsewhere, is a cultural necessity and links, not boxes, are the new texture of value creation.

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The importance of SLUSH

The creative era we live in is an age of unprecedented possibility compared with the industrial age. Totally new opportunities are systematically being created. One of the best examples of this is the SLUSH event that took place in Helsinki on November 13th and 14th. SLUSH is a two-day startup conference, a meeting point and a coming together of roughly 6000 people belonging to the international startup ecosystem. There are entrepreneurs, investors, startup founders, employees and students taking part.

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. Some things are becoming much easier than before and some things are becoming possible, perhaps for the first time. The vibrant startup culture proves this point.

There are very few isolated geniuses. But there are many bright people who have continued and improved the work of others. Capable people always have capable peers, people who act as filters connecting them with people and connecting them with high quality information. The goal of SLUSH is to “gather the connections that startups need to thrive on the global stage.”

In a sense, creative people are more remixers of other peoples’ ideas than inventors. Technology and development are not isolated acts by independent thinkers, but a complex storyline, where the storytellers and curators, are more important than the heroic inventors, if there ever were any.

Creative, connected learning is at the core of the startup business. SLUSH is a huge learning festival and the biggest concentration of positive energy I have seen in a long time. Businesses and non-profits like SLUSH, more than government, seem to be driving the changes in education that are required for the knowledge-based economy. The government-run education systems are lagging behind the transformation of learning that is evolving.

Learners are teachers and teachers are learners during the two hectic days of SLUSH. Creating learning connections is more valuable today than creating learning content. Information is becoming a process of continuous iteration and networked negotiation. Information networks are the architecture of work and a valuable, shared resource. These networks are the new commons. In the new commons people with many ties are better informed and have more signalling power, while those outside the commons and with few ties may be left behind.

The real forte of SLUSH is that as we engage in new relationships, we are creating new potentials for action. Every human relationship, every connection, serves as a model for what is possible. The Internet era has proven that we are capable of working together competitively/cooperatively and building social communities that some time ago many would have dismissed as impossible dreams.

Thus we don’t yet have a good idea of what cannot be done by connected people working together in new ways. Perhaps “We can walk on water” as @pvesterbacka from Rovio says in a very compelling way.

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Thank you Miki Kuusi, Ilkka Kivimäki, Peter Vesterbacka, Inka Mero and the whole team! And yes, Supercell! It was a great party!

More on commons.

Reinventing Capitalism

Economist Brian Arthur from the Santa Fe Institute argues that the ever increasing role of knowledge in value creation makes the foundations of economics badly outdated. Likewise, Peter Drucker predicted that “knowledge may come to occupy the place in the politics of the knowledge-based society which property and income occupied over the three centuries that we have come to call the age of capitalism.”

Luckily, an important and growing body of research and writing is exploring the theoretical nature of capital-centric enterprises. Although most of these efforts are still sketchy, they may well lead to normative implications concerning the allocation of claims and control rights in firms. If this happens, the new approaches may be very different from those principal-agent models that are the norm in capital-centric firms today.

In principal-agent models, employees are viewed as agents of the (managers of the) firm, and the managers of firms are viewed as agents of the shareholders. The only right management challenge is then to design the terms of the relationships in a way that will encourage the agents to behave in ways that benefit the principals.

The firm is viewed as a contracting mechanism between providers of financial capital (the principals) and managers (the agents). Principal-agent models are extremely influential in corporate governance and have in reality formed the basis of mainstream compensation structures.

As early as 1964 Gary Becker coined the term “human capital” to refer to the fact that many of the skills and knowledge required to do knowledge work could only be acquired if “some investment was made in time and resources”.

In his seminal work, Becker considered the implications of the fact that some of the knowledge and skills acquired by employees have a much higher value in some relationships than they do in others. The labor services of employees with specialized skills can thus no longer be modeled as undifferentiated, generic inputs, for which wages and quantity, the number of employees, and the number of hours of work, are determined. Once employees are understood to have specialized skills, it matters which employee does what tasks for what firm. With context-specific human capital, the productivity of a particular individual depends not just on being part of a firm, but on being part of a particular group of people engaged in a particular task.

More importantly, once acquired, knowledge and skills that are specialized are assets that are at risk following the very same logic as that by which financial assets are at risk.

Is human capital then conceptually the same as financial capital and should investors in firm specific human capital also be seen as principals? Should employees be shareholders? Should capitalism accordingly create a much larger number of capitalists?

According to the mainstream principal-agent view of the firm, a corporation is understood to be something apart from each of its participants. The nexus of investments view suggested here offers a view of corporations that stresses willing participation by both financial investors and human capital investors, and the ability of both parties to protect their interests. A firm is essentially about creating long-term contracts when short-term contracts are too bothersome. Reinventing capitalism is about renegotiating many of the things that we have too long taken for granted.

I believe that everybody will benefit, if, in the future, a larger number of workers think like owners and act like investors.

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Thank you Brian Arthur, Steve Denning, John Hagel, Umair Haque, Gary Becker, Margaret Blair, Ronald Coase, Oliver Williamson, Harold Demsetz, Oliver Hart and Jeff Gates

Background reading. Robert H. Frank in the Boston Globe.