The Web has become the organization. An organization of a billion people with a billion things to say. And a million ways to work together.The ability to organize is the basis of life. It is also the basis of civilization. Without the concept of the company, capitalism could not have thrived. The Web allows for new forms of organization that will have a profound impact on how we live, work and play over the next twenty years.
Traditionally, the tools of organization belonged to a powerful elite. At a basic level, to bring a group of people together required some sort of physical space. Over time, this space became more and more sophisticated.
Organizations needed buildings with offices, meeting rooms, reception areas and canteens. These buildings were heated, lit, and filled with a range of communication equipment. Classifications, filing systems and networks were developed. A rigorous bureaucracy, administration and management evolved.
Today, your office can be at Starbucks, while your network is wireless. You can work with your team using Skype. You can get a complicated job delivered to the highest standards without any fulltime employees; just your network of independent partners who agree to work towards a shared objective. This is a new way of working. This is different.
But something even bigger is happening. The Web has found a way to organize a billion people. And just how does the Web do that? Democracy. Voting. Google, Amazon, EBay, Digg, myspace, YouTube, delicious, Linkedin, Technorati, flickr; they all use voting to help the cream rise to the top.
This organization of you, me and us doesn't need to listen to the old organizations as much any more. We don't need to be told what is cool by some fashion guru, or some clever ad campaign. We decide.
It's simple, really. We vote by visiting one website more than another, by watching one video more than another, by rating one book or song higher than another. And we like it that way, and we trust each other.
According to the 2006 Edelman Trust Barometer:
* Trust in the Web as a source of information is growing, while trust in TV is declining.
* Employees are more trusted as spokespersons for an organization than CEOs.
* "A person like me" is more trusted than doctors, academics and other such experts. In the U.S., trust in "a person like me" has shown a dramatic increase from just 20 percent in 2003 to 68 percent in 2006.
Over time, many organizations have rigidified. They have forgotten their core purpose: to deliver products and services to customers. They became organization-centric, falsely believing that the purpose was the organization itself.
For the organizations that have become organization-centric, the Web is one big wake-up call. Those organizations that do not become truly customer-centric will be severely punished by the Web.
The choice of the 2006 Time Person of the Year says it all. It's YOU. This is the age of customer power, customer collaboration, customer content; the sprawling, highly networked organization of YOU.
Gerry McGovern, a content management author and consultant
, has spoken, written and consulted extensively on writing for the web and web content management issues since 1994.