2. Managing businesses as networks of people
People are moving back to the center of business, where technology and automation previously reigned. People will form the core, but so too will the new infrastructure that businesses operate in, which increasingly is all the elements of today's digital networks, including social media, new user experiences with mobile, touch, video and telepresence. For the first time, this infrastructure now also includes something known as social capital. This is the sum total of the formal and informal connections one has with people and organizations in the digital world and defines the reach and power of the modern business ecosystem.
3. Shifting from static to dynamic notions of value
This is the concept that John Hagel has been discussing over the years about "knowledge stocks," the relatively stable inventory of classical corporate information that companies have been accumulating over the years. These are now being superceded by more valuable and faster moving "knowledge flows." Knowledge flows are richer, more up-to-date, are harder to disrupt and less likely to become out-dated and irrelevant than knowledge stocks. Enterprises that are not fluid in terms of cultivating, tapping into and controlling strong knowledge flows will have little future when their knowledge stocks age and become less and less relevant.
4. Designing businesses for radical change
The inability to overcome failure of imagination and find their way forward in a major dislocation (such as the present digital one) is often the cause of death of many well established companies. As thinkers like Dave Gray have recently observed, the life span of the modern enterprise has grown dramatically shorter in the last couple of decades because companies can't adapt fast enough. Not-invented here, cultural obstacles and inherent challenges in self-disrupting before the marketplace does it -- all weigh heavily on large organizations that are slow moving or not digitally savvy.
That said, a few leading organizations are clearly showing that they can change their colors, but it requires real commitment and investment from the top. I find that a limited number of enterprise leaders have the management support and/or the skill for making bold moves in today's trying economic climate. Instead, what we need to be doing is providing clear parameters and resources to our most innovative workers and setting them loose to experiment and pathfind the way forward. Distributing and scaling response to change is a key step in deliberately designing a business for a very different and unknown future.
5. Opening the culture of the organization
Companies that have stood the test of time are very good adapters. They listen to their market, watch it closely and match it move for move. They are also open to new ideas and willing to experiment. There are plenty of successful companies that don't have these traits, but they often come to unfortunately rapid "transition" (being acquired, going out of business, etc.). That said, I believe that the companies who have leaders that know how to lead through the network, as opposed to doing it in person or even over older technologies such as email and telephone, will be able to set the example, drive excellence in new digital business models and unleash the latent talent and information in their organization.
6. Tapping into collective intelligence
Making sense of the vast flows of knowledge in today's digital rivers using new business intelligence techniques and so-called "big data" tools will be a major differentiator. Knowing what your competitors don't and deeply understanding the marketplace in order to respond to change well is what companies are already starting to focus on these days.
Some of this might sound theoretical or high-level, but the challenge is that whatever you plan for today in terms adapting to specific technologies or trends will be ineffective by the time you get the response in place. That's the signature challenge of hyper-change. Instead, by moving up a level to changing the stance of the organization so that it naturally and constructively adapts on the ground to the changes around it, taking advantage of opportunities and repelling challenges is a much stronger, more systemic and effective way of managing a digital organization in the 21st century.
Editor's Note: You may also be interested in reading:
- The Importance of Rewarding Employees at Christmas
- Social Enterprise in 2012: A Shifting Landscape and Four Big Trends
- Social Software in Your Enterprise: Mastering the Hype Cycle