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Week 1: It's a big flat, blurred, diverse world out there


After reading Richard Florida’s “The World is Spiky” (2005) I really had to question whether the information contained in the article is prevent today, some ten years after it was written.  It isn’t that I disagree with the notion of increasing population density, or that economic activity is currently centered there, but I wonder if it will continue with the shift from a product-based to a knowledge-based economy where we have moved beyond the creation of widgets, evolving into organizations that provide services instead (Beechler & Woodward, 2009).  Today the complexity of our technologically era places us on the edge of a reference point in time were we have begun to see ourselves as an interconnected neural like network of interdependent entities working together towards common goals (Carley & Hill, 2001). Would this not support Thomas Friedman’s interpretation that technology has leveled the playing field? 
It is my assertion that technology has allowed for a new global economy where knowledge producers now have access to world markets for the first time, essentially creating adaptive systems that are able to learn and adapt quickly, creating a need for change in the way we do Business.  Ever asked how we are supposed to lead now that our organizations can be spread out over the globe?  The knowledge economy is characterized by deregulation and democratization across a new competitive landscape forcing us to increase speed, flexibility and adaptability.  In essence this means those organizations, or individuals for that matter, who can learn faster remain competitive and those who cannot fall by the wayside (Child & McGrath, 2001).
While it’s true that globalization has led to increased competition for talent and brain drain for some areas of the world the ability of people to connect using digital technology could mean we might be seeing a change in the pattern of technologically skilled employees migrating to more developed countries (Gibson and McKenzie, 2011).  It is my belief these changes will force organizations to consider a more long-term perspective that focuses on the advantages of a diverse workforce not connected by geography, but by technology alone (Hofstede, Hofstede, & Minkov, 2010). It probably means that business will have to replace existing business models (Beechler & Woodward, 2009) and focus on communication skills in order to promote the effectiveness of diverse work groups.  In a sense I think this is going to necessitate a change in how we think about business and what is practiced in the name of leadership and management (Uhl-Bien, Marion, & McKelvey, 2007).  Since employees will be more diverse and able to jump easily from one employer to another given the freedom of no geographical restrictions, the top down, bureaucratic approach to leadership practiced in the industrial era is well past its expiry date and is most certainly problematic when our western culture attempts to mix with people from across the world.  As almost everyone instinctively knows the values, customs and traditions vary between countries, and as technology blurs the geographical lines Drucker’s (2004) prediction that the world would change to a new and very different society seems to be upon us. Thus, the challenge of the knowledge economy is not merely coping with high-tech enabling technologies, but grappling with an era of cultural transformation at organizational and individual levels (Tiwana, 2000). It appeals for a new genre in business leadership who can accept that the foundation of an organization is in its human capital and will require a combination of intellectual acumen including emotional and spiritual intelligence qualities (Gardner, 2008).
We already at the stage of our technological evolution that computers algorithms are intelligent enough to make complex decisions on negotiation and mediation without human input and we may well get to a stage where computers take over the decision making within the C-suite.  However, I think future competitive advantage for organizations isn’t merely through quick data crunching by computer algorithms alone, but rather in the tolerance of ambiguity and the human element that allows us to consider acceptations to the rule.  To me it’s akin to a computer solving a puzzle, it can certainly do it, but whether or not the finished product has value as art is subjective and best decided by the human element.



References

Beechler, S., & Woddward, I. (2009). The global "war for talent". Jounal of International Management , 273-285.
Carley, K., & Hill, V. (2001). Structural change and learning within organizations. In A. Lomi & E. R. Larsen (Eds.), Dynamics of organizational societies (pp. 63−92). Cambridge, MA: AAAI/MIT Press.
Child, J., & McGrath, R. G. (2001). Organizations unfettered: Organizational form in an information-intensive economy. The Academy of Management Journal, 44(6), 1135−1149.
Drucker, P. (2004). The Daily Drucker: 366 Days of Insight and Motivation for Getting the Right Things Done. New York: Harper Collins.
Gardner, H. (2008). 5 Minds for the Future. Boston: Harvard Business Press.

Gibson, J., McKenzie, D. (2011). Eight questions about brain drain. Journal of Economic Perspectives. 25(3), pp. 107-128. doi: 10.1257/jep.25.3.107.
Hofstede, G., Hofstede, G. J., & Minkov, M. (2010). Cultures and Organizations: Software of the Mind. Revised and Expanded (3rd Edition ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill.
Tiwana, A. (2000). The knowledge management toolkit: Practical techniques for building a knowledge management system. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Uhl-Bien, M., Marion, R., & McKelvey, B. (2007). Complexity Leadership Theory: Shifting leadership from the industrial age to the knowledge era. The Leadership Quarterly, 18(4), 298–318. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.leaqua.2007.04.002



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Week 1: It's a big flat, blurred, diverse world out there

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