The End of a Job as We Know It


The concept of a job, as we know it, is starting to go away.

Over the last year I've been speaking with many corporate business and HR leaders and have heard a common theme:we need our organizations to be more agile. We need to redesign the organization so we can learn faster, communicate better, and respond more rapidly to change. This quest for the agile organization has changed the nature of what we call a job.

Pfizer, for example, has set "increase business agility" as one of its four goals for the coming year. The company created an internal labor marketplace called PfizerWorks that lets employees bid on work from each other. Executives at Siemens told me that one of their biggest challenges today is moving engineers into new roles so they can focus on new business areas. InBev (Anheuser Busch), Scotiabank, and MetLifehave all launched global talent mobility programs to force people to gain global awareness and expand business opportunities.

Something very profound is happening. Jobs are getting more specialized, people work in teams and cross functional boundaries, and success is being redefined by expertise, not span of control.

And people without specialized skills are finding it harder to find work. Seth Godin calls it "the end of the average worker." As we prepare for our annual research conference (IMPACT 2012: Building Agility through People), I would like to talk a little bit about a theme which I call "the end of a job as we know it."

The History of a Job

Many decades ago organizational development experts came up with the concept of "a job" - a functional role which was defined by a set of responsibilities, functional competencies (skills needed to succeed), a job title, level, and career path. These functional roles are institutionalized around the world. We write "job descriptions" when we hire people; we create organization charts which show functional roles in a hierarchy; we have billions of dollars of HR software which manage job competencies, compensation levels, and skills; and we have millions of workers and managers who have been trained to hire, manage, and organize their teams around these pre-defined jobs.

For you as an employee, you read the job description, take on the "job," try to do it well, and expect regular rewards and upward promotion. And if you work for a well run organization, there are training tools, assessments, feedback, and recognition programs to help you succeed.

Well, the world has changed. It's all about expertise, not just experience.

Well the world has changed. Today, thanks to communications technology, people can do their "jobs" everywhere and anywhere. We collaborate across the globe just as easily as we can in the same room. People don't necessarily progress "upward," but often "sideways" or "deeper" in expertise.

And as a result of this shift, if you let your skills atrophy, you're dead. Your employer can likely find those skills elsewhere by hiring a contractor, bidding out work, or finding another internal expert. We have entered a workforce where deep skills are the currency of employment, not just experience.

In our research we call this "the borderless workplace," a concept which explains how workers work seamlessly with people inside and outside their organization on a continuous basis. And this shift has redefined what a "job" actually is.

Let's look at a few examples.

Customer service agents work in some type of support center. But today this may be virtual, taking place at home or in a remote location. Service agents can instantly access experts in engineering, sales, or product design through knowledge portals, online video, and email. So if you are a customer service agent that specializes in the support of one particular product, are you a "customer support agent" or are you a "product specialist?" If your company is smart, they will redefine your job as "product specialist" and put you into a role which lets you share your expertise with other service agents. You will make more money and serve others in the organization.

Look at IT and engineering. In the 1980's companies hired "computer programmers." These were people with general programming skills and they came to your company with to learn your systems. Today there are dozens of highly specialized IT skills (UI specialists, Ruby-on-Rails experts, data scientists, systems architects, IOS experts,etc). If you don't have deep expertise in one of these areas, you're going to find it hard to find a "programming" job. And IT executives use borderlessness more than ever: if your company needs a programming skill, they will find it in India, China, or eastern Europe.

Your value as an employee is no longer "I am good at my job" but "how much demand is there for my skills."

This is the process of "increasing specialization," a process which naturally takes place in high-performing organizations. Much research has been done over the years and it all shows that "specialists out perform generalists" by up to 10:1. Specialized software engineers produce 10X more productivity than generalists. Specialized sales people can sell 5-10 times as much as generalized sales people, and on and on.

Malcolm Galdwell's best-selling book Outliers is explains how all experts develop their special skills over long periods of time (7+ years to become excellent), and ultimately become world-class at narrower and narrower skills.

Roles not Jobs: Tasks and Projects, not Functions.

What this all means is that in today's high performing companies, people now take on"roles" not "jobs." They are responsible for "tasks" and "projects" and not simply "functions."

While a company may still need to hire a "customer service agent" or a "director of customer service," what they really want to do is find a person who has a highly refined set of skills which they need for their company. So if the company is Southwest Airlines, they're going to look for someone with great sense of humor, a high degree of emotional intelligence, and the willingness to do what it takes to solve a customer's problems. They aren't looking for people who "have had that job" but rather people who "have these skills."

And leadership, by the way, is just a "role" like any other - with its own particular set of skills. Grundfos, one of the world's most successful global manufacturers, defines its leadership as "innovators," "executers," and "managers" - all peers with each other.

This is particularly true in technical and professional roles. Many of the HR executives I talk with tell me they're having an increasingly difficult time recruiting. As our research points out, this is not because there aren't people looking for jobs, it's because their organization needs specialized roles and the workforce itself has not fully adjusted to this new world. The VP of Talent Acquisition at one major insurance company told me that she is no longer looking for "IT staff" or "computer programmers" but rather "Ruby on Rails Programmers with 5+ years of experience in Agile software development."

This is the essence of my thesis: "jobs as we know them are changing dramatically."



Five Ways High-Performing Organizations Manage People

I talk with many companies each year, and have found that high-performing organizations (the "agile" ones) manage people differently. They have embraced the new definition of work:

1. They reward results and expertise, not position.

Accenture rewards its consultants based on a 7-level capability model, which people are expected to focus on over many years of their career. People are evaluated based on the "internal demand" for their skills, not just their manager's assessment of performance.

Intel regularly rewards and moves top engineering talent around the company to promote and build their expertise.

2. They break down functional silos and facilitate work across business functions.

One of Pfizer's greatest organizational breakthroughs was the company's focus on "science teams" which collaborate and share information on various body systems, organs, and molecules across different product teams.

IBM regularly creates global action-teams which take people from functional groups and brings them together to work on large client projects.

3. They reward continuous learning and "learning agility."

The Federal Reserve and even the IRS now reward people for contributing knowledge to others becoming better teachers and learners. Some academics call this a push for "serial incompetence," meaning people are regularly moved into new roles to expand their breadth of experience.

4. They hire for values, innate skills, and fit, not for experience.

The famous Google hiring tests focus on intellectual ability and fit, not on experience.

Swardovski, one of the world's leading retailers, looks for integrity and sense of value in its candidates, not retail experience. Even the giant American Express has changed its hiring standards to look for "hospitality personalities" not customer service experience.

5. They encourage and promote horizontal mobility.

United Health Group posts all major job opportunities internally and has built a whole team dedicated to "facilitated talent mobility." This team helps people find new jobs internally, develop their own internal careers, and saves the company millions in external hiring.

All these high-performing business focus on people taking on "roles" and "responsibilities" and building deeper levels of skills and cross-functional contribution.

Implications for You, Your Organization, and the HR Marketplace

I've been talking with companies about this for the last year, and this shift has many important implications.

Job Seekers:

If you are a job seeker, it means that now, more than ever, it is time to focus on your own skills and abilities. Decide what you are truly good at, and focus on building this set of skills in a deeper and more meaningful way. Read everything you can. Take courses to build fundamental skills. Remember that experience drives mastery: get more experience doing different types of projects in your own job today. This makes you more valuable to your own employer as well as to the external job market.

Business Leaders:

If you are a manager or business executive, think hard about your own organization. Have you created enough flexibility in the organization to empower people to develop expertise and bring it to your customers? Do you encourage continuous learning and learning from mistakes? Do you reward expertise and functional depth? Do you define a "high-potential" as a strong technical or functional leader and not only a strong manager or executive? (Managerial skills are actually "functional skills" also.) For more on this, read about our High-Impact Learning Culture research.

HR Vendors and Suppliers:

Are you delivering the right products and services which reflect this huge shift in the nature of the workforce? Do you have tools and services which help people build expertise, find expertise, and develop and improve internal organizational agility? If not you may find yourself selling products which rapidly become obsolete. (Look at how quickly, a  job-board is being replaced by LinkedIn an expertise network. The company's earnings just dropped 5% despite a 9% increase in the number of postings.)

HR Executives and Managers:

Are you promoting HR practices which create cross-organizational work and expertise? Is your reward system flexible and open enough to enable people to work on project teams which cross the organization? Is your performance management process agile and flexible and does it force continuous feedback and transparency? Do you hire for skills and capabilities or just experience? Do you promote and facilitate talent mobility? Do you regularly communicate company values, goals, and strategies to encourage people to think of the organization as "one team" and not a set of functional silos?

The world of work is dramatically changing.


Josh%20bersin%20 %20entreprise%20collaborative%20 %20ecollab%20contributeurJosh Bersin, CEO and President, Bersin & Associates

Josh Bersin has worked with hundreds of companies to deliver high impact employee learning, leadership development and talent management. In 2001, he founded Bersin & Associates to provide research and advisory services focused on corporate learning. Today, the firm is the "go to" source for learning and HR decision makers seeking product and market data, insight on trends and expert advice on enterprise learning and talent management.

Bersin is a frequent speaker at industry events including the HR Technology Conference, the ASTD International Conference, and the Learning Technologies Conference. He has been quoted on talent management topics in HR, technology and major business media, including, Harvard Business Review,, The Wall Street Journal, Investor's Business Daily, on BBC Radio, CBS Radio and National Public Radio. He also is the author of The Training Measurement Book: Best Practices, Proven Methodologies, and Practical Approaches (April 2008, Pfeiffer) and The Blended Learning Book: Best Practices, Proven Methodologies, and Lessons Learned (October 2004, Wylie/Pfeiffer).


Communities of Practice and Social Learning Systems: the Career of a Concept (Introduction)


In this paper, I relate the conceptual framework of communities of practice to systems theory and I review the career of the concept of community of practice since its inception in my work with Jean Lave in 1987 :

- Learning as the production of social structure

- Learning as the production of identity

- Learning as the structuring of systems: landscapes of practice

- Modes of identification

- Identity in a landscape of practices

- Knowledgeability as the modulation of accountability

- A powerless concept: what about power?

- An anachronistic concept: is it history?

- A co-opted concept: on the instrumental slippery slope?

- Practice: learning partnerships

- Learning governance: stewardship and emergence

- Power: vertical and horizontal accountability

- Identity: learning citizenship

The concept of community of practice was not born in the systems theory tradition. It has its roots in attempts to develop accounts of the social nature of human learning inspired by anthropology and social theory (Lave, 1988; Bourdieu, 1977; Giddens, 1984; Foucault, 1980; Vygostsky, 1978). But the concept of community of practice is well aligned with the perspective of the systems tradition. A community of practice itself can be viewed as a simple social system. And a complex social system can be viewed as constituted by interrelated communities of practice. In this essay I first explore the systemic nature of the concept at these two levels. Then I use this foundation to look at the applications of the concept, some of its main critiques, and its potential for developing a social discipline of learning.

The concept of community of practice does not exist by itself. It is part of a broader conceptual framework for thinking about learning in its social dimensions.1 It is a perspective that locates learning, not in the head or outside it, but in the relationship between the person and the world, which for human beings is a social person in a social world. In this relation of participation, the social and the individual constitute each other. When I refer to "the theory" in what follows, I refer to this version of social learning theory.

1 Note that there are other dimensions of learning - biological, psychological, cognitive, as well as historical and political in the broad societal sense. The theory does not explicitly address these aspects, though it is, I hope, compatible with theories that do. It needs to be combined in a plug-and play fashion with theories that address these other dimensions to explain specific situations where they are salient.


Next Part: 

. Part 1: A social systems view on learning: communities of practice as social learning systems.


Reproduced from


Etienne%20wenger%20 %20entreprise%20collaborative%20 %20ecollab%20contributeur

Etienne Wenger-Trayner is a globally recognized thought leader in the field of social learning and communities of practice.

He has authored and co-authored seminal articles and books on the topic, including Situated Learning, where the term "community of practice" was coined; Communities of Practice: learning, meaning, and identity, where he lays out a theory of learning based on the concept; Cultivating Communities of Practice, addressed to practitioners in organizations who want to base their knowledge strategy on communities of practice; and Digital Habitats, which tackles issues of technology.

His work is influencing a growing number of organizations in the private and public sectors. He helps these organizations apply these ideas through consulting, public speaking, and workshops.



Précédemment: Introduction: Les communautés de pratique et les systèmes de social learning: L’histoire d'un concept
Partie suivante:

Deuxième partie : Les systèmes sociaux du point de vue de l’apprentissage : Les communautés de pratiques dans les systèmes de social learning

- L’apprentissage comme structuration de systèmes : des espaces de pratique

- Les processus d’identification

- L’identité dans un espace de pratiques


70:20:10 - It’s not about the numbers, it’s all about change


Remembering Prof. Allan Tough (died 27 April 2012 aged 76 years) – a great man, a pioneer researcher into self-directed learning, a futurist, and author. Allen’s research was fundamental to 70:20:10 thinking.


702010 Framework

During the past 6 weeks I’ve had the pleasure of working with representatives from more than 60 organisations in a series of master classes identifying ‘quick wins’ and developing action plans for implementing the 70:20:10 framework.

In fact, over the past few years I’ve had the opportunity to work with many other organisations – from huge multinationals with hundreds of thousands of employees across the world, to small and medium-sized enterprises and regional government departments – all organisations that are exploring the best ways to deploy the 70:20:10 framework, or are actively making it work.

702010forum Banner

This work has provided me with a number of insights which I think the FIVE below are worth sharing:


  • it’s not about the numbers, it’s about change
  • top-down thinking and bottom-up action are both essential
  • a new understanding of ‘learning’ is needed by everyone
  • learning professionals have to step up and let go
  • manager engagement and capability are both critical

[1] It’s not about the Numbers, it’s all about Change 

70:20:10 is not about a fixed ratio. It’s a simple and extremely helpful framework for changing focus and aligning resources to support workforce development and learning with where most of it already happens – in the workplace.

So, why use ‘70:20:10’ at all?

The numbers are a useful reminder that most learning occurs in the context of the workplace rather than in formal learning situations and that learning is highly context dependent. The numbers provide a framework to support learning as it happens through challenging experiences, plenty of practice, rich conversations and the opportunity to reflect on what worked well and what didn’t.

It’s also useful to keep the ratios in the back of our minds to remind ourselves that learning naturally occurs this way. They’re not some tight formula that organisations should be targeting.

It’s well worth reading my Internet Time Alliance colleague Jay Cross’s article about formal/informal learning ratios on his Informal Learning blog. Jay makes clear something we all know deep down - that learning is not a binary process – it usually doesn’t happen exclusively formally or exclusively informally, but mostly part-formally and part-informally. The mix varies depending on the situation.

I’ve also stressed this point in my ‘70:20:10 Learning Approaches’presentation on SlideShare.

The KPMG work with the global food manufacturer, Sara Lee, cited on the Informal Learning blog, provides a good example of the fact that the ratios will vary with specific situations and therefore shouldn’t be taken as a mantra.

One thing I do know from working with many organisations using the model is that The 70:20:10 framework is an extremely helpfulchange agent.

One of its most powerful uses is to provide a structure for de-focusing time and effort on sub-optimal away-from-workplace training and re-focusing on more efficient and effective types of development. Almost without exception in my experience organisations that have adopted 70:20:10 have achieved greater impact on performance at organisational and individual level at lower cost than was being achieved beforehand.

Recently I’ve seen variations on the numbers being put forward. Some of these ideas are the result of thoughtful and useful analysis. Others are ‘angels dancing on heads of pins’. It would be an exercise in futility to re-define the Sara Lee data above as the 45:30:10:8:3:2:2 model.

My own view is that as social media comes into more ubiquitous use in workforce development – from executive and leadership development to individual contributor functional development - the ‘20’ will strengthen at the expense of the ‘10’, so we may get to a time when the ‘70:20:10’ just doesn’t make sense anymore and we’ll need to find some new way to express the need for change.  However, I think that we’ve some way to go before that point is reached.

[2] Top-Down and Bottom-Up 

Organisations that succeed in deploying the framework are those that understand the need for adopting a clear strategy, but then focus on practical ‘low-hanging fruit’.

This top-down and bottom-up approach is essential. Clear direction plus senior stakeholders who are engaged, enrolled and prepared to act as ‘champions’ will get the change process underway and keep it on track, but then HR and learning professionals who can identify the quick wins and achieve them are also critical to ensure that change happens on the ground.

Simple things such as embedding 70:20:10 concepts into annual development planning and templates, educating workers and their managers that ‘development’ does not equal attendance on programmes and courses, ensuring that social learning and reflection is embedded into work practices, all contribute to the change process.

[3] Re-thinking ‘Learning’ 

The thinking that hard-wires ‘knowing’ to ‘learning’ has set our efforts to build high-performing organisations back many years.

Learning and knowing sometimes coincide, but they are different beasts.

There is still a huge focus on ‘knowing’ in organisational learning. We build formal classroom courses and eLearning programmes that consist of pre-tests and post-tests. We then assume that if we gain a higher score after some formal learning process (almost invariably assessed through a test/examination/certification based on knowledge recall) than we did before, then learning has occurred.

Most of us know deep down that this is bunk.

Passing knowledge tests immediately following a course tells us little about real learning. It may tell us something about short-term memory recall, but real learning can only be determined by observable long-term changes in behaviour.

The 70:20:10 framework, with it's emphasis on learning through experience (the ‘70’ and ‘20’ bits, especially), helps push the understanding of what learning means towards ‘know-how’ from ‘know-what’. Towards demonstrating learning through action – behaving differently when confronted with specific circumstances. Morgan McCall, one of the researchers who carried out the Centre for Creative Leadership survey of managers that led to the 70:20:10 framework becoming more widely known and adopted, explains the power of experiential learning here.

Organisations that effectively incorporate the 70:20:10 framework into their workforce development strategies invariably build a wider understanding of what ‘learning’ means – and follow that up with empowering many people to think of learning opportunities outside the class/curriculum mind-set.

[4] Learning Professionals: Stepping Up and Letting Go 

70:20:10 implementation challenges entrenched learning and development practices and, in so doing, puts pressure on quite a number of learning professionals.

It does this because one of the underpinnings of the framework is the acceptance that only a small percentage of organisational learning (the ‘10’) can be managed by the HR and L&D departments. The vast majority occurs outside their bailiwick. 

The categorisation below, developed with my Internet Time Alliance colleagues Jane Hart and Harold Jarche, shows clearly that most ‘informal’ elements of learning can’t be managed, but can only be supported by HR/L&D. Others can only serve as lessons themselves.

Ecollab%20 %20702010%20model%20for%20learning%20department

So, a precursor for effective implementation of the framework is for learning professionals in the organisation to let go trying to control everything and look instead to support, encourage and learn from the learning that is happening all around them.

This is not to say learning professionals are necessarily redundant.  However it does mean that they need to step up to challenges that they probably haven’t faced before and change their modus operandifrom simply designing, developing and delivering formal learning activities and programmes.

Effective deployment of 70:20:10 usually requires significant support for line managers – as they’re the people who have the most influence over effective implementation of the ‘70’ and ‘20’ (and the most influence over learning and performance improvement generally). The L&D staff can play an important role in supporting line managers to identify, enable and encourage social learning, information sharing, collaborative knowledge building and other workplace development activities. But the skills they need to do this may differ from the skills that the learning professional role previously required.

[5] Managers: It can’t Happen without them

Every time I work on the 70:20:10 framework with an organisation I’m reminded of the fundamental role that manager/line leader engagement and capability play in overall success.

We know from the Corporate Leadership Council’s Employee Development Survey research into Driving Results Through Employee Development that line leaders who are focused and effective at developing their reports achieve around 25% better performance from their teams than line leaders who are not effective at developing their people.

It is essential that senior leadership and line leaders fully understand the implications of this research – that the greatest levers for learning and performance improvement are in the hands of people managers.

There is a large number of tools and techniques that are available to make this job easier for managers. These need to be an integral part of any 70:20:10 rollout - from simple techniques to help reflective learning as part of regular manager-report meetings, to guides, templates, tools and tips to support experiential learning and learning through people networks. I wrote about this in my previous blog post (below) ‘Managers and Mad Hatters: Work That Stretches’.


Charles Jennings   Entreprise Collaborative   Ecollab Contributeur

Charles Jennings is managing director of Duntroon Associates. He is considered a thought-leader in the world of corporate learning and performance. He works with companies across the globe helping improve workforce performance. In a career spanning more than 30 years in learning technology he has worked in Higher Education (where he was a professor and head of the UK national centre network-based learning) and, for the past 18 years, in the Corporate world (where his most recent role was Chief Learning Officer at Reuters and Thomson Reuters, the world's largest information company)."When working is learning, then learning is working"

Charles is also a Principal of The Internet Time Alliance, a think-tank of leading learning and business performance practitioners helping organisations exploit emerging practice to "work smarter".


What is Wirearchy ?

The Internet is connecting customers, employees and communities and empowering them with information in ways never before possible. Taking decisions and managing organized activities are being impacted in powerful ways by interconnected networks of people and technology. 

The impacts we're experiencing are creating new dynamics in organizations as well as emergent forms of organized activities that are based on participation and peer-to-peer interaction. As people get used to operating in these new conditions, often (but not always) the results are nimble, responsive, and results-focused networked groups and teams. 

The new interconnected environment demands new principles for organizing collaborative activity. Traditional hierarchy does not lead and support networked activity as well as newer forms and principles.

And ... over the last ten years, it has become quite clear that the impacts of these living social networks will only grow, both in depth and reach. 

Welcome to the networked era ...

The Internet and the Web have been an insistently-growing part of our everyday lives for a decade now. For better or worse, interconnectedness demands a new paradigm for our individual and collective futures.  Now that almost a billion people are connected on some social network or other, the conditions are settling into place.  But we're barely starting to get used to the ways they are penetrating a wide range of organized human activity, both at work and elsewhere.

Wirearchy is an emergent organizing principle for this new environment defined by interconnected networks of people.  Social networks of all sorts have rapidly expanded over the past five years and are becoming key elements in the ecosystems of entertainment, work, education, politics and commerce.

The impacts of wirearchy are showing up in clear ways all around us, and can be seen in daily events and in the ways people are working, behaving, and buying.  Examples are reported on regularly, as the impacts of living in the digital infrastructure of an electronic age take root.

Hierarchy Is Morphing Into Wirearchy

We all know and understand hierarchy - the enduring principle of the institutions that govern us and in which we work and live. The people at the top of the institutions control the agendas and make the decisions, which are then "pushed" out and down to be executed, implemented, followed.

That's changing ... often dramatically.

The Web lets individual and connected groups of people "pull" information they want and/or need together in limitless combinations and ways, and distribute it amongst connections in almost any configuration.

This "wired" environment provides the conditions for a dramatic re-making of power relationships built on information and knowledge.  Online, consumers or colleagues or students or researchers (and so on) can operate in interconnected groups focused on given issues, topics or interests  ("Ridiculously easy group-forming", noted Clay Shirky in the 2009 book Here Comes Everybody) ... through sharing of information and knowledge, they can and do exert power that has not heretofore existed.  Generally, this (new) power seeks greater openness (often called transparency) by established institutions and markets with respect to practical information.

This emergent shift in power is also observable in the workplace of 2010 generally. The introduction of collaboration-based knowledge-work information systems that incorporate the Web and are central to an organization's information architecture brings employees and customers both to the fore, and makes social and cognitive behaviours of critical importance.  The integration of information about users & consumers with the information in databases and the easy accessibility of interfaces, hyperlinks and so on have created a new cognitive and social environment.  Economic and political governance assumptions are increasingly under examination, and the implicit social contract about work is becoming dated ... people increasingly work both together and alone under negotiated economic arrangements (short or long-term contracts), and under very different temporal conditions (real-time, and both synchronously and asynchronously).

Much has already been written about the reduced effectiveness of traditional hierarchy's dynamics of command-and-control as a touchstone management principle. Via networks, we are all making a transition to an environment in which championing ideas and then channeling and coordinating resources in order to achieve objectives are becoming the most effective means of increasing productivity and effectiveness. 

A major shift in the ways activities are planned and managed is occurring in many spheres of human activity, from command-and-control to coordinate-and-channel. When customers have more power and employees want to communicate and be heard, the dynamics have to change. 

A new organizing principle is emerging, called Wirearchy.  The working definition of wirearchy is: 
a dynamic two-way flow of power and authority based on information, knowledge, trust and credibility, enabled by interconnected people and technology

Ecollab Wirearchie

(Image courtesy of Marc Ngui)

Today's rapid flows of information are like electronic grains of sand, eroding the pillars of rigid hierarchies. This new set of conditions is having real impact on organizational structures and on the ways we do things and behave.

As an organizing principle for the networked era, wirearchy will continue to emerge and have impact. The generations coming into the workplace have interactive games, ICQ, Napster, chat rooms, MySpace, Facebook, and ubiquitous mobility under their skin. They're equipped with smarter software, and they take interconnectedness and flow for granted - it's second nature to them.

Polarities are appearing everywhere (hence the oft-cited notion of Both/And rather than Either/Or).  Different dimensions and dynamics of influence, power and control are emerging at various nodes of the interconnected workplace and world. 

The dynamics of wirearchy are similar to, and different than, traditional hierarchy - yet need effective hierarchical structure and action to work smoothly.

Some of this is exhilarating, and great. Some of it is not. Some of it is about greater confusion, stress and frantic action. Some of it is about clarity, calm and right action in the context of an interconnected world. 

The next fifty years will be about learning how we will behave, effectively and otherwise, in an interconnected world and workplace.

Stay tuned .. there's lots more to come.  The Internet is here to stay, and we in all likelihood will never go back to the way things were done before it's arrival.

Having said that, it's certain that making definitive predictions is one of the surest ways to make a fool of oneself.  So, please consider the preceding paragraph to be an informed opinion and not a prediction.

What Wirearchy Means For You 

As a Leader - become deeply aware of - and truly mindful about - the scope and reach of interconnected markets and flows of information. Understand how people are connecting, talking, sharing information. Be prepared to listen deeply, be responsible, accountable and transparent. 

As a Manager - become knowledgeable about online work systems and how the need for collaboration is changing the nature of work, generally - and the nature of managerial work specifically. Learning how to be an effective coach is all-important. 

As an Employee - become more aware of the changing nature of work, and the traditional structures of authority. Develop a clear understanding of how to be both empowered and valuable and of service. Understand how to navigate on one's own through a constantly shifting landscape of work. 

As a Citizen - understand the possibilities and responsibilities inherent in open and public dissemination of information. Understand and exercise the responsibilities of citizenship in a country. Understand how to have influence via electronic participation and collaboration. 

How To Respond to Wirearchy

It is about adapting on a continuous basis, to an environment that keeps changing based on real-time feedback.

This means: 

- being aware of, and identifying, the changes, 
- setting a direction for a desired future, 
- translating that into goals, 
- learning how to fulfill the goals, 
- taking the necessary actions. 

As the impacts of information technology have penetrated more deeply and pervasively into the workplace, the nature of work has shifted. The first responses were a general flattening of organizational structure and a focus on developing and implementing teamwork. 

Today, the responses are emerging thick and fast - and there are clear patterns emerging from those responses. 

Today's patterns will become tomorrow's structures.  The time to begin adapting is now.


Jon Husband Entreprise Collaborative Ecollab Contributeur

Jon Husband is a recognized expert on social media and social networks and their impacts on the established institutions of our society and the workplace of the future. He carries out research into business strategy, organizational structures and work design in the interconnected Knowledge Age, and consults to select organizations in Canada, the USA and western Europe


In the past Jon has been a banker and a Senior Principal for Hay Management Consultants in Canada and the UK where he specialized in work and organizational design and change initiatives for large multinational companies. In 2003 he co-founded a leading blog-related software company, and from 2004 – 2008 delivered workshops about the dynamics of interconnectivity and participation for clients such as Athabasca University's Executive MBA program and the Banff Centre's Leading Innovation program.


In 2007 he co-authored a book titled “Making Knowledge Work – the arrival of Web 2.0” and 2010 co-authored with Michel Cartier the book “La Société Émergente du XXIe Siècle”.


He writes and speaks about social media and social networks, and is an active speaker in Canada and internationally about the Web’s growing impact on enterprises and the societies in which we live, work and play.


The human-centric future of work


The big move we are in the midst of is towards an economy that is more centred on information products than physical products. Examples of this are financial services, professional services, the online game industry and software.
The second transformative change is global access to relatively cheap and relatively high quality communication networks.
New communication technologies have always had a strong impact on industries and the logistics around production. But this time, with information products, the societal changes are even bigger than before. The Internet is the first communication environment that decentralizes the financial capital requirements of production. Much of the capital is not only distributed but also largely owned by the end users – the workers who have their own smart devices.
The characteristics of the new economy are different from what we are used to: the production of physical goods was (financial) capital-intensive, leading to centralized management structures and the shareholder capitalism we have experienced. The production of information goods always requires more human capital than financial capital. It is much more about finding brains than finding money. The good news is that you are not limited to the local supply. Work on information products does not need to be co-located because of the Internet. If the task at hand is inviting and compelling, human capital investments can come from any part of the network.
This is why decentralized action plays a much more important role today than ever before. The architecture of work is the network and the basic unit of work is not a process or a job role but a task.
Our mainstream management and organizational approaches are derived from the era of the production of tangible goods and high-cost/low-quality communications. These mind-sets are not only unhelpful, but wrong in a world of widely distributed value creation and ubiquitous connectivity.
The opportunity we have is in new relational forms that don’t mimic the governance models of industrial, hierarchical firms. We are already witnessing the rise of very large-scale cooperative efforts that create tremendous value. Coordinated value in these cases is the result of uncoordinated actions by a large number of individuals with different goals, different values and different motivations to take part.
In the networked economy, information products and services can now be created and co-created in a human-centric way, by voluntary, interdependent individuals, interacting with each other by utilizing free or very low-cost social media.
Technology does not determine social and organizational change, but it 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.
We are living in a world that is built on the centrality of information and radically distributed intelligence. The organization is not necessarily a given entity or hierarchy any more, but an ongoing process of organizing. The factory logic of mass production forced people to come to where the work is. Work was a place. The crowdsourcing logic of mass communication makes it possible to distribute work to where the (willing) people are, no matter where on the globe they may be. Knowledge work is not about jobs or job roles but about tasks. Work is what you do, and most importantly what you want to do!
Knowledge work can, if we want, be human-centric.



Esko%20kilpi%20 %20entreprise%20collaborative%20 %20ecollab%20contributeurEsko Kilpi is the founder and principal of Esko Kilpi Ltd, a leading research and consultancy firm working with digital, network based work.

The organization is based in Helsinki, Finland. In addition to his work as an executive adviser Esko Kilpi takes part in academic research and lectures on the topics of interactive value creation, agile methods, relational view of the firm and Internet based technologies in Europe, Middle-East, Far-East and USA.

This article was originally published in

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What constitutes a Social Learning Culture?

Socialearning%20 %20un%20social%20software%20quest Ce%20que%20cest%20jen%20ai%20dj%20plein%20les%20mains

  I've often thought of social learning as a very culture dependent phenomenon. A few weeks back I read an interesting article by Thierry de Baillon, his...

At the Corner of Assertiveness & Cooperation: Collaboration

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  What do we meet at the corner of Assertiveness and Cooperation? The Thomas-Kilmann assessment suggests that it's Collaboration. Their assessment, which is the basis for many others, explores different...

From Competition to Cocreation - and Back Sometimes

Stories.michelle James   Entreprise Collaborative   Ecollabnsp 350

  How do you approach working with others? What is your resonant mode? Here's my two cents: Competition - "I win if you lose." Cooperation - "I will agree...

Why Best Practices Don't Work for Knowledge Work

Stories.luis Suarez   Entreprise Collaborative   Contributeurnsp 350

  I don’t recall having put together a blog post over here on the specific topic of capturing "Best Practices"; so after reading last Friday’s blog...

The Collaborative Curve

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  Now that I’m on a mission to merge the terms Social Business and Enterprise 2.0 and rephrase asCollaboration, I thought it would be a good...

Formalizing the Informal: Been there, done that

Donald%20clark%20 %20entreprise%20collaborative%20 %20ecollab%20contributeur

  @Ecollab asks, “Can we formalize informal learning ?” My answer, “We've been there, done that.” Except for perhaps compliance learning programs, formal learning processes are...

Learning to formalize informal learning

Tom%20haskins%20 %20entreprise%20collaborative%20 %20ecollab%20contributeur

    When we don't already know how to formalize informal learning, there's a lot to learn. We can welcome the challenge if the process of learning...

From Social Media to Social Business: The social learning as missing link

Thierry%20de%20baillon%20 %20entreprise%20collaborative%20 %20ecollab%20contributeur

  I am often puzzled by the way organizations and agencies tackle social media, as if conversational marketing and Enterprise 2.0 were living in separate worlds,...

The Real Secret to Social Learning Success

Stories.entreprise Collaborative   The Real Secret Of Social Learning Succesnsp 350

      For years training and development departments have struggled to compile the data they need to show value to their organizations. However, we will find ourselves...