The Social Age defines the new nature of work: no longer defined by time and place, but instead existing in the grey space between formal and informal, facilitated by networks and technology. The very nature of the relationship between organisations and individuals is changing, away from ‘jobs for life‘, towards more fluid and agile dynamics. As the nature of this relationship changes, so do does the nature of work itself: less about knowledge, more about meaning and our ability to add value. The ‘office‘ as a place to work is redundant.
As work changes, so do the underlying hierarchies of power and authority, away from pyramidal authorities of position and title, towards reputation in social communities and proven ability. Learning follow suit: as the organisation can no longer guarantee employment, so we each take in individual responsibility for our development: in partnership with the organisation, but not wholly owned by it. In this environment, taking the reactionary short term view is easy: taking the longer and more strategic view harder.
But this new contract only works if everyone collaborates: consensus is driven through conversation, not process. Rules are co-created (as is culture itself) by the community and increasingly facilitated by technology. It’s no longer as simple as having an IT policy and banning Facebook. The ecosystem is changing fast and organisations that wish to be agile, that need to innovate, need to adapt too.
The views of the organisation and the individual feed into the dynamics between technology and culture: as fast as one side throws in place process or rules, the other subverts it with technology and opinion. This is not a bad thing: it’s an evolutionary process and is one of the key reasons why we need Social Leaders, people who understand the environment and connect with the people.
All the organisations i speak to are interested in innovation and creativity: how to foster it, how to reap the benefits. We have to create spaces where these things can occur: technology alone will not deliver the agile organisation. Culture is created, it’s co-created by the individuals within the organisation, within a framework provided by the organisation, but both sides need to demonstrate an understanding of the ecosystem and a willingness to change.
The realities of the Social Age are not there for us to pick up and inhabit: it’s a space that’s there for us to create, with shared responsibilities and shared challenges. Sometimes this will be painful, but at others, deeply rewarding.