In the old world there was a clear separation between formal and social aspects of our lives, between leisure and work. Today those boundaries are gone. We exist in a grey space: when networks, communities, influence, reputation, and stories themselves, blend and merge between them all. We are right, to an extent, to seek to maintain some separation, but must also recognise that this is no insignificant change, no minor matter of privacy policies and rules, but rather a fundamental shift in the nature of work, and the nature of society itself.
Whatever ‘career’ means these days, it will consist of multiple roles, and multiple organisations, some of which will be well paid, others voluntary, and none permanent. The boundaries of separate jobs are changing, as we stay connected to multiple people in multiple networks, use those networks for sense making and sharing, for learning and performance. There is only a limit to which organisations can maintain full separation, and indeed collaboration may be the new order of the day.
The technologies themselves are becoming blurred, ‘bring your own device’ was touted as something that saved the organisation the hassle and expense of maintaining hefty infrastructures, of making things more convenient for individuals, but in reality it is an evolution of power and control. As part of a wider journey, where the office, the infrastructure, the facilities and spaces that the organisation brings are becoming less relevant to us than good coffee shops and free Wi-Fi.
Knowledge itself knows fewer boundaries than before: once we used to lock it away in libraries, books, and universities, we could keep it under control, but today, knowledge is everywhere, co-created, dynamic, and adaptive, often held within the community itself, and accessed through social technologies as and when we need it.
Boundaries are futile: this brings challenges for organisations, seeking to maintain ownership of intellectual property and ideas, but also brings benefits, in terms of access to new ideas and sense making communities. On a wider level, boundaries are also futile: stories that need to be told, are able to be told, which can only be a good thing.
Although of course, some of those stories are stories that those in formal positions of authority would rather were not told. There is always a price to pay, it’s just that we do not always have a say in whether that price gets paid.
Boundaries are futile. This is another aspect of the Social Age.
The blog is on holiday for two weeks: i’m sharing a series of ‘aspects of the Social Age’ until normal service resumes.