The Socially Dynamic organisation is a type of organisation that is fully adapted to the realities of Social Age: it has a diversified strength held not purely within systems and technologies, process and rules, people and problem-solving, it has an agility that comes not simply through having thought things through before and codified them into infrastructure and hierarchy, mass and momentum, rather the strength of the Socially Dynamic organisation comes from its ability to reconfigure itself to need, to leverage the interplay of people, community, technology and knowledge and to do so in a way that is fair, equal, co-created and deeply effective.
The Socially Dynamic organisation is not a fiction, but rather the type of organisation we should be building today, because if not us, then who?
At the conference yesterday I heard different sessions talking about e-learning, machine learning, neuroscience, the purpose of L&D and so on: these are all valid conversations and yet none of them in isolation will deliver the change that we need. The problem with e-learning is not the technology that is used all the fault of a compliance team, but rather a mindset that commits us to produce learning which is 10 years out of kilter with the way society works, the ways that we learn in real life. Indeed this is the problem across the organisation: anchored in the past, invested in both mindsets and systems better suited to a bygone age.
The Socially Dynamic Organisation brings together a number of threads I’ve explored previously: it’s a learning organisation, but learning not simply through formal channels but through social ones to, empowering and connected to the tacit and tribal knowledge, the lived experience, that sits within the organisation already. It’s led not simply through formal, hierarchal leadership, but also with Social Leadership, contextual and consensual, moderated by the community itself. The type of power based upon reputation and Social Authority, a type of leader who leads through permission, but leads through great strength.
The Social Age is all about community, the sense making entities that we sit within and alongside, and the ways in which we co-create and, crucially, co-own the change. In my more recent work around Dynamic Change I’ve explored this in more detail looking at how some organisations are resistant to change, starving and denying the conversations any permission, whilst many organisations are constrained, held back by the very things that make them great in the past, unable or unwilling to relinquish the aspects of control which would truly permit them to co-create the future state.
You cannot impose culture upon the organisation, but you are certainly held hostage by the culture you have, so any change effort is ultimately about an evolution of culture, but a change which is powered by the community itself, an internal energy of change, self starting and self-sustaining, not imposed from the outside.
The Socially Dynamic organisation is fully adapted, scaffolded and reconfigurable: instead of relying on the vertical mechanisms of power that was such a feature of the Victorian organisation and remain a driving feature of many organisations today they are instead facilitating and enabling. Not a series of empires and subcultures in which people become heavily invested, but rather dynamic communities co-creating the knowledge that is needed to innovate and find a way forwards.
How do we find the Socially Dynamic organisation? It’s simple: we build it.
We start by looking at the architectures: the ways that the organisation approaches learning, its willingness to relinquish the formal story and instead adopt a social approach, using scaffolding as a design methodology and empowering the communities to co-create story within it. It closes the loop and takes this tacit, tribal knowledge and brings it back into the formal story of the organisation.
The Socially Dynamic organisation utilises a diverse ecosystem of technology: not one single system aimed to govern people, but rather lightweight and interchangeable technologies that serve the purposes we need facilitating collaboration, co-creation and performance. It will still have strong formal leadership, but in parallel, outside formal hierarchy, it will have developed and will recognise layers of Social Leadership. It will have a mindset and mechanism of reward that includes both formal aspects and social aspects, rewards which are moderated by, validated by, owned by the community itself, but which carry the weight of any formal recognition.
At the heart of this is a notion of trust, something which I have been researching recently and will present initial findings from today. Trust powers the Socially Dynamic organisation, but it is a trust which is earned and not demanded. Even from the early work, it appears clear the trust includes a sense of freedom, a sense of fairness, a sense of a dynamic tension between individual and organisation where both sides have a story which is heard and can be told. My belief is that there is a landscape of trust and that a good starting point for the change journey may be to map where our organisation sits within that landscape.
Much of my work, and the work that I will be presenting today, is about organisational change, about transformation. But not simply looking at one single aspect, not looking at the learning management system, HR policies, not looking at artificial intelligence and machine learning, not worrying about the rise of the robots but rather a holistic pattern of adaptation, considering how the organisation can transform itself from within, utilising the power and capability of the very people employed in the first place, respecting and recognising their views, becoming Socially Dynamic, able to adapt and respond at speed to the ever-changing realities of the Social Age.
As I say, this is not some work of fiction, not some aspiration, but rather a vision of organisational design, of leadership, of learning, culture, technology, and change itself, driven by evolving our own mindset away from that which we knew was true in the past towards a place where we are willing to learn that which will be true in the present and which may carry us into the future.
We will not get there alone but rather through a series of short experiments, sense making, and sharing of the learning as we go, and that is why I will be sharing this early work around the Socially Dynamic organisation today, not as the answer, but to guide the questions we will ask ourselves as we find the answers together.