Friday, March 16, 2012

The democratisation of the workplace.

As I Tweeted just the other day:
We are looking at a movement for democratisation of the workplace that is no less significant than the industrial revolution.
I believe that many things we see around us and read about in the media are signs of a current shift in the nature of work and the workplace at least as significant as the Industrial Revolution.

I believe that the current democratisation of the workplace is one part of this. But what do I mean by democratisation? I mean that the organisational structures and the orgaisational processes that exist in companies are becoming less hierarchical and more collaborative. And I think this democratisation has emerged as a response to two main pressures:

1. The increased complexity of doing business.
Many research papers are now citing business leaders who believe that the complexity of doing business has risen substantially in recent years. Organisations must, in order to cope with this increased complexity, mirror the business situation and create newer and ever more complex organisational structures and processes. The old hierarchical models of organisations and processes are unable to adapt to this increased complexity and so new collaborative models are of necessity born.

2. The rise of collaboration through Online gaming & Social media.
Social media & online gaming have resulted in a generation of employees highly trained in collaboration and very aware that they are embedded in a network. This has given them an almost instinctive understanding of complexity and a mindset that sees hierarchies as highly inefficient problem solving structures. This network view also carries with it a dislike for Taylorist management where a manager is a) assumed to be more competent and know more than his/her subordinates; and b) possessing a theory x mindset and believes that work is somehow intrinsically negative and that employees must be coerced into working hard. These employees have experienced free collaboration and view it as a far superior way to solve problems and they view their work as, potentially at least, a set of problem solving exercises with the opportunity to learn and grow.

These two forces (along with the larger shift in the nature of work) will, I believe, result in entirely new collaborative structures in place of the organisational models we see doing business today. The borders between the organisation and the customer will be blurred, there will be collaboration in place of management, and many leadership functions we see today will be transformed into mere supporting services.

I call all of this the "democratisation of the workplace" and whether you like it or not, I believe, it will very soon be coming to an organisation near you.

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