Friday, July 6, 2007

Art imitating Life?

Way back in the 80's (seems way back, considering I was still going to School, then), Peter Drucker had written about the transformation of the American economy from being a "managerial" to an "entrepreneurial" economy.

True enough, if we see the way businesses are headed, with more and more computing power coming to individuals, organizations have also been changing. Decision making has been becoming more and more decentralized, and things earlier considered the preserve of the "enlightened manager" are now being done by employees at lower levels.

The way I see it, Social Computing is set to change this even further, with even greater levels of technical power being concentrated in the hands of individuals. What this implies is that as more and more people collaborate, and learn from each other, and there is a greater understanding of enabling people to tap into the knowledge or expertise of their colleagues or contemporaries, employees would play more and more "entrereneurial" roles even if they are within the confines of the organization.

There are two things to note here:

  • More and more work is being done by individuals. When I say individuals, I am talking about entrepreneurs who are operating outside the confines of an organization, for example, Freelancers. True, this is a trend that is more pronounced in the high-tech sector, but is a matter of time before this moves to other areas of the economy. And this move shall be powered more and more by technology. What is not yet clear is whether this is a move to an assembly line, where each work-station, and the worker manning it is a separate organization, working as a customer to one, and supplier to another work-station. I deliberately took the"industrial" economy example to show that the movement of the "freelancer" movement need not be restricted to the high-tech industry alone. It is tempting to say that this is the way all business is going to go, but I would say its early days yet, and we are yet to see the initial tectonic shifts which the technology revolution can bring.
  • Another important aspect is that while there is an explosion in the kinds of tools that are available out there, which enable people to collaborate with each other within, as well as acrss organizations, I find more and more organizations putting restrictions on collaborations. A prominent financial institution where a friend works does not allow employees to hit blogging sites. I wonder why?

One could argue that a lot of organizations feel uncomfortable with the entrepreneurial spirit technology is bringing about. But, they would do well to tap into it. Join it if you cant fight it. More on that later, though ...

For the moment, I am trying to figure out whether it is the onward march of technology which is bringing about a change in the entrepreneurial spirit, or does it work the other way round? Akin to the debate on art imitating life, or the other way round!

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