Thursday, September 10, 2009

Technology And People ...

I am reading an interesting book ... One named Innovation and Entrepreneurship by Peter Drucker. OK, so i am a little later, but even so, i think some of the ideas put in the book are still relevant almost 25 years after the book was first published. This post that I am writing is about a statement in the book:

Technology can be imported at low cost an with a minimum of cultural risk. Institutions, by contrast, need cultural roots to grow and to prosper.

Now, while this is being written in the context of Japan, and how Japan, in the 19th century, consciously took the route of importing technology, while creating the social institutions locally, this concept can be looked at further, to see whether this is relevant to organizations, and if it is, how it can impact organizations.

To begin with, this idea seems to be as though it is relevant in the context of organizations, too. Technology is straight-forward. Technology works the same way, gives the same output independant of the scenario around it (well, some of us who work as consultants, or with customer support may not agree, but more or less ...). On the other hand, people dont necessarily. Which means that technology, being culture neutral, can be brought into the organization easily, while adapting the culture of the organziation to the cultural framework that is inherent to quite a few new technologies, is a different thing altogether. For example, ERP brought the paradigm of business processes cutting across departments (breaking down silos, that was the idea), while Web 2.0 tools are bringing in the next wave of bringing down silos (which only means that silos didnt really go away, they just metamorphosed to a point where they werent looking like silos).

The question this raises, then, is whether the technology tools which the organization adopts should be compatible with the predominant cultural scenario of the organization, or whether the point of introduction of new technology is leveraged to try and drive the cultural context of the organization to a different direction (remember package-enabled reengineering?).

I dont think there is an answer which would answer this question for all. But the point is, the compatibility must be there. And this is something we looking at this from the KM perspective must also bring to the equation, especially with Web 2.0 technologies, because the paradigm of these tools is quite different from the earlier paradigms of organization structure. True, ERPs also created a different paradigm, which has changed the way organziations work over the last decade or so, but this was around business processes, not about people. Web 2.0 tools, on the other hand, are bringing a change which is oriented towards people, and the interactions between people, which impacts dynamics of interactions between people at the organizational level, with the blending of communities and hierarchy, as i have written before, here and here, which means that the compatibility between technology and culture is more important with these tools.

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