Social Architecture: the war within the corporation?

StoweCorante’s Social Architecture conference (details last post) continues.

Here are thoughts on the second presentation.

Presentation title: Is business ready for social software?

Participants: Stowe Boyd (pictured), Kaliya Hamlin, John Hagel, Seth Goldstein (John Hagel not attending)

Opens with this quote:

Managers would rather live with a problem they can’t solve than with a solution the don’t fully undersand or control.

Eric Bonabeau

Stowe Interviewing Seth and Kaliya

From the audience, Marc (last name to follow) raised the question of whether the organization will indeed embrace the social software model, that we should expect resistance.

Here’s what I wanted to say, but couldn’t get a word in edgewise:

It may be that we have an interesting drama to look forward to as the corporation leans in the direction of the social software. Hyperbolically, we might say there is a contest between the forces of light and darkness inside the organization.

As organizations take on the structural properties that social software makes possible, becoming multiple, messy, various, iterative, anti-hierarchical, they will begin to exhibit characteristics that will empower the "bad manager." This manager will read these characteristics as "symptoms," as clear and compelling evidence that things are going badly and that command and control models must be reasserted.   (We know, I think, that this manager is tempermentally disinclined to live in the world that social software makes possible. For them, this is what chaos looks like. This is a place of danger for the organization.)

Chances are, adoption will not look gradual, and not "trickle" in its diffusion at all.   There will be a period of early technical adoption and then a pitched battle between some people (aka the forces of light) who embrace it and the structural consequences that follow from it, and others (aka the forces of darkness) who insist on jamming the signal and punishing the early adopters. This is to say that there will be an active bad of anti-adopters (diffusion theory doesnt talk enough about this group I don’t think).

Naturally, the forces of light will win in the long term (because corporations will begin to understand that social software models are an important part of their efforts to becomng Complex Adaptive Systems), but some corporate players will suffer the wrath and the punishment of the anti-adopters, the statist rear guard. Or, to put this in the language of the old cliche, they will lose the battle as the rest of us win the war.

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