flowing motion

Group consciousness: the goal of leaders and organizational theorists

Posted on: September 28, 2008

Without good governance, life is solitary poor, nasty, brutish and short

So said Hobbes of countries.  This philosophy also underlies organizational theory.  Without good structure

“.  .  .  organisations, particularly large ones, are not very conscious. There is not some malign [in]efficiency at the core of them, rather semi-conscious shuffles and bodges in various directions, which are beyond the ability of any single individual to do much about. I think that animal-herd behaviour is much the best model to describe collective humanity, however intelligent and aware the individuals within it may be.”

The goals of organizational stewards is to help us be aware at an organizational level

The goal of those of us who are organizational stewards is to create organizations that are aware at an organizational level.  How do we know what we do and the effects of our actions?  This has been the subject of organizational theory since armies began and certainly since Henri Fayol wrote down how to manage the managers in his coal mine at the turn of the century.

The “cleft stick” approach in classical organizations

Until the emergence of the internet, we concentrated on designing the communication systems within the organization on a “cleft stick” basis.  Who spoke to whom?  Who had the right to decide?  Who must be consulted?  Etc, etc.

To bring it all together, we followed the apex of the organization and indeed one of the most important rules of organizational design was showing the link between each person and the person at the “top”.

We all know how well we did on the ‘classical organization project’.  Most organizations were not stewarded well and there was little attempt to manage communication properly.  Even where communication channels were well designed, in reality, information was often not passed around as it needed to be ~ sometimes with horrendous results.

The networked organizations

The internet creates another way to provide group consciousness.  We can all talk to each other directly; and we can use search engines, such as Google to find information much more quickly than ever before.

Google is an example of a company run this way (see Gary Hamel interviewing Eric Schmidt on YouTube).  There is no need for the cumbersome organizational structures of the past precisely because there is another way of creating group consciousness.

New skills for organizational stewards in the networked world

It takes new skills, of course, to develop this raised consciousness.  We are very likely to be savvy as internet users and creators.

  • We also have to understand how to read the results of the internet – judging provenance and the reliability of information.
  • We have to read the mood.
  • We have to learn to influence through this medium.
  • And we have to show that we can deliver results in the ‘real world’ through this new organizational ether.

It is time to develop the curriculum!

Who is in?  These are the questions that spring to my mind.  Who is working in this field?  What are the classical case studies?  What are the central ideas?  What are the best ways of exploring the ideas?

What is the best way of generating consciousness in the field itself?

UPDATE: For an HR Managers perspective on the Recession, I have written a summary on a new post.

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