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Monday, 2 February 2009

Organisation innovation, and its opportunities, are vastly understated

We are shifting from the industrial to the hyper connected economies. The latter is marked by high speed changes that are affecting how we live, communicate, consumer, produce, distribute etc. Unfortunately, most of our current institutions including corporations, government et al are ill-configured to handle the changes that hyper connectivity has brought. The end result is an implosion. Witness how:

- Our family system still caters for one-size-fits-all nuclear family when it is commonplace to see long distance relationships, divorces, single parents, elders living by themselves et al

- Our education system still takes a factory-style approach to learning when creativity , innovations, thought independence, collaborations are going to be key survival skills for the 21st century

- Our companies are getting into more and more serious decay when they choose not to engage with their customers on what they really want

- Our government, with its command and control system, is facing difficulties handling the loosely networked cell-organization of terrorists.

Going forward, the command and control systems need to give way to new forms of collaborations, and here lies the opportunity. Imagining news ways to coordinate and organise resources in our new economy can potentially yield rich returns. It is not that this has not been done before but we underestimated and under celebrated their contributions.

Take for example, the invention of the limited corporation. It was world changing (can you imagine our world economy without it?) but hardly anyone remembers the inventor. Similarly, the first cooperative, the first mutual fund, the first insurance, the first auto club etc were all organisation innovations that has a remarkable impact on our lives but we don't remember who their investors are.

So, there is a great opportunity for clever and bold enterepreneurs to rethink new forms of coordination that create better value than what our current insitututions are providing. Need examples? Here are several models that I think are radical

- Australia's Department of Human Services pioneered a programme where a group of coordinators helps the government to buy and allocated a mix of services for familites with kids with disabilities. This reinvents the notion that family services have to be one-size-fit-all.

- Guild in MMORPGS are a powerful examples of how people can self organised to solve chaleenging tasks. They have big implications on how work teams and even learning will be managed in the future. Imagine classes organised in such a manner.

- Threadless is a classic example of a community powered way of organising how goods can be produced and manufactured.

- Kidney exchange is a using a market approach to solve the issue of allocating scare resources. ReceviablesExchange is using this approach to create liquidity for short term assets.

There are many more examples if you look hard enough. If you want a rich area for innovation, rethinking new organisations and new ways of coordination is a good mine.