Mirror, mirror...

By Stijn Viaene, professor of Management Information Systems
(Source: Smart Business Strategies, December 2011)

  • Professor at KULeuven and Vlerick Leuven Gent Management School
  • Partner at Vlerick Leuven Gent Management School
  • Deloitte Research Chair Bringing IT to Board Level

You can really learn a lot by studying successful organisations that truly value collective creativity and open innovation. And we certainly have a couple of gazelles in Belgium. Does it surprise you that they fully embrace the possibilities of the Internet for co-creation of value? They represent the ‘Web x.0’.

Would you also like to initiate fundamental ‘business process reengineering’ based on social interaction and a high degree of knowledge-sharing with a focus on co-creation? Then I strongly advise you to hold a mirror up to yourself and compare your ways of working with those of the Web x.0 elite. Think of it as a visit to the doctor. This is my letter of referral for you. Maybe you’re addicted to an ill-fated medicine, and you simply have to kick the habit?

What do they do differently?

Contrary to your organisation, at these companies it’s all about ‘emergence’. Desired patterns of work and interaction originate not least of all from effective action. When something works, you make it known, and you stimulate replication in the community. Stimulate, rather than dictate. And in turn, whatever pattern you replicate is continuously subjected to the effectiveness test by the community of workers. This applies, by the way, not only to operational work but to management processes as well. Be it on the tactical or on the strategic level. To a large extent, leadership is a distributed quality. Teams are open to everyone’s contribution (until evidence to the contrary).

Do you see this happening? Take a close look at your IT decision making framework. Does it truly stimulate the introduction of quickly and easily reconfigured business processes? Does it make it easy for open, self-directed teams to access the necessary information? Above all, does it promote a culture of ‘want to’ instead of ‘have to’ behaviour? These are questions that you really ought to ask your reflection in the mirror.

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