A Shift in Thinking: Controllable vs. Uncontrollable

by Jay Deragon on 12/04/2007

A Shift in Thinking: Controllable vs. UncontrollableMany organizations approach the medium of social networks with a business mindset reflective of past experiences.

The problem with this approach is that business mindsets have traditionally been molded by organizational strucutures and an emphasis on process and people controls which are “managed” by a hierarchy of authority.

The social web goes against the very foundation of traditional organizational structures and business mindsets. The science of the social web is more about loosing human control or non-control. Wherever a network arises, there arises freedom of expression, opinions flowing about anything and everything and no one individual controling anything or anyone.

Kevin Kelly in his book “Out of Control” writes: “The only organization capable of unprejudiced growth, or unguided learning, is a network. All other topologies limit what can happen.”

“A network swarm is all edges and therefore open ended any way you come at it. Indeed, the network is the least structured organization that can be said to have any structure at all. It is capable of infinite rearrangements, and of growing in any direction without altering the basic shape of the thing, which is really no outward shape at all.”

“Craig Reynolds, the synthetic flocking inventor, points out the remarkable ability of networks to absorb the new without disruption: “There is no evidence that the complexity of natural flocks is bounded in any way. Flocks do not become ‘full’ or ‘overloaded’ as new birds join. When herring migrate toward their spawning grounds, they run in schools extending as long as 17 miles and containing millions of fish.” How big a telephone network could we make? How many nodes can one even theoretically add to a network and still have it work? The question has hardly even been asked. ”

“There are a variety of swarm topologies, but the only organization that holds a genuine plurality of shapes is the grand mesh. In fact, a plurality of truly divergent components can only remain coherent in a network. No other arrangement — chain, pyramid, tree, circle, hub — can contain true diversity working as a whole. This is why the network is nearly synonymous with democracy or the market.”

As more an more business try and adopt the social web as a tool, a utility or a marketing platform the hardest lesson to learn is not trying to control the uncontrollable. Rather trusting the free flow and exchange of information as the means of enabling the power of the social web for business purposes. This approach is one which causes cultural shock to most traditional business mindsets whose strucutre is embedded in a mindset of control.

A major paradigm shift is required to truly capture the power of the uncontrollable and to understand the dynamics which create the maximum value for businesses. New mindsets and new business models will have to be learned and those that embrace the changed required will gain the most.

There is a shift ocurring and the shift will introduce a new era of business models that have yet to be defined or taught in our educational institutions. This shift will be significant and create generational divides in management theories and models that will be developed by the new generation of businesses that tap into the power and dynamics of the social web.

What say you?


Scott Andrews December 4, 2007 at 5:25 pm

The semantic web is one where we can search and drill into social networks – or better yet, have the software do it intelligently for us. I see changes along this nature, and unforeseen beyond that coming…


crystal haidl December 4, 2007 at 9:51 am

Social networks are what the participants make of it—- Anarchism ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anarchism) to Plato’s democratic-tyranny (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Republic_(Plato) ).

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