Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Glia--The Organizational Operating System for the Social Business.


The World's Great Social Businesses Run on Glia

This statement isn't true yet, however this is our mission. A process of taking businesses or even government agencies from Organization 1.0 Industrial Model, to Organizational 2.0 Digital Connective Model. The age of mechanics, to the age of biology. Mechanical systems, to living systems. From cowboy capitalism to conscious, distributive capitalism. 

Industrial and American style capitalism gave rise to spectacular gains in productivity and standards of living. However, it is also reaching choke points of diminishing returns and stifled innovation. Capitalism is admirable for it's wealth creation, and much to be desired for it's wealth distribution. 

We do not need an exhaustive indictment of the myriad hybrids of capitalism that brought civilization through the past 150 years. It is not so much they failed, it is that we are capable of so much more. Glia, as an operating system, is for those that know that, sense that, that have an underlying passion to explore and develop this vast reserve of untapped potential in humanity. Those of us that can feel the tension between an old system that has run its course, and a new system that is waiting unfurl, grow and proliferate. 

The Nature of Social Business

There are many definitions of 'social business'. Whether it's the latest marketing jargon (too often), or an attempt to label something more meaningful, we need to have an basis of what it is that 'social business' is trying to cure. 
It is uncontroversial to say that the needs of business and the needs of society are all too often at odds. This false dichotomy needlessly costs both society and business billions, if not trillions in waste.  
In the Glia system, social and business interests are aligned, as each needs a healthy other to prosper in the long term. This begins with the acknowledgement of that reality (in biology, it is known as symbiosis) , and bakes this shift in how we view business and society as co-creators right into the Glia DNA. This cultural mindset opens the doors to much broader ranges of innovative opportunities, and the nature of how we create, how we market and sell, and how we distribute resources of all kinds.  It changes the nature of why and how we invest. 

Glia--An Economic Philosophy

There is much to be gained, and much to be discarding regarding the body of economic work to date. Things like risk, moral hazard, the principle-agency problem, incentives, behavioural economics are just a very few examples of bodies of knowledge that need to be woven into any evolving economic system. In the rush to throw the baby out with the bathwater,  too many proposals and concepts ignore (at their peril) the many lessons learned from the study of economic activity to date, much of it is hard earned wisdom. 

In the Glia System, the emphasis is on the capacity to synthesize working knowledge into contextually specific circumstances. We all have our biases, and belief systems, within which lies knowledge and wisdom, yet also lies blindspots, confirmation biases, resting on our embedded expertise (which may not have kept up with the times!) that serve to roadblock creative solutions and necessary innovation. 

Our biological tendency to hoard is also a detriment to our more prosperous future, and this is evident in the outdated organizational pyramids where the hoarding of knowledge as a means to advancement and higher earnings. This may benefit the individual, but it is enormously costly to the organization as a whole. 
A we instead of me philosophy brings a radical change in culture and how we identify, that frees up crucial resources of knowledge and abilities. 
When extended beyond the boundaries of the enterprise, the positive effects are exponential (an excellent example in practice can be found here). 

A shift in how we think of, practice, and measure our economic activities can have profound affects, that greatly benefit business and society as a whole. 
The emphasis on knowledge distribution, resource distribution, wealth distribution with the Glia System is a powerful accelerant and fuel for creating more knowledge, more resources, and more wealth. The incentives remain for the most talented, skilled, and driven among us, to produce their greatest work, while at the same time that energy makes all of those around them better. This is what creates the best teams in sports and in life. 
A bibliography for this philosophy can be put together, for now, these two books capture it more than adequately:
The Origins of Wealth, the best book I have read for advancing a new economic philosophy and reality. 
The New Ecology of Leadership, one of the better books I have read at grounding an ecological understanding of economics with business realities. 

Glia--An Organizational Operating System

A macro reality all businesses face is that it is becoming increasingly rare for an individual firm to create value on it's own. Furthermore, the commoditization of knowledge and systems, means competing on price is a loser's game. In the past, the traditional "economies of scale" of the industrial era made sense, but now the many firms that cling to that model struggle even stay average. (This look at 14 years of data, via McKinsey & Company is most revealing in this regard: The strategic yardstick you can't afford to ignore). 
With the gales of disruption also blowing from all directions, and the lifespan of businesses decreasing by the year, it is past due to adopt an operating system designed to survive, thrive and excel in the 21st Century. 

For the well informed, it has become increasingly clear a new organizational operating system was needed. There has been a tremendous amount of advances over the last 15-20 years, with various levels of adoption. Still, the older models persist. We could quite possibly refer to this what Clay Christensen calls The Innovator's Dilemma. It is what I call the walk through the valley of death, the very real metaphorical journey from one fitness peak, through the valley, and to scale the much more fertile peak on the other side. 

The rewards on the other 'mountain peak' (or fitness landscapes for a broader understanding) will be substantial--for the types of social businesses that can network together and lead the way. Glia is the operating system best suited to get them there. 
Let's take a closer look at how and why we can weave together the networks of practice, with a different model of financial partnerships, incentives and stakeholders, to create such a system.

Visualizing the Glia Organizational System

Visualizing something before it is built is a challenge, especially so with a network of business clusters, Regional Galaxies, free agent nodes,  knowledge clusters, capital nodes and the digital citizen.  
The picture that opens this post perhaps helps. Keeping in mind, organizational systems that thrive in the future will mimic biology. The underlying logic here is pretty straightforward--evolution is all about resource creation and allocation. In other words, economics. We've taken economic thought seriously for about 250 years, evolution has been at it for 3 billion years, give or take. Let's score this one to evolution. 
While not limited to mimicking the brain and mind, our very name suggests we borrow from it heavily. For networks, it is the ultimate model. Key point--no executive leader or control. However, let's not stray too far into that point for now. 
Let's look at a few of the terminologies mentioned. These will evolve, and develop more complex lattices, but for seeding purposes, these will suffice. 
Business Clusters The basic unit of the business organization. Specializes to some degree in a product or services, and/or a suite thereof. Will be some kind of hybrid of command and control, hierarchy, and knowledge, talent, task and knowledge distribution. Can range from the very small to the very big. 
Regional Galaxies Geographically concentrated 'nodes' of strategically meshed Business Clusters, Free Agents, Knowledge Clusters, Capital Nodes and Digital Citizens.  
Knowledge Clusters Tight and loose associations of specialized knowledge, skills, talent, etc. Can range from highly specialized, to more generalized knowledge. Distinguished by reputation. Valued for transitional qualities, and ability to synthesize knowledge into solutions within a wide range of social-business contexts.
Free Agents Individual contractors. This will not be without some controversy and transition, and is probably the most radical transformation of the 'work' force. However, in the old capitalist system this form of structure can be exceedingly difficult and hard to maintain, within the Glia System, this will give the individual much more security, growth opportunity, and sense of value and engagement, for the Business Clusters, this gives them the flexibility they need to continually adapt in a highly disruptive  environment. 
Capital Nodes/Clusters These people will contain many elements of the knowledge clusters, but with expertise in finance and connected to, or with, financial capital. What is also referred to in Glia terminology as "Smart Capital" or "Smart Investors". Similar to the VCs of more traditional forms of capitalization, or other financial institutes, but with philosophical alignment, longterm oriented, and investment of expertise, knowledge, mentoring, nurturing of the projects they're vested in. 
The Digital Citizen Last, but not least, the digital citizen. Not just comfortable in the online world, they shape the online world. One foot in the physical world, one foot in the digital world, and wanting the best of both. More global in perspective, and primed for a revolution in how we organize our world. 

That is all exist is obvious enough. That we formally organize them, create a financial model that creates the incentives to help all others in these nodes grow, and by extension to strategically share resources with the resulting value and wealth creation being shared, with a culture that thrives on how we shape, share, and make use of our knowledge, productivity, and skills to continually make all the better off is quite another matter. 
It should be mentioned that this isn't about where we were, where we are, but where we are going. 

Rather than trying to explain further here how this system will work, in future posts and hangouts will be exploring how we will be applying this to existing businesses, and how we will be growing Regional or City Galaxies to apply the principles and practices of the Glia System to help businesses grow. Practice is so much better than preaching! 
As we proceed with the principles and practices, it will become more obvious of how, what and why we need to map and visualize the 'capital' flows within Glia. Capital in this context of wisdom, knowledge, information, data, execution, productivity, finances, along with ecological considerations. In other words, how we network, and why we network. This is also in keeping with our dedication to radical transparency. 

We will be starting small, but in time, we will be able to bring more and more of the benefits of the large scale organization to that of small business, and the benefits of small business to that of the larger organizations. This continually expanding web of products and services using the Glia OS will come to symbolize trust and value, transparency and mutual respect, and the kind of economic transactions that ensure a sustainable future for people and planet. 

Creating Value, and a Dedication to Excellence

Culture eats strategy for breakfast. I say this, because I think most business want, at some level, to create value, to dedicate themselves to excellence. Their problems lie in the embedded culture, and the old systems that got them there. This is the essence of why 75-80% of all change initiative fail. 

The adoption of the Glia OS, however, allows for a fresh start. For businesses at the earlier stages of the growth cycles, this is the time to institute these values from the beginning. For the businesses at the later stages of growth, the adaptation of the Glia OS by design brings fresh life into old systems. 

This is because adapting the Glia OS is about much more than any one business. It is about being part of a powerful trend of transforming society and the nature of through our actions. 
This necessarily means the new styles of leadership for the socially networked, and social media world. 

The creation of value is something a lot more nuanced than perhaps can be fully appreciated here. It starts, however, with the premise of non-zero sum relationships. Many transactions more closely resemble zero sum transactions, where one party has to lose or give something, for the other party to win or gain something. This is based on the old economic paradigm of scarcity. 
The new paradigm and cultural mindset is that of non zero sum, and the paradigm of abundance. In this transaction, both parties gain, both parties win. 
This is the fundamental basis of healthy relationships, healthy sustainable transactions, and relationship 'marketing'. Trust is build, as both parties function on the ideal that both will gain from the transaction, the relationship, rather than that of one where one is trying to take or gain advantage over the other.  

Dedication to excellence is important in this kind of continual relationship, so each party can trust the other is doing their best to improve their end of the bargain. This trust can quickly break down when one feels the other is "free riding" on the efforts of the other. Dedication to excellence is not about ability. It is about a dedication to growth and self-improvement regardless of ability. This cultural stance, well researched in Tribal Leadership, can do wonders (literally!) to the circulation of knowledge, know how, experience and execution to the world, institutions,  and businesses of all shapes and sizes so desperately need. This leads to a mutual respect that can transcend all manners of soci-economic stratas. 

This dedication to value creation via networks of practice, and dedication to excellence is an enormously empowering combination. We naturally react against entitlement, authority over, and those that don't pull their weight according to their ability. These are cancerous qualities that have rotted out many an organization or social group. 

Networks of Practice

Networks of practice have long existed, how they are organized, recognized, and valued has changed over the years. 
In these opening decades of the 21st century, we have seen the rise of two meta trends. Social networks and media, and social technologies. Both radically change how information and transactions work. The implications are profound. 
Few businesses and societies will go untouched. 
We're in the very early stages here. Networks of practice of highly fluid combinations of high trust exchanges of knowledge and experience, will radically shape how we learn, how we 'see' the world, how we 'build' our world. There is a paradox here. Knowledge has never been more freely available. For that matter, the trend has been, and will be the commodization of knowledge. (This has been controversially understood as the "death of expertise". This essay  from The Federalist misundertands the problem, but any further exploration is for another day/post) 
Successful networks of practice will be those that are able to combine big data, very high trust, high learning environments (individuals come to learn and teach), cultivate leaders, connectors and execution, develop "smart rooms", and learn the art of practice of "smart swarming". This, in conjunction with "socializing" knowledge and reputation throughout the other social networks (Facebook, Google Plus, LinkedIn, Twitter [etc], in the digital domains, the private social networks run by most larger businesses, and that of our more traditional local social networks. 
Such networks of practice will be proactive in the kinds of technologies they adapt, or create, to continually improve their functionality. 
It is my learned opinion that these networks of practice will be the key differentiator moving forward. 
Why? 

Mass Customization

Is the answer to why. The twentieth century was about mass production. The twenty-first century will be about mass customization. Something I have been mildly obsessed with ever since reading Kevin Kelly's Out of Control, back in 1997 or so. (If you want to find the seeds of Glia, they're in that book)
Mass customization will hinge on three things: Data. Trust. Relationships. Data is in ridiculous abundance. 
Trust, relationships, not so much. 
Successful networks of practice will be obsessed with trust, and relationships. 
Mass customization will play out among business to consumer, with a web of business for business (the recently released book B4B is excellent for getting a very full look at this next wave of business relationships). 
Delivering the degrees of customization the digital citizen, and the modern business will come to expect will take an eco-system of networks of practice, and a wide range of industry. It remains to be seen on how open this ecosystem will be, or whether it will be walled gardens, like Apple. 
Trust and customer relationship will be the final arbitrator. 

Glia was conceived of and designed for this world. Which means we will be putting a lot of emphasis on finding and growing with the kinds of people that want this world, will thrive in this world. 

This overview is intended for those with the interest and ability to seed and grow Glia. 
My next post will be focused on how and where we'll start, followed closely on the growing and developing of city based Galaxies. 

Thanks for reading, and we will see you again soon.