Chairman Ed

Connecting people, ideas and processes

From Owner Managers to Networks

How the corporation evolved - March 3, 1986

This diagram is from Business Week magazine. It is another illustration of organizational evolution, here with the focus on the Corporation. This diagram predates the time when the Internet began to get major public attention around 1994. It illustrates how computer technology enables network organizational forms.

Organizational Forms Over Human History

Network Form Enabled and Needed in the Information Age

Illustration from Jeff and Jessica's Book Cited in Earlier Post

Here is one view of how organizational forms developed over human history. The “information age” both enables and requires the network organization as a new form. It enables it because of the continuing evolution of the Internet and the tools that are being developed for coordination and collaboration. It requires it because knowledge must be used where ever it is found in an organization, and it cannot be assumed only to be located where the organization chart says it should be.

Network Organizations

I first came in contact with the idea of an alternative form of organizing as a network in April of 1985. I was part of a small-group of early online pioneers who were experimenting with text based group communications. A group of about 50 people met over a long weekend in New York City and agree to create a professional network called the Electronic Networking Association.

Two of the people involved in that meeting were Jeffrey Stamps and Jessica Lipnack.  Jeff and Jessica were already writing about network organizations and they have subsequently written several books related to network organizations and virtual teams. In one of their books, The Age of the Network: Organizing Principles for the 21st-Century (John Wiley & Sons, 1996), they started a list of characteristics to contrast a traditional organizational hierarchy with a network organization. Here’s that list:

Traditional Organization   Network Organization
(Mechanistic)                                  (Organic)

Extrinsic purpose                          Intrinsic purpose
Imposed Control                            Self-Control
Specialized                                        Generalized
Dependence                                      Independence

Formal Channels                            Voluntary Relations
Commands                                        Consultation
Appointed Leaders                        Natural Leaders
Formal Jobs                                      Loosely Defined Jobs
Rigid Levels                                       Flexible Levels

Over the years I have made some personal additions to that list that includes the following:

Parent-Child Relationships        Adult-Adult Relationships
Need to Ask Permission              You Can Act on Your Own Initiative
Someone Promotes You             You Promote Yourself
Work for Someone (boss)            Work with Others (colleagues)
Position and Title Oriented        Relationship and Bandwidth Oriented
Big Power                                           Low-Power
Big Muscle                                         Big Brain
Standardization                              Diversification
King and Council Model              Network and Node Model

In future notes I will discuss some of these characteristics further. Do any of these concepts resonate with you? Do you see them in changing cultural norms?  Do you have any examples of network organizations that you are part of, or that you have observed?

I look forward to your comments and links to related information.

Thanks – Chairman Ed

PS  I am still learning about the WordPress blogging software and I do not know how to make two well ordered columns.  Tab keys do not seem to work.

Opening Thoughts from Chairman Ed

First some thoughts about writing this blog and then about topics to be explored –

I approach this with a series of trepidations. Will anyone ever read any of this? How can I attract people to read, and perhaps more importantly, to comment? How much effort and energy will this take? Can I find that energy among the other demands of my life? And, can it help me generate new personal energy through connections with other people and with opportunities to create concepts, connections and concrete actions that are socially beneficial.

As a former debater in high school and college, I enjoy exploring possibilities from multiple angles to see which holds the most truth and opportunity. As an entrepreneur, I enjoy the process of moving from an idea to action. When I have done these things previously, it was in a much more confined space than the breath of the Internet. Writing here feels like talking into the darkness, while wondering if someone will turn on the lights and how my thoughts will look in the brightness of daylight.

So, with my trepidations laid out in front of you, here are some of the topics I plan to write about now and potentially much further into the future.

Network Organizations, including the characteristics of this form of organization and the infrastructure that the Internet continues to evolve to support this type of organizational process.

Hybrid Organizations, as interim steps to network forms, as hybrid cars are interim steps toward electric vehicles.

Adult Learning, and new opportunities to connect people around the globe so that they can learn with, and from, each other.

Intentional Family, as social supports when government safety nets are being challenged in terms of their sustainability.

Intimacy, sexuality and personal growth, as the spice to attract an audience, and because they are important parts of our humanity.

And, there is even the possibility some threads will weave these topics together.

I hope I have piqued your curiosity enough to have you bookmark this link or click on an RSS feed. And, I would sincerely appreciate it, if you take a moment to make a comment or ask a question.

Thanks – Chairman Ed