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The Web as Weapon to Flatten the Organization

When leading business thinker Gary Hamel analyzes the central problems with the modern hierarchical organization, he sees 5 debilitating deficits: too few voices are heard; creativity is confined and constrained; decisions are under informed; institutional barriers separate capital from talent; and an inability to adapt to fast-changing circumstances.

The fix? With its inherent ability to collect, store, share distributed data and knowledge, the Web can turn these problems into opportunities, says Hamel, conveying great benefit on the forward-looking firms that find the right solutions first. In a recent post on Harvard Business, Hamel creates an exciting vision of the future corporation infused with "Management 2.0" technology.

Some snippets.

  • Too few voices: "What if your company encouraged people to write critical in-house blogs (and allowed them to do it anonymously if they so wished)? What if it tracked the number of responses each blog posting generated (its "authority index") and then required senior executives to respond to those that garnered the most feedback?"
  • Confined creativity: "Make no mistake, your company is filled with video bloggers, mixers, hackers, mashers, tuners, and podcasters. Like everyone else with a computer, they have been using Photoshop, TypePad, GarageBand, Final Cut Express, ProTools, VideoStudio, Home Designer Pro, and thousands of other creativity-boosting applications to give vent to their artistic urges. The question is what is your company doing to help all of these ingenious people become fully empowered business innovators?"
  • Under-informed decisions: "The Web is a great tool for collating the views of hundreds -- or even thousands -- of individuals and has spawned a wide variety of 'opinion markets.' Suppose, for a moment, that your company created an internal 'market for judgment' that aggregated the views of a broad cross section of employees with the goal of establishing the odds that a particular project will meet its intended return."
  • Funding new ideas: "A new breed of online peer-to-peer banks, such as Zopa and Prospect, are helping lenders and borrowers to find each other and do business without the overhead of, well, bankers. These social markets provide a model for how your company might create more funding options for employees eager to experiment with new ideas.
  • Adapting to new conditions: "An ideal management system would be one in which power was automatically redistributed when environmental changes devalued executive knowledge and competence. You may find it hard to imagine an organization in which authority is a fluid commodity, flowing smoothly toward leaders who add value and away from those who don't, yet this is how the Web works today."
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