Tag Archives: Power

The Rise of the Informational Democracy

11 Jan

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Knowledge is power.
Collectively, employees have more knowledge than leadership. 
Employees have the power.

Last year I wrote a blog post about 25 growing trends in learning technology and in that post I mentioned “democratization.” I’ve come to believe that the democratization of the workplace is the single most important trend to understand. I am calling this trend the rise of the “informational democracy” and it radically shifts the power away from traditional experts and traditional authority. The trend is building so much steam that you can’t throw a rock anywhere and not hit it, so I’ll just say a few things briefly.

First, employees no longer rely on experts and leaders for information. Employees will include them, but they don’t need them. “Information is power,” and employees’ access to information and communication means that they can organize and adapt outside of a traditional organizational structure. Moreover, modern history has shown us that information lends itself towards democratization (Kellerman, 2012), which is why rigid power structures always seek to control information above all else. I see this trend impacted our work in several immediate ways.

  • Management will become more like an administrative function. Today, we see managers as leaders and admin professionals as lowly support staff. In reality, managers have worked for their employees for a while now, they just didn’t realize it. The informational democracy will force their eyes open. Most of our leadership theory is based on history, but these need to make way for truly modern adaptations. As Gary Hamill (2007) says, despite how the world has changed in the last few decades, there haven’t been any “management innovations” to keep up. Barbara Kellerman (2012) calls this, “the end of leadership.” I agree and I think there are some things that we can do to get ahead of the curve.
  • Relevance will replace status. In a networked democracy, influence will be bestowed upon those with the most relevance. The free market of ideas and opinions means that managers no longer have a monopoly on information. In the free market, influence goes to the person with the most connections (ala Google’s Page Rank, social media analytics, etc.), not the person with the most “expertise” or “authority.” This means that the myth of the individual leader will likely start to break down as it makes way for systems approaches, which treat every individual as nodes in a large system of influence. Given this, we can start helping people “nodify” themselves.
  • The nature of corporate learning is changing. We need to start producing content that serves the employees rather than content that is just convenient to make. We keep making the same courses again and again, when we all know that most of these courses are cobbled together scraps of things some ISD grabbed from the internet. Using mobile technology as a metaphor, we need to think about the user’s consumption. Small. Bite-sized. Easy to access. There will still be a place for formal trainings (see “Consider the Spandrels” in my next post), but it’s not necessarily because of the learning benefits. If more people were to really understand what is going on with the informational democracy (and that it might be over-hyped in the short term….but it is definitely under-hyped in the long term…) we could get ahead of the biggest change in organizations we’ve ever seen.

To be clear, I am not rosy-eyed about distributed leadership as a way to avoid any sense of hierarchy. In fact, my opinion is that we likely need more unilateral decision making and far LESS consensus. But we can distribute that unilateral decision making in a much more appropriate and effective way. This is one of the reasons why I am pursing a certification in Holacracy, which is just a new type of “social technology,” which seems to be working well (it’s been getting more attention lately because Zappos just adopted it). I’m not saying that Holacracy is THE answer; I’m just saying that it represents one way of adapting leadership and learning to the informational democracy.

Hopefully, there will be many others. The informational democracy actually changes so many things about the way we do our work that I struggle to put everything into a linear story. The essence is that we should all be prepared to keep our bourgeois sensibilities in check. When everyone has our information, then it isn’t nearly as valuable. And we can fight the waves of change for only so long. Far better to prepare ourselves to ride the wave as it comes in.

The Power of Resistance

17 Dec
Resistance will claim that it's protecting you.

Resistance will claim that it’s protecting you.

I don’t care who you are. I don’t care how much you’ve accomplished. There is always forever one thing standing in your way. As soon as you start to commit yourself to doing something, you’re going to face a force like you have never known (author Steven Pressfield literally calls it “evil”). It cannot be negotiated with. It cannot be appeased or bribed. It wants to destroy you and everyone who has tried to do anything important has felt it. It is called resistance.

Resistance will take many forms. Both internal and external. It will take whatever form it has to take to prevent your from achieving what you want. It will whisper “well, I don’t have to do it TODAY….”. It will make you lose your keys, it will make you forget to make a call, or suddenly need to take a bathroom break (even though you just went 10 minutes ago). It’s just your brain playing tricks on you. It’s all resistance. If you’re going to beat resistance then you should get good at recognizing it. This article is dedicated to three of the most common forms of resistance and three very simple (but not easy) ways to overcome them.

1. Fantasizing
Tell me if this sounds like someone you know. They like reading about cars they can’t afford. They plan trips they aren’t going to take. They buy clothes for a lifestyle that they don’t live. This form is resistance is called fantasizing. Now, there is nothing wrong with setting big goals. Sometimes the bigger the better. But if you find that you’re spending more time day-dreaming than day-working then you’ve found a form of resistance. It’s candy-coated so you feel like you’re actually doing something, but you really aren’t. You’re just eating your ice cream first and then getting surprised when suddenly you’re not hungry enough for your broccoli. Remember, you have to manage your temptations. Put simply, if there isn’t a direct connection between your inspiration and your perspiration then you’re spending too much time in Neverland.

2. Stalking
I love reading biographies. I love learning about other people’s lives in the hope that their story can somehow inform my own. However, there is a difference between being a seeker and being a stalker. The difference? You’re stalking if you obsess about someone’s Facebook pictures, consider People magazine literature, or feel personally invested in the Forbes 400 (even though you have absolutely no connection to anyone). If you find yourself emotionally involved with the lives of other people – who you do not PERSONALLY KNOW – then you’re a stalker. You’re a seeker if you have the balls to ask a local entrepreneur for some advice. You’re a seeker if you role model your life after someone you admire. You’re a seeker if you write an email to an author to share how a book impacted your life. Those are genuine connections and you should do them as much as you can. So, please go out and network. Make friends with people who are doing the things that you’d like to be doing. But don’t kid yourself into thinking that when a celebrity likes your Facebook post that it means anything.

3. Distracting
You have lots of things to do but you don’t want to do them. Enter: something “interesting” to do. Let’s clear this up quickly; “interesting” should never be your criteria. Unless, you’ve done your work for the day, then you can’t afford to be “interested” in anything not directly related to accomplishing your goals. This is just another form of resistance and one of the most powerful. While fantasizing and stalking may be pretty easy to identify, distractions can be anything from “really needing” to hang out with friends to suddenly feeling really tired as soon as you get to work. I’ve had the experience of suddenly remembering all of the errands I need to do as soon as I sit down to write. It’s no coincidence that these memories seem to be triggered only when I’m writing something particular difficult. Also, avoid the word “multi-tasking” at all costs (it just means that you’re doing more than one thing badly at a time).

So, that’s it, the three most common forms of internal resistance that you’ll face. I’ve said before that you are your own worst enemy (7 Ways to Be Your Own Worst Enemy) and you’ll have to get better at calling out your own BS. I will cover several ways to fight resistance, including the ONE thing you must absolutely do, but I’ll leave that for Part 2. For now, just pay attention to how resistance works against you. Every person has their own special devil on their shoulder. Get to know him. Get to know him very well.