Participating and collaborating in spontaneous networks

Libraries have the ambition to facilitate the creation of knowledge in and for their communities. Taken from a broader perspective, this ambition fits within the trend from meconomics to weconomics as described in The future of business here. Therefore libraries face the same challenge as all organizations in the private and public sector.
They all experience that cooperation, coordination and communication is going to take more and more place in constantly changing constellations. Participating and collaborating in spontaneous networks becomes the new normal. The question is whether organizations are capable to deal with this paradigm shift in the way they work.

Three capabilities

Dealing with this massive shift is not a simple endeavor, especially for newcomers to the world of reconnaissance in uncharted terrain.

In order to succeed organizations must commit themselves to build and exploit three essential capabilities:

  • The capability to visualize
  • The capability to perform
  • The capability to execute

The capability to visualize is about understanding tomorrow's community and consumer landscape, as described amongst others by Anne Lise Kjaer. It is also about re-imagining work in a new context.
The new way of working brings together - per event - multiple disciplines in a coherent and meaningful context to realize a (common) goal. Indeed, events become inevitably the unit of work organization and management. Consequently organizations have to re-assess their business motivation and re-design the employee, partner and customer journeys to reach their defined goals.

The capability to perform is about possessing the right resources and skills to turn a vision into reality. Virtual and physical work spaces must be available and be adequate. Furthermore e.g. library facilitators have to be able to act in multiple roles, like initiator, space creator, connector, gatekeeper or co-participator.

The capability to execute is about bridging the gap between virtually being able to do something and to really put a defined course and plan into operation. Time, budget, management attention and prioritization must be in place therefore.

The human factor

Interestingly, soft skills become more and more important in this age of digitization. The human factor is the center and kernel of the 4P-business and innovation model. Furthermore human motivators like mastery, autonomy and purpose are crucial, as shown in this video.

Participating and collaborating is a human centric activity. It is not only the way to reach a given goal, regardless whether the goal is realizing a business case, enabling and accompanying a customer journey or creating a knowledge event, service or artifact. It is also the way to build and enhance the aforementioned capabilities.

Three stereotypes

Participating and collaborating in spontaneous networks and organizing work around events means a major change for many organizations. This change may come as a culture shock to a part of the organization. After all, a wet baby is often the only one who really likes a change. Therefore, if the transformation can take place in a gradual pace, it may be advisable to discern between three behavior types of employees.

  • The keepers, that keep the existing business running as usual. 
  • The seekers, that optimistically and fearlessly explore and create new opportunities and business.
  • The reapers, that harvest the created new business and implement the transition to business as usual.

By innovating step by step, this strategy enables the organization to decrease the tension zone between new and old. They can gradually evolve to a situation of new business as usual. Perhaps this is the best scenario for libraries.

Improving the information to action coefficient

However, this scenario will not work for organizations that are confronted with high volatility and a fast rate of change. They face the challenge of continuously improving their information to action coefficient. This is the measure of time between the occurrence of an event or the availability of information and the moment of completion of appropriate action.

This coefficient is extremely important in high risk and emergency response situations, but is also quite relevant in e.g. highly regulated industries. These industries struggle with the volume of signals that have to be processed within a short period of time.

Participation and collaboration can take massive proportions in these environments. Probably, continuous improvement based upon the 7-P model, as described here and here, is the best way to go in governance, risk and compliance situations.

Yearning for the sea

Real transformation starts with a crew that is yearning for the sea. Only splashing the water doesn't help. Taking a deep plunge into the ocean is mandatory. This applies to libraries as well as to all other public and private organizations that want to innovate in order to remain meaningful.