In this short, 3 part series I have been musing about how large organizations will make the shift from Hierarchies to "Wirearchies" (Jon Husband's great insight). Much of "Big Consulting" and "Big Tech" are selling their services in the hope that CEO's will believe that you can get from A to C, or Hierarchy to Wirearchy, by a set of incremental steps in a staged and mechanical way.
I hope that posts 1 and 2 might offer up reasonable doubt for that hope. In summary, I state that the shift from Hierarchy to Wirearchy starts always with the individual who experiences a spiritual death of their old ego and a spirtual birth of a new persona. A new persona that experiences being fully integrated into the flows of the universe. I make the case that this only happens on the terms of the individual and cannot happen as a result of any direct kinetic external agency.
You cannot use mechanics, data and argument to force this change.
But I do say that this kind of birth can be made easier, faster and with less pain, if the person enduring the shift has the help of a "Midwife"/Coach. This helper though has to meet two conditions to be of any use. He/she has to have made the shift themselves. For the power of the helper is energetic. There is no kinetic force here but only "attraction" and energetic support. I also make the point that such a helper also needs to have many of the "skills" required to navigate and to love in the new world. He/she is a cultural advisor.
For the new person has only known the old world. He or she is like the girlfriend following Crocodile Dundee into the outback.
If you think that you can use the old rules in the new place, you will get into trouble. But all your life you have used the old rules. So the transformed person has a profound challenge early in their new life. They tend to default back to the old rules and can risk leaving the new and returning to the old.
For let's be clear, Wirearchy is a "New World" as America was the New World for immigrants in the 1880's. This world has many cultural rules that are the opposite of the old but new comers, like those just off the boat at Ellis Island only know their old habits. The "midwife"/coach can also act as part of a Newcomers Association and help make the cultural transition easier.
If we follow the Dundee story, imagine if your guide to the Outback was another New Yorker? Feels wrong doesn't it? So why would you retain a consulting firm from the old culture to help you find your way around the new?
If we can agree on how this change takes place and who can help us make this best, let's get onto the main point of this post, is there a process that can help this transformation at scale? There is and its another fractal of the personal transformation. Let's see a real example.
This is how Channel Nine - Now the Nine Network for Social Media in St Louis (a major PBS TV Station) has done ths. The diagrams come from the work of Valdis Krebs - one of the great thinkers of how networks really work.
Valdis - and his long term ally June Holley - call this process "Network Weaving". As we look at the St Louis example, we can see the larger set of rules.
Channel Nine began by rethinking its role. No longer ONLY a broadcaster, it recognized that as a non profit and a community owned organization, it had a trust in St Louis that maybe no other organization had. The station had a context for this change. St Louis was a city in decline. The station's future depended on St Louis's future.
It also knew that while St Louis had many great organizations that all of these worked on their own and so had limited power to help St Louis restore its old energy as a city. We see this in the first step in the slide. We see a number of great potential nodes and small networks that had very little power to help St Louis because they were not connected and had no habit of working with each other.
So in Phase I, the second stage in the slide, the station acted as a "Connector" it found projects that the larger city needed and hosted meetings of the organizations that had never worked with each other before. It created a safe environment where cooperation and collaboration started to be normal.
At first, Channel Nine was the centre and was the connector.
But then, as collaboration was experienced more, the organizations started to reach out to each other on their own. The common and greater purpose remained the same though - help make St Louis great again. Each organization started to see what Channel Nine had seen - that they all depended on the larger City doing well. The larger context helped them all. The new habits and the new trust expanded and others in St Louis joined.
Meanwhile, Channel Nine expanded its reach beyond St Louis and began to weave with other TV and radio stations across the nation. For here too, Channel Nine depended on the health and the success of the larger ecosystem that was public media. Channel Nine could not sustain itself with out the larger system. The CEO was using the business POV of a Teal organization. Jack Galmiche knew that only if 9 expanded its context for success could it find success. This was not a Kumbaya call but a hard nosed call based on a better POV.
Again this work in the pub media world started with St Louis in the centre, But soon, the most ready stations started this whole process in their cities and now this community engagment network model is spreading across the system.
It's all fractal!
While this was going on, the core of the network in St Louis and in Pub Media grew more dense. In St Louis, the Public Radio station has moved in next door and has taken on the Beacon - an online New organization that had been incubated at Channel Nine. In many cities in the US the Radio and TV stations are linking up and are creating the same new habits of trust locally. Community Engagement is now seen as core to the Pub Media future. Weaving is the process.
Rust belt cities and cities that depended on Hirearchy are creating a new economy based on Wirearchy. St Louis is now seeing that it is in full revival mode and is becoming a startup centre. We can now see the kind of emergent dense core that is in the last part of the slide. St Louis is reawakening to life. St Louis organizations are making the shift.
This Weaving/Hosting/Creating Safe Environments is I think the way ahead for us. Here is the challenge offered by Frederic Laloux - "What can be done is to create environments that are conducive to growing into later stages. When someone is surrounded by peers who already see the world from a more complex perspective, in a context safe enough to explore inner conflicts, chances are higher that the person will make the leap"
I belong to such a network now - Change Agents World Wide - I joined it because I am convinced that acting alone was no longer good enough. I too had to be part of a larger network force that could work like this. CAWW is a network made up of people that have made this transformation. It also has the cultural skills and technical skills needed to do well in the New World of Wirearchy.
I think that much of our work will be "Weaving" for now. Connecting others as individuals and as other networks. We already reach to individuals inside traditional organizations and offer those change agents inside the warm feeling of being supported. We reach out to other organizations that have made the shift and connect them to each other. We reach out to other networks that also need to scale.
Our goal is to find the Tipping Point as St Louis seems to have found for itself. If we can connect to the first 12%, the rest will take care of itself.
And the math shows that this may not be as hard as you think. Imagine that you had 4 friends who really trusted you. Imagine that each of them had 4 other friends who really trusted them. Not too hard to imagine? Now extend this to the power of 4 and see what a trust network can influence.
2 - 16
3 - 81
5 - 625
8 - 4,096
13 - 28,561
34 - 1,336,336
55 - 9,150, 625
89 - 62, 742,241
144 - 429, 981, 696
So a Network like CAWW with 55 members has the potential to reach 9 million people. With 89, we could reach 63 million. With 144 (The real max Dunbar number) we could reach 430 million. The Tipping Point is not that far away or so hard to find in this context.
This is the leverage of real trust networks.
In part 4 of this series I am going to offer up a lot of the science that is behind all of this. For what we are tallking about are natural processes in natural systems and everything in nature is bound by rules and by math. There is a hard foundation to this spiritual journey.