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It’s Time for the Economies of Connectivity

 

Through digitalization, we have attained a degree of connectivity which we have never before experienced. Everybody can communicate with everybody else at any time; the possibilities appear to be almost limitless to us. But do we truly already know what the digitalization will ultimately bring us? Can we satisfactorily use the connectivity for the transformation to digitalization? From digitalization, we know at best the greeting from the kitchen and have perhaps a slight inkling of how the appetizer will taste to us. What do we thus have to do in order to utilize our capacities on the path towards digitalization? 

 

The company of tomorrow is a highly-connected and learning company–fundamental characteristics without which a company will not be able to successfully embark down the path towards digitalization (regardless of how this may also look at the end). In this regard, it is already obvious that we are using the analogy with the principle of our brain in order to receive assistance during the mastery of our challenges. Our brain also possesses capacities through connectivity which we still today don’t even begin to fully exploit. On the other hand, we have allowed the connectivity density in the system to explode. The true reason why we today so often speak of change management. The complexity constantly forces us to adapt–a dynamic which we still struggle to control. Without a doubt, we can no longer as individuals master the complexity which has been created through the global connectivity. For us–as Peter Kruse concisely stated it, it is like for the sorcerer’s apprentice, but we don’t have a master whom we can call, but rather we will have to help ourselves. Thus, we need more intelligent systems in order to find a suitable answer to the complexity of connectivity–systems which are built on collective intelligence.

 

However, a system will certainly not be more intelligent if we continue to increase the connectivity density. We can barely still control the complexity which already exists today. Based upon our brain’s functioning, we know that, in order to learn, in addition to connectivity, the factors of excitement and attentiveness are also important. If we cannot make a system exciting, then it can also not learn. Particularly during transformation processes, this perspective is an essential criterion for success. Thus, during these processes, new behavioral patterns must also be learned. If I do not garner the attentiveness of the persons in the system, learning cannot take place and, consequently, the transformation will not succeed.

 

The learning process is based on the networks. In this approach, the hierarchy oftentimes plays only a subordinated role–it must permit at least the connectivity. Much too often, I see that the hierarchy wants to control these processes–but networks don’t allow themselves to be controlled. Thus, the role of the hierarchy is rather to give the networks room and, by so doing, to promote connectivity. As before, we have far too many firewalls in our brains at our companies. In order to create network intelligence, we must break them up and, at the same time, work on the rules and values at the company. Through rules and values, we must succeed in guaranteeing that stability in which we can generate corporate learning. It is once again (as so often the case) a matter of culture–we must generate value models with which we can cooperate with each other (in the networks). Luhmann thereupon makes reference to the point that we will not simply be able to create this cooperation via language–we must then learn to generate a “third system” between us. This system has its own dynamic which will bring us into discourse regarding the fundamental values to learn. This process is the true challenge in the internationalization in our business world–it is the learning process during the transformation into the digital world.

 

The learning during the transformation towards digitalization works only with visions–not with goals. Our employees need orientation and they need incentives to enter into a world which we all still don’t know. This world will bring us instabilities which we have never before seen although the human being is constantly searching for stability in his neurobiological structure. The strategic change management is thus “the conscious balance of stability and instability at the company”. Leadership means to make the life exciting, to provide stimuli and, in so doing, to generate a pioneering spirit. This can sometimes also result in a rather destabilizing effect before the system once again reverts to old models (which bring stability). However, the solutions for the new challenges must originate from the networks; only they have the know-how and also the ability to transform the know-how into collective intelligence. That means that we must promote the self-organizational capability of the systems which will ultimately decide whether success or failure is attained. Thus, in the digitalization, those organizations will survive who generate added value from the Economies of Connectivity.


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