E L S U A ~ A KM Blog by Luis Suarez

From the blog

Social Business – Where Ideas Keep Fighting Hierarchy

Gran Canaria - Roque Nublo in the SpringIf you have been reading this blog for a while now, you would know how one of my favourite terms / concepts around Social Business that I have grown to become rather fond of over time, to the point where not only do I talk about it on a regular basis, but I also wear it extensively, is that one of Wirearchy (“Redarquía” in Spanish, for those who may be wondering…), that my good friend Jon Husband coined a few years back and that, still today, in 2012, is now more accurate than ever. In case you may not have heard about that concept just yet, allow me to offer over here Jon’s description of it, as an introduction of what the workplace of the future will be all about… starting today: networks and communities, vs. traditional hierarchies and rigid structures, getting work done.

Indeed, as Jon himself wrote over 13 years ago: “In an increasingly interconnected world, a new organising principle is emerging…

Wirearchy is a dynamic two-way flow of power and authority based on:

  • Knowledge
  • Trust
  • Credibility
  • A focus on results

enabled by interconnected people and technology

I am not sure what you would think, but those are some very powerful messages that surely have got enough traction to provoke a change of our mindsets and a shift of habits of how we have conducted business over the last 40 to 50 years, towards a working environment based on merit, trust, confidence, honesty, values, openness, transparency, authenticity, agile, reputation, effectiveness, efficiency, learning, empathy, etc. etc. A shift that, if you notice, has got very little to do with technology, specially, social networking tools, since they are just that, enablers to help you achieve certain tasks and eventually it’s all about that cultural mayhem that happens when ideas take over hierarchies.

Fascinating stuff, if you come to think about how wirearchy is slowly, but steadily, challenging AND changing the way we do work, questioning even whether we do eventually need managers after all or, perhaps, we should start embracing the move towards nurturing and cultivating the next generation of Leaders, as I have recently blogged about over at “Social Business – Where Bosses and Managers Become Servant Leaders“, who will master wirearchy vs. hierarchy alone. And this is where ideas kick in… 

But instead of me explaining how critical and paramount ideas, and sharing of ideas, is in this whole concept of Wirearchy, as an integral part of Social Business, I’m going to take the liberty of pointing you folks to a video clip that I bumped into from a recent tweet from Vala Afshar, that will be worth your time watching it through altogether: 

Indeed, in a little bit over two minutes, here’s a rather short, sharp, but superb interview snippet with Steve Jobs (Yes, I, too, miss him more than whatever I ever thought I would!!) where he shares that absolutely inspiring epiphany of how ideas will keep fighting the hierarchy till they eventually overcome it to establish a new status quo of how organizations get work done in the 21st century and how, inevitably, we no longer even have a choice, regardless of what some other groups out there may be stating as otherwise. If not, judge for yourselves, here’s the embedded code from the interview, so you can play it right away: 


Yes, I know and do fully realise how Steve doesn’t mention the concept of Wirearchy per se, but after you watch it you will see how close he gets to it when he explains fully a good number of its key concepts: like collaboration, like startup mentality (Disruptive not only bottom up, but top down alike, too!), like teamwork, like trust in those who you work with to deliver their part, like autonomy, like intrapreneurship, like problem solving, like lowering the centre of gravity and decision power, like, essentially, that wirearchy that runs through the veins and the DNA of any  business as part of that soft and hard tissue that makes a whole unit: The Brand. The People. No longer a hierarchy on its own, because as Steve himself quotes, “You have to be run by ideas, not hierarchy” and that’s probably as essential as it would get for all of those businesses out there currently embarking on that so-called journey of becoming a Socially Integrated Enterprise, i.e. a successful Social Business. 

Who would have thought that one of the most perceived risk averse companies towards the whole concept of Living Social has been driving such social business transformation deep at its roots for themselves and for a good few years already without relying too much on social technologies to make it work? I am not sure what you would think, but I bet that from here onwards we are going to start questioning, and rightly so!, the status quo of how much hierarchy should be trumping ideas overall to the point of drowning them altogether vs. giving them a fair chance, through Wirearchy, to keep up a good fight and help redefine the workplace of the future according to how work gets done nowadays… through networks and communities, of course. Where else?

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    1. Hi Joachim, thanks a lot for dropping by and for the wonderful addition into the conversation! Brilliant graphic and very descriptive of how orgs. are transforming themselves into meshes, vs. hierarchies and how the main aim behind that is not just to provoke the Connected Company to raise healthy and strong, but also to get the work done at the same time! Fantastic!! Love the graphic just as much the work from Valdis Krebs on this subject of networks, SNA, ONA, and so forth! W00t!!

      Thanks again for taking the time to comment and for dropping by! Much appreciated!

  1. I love the quote from Steve Jobs ”You have to be run by ideas, not hierarchy”. As the leader of a growing tech company I see how easy it could be to stifle your organization’ s growth with bureaucracy or over-management. You’re also right Luis that the struggle of ideas against hierarchy is enabled by new technologies rather than by caused by them. There is no doubt that the organizations of tomorrow have very different views to those of yesterday. Currently, we are between those two points – in a moment of extreme flux. I have found that the best way to survive and thrive in these circumstances is to do one important thing – trust your people and challenge them to be as good as they can be in this exciting new world of business.

    1. Hi Ara, many thanks for dropping by and for the kind feedback comments! Loved your comments about “a moment of extreme flux”, because I, too, feel that’s exactly where we are and it’s rather interesting to see as well how in order to move forward and keep things going we still resort to what we know is going to deliver time and time again: the people.

      Given them that empowerment, trust, autonomy and decision power surely is going to help bring up healthy challenges for them to grow, both inside and outside of the organisation! Fantastic!!

      Thanks again for the inspiring commentary! 🙂

  2. I remember to have seen a movement regarding an open company. They had a software that provided the basis for the management of the team. People were voting others work, work had value added. If an undesired task was not picked up by anyone the task was increasing value so it finally end up done by someone.

    Seemed quite well thought concept. The problem, I am not able to find the link…I had not archived it and googling retrieves plenty of “open” and “social” entreprise content…

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