Excerpted from Esko Kilpi:
“The factory logic of mass production forced people to come to where the machines were. In knowledge work, the machines are where the people are making it possible to distribute work to where they are. The architectures of work differ in the degree to which their components are loosely or tightly coupled. Coupling is a measure of the degree to which communication between the components is predetermined and fixed or not. It was relatively easy to define in repetitive work what needed to be done and by whom as a definition of the quantity of labor and quality of capabilities. As a result, management theory and practice created two communication designs: the hierarchy and the process chart.
In a hierarchy the most important communication and dependence exists between the employer and the employee, the manager and the worker.
Manufacturing work is, perhaps amazingly, not about hierarchical, but horizontal, sequential dependence. Those performing the following task must comply with the constraints imposed by the execution of the preceding task. The reverse cannot normally take place. The architecture consists of tightly coupled tasks and predetermined, repeated activities. Communication resembles one-way signals.
Creative, highly contextual work creates a third design.
It is about loose couplings and modularity, about networked tasks. In creative work, any node in the network should be able to communicate with any other node on the basis of contextual interdependence and creative, participatory engagement.
Work is interaction between interdependent people.
The architecture of the Internet is based on the same principle of loose couplings and modularity. Modularity is still the only design principle that intentionally makes the nodes of the network able to be highly responsive. The logic of modularity and ubiquitous communication make it possible for the first time to create truly network-based organizations.
Creative network-based work in the future will not be about jobs, but about tasks and interdependence between people.
You don’t need to be present in a factory any more, or in an office, but you need to be present for other people. In an economy, people essentially produce goods and services for people. Companies are theoretically intermediary organizational forms that arrange the development, production and delivery processes. Can companies perhaps be replaced by apps in some cases? Or can managers be replaced by apps? Or perhaps more and more new companies look like apps, like Uber or Airbnb already do.
Many of these new companies are really market makers rather than service providers.
In the network economy, individuals, interacting with each other by utilizing coordinating apps and relatively cheap mobile, smart devices, can now create information products in a way that has never been possible before.
But many things need to change!
We are as used to the employer choosing the work objectives as we are used to the teacher choosing the learning objectives. The manager directs the way in which the employee engages with work. This image of work is easy to grasp because it has been taught at school where the model is the same.
In contrast to the above, creative, digital work and the Internet have brought about circumstances in which the employee in effect chooses the purpose of work, voluntarily selects the tasks, determines the modes and timing of engagement, and designs the outcomes. The worker might be said to be largely independent of some other person’s management, but is in effect interdependent. Interdependence here means that the worker is free to choose what tasks to take up, and when to take them up, but is not independent in the sense that she would not need to make the choice.
The interdependent, task-based worker negotiates her work on the basis of her own purposes, not the goals of somebody else, and negotiates who her fellow-workers are on the basis of cognitive complementarity and her personal network, not a given organization.
The architecture of work is not the structure of a corporation, but the structure of the network. The organization is not a given hierarchy or a predictive process, but an ongoing process of organizing.
The Internet-based firm sees work and cognitive capability as networked communication.
And we have the tools!”