Peer to peer organizational forms as form of power

In our own writings on peer to peer, we are aware of the following polarity. There is the emergence of bottom up processes by communities of sharing of desiring to produce value in common. And there is the desire by existing institutions to incorporate participative processes in their own value chain. And of course, there will be variants in between.

The key question then becomes this: how genuine can peer to peer dynamics be, even if they are embedded in horizontal organizational networks (say, based on project teams), when the overall power structure is in fact not peer to peer at all? How should we interpret the interplay between such partial p2p dynamics, for example in the context of the power structure of a for profit entity beholden to shareholders?

Most authors gloss over this difference. For example, from the essays I’ve read of Jeffrey Nielsen, author of the Myth of Leadership, in which he explains the difference between rank and peer-based management, and calls for establishing peer councils in corporations, does not seem to face this issue.

But one author who does explicitely is Rune Kvist Olsen, from whom you can ask the full essay at rukvol at online dot no. Though I’m generally speaking very comfortable to claims at exclusivity, the author’s provocative points are well worth pondering.

Here are his two main points:

“Other approaches lack the main connections between these interconnected and reciprocal elements presented in my concept through the published papers; 1. The relation between “power-structure” and organizational-structure” and 2. The relation between “leader-ship” and “leading-ship”. Neither Jeffrey Nielsen nor others have developed this type of terminology and methodology because the lack of focus, awareness and consciousness to the interconnection and relationship between these significant elements.

The KEY is as I have mentioned two main connections:

1. The interconnected relationship between “Power-structure” and “Organizational-structure”.

For instance the power-structure is the shaper of the organizational-structure and the organizational-structure is the reflector of the power-structure. So when the power-structure is vertical (with superiors and subordinates) the organizational-structure is vertical (f.ex with team-leaders and team-workers). When the power-structure is horizontal (with equals and peers) the organizational-structure is horizontal. There is therefore impossible to create horizontal organizational structures as long as the power-structure remains vertical with someone above to decide and someone below to be decided upon. I have not found that any others have dealt with this topic in this way before in regard to this specific terminology and methodology.

2. The interconnected relationship between “Leader-ship” and “Leading-ship”.

Leader-ship is connected to the person in charge as the superior person above. Leader-ship is based on the position and rank to the person in the vertical system. Leader-ship exists in the Vertical Power-Structure and in the Authoritarian and Hierarchical Organizational-Structure. Leading-ship is connected to the function of leading where everyone are operating as persons on the same level. Leading-ship exists in the Horizontal Power-Structure and in the Egalitarian and Humanitarian Organizational-Structure.
(note that whereas I say that at least partial p2p dynamics can exist within non-p2p power structures, creating a field of contradiction or conflict, Rune seems to be explicitely ruling this out; this difference may be one of semantics however)

Here’s an abstract of the paper:

The paper “A change from leadership to leadingship” is most likely the first presentation in the world history of organizational working life that describes an alternative concept to the vertical and hierarchical structuring of power since Fredric Taylor (Scientific Management, 1911) industrialized the ideas from Max Weber in the beginning of the 1900-century. There are however numerous concepts in this field forcusing on humanizing organization and work, developed during the last century, but all of these later concepts ( f.ex. “Human Relation” and “Sociotechnical Systems”) nevertheless based their powerstructure on vertical and hierarchical principles (with superiors and subordinates). The spesific focus in this paper on the coherence and connection between “powerstructure” and “organizational structure” in shaping organizational life and in creating working environments, is definitely an orginal and unique invention in this context of organizational history. So in a way this presentation through this paper represent a world event in the history of organizational theory so to say. Therefore new terms ( f.ex. leadingship) and new terminologies (f.ex. leadingship strategy) can be discovered through this conseptualizion of the New Workplace Reality.

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