Not just the Seniors

In class we discussed how the emergence of a collaborative economy, the popularity of social media, and the presence of a new generation of thinkers impact on the different elements of the organization – people, processes, formal networks, and informal ones. As we dig deeper in Wikinomics, we learned that the storm the Perfect Storm stirred inside the organization is not all good – it creates a gap between the baby boomers (plus older generations) and the millenials, which of course, affects the dynamics of tasks, relationships, and power relations.

While it is easy to point out that there exists a generation gap between the oldies and the new kids, aside from them, I believe that there are two more groups of people that need to be convinced with the way the Perfect Storm should work for the organization. These are (1) your millenials with mindset as fossilized as those of the seniors and (2) people at the bottom of the organizational chart.

Fossilized at a young age
Let’s face it: the academe as a whole has a lot to do with the creation of millenials who do not think like the rest of the pack. With the very slow transformation of information to action in the academic setting, most of the lessons that are being taught are somehow outdated, e.g., strictly-bureaucratic management styles that do not only need critique but also revisions, to add to the very positivist mindset most professors impose through their presentation of lessons. Whether we like it or not, we are products of the paradigm we are exposed to, and to change mindsets is difficult, especially when it’s comfortable to see things in that way.

Fast forward to the organizational setting. Students practice what they learn from school – centralization of power through information-gatekeeping, strictly superior-subordinate relationship, among others. Enter the Perfect Storm where knowledge shared is knowledge that will exponentially grow, where everyone can participate in the processes of the organization despite one’s position in the hierarchy. Needless to say, it shakes the world of the fossilized millenials. And while it is easier to get them to our side because they have experienced Wikipedia, Facebook, and blogging, it will be harder to get them to think that they can still go up the corporate ladder even if they collaborate and not compete among themselves.

Power relations, still
In one of our cognate subjects we discussed how the military is trained to follow orders from the chain of command, and why the individual soldier must not think that one cannot alter the command process (i.e., why he/she should not think that they can stage a coup to topple down the government). In the same way, frontliners of the organization (receptionists, janitors, security guards, etc) are also trained to just follow orders, so they take live by that mindset. But when the Perfect Storm enters the picture and they are supposed to be empowered, why do they waive the chance? Two reasons: (1) they belittle their position in the organization to share knowledge, as compared to management employees who have all the schooling and the training, and (2) knowledge sharing can be seen as bypassing a boss who is an organizational fossil and can make career advancement a little harder for the wanna-be collaborator.

Co-orchestrate the storm
In class we discussed different ways on how to deal with seniors to make them co-collaborators. To make these two groups participate in the intra-collaborative processes through the social media, I also suggest the following that we had from class:

1. Make them feel that they have to collaborate.
There has to be some form of pressure, that if you do not join this conversation, you will lose a lot – the chance to have networks from across the organization, gain insights regarding your work, and improve your work – which will all work both ways (your advantage plus organization’s advantage). Encourage them to participate because they can contribute so much, and that their contributions to the organization’s advancement are valued and well-taken.

2. Continuity vs. substitution
New channels of communicating to the top ranks need not be entirely replacing everything. Offering new channels mean that there are faster means to send feedback and faster responses to such, new ways of doing things but the old ways can still be applied, and that there is a variety of channels that can be used – the choice is up to the employee on which channel should be used that would communicate the message completely and warmly.

Values
In addition, I thought of HR people hiring based on personal values and how they are aligned with organizational values. I placed this last because the premise is that the above groups are already inside the organization. In OrCom 109.1, we were taught to write cover letters that would mention our values that are not reflected in the resume, because our professor told us that companies are increasingly looking for values. Now I understand why. The mindset, or the perspective on change, at least, should be aligned with one another so that it would be easier to tell these employees to be one with the company in times of innovation, e.g., the Perfect Storm.

In today’s times, it’s safe to say that it is important to have the set of values that fit with the job description and the company values. The assumption is simple – most people can be trained. While there are no perfect set of values to look at all these changes inside and outside the organization, it will be best to adapt a perspective or mindset that would always be critically open to change.

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