Mass Collaboration: Will Management Really Die?

August 21, 2010

The Wall Street Journal reports the “end of management” has arrived. The article suggests that the demise of hierarchical and bureaucratic corporate form of management is upon us. The model of autocratic management perfected by Henry Ford is as dead as the General Motors of Alfred Sloan’s creation.

Instead, the rise of entrepreneurial successes like Google, Facebook and Twitter reveal a new brand of relentless innovation and “creative destruction” which renders useless the bureaucrat manager intent on self-perpetuation and control of others. To the contrary, “mass collaboration” will unleash the power of interdependent individuals and quick-footed organizations to seize the initiative by responding to market forces instantly and learn to “ruthlessly allocate resources” to the next beneficial opportunity. Corporate forms which exist to self-perpetuate and protect turf already acquired will fail because they “over invest in what is, as opposed to what might be”.

As enticing as the suggested alternative of “mass collaboration” appears, can the exercise of power and control as a means of organizational influence ever die? Not as long as those who possess the power are unwilling to release it to the good of the organization and its survival. Mass collaboration will be the tool used by the early adapters to generate innovation and game changing initiatives. The crowd and the traditionalists will always await the successes of those who lead change and “pile on” after the risks have been taken and the path to success is illuminated (if not paved).

Mass collaboration requires a willingness to trust in the ability of individuals to act in both their own enlightened self interest and that of others. Complex adaptive systems (like the human body and successful organizations) consist of interdependent organs and organisms. No single agenda dictates the behavior of all. Instead, the system moves in the direction of health and survival as determined by the whole, not those few who falsely believe themselves to be “in charge”.

Mass collaboration will in fact set the standard of economic success and innovation. However, most individuals and entities will choose the path of least resistance and permit the lowest common denominator define their character and their future rather than empower all to pursue greatness with equal opportunity.