Chris Messina in his posting I Represent Me, triggered by Boris Mann, talks about how he feels in relation to organizations and groups he is part of: I don’t represent my employer, who I choose to work for represents me.
(picture to the right: Chris Messina, representing Chris Messina)
This is not simply a new version of Brand Me in my eyes. What Chris says is much more an expression of a different view of what organisations are. The networked view versus the traditional hierarchical view. (See my posting How We Migh View Organisations for a visual representation)
In a hierarchical setting and back in the days when lifetime employment was a worthwile goal you were (supposed to be) grateful to be allowed to join the ranks of a company. You expressed that gratitude by not rocking the company boat and being representative of the company. You represented your employer. Or even stronger: your identity was derived from the company’s identity.
In a networked setting things are different. There the group or organization is the sum of the people that form it. The company’s identity is the collective identity derived from the individual identities. The power balance is different here, shifting from me-company to me-you-her-him, form lifetime employment to lifetime employability.
So Chris is right, whom he chooses to work for represents him.
That however is not the end of it. Ending it there is wording the new in terms of the existing, offering it as an opposite. That is what Brand Me does, placing yourself above the company as a replacement of placing the company above yourself, which is the same thing but now with you in the center of power. In the one you are a means to further the company’s goals, in the other the company is a means to further your goals. It is not a distinction between me solely representing Company Inc. or Company Inc. solely representing me, which frames it in terms of dependance and independence. In a networked situation it is both, interdependence, and the acknowledgement thereof, and furthering collectively aligned goals:
Whom I choose to work for/with represent me AND I gladly represent those who choose to work for/with me.
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One reaction on “On Networked and Traditional Views of Organisations

  1. Right on Ton, thanks for adding that extra dimension. It’s true, it’s not just that I represent only me — while I do extend some pixie dust on the company I work for, there is symbiosis in effect as well. Ideally the organization is made stronger by having strong individuals within it — and that all together, all ships rise in concert.
    For example, I don’t want Flock to become the Andy and Chris show, even though we do have pretty strong personalities and display them prominently around the web. Rather, I’d like to see everyone that I work with be able to achieve something important to them, whatever it is. If they’re not as committed as I am, there’s a strange tension there that undermines our work. And while certainly we’ve all gotta be watching ourselves and our degree of engagement, there is a collective that needs be respected.
    In any case, you certainly clarified where my post was coming from… it was more a feeling — a sense that I had. Putting it in the context of a networked situation makes a lot of sense. Right on!

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