Your Organization: a Museum or a Zoo?

This is just one of those examples why I love blogging and the blogosphere. I've been following Luis Suarez's blog for some time now. And then he points to the Headshift blog on which Oliver Amprimo writes wonderful stuff. Luis pointed to one post in particular I really liked: "The Museum and the Zoo". What an amazing post! You should read it all. But here are some highlights of the parts/statements are liked most and totally agree with. Hopefully this will trigger you to read the entire post.
The consequence [of current business education and specialization] is that people master the "what", sometimes the "how" but hardly the "why". They don't capture the reason why these processes are put in place, how they relate to corporate strategy and how the organisation relates to its environment. The result is straightforward: in organisations, people focus on their own limited sphere of responsibility. (...)

Another consequence is that this favours software over consulting. The reason why managers love products is because they make things simple. Products offer an answer to a very limited problem against some money. A problem that is inline with the limited sphere of responsibility and budget of the manager. (...)

As a result, fleeing complexity is trans-generational. (...)

The trick is that the organisation by definition is organic and complex. It is not a Museum; it is a Zoo. (...)

And currently this is what enterprise social computing consulting offers. It is a rare opportunity window to think and manage complexity. It is at the junction of behaviours (social) and processes (computing). (...)

The current beauty of the enterprise social computing market lies in the fact that there is no product. It is a consulting, not a software market: the value is to build processes from basic tools. (...)

These tools consequently require translation because they are unfinished products for the organisation. They offer room for intelligence and exploration as they need to be contextualised, mixed and tweaked to be organisationally relevant and compliant. (...)

Enterprise 2.0 is not only the mere implementation of social computing behind the firewall (what and how) but more fundamentally the introduction of employee participation on managing the organisation (why). (...)

The consequence is that we move away from the mechanistic and hierarchic models of organisation (systematic management adepts have favoured, mostly by misunderstanding). (...)

What social computing offers is collaboration tools, but also tools to map relations. Social computing contributes in making the web a - if not the - platform. In doing so it has paved the way for social networks. (...)

Enterprise social computing therefore helps organisations recover their real identity and evolve more easily. (...)

A widespread form of management is based on a very simple assumption: "Employees are dummies". This is a very negative conception of mankind. Result is that only happy-fews are invited to think. Management have a tendency to exclude people who are to be affected by decisions. People are not called in to suggest or craft, they are informed - eventually trained - when things are done. (...)

The figure of the Manager needs reinvention, not on paper but in daily life. (...)

Groups need leaders. So what is relevant is to rethink the organisational hierarchy in a way that managers proactively listen their employees, not replacing management by self-governance. Social computing offers the tools for this dialogue. We also have to get rid off the idea that technology changes society. Andrew McAfee seems to support this idea. (...)

[S]ociety changes technology. (...)

It is by favouring personal initiatives and driving them carefully and respectfully, each of us, at our own limited level, that we'll find ways for collective wealth and happiness. (...)
I'm very surprised this blog post didn't get more comments. It reminds me of Etienne Wenger's work on social worlds theory and communities of practice and Seely Brown/Duguid's book, 'The social life of information'. They too, a.o., also stressed 'social', 'complexity', 'living systems'. For some reason we read this and carry on with our lives. I agree that social computing brings back these difficult but intriguing topics into the light. And you can see in practice that IT projects that are run from a zoo-perspective give better results than from a museum one.

Thanks Luis for pointing me/us to this. And thanks Oliver for sharing your thoughts with us!


  1. Thanks Samuel for pointing my post :-)

    I can see from what you are reading that we are on the same line. Greeleaf, the grand'pa of Empowerment is a must read! Try to access Nonaka's working papers. This would prevent you from reading tons of cases studies that pollutes it's core thinking.

  2. Thanks for the tip to read Nonaka's papers. I've read them!


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