We are pushing at the limits of traditional organisation. The rise of partnering, alliancing, outsourcing, cross-cutting and ‘joined-up’ working creates organisations in which the density of internal transactions is less than the density of transactions with the external environment. The boundaries of organisation are dissolving - a shift critically enabled by technology.
Structures are no longer primary. In a natural ecology it is the flow of energy through the system that creates structure, which in turn configures the flow. Like a whirlpool in a stream, or the standing wave in a skipping rope. And flow in nature tends to evolve more and more complex structures.
Taking effective action in this landscape is more complicated than aligning a group of employees around the corporate mission and the five year plan. That model cannot cope with today’s multicultural moment, a world in which all individuals sit in a web of overlapping connections and loyalties, and in which talent needs organisations less than organisations need talent. We have looked to the network to fill this gap, but are left wondering what holds a network together and gives it coherence and identity?
The new organisational structure is a pattern of relationships that is able to maintain its integrity over time. It has the discipline to perform the ordinary as well as the extraordinary tasks, can support a sense of moral purpose beyond its own survival, is open and inclusive, nurtures and supports its members in a challenging environment, and pays generous and caring attention to the demands of the old culture while midwifing the new. The discovery of this form (and it will be discovered not invented) will be a critical advance for all sectors – and our work suggests we are likely to find it first in the arts.