Analog

I can only assume that I am not the only person to have noticed that, ever since the birth of the Information Age and the accelerating turn towards digital transformation across corporations and various organisations from small businesses through to national (and international) bureaucracies, there is an unrelenting failure to activate the full potential and power of these information technologies. The same parochialisms, the withered old hierarchies and battling egos of strong-willed but weak-minded career bureaucrats and senior managers (or politicians), the utterly analog simplicity of purely linear project management and an intellectual poverty born of a failure to understand the effective novelty of the digital, of the network and of the blossoming complexity of any number of associated disruptive technologies – there is an all but complete failure to actually capitalise on the potential of these powerful systems and conceptual tools.

Organisations are venturing ever more deeply into a digital looking glass but are also everywhere all but entirely missing the point. I may be mistaken but it looks very much to me like our globally interconnected organisational systems are still attempting to hammer the square peg of analog thinking and management style into the round hole of digital transformation and technological metamorphosis. The problem appears to be partly cultural, partly political but is more likely (and largely) attributable to the limitations and failings of both collective and individual human psychology and the tribal or personal self-interest encoded into our existing organisational hierarchies. There may also exist a certain endemic reticence to adapt and adopt the logical organisational consequences of a fully-fledged digital transformation when such an acknowledgement and act of intellectual leadership is bound to also invalidate a non-trivial proportion of the cultural assumptions upon which the tenure of many of those policy and strategy-generating senior managers and C-suite executives depend. Massively networked systems-of-systems are utterly decentralised and non-hierarchical; there is little rationale for the alpha executive in such a system, even less for the legacy of power and salary which comes with such a role.

Human beings are immensely talented at creating new ideas and technologies but we seem to be just ever so slightly more talented at stifling and suffocating the free adoption and successful uptake of these technologies and their ultimately beneficial consequences.

Included: dodgy 1980’s advertising image of couple sharing romantic moment with computer at a fireplace.

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