change by flikr

I wrote something over at my
business blog that needs to always be on the minds of anyone advocating change. Change has to be based on social patterns and interactions that are very likely hardwired into our brains.

New tools usually do not produce a complete alteration in basic human social networks. What they can do is make those networks work more effectively or expand the power of those networks.

However, while basic human interactions (essentially the same sorts of interactions seen in other apes) may not change, they can be overlain with other sorts of social behavior, if those behaviors provide an advantage.

Thus strong hierarchical bureaucracies have probably been around since the beginning of agriculture. These do not map well with human social networks but the advantages (i.e. better food production, better resource allocation, better armies) allowed those who incorporated hierarchies to dominate.

But hierarchies can not dominate everything. I think we are beginning to see some of their limits. While I do not expect them to ever disappear (they are just too useful), I do believe that online approaches for information sharing will become more and more important over the next few years.

Those approaches that take advantage of our innate abilities to form social networks, will permit us to solve very complex problems, ones that hierarchies can not. We need rates of diffusion of innovation that can not be supported by hierarchical organizational structures. It just takes information too much time to traverse this type of network.

Leveraging our innate social networks can greatly decrease the time it takes information to traverse the networks, making it much easier to rapidly solve complex problems. That is the promise of Web 2.0.

Not that it will irretrievably alter us but that it will simply allow us to do something we are really good at, better.

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