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What will leadership look like in the Age of the Web? A presentation at LeWeb 2008. (The original used lots of animations, so some of the slides look odd.)

What will leadership look like in the Age of the Web? A presentation at LeWeb 2008. (The original used lots of animations, so some of the slides look odd.)

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  • 1. Leadership at the End of the Age of Information David Weinberger Ph.D. Harvard Berkman Center Self @ evident . com LeWeb 2008 The information age has been formative of our basic idea of who we are as individuals and together. Now that it!s drawing to a close, it!s a good time to look at what leadership has meant and is coming to mean,
  • 2. The End of Information? Not the end of information
  • 3. After the stone age, stones didn!t go away, and neither will information. But the way info has affected our view of the world will change.
  • 4. Sociality Understanding Meaning Information Bits But for years, we!ve been going down the stack of significance, getting really good at managing information and bits.
  • 5. Reduce manage machine- Standardize processed Info reduces what we know so it!s manageable. And it standardizes it so it can be machine processed.
  • 6. Bicyclist Last name First name Loves ID number museums Pay scale Teaches Start date parrots to Department talk Troublemaker (Y/N) We!ve all known this. The person in the next cubicle is unique. But In the informational view of the world, what we know about someone we work with is pared down to what the database is prepared to accept. There!s great utility in this, of course, but the Info Age has required us to throw out most info.
  • 7. xxxx In the age of the Web, this person looks like this. At her page at her social networking site there!s not only more information about her, but, more important, it!s all linked. Without plan or coordination. And each link adds to what we know. This is a much richer view than we got during the age of information.
  • 8. Hyperlinks are the opposite of information. Increasing, contextualizing, uncontrolled.
  • 9. Sociality Understanding Meaning Information Bits We had been going down the stack. Now we!re going up.
  • 10. samsnet@flickr. The result of this architecture of links is abundance. Abundance of good and of crap. If an abundance of crap is worrying, the abundance of good is terrifying. The abundance of the good -- good ideas, good info, good people willing to pitch in -- challenges our traditional ideas of leadership.
  • 11. Scarce leadership In part this is because leadership has been all about scarcity.
  • 12. Leaders are themselves scarce -- Jack Welch (ex CEO of GE) is one in a million, or so. Most people are followers, by definition.
  • 13. Although leaders are at the top of the informational pyramid, with access to every scrap of intelligence in the organization...
  • 14. ... they lead by keeping information scarce.
  • 15. They!re overwhelmed with information, of course. They think they process information the way computers do and come to decisions the way computers do. But they -- and we -- give too much credit to the role information plays in decisions. We give too much credit to information.
  • 16. We!ve come to accept the computer model of making decisions, which says GIGO, garbage in, garbage out. Good information leads to good decisions. That!s true enough for computers, but leads to a sense that good information causes good decisions. In fact...
  • 17. ...making a decision means deciding which inputs to accept. In making the decision, you decide to accept this report as valid, but not that, this piece of legal advice as worthwhile and not that. Good info doesn!t cause good decisions. Making a good decision is the process of deciding which info is good, so good information cannot cause good decisions. The causality of information-based systems, that is, of computers gets it backwards when it comes to how humans make decisions.
  • 18. The final scarcity of leadership is the scarcity of other people. In English, the cliche is that it!s lonely at the top. And that!s true because of the way we!ve structured leadership. We try to make this into an heroic thing, but it!s really just a structural flaw.
  • 19. The real question is why we drop leaders down the long dark tunnel of isolation, by themselves: One person to master the complexity of the world. How lonely!
  • 20. Leadership in the Age of Abundance What happens to leadership when we embrace the abundance we!ve created for ourselves?
  • 21. Decides Has Vision & Communicates Strategy Coordinates Is accountable Here are some of the characteristics of a traditional leader. A single person is supposed to do all this. I!m often amazed when I meet CEOs at the range of stuff they!re expected to do, from product visionary to financial wizard, and many of them do it amazingly well. But it!s a lot to demand.
  • 22. Crowd-sourcing leadership It!s different when you don!t start with a leadership structure based on scarcity. For example, the Open Source movement disaggregates the skills of the traditional leader and spreads them across the network -- one person is the coordinator, a bunch may be visionaries, another may be the communicator. It would be insane to think that one person could do all of that, now that a crowd can do it.
  • 23. Decision-making is a failure of leadership In such an environment, decisions only reach the top when the community can!t resolve an issue. So, Jack Welch prides himself on being The Decider. He makes a decision and it rolls down through the pyramid. But, if a decision reaches Jimmy Wales of Wikipedia, it probably means the process has failed. The community is too evenly divided. And that means that The Decider is really more like the coin tosser.
  • 24. Strategies impose scarcity on the future Strategy -- another traditional role of the leader -- actually imposes scarcity on the future. Our futures are abundant. That!s the difference between the future and the past. We only have one past (This email is the extent of Linus Torvald!s “strategy” when he started Linux development.) As we!ve learned, on the Internet, flexibility and responsiveness is often a far better strategy than having a strategy.
  • 25. Traditional leaders pride themselves on being realistic. But how far would realism have gotten us with wikipedia, linux, or the Web itself. Realism is over-rated.
  • 26. A hard, manly realism aims too low
  • 27. Leadership is a property of the network When it comes to decision making, disaggregation of roles, and emergent strategy, it!s no surprise that leadership in a networked world is itself a property of the network.
  • 28. Abundant governance Let!s look at the effect of this on governance
  • 29. The irony is, of course, that now we in the US have a strong, decisive leader of the traditional sort. But one of his strengths is his reliance on the network.
  • 30. You can see this at the campaign site, my.barackobama.com, which used social network tools to let supporters connect with one another and with the campaign.
  • 31. The day after the election, the Obama team had already created a public site for the transition. It!s not a great site, but it!s getting better...which is already a sign of the Obama team!s comfort with how the Web works: Put it up and then make it better. It encourages us from the beginning to connect.
  • 32. Leaders Citizens So let!s say Obama wants to set up a social network. (Let me stress that I am totally making this up. I have no insight into what the Obama admin will do.) The issue is scaling conversation. There are lots of ways of doing this. It!s an issue faced by every large site. But because this is a social networking site for citizens, we want people not just to talk, but to enable those conversations to move up toward our governmental leaders. So, since I!m just making this up, let!s say they use a model that combines Facebook with DailyKos, which have mechanisms for surfacing interesting conversations.
  • 33. Leaders Citizens So, you have millions of small conversations and some mechanisms for making the more interesting ones more public. And you hope that the appropriate government officials will notice and engage.
  • 34. Simon Willis Leaders Reputational Democracy PolarSky253 Citizens As a conversation becomes more public and noticed, it might be that spokespeople emerge. Let!s say PolarSky253 emerges as the spokesperson for a discussion of global warming. PolarSky has therefore become quite important, because she!s representing the conversation to the person from the administration who is listening in. What we have here is new layer of democracy. She hasn!t been elected. It!s Reputational Democracy, as Simon Willis has called it. (Of course it will turn out that PolarSky is a 15 year old girl somewhere.) Also notice how sensitive this is to small changes in the software. A switch from a star rating system to a thumbs up system could change who becomes the spokesperson and the qualities of those people. This puts democracy in the hands of software engineers … but if done correctly, it will be sensitive to our needs. That!s what it means to say that leadership is a property of the network.
  • 35. What will leadership be? We!re still going to have leaders...
  • 36. Myth Tradition Power Ego Institutions Realism Collaboration Money generational change What will leadership be? There’s no way to tell. Many forces are at play. It’s not simply a matter of inventing something new because this is occurring in a real world with lots of interests, some of them deeply entrenched. Ultimately, it is a political question -- the political question -- that can only be resolved by living through and struggling. But ultimately,...
  • 37. The old style of leadership needs to be toppled from its mythic position. There are great leaders. But they are no longer the only leaders we need. We need leadership to take on the best properties of the network, becoming more about connection, more human and more comfortable with our inevitable human limitations.
  • 38. Because, ultimately, the light at the end of the tunnel is us. Or, as Obama says, we are the ones we!ve been waiting for. Us, putting ourselves together. Overflowing every obstacle to connection. Alilve in abundance without end, the abundance that is each of us. In other words, we now need fewer old leaders, and more love.
  • 39. Thank you. David Weinberger Blog: www . JohoTheBlog . Com Email: self@evident . com

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