Home Organizational Psychology Organizational Behavior / Dynamics Leading into the Future XIb: Holding the Center While Innovating and Opening Boundaries

Leading into the Future XIb: Holding the Center While Innovating and Opening Boundaries

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The flat world of Thomas Friedman (2007) is filled with many additional challenges–including the emergence of Power Law dynamics in the Internet-based markets of our 21st Century world. In many instances, the market for specific products or services has expanded at an exponential rate (the Power Law in operation)—or collapsed at an exponential rate (also exemplifying the Power Law).  As Taleb (2010) has noted in The Black Swan, a few products (books, technologies, etc.) and a few websites tend to account for most of the sales and traffic on the Internet. Furthermore, the tides created by these sales and Internet traffic tend to ebb and flow quickly and in unanticipated ways.

Thus, we find that temporary dominance and centralization will distort the open boundaries described by Friedman. The Power Law calls for new perspectives regarding the migration of ideas, people, products and services in our 21st Century world. We find the promise of diffusion and equity via the Flat World tempered by the challenge of temporary (or long-term) dominance and centralization in the global marketplace.

How do we apply these concepts as leaders of a 21st Century organization? In order to promote organizational innovation, a leader should focus on the creation, identification, clarification and/or institutional-embedding of mission, vision, values and social purposes—this is how the center will hold in the midst of innovation and evolution. A leader must appreciate, honor, strengthen and use the existing culture within their organization, recognizing its value as a source of stability and coherence in their organization.

Furthermore, the leader must gain a cosmopolitan perspective (learning about and visiting other organizations and geographic regions), as well as encouraging her client to find ways for other members of their organization (especially mid-managers) to gain this cosmopolitan perspective. The coach or consultant should also help her client recognize the need for contingency planning in their organization in response to the rapid, complex, and unpredictable Power Law changes that can occur in the marketplace and environment in which their organization operates.

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