The Age of the Network

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Hierarchy Vs Network

In It’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall I looked at how changing communication methods had driven The Age of Tribes through Oral storytelling and the move from factual stories to fiction. The advent of the written word heralded The Age of Hierarchy As this developed from tablets of stone to libraries of books I argued it reached its peak 100 years ago. The slaughter of the “Great War” created an appetite for change that has only increased with time.

So what communication change has enabled The Age of the Network?

The Internet. Allowing communication to take place asynchronously, without borders and at a cost close to zero.

It is perhaps fitting that the first true Network organisation helped create the infrastructure for The Age of Network. Linus Torvalds, a Finnish software engineer was the developer of the Linux kernel, which is the beating heart of the Internet. With his network of fellow software engineers they were at the forefront of the Open Source movement. Giving their time for free and developing software which was free, the software arising from this crucible of creative energy is proven to be more secure and with fewer bugs than closed source software. As Linus said. Many eyes make shallow bugs

The other differentiating feature is that in a Network organisation; Reputation trumps Status. In the Hierarchical organisation power is retained/gained by the control of information, both upwards and downward.

In the Network, the Wisdom of Crowds kicks in, rewarding size of network combined with maximum transparency and maximum information… It is Reputation that denotes your influence. Not your race, gender, sexual preference, physical ability, who your parents were, the school you went to. It is your knowledge coupled with how you deploy that knowledge.

Take LinkedIn. Just an Online CV?.. Much, much more.
It allows others to comment on your capabilities. To see your activity in comments and posts. Even which post you have liked… Such data is used by potential employees/clients to assess your corporate fit. Post a fatuous Facebook type status post and do not be surprised if the phone stays silent.

The Network organisation is disruptive. At every level. The velocity of change is accelerating in an echo of Moore’s law. According to Kevin Kelly we now live in a state of Flux. Constant change

Improvements are a step change in areas such as cost. This means jobs. If you have a method of organising that saves costs….it will translate into redundancies. Hence the resistance to change. Given the chance; Turkeys tend not to vote for Xmas. (See my comment below)

Margaret Thatcher swept through the smoke stack industries of the Industrial revolution: Ship building, Steel, Coal. The Age of the Network will sweep through the last bastion of The Age of Hierarchy. How we govern ourselves. MP’s and Civil Servants.

Your comments ahead of our F2F this coming Saturday are most welcome

Link to F2F Video meeting

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From here

400,000 Civil Servants for a Population of 66 million
One Civil Servant for every 165 Citizens of the UK

I ran a 10,000 strong Network organisation some 20 years ago with two others. One “civil servant” for 3,300 members. (The tools have improved so that I could probably do it by myself now, together with freelancers on a just when needed basis)

Which would imply a Civil Service in a UK moved into the Age of the Network, of some 20,000 Civil Servants

We are not fully digital so there will be a need to staff the legacy of snail mail, so double it and we would need 40,000 Civil Servants.

Is this realistic? Would be the more polite of questions

Improvements by a factor of 10 are normal in the Age of the Network. Google give their employees a day a week to think up stuff. They only ask that it will affect 100 million people and be 10 times better than present option.

Cost reduction is a small part of the improvement achieved. Faster and better in every area would flow from the unblocking of our creative energy coupled with UK unique skills. A “Can do, Stuff you” attitude coupled with innovation, fairness and integrity… Looking a tad tattered around the edges at the moment I would grant you

More information
Especially this. Each war increased the Civil Service and the numbers never dropped back to pre war days.

And more detail is available here

Approximately 85% of civil servants work in the five largest departments, or their respective agencies and non-departmental bodies: the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) – which topped the list for the first time in December 2019 – the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC), the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and the Home Office (HO).


Taking the MoJ which is the largest Civil Service employer. This Dept employs Prison staff. See this recent job advert
Hard to see how you can get a 10 fold reduction in Prison staff. Unless you outsource!

Many thanks @TimMcClement and @Paul for attending the AMA F2F on Saturday. Topic now closed. The objective of this Topic and the previous Topic
was to:

  1. Clarify my thinking about how “the big picture” is going to influence how we organise ourselves, both Politically and Commercially
  2. Trial how you might combine discourse and F2F to make better meetings