HR Tech Day 1: Social, Radical Openness and The New Workplace

October 8, 2013 Michael George

HR Tech boothToday opened with Don Tapscott, Co-author of the best-seller Wikinomics, delivering the HR Tech keynote address for a packed house.  Tapscott is one of the world’s leading authorities on innovation, media, and the economic and social impact of technology.  He is the author of Grown Up Digital: How the Net Generation is Changing the World, the sequel Macrowikinomics, and his most recent book, Radical Openness: Four Unexpected Principles for Success.

Social Collaboration and Radical Openness

His address today centered on the fact that social media is rapidly becoming a platform for enabling self-organization, new business models and innovation plus providing new capabilities to create goods, services and even public value. One of the ideas that really struck me was the notion of radical openness (See Don’s Ted talk, 4 Principles for the Open World, here).

Tapscott says smart organizations are shunning their old, secretive practices and embracing transparency, widely sharing intellectual property and collaborating on an enormous scale, which in turn is affecting every facet of our society, from the way we do business and manage talent to whom we chose to govern us.

Also interesting was an idea I hadn’t heard before – every time we use the internet, WE are programming it.  With each interaction, click, decision and transaction we are driving, changing, and reprogramming what this incredible collaboration platform can, and will do.

Rise of Digital Natives

Tapscott also spoke of Digital Natives – those who have grown up on technology.  This generation not only expects unfettered access to information and knowledge, they demand integrity.  Here again, Tapscott offers an interesting perspective.  Because these digital natives have grown up on the internet, they have innate BS detectors – since so much of what they see online isn’t exactly factual.

The Changing Role and Shape of Companies

Lastly, Tapscott talked about how the social revolution is changing the nature of almost everything we do, work included.  Social media is allowing groups to self organize and gave the example that in the past we all had to simply watch the news; now we can organize and actually produce the news.  When it comes to work, the transformation will be even bigger.  Consider that companies, firms exist for one reason only: the cost of searching for, accessing and collaboration with widespread talent is far too high for any organization to succeed, unless it brings that talent together under one roof.  As social continues to break down boundaries, this simply will no longer be the case, and the ‘company-as-authority’ model will give way to peers coming together from around the globe to work on what they are passionate about.

So, What does this mean for HR and IT Practitioners?

Don’s message is both inspiring and somewhat scary for HR and IT practitioners. HR, IT and most major functions within organizations are being dramatically transformed by what Gartner refers to as the nexus of forces – social, mobile, cloud and information. In the past, both IT and HR tried to bring structure and automation to business processes. The main priorities used to be standardization, efficiency and compliance. But organizations today have to move beyond standardization and control.

The role of HR and IT have now shifted from being mere process automators to becoming those who enable an organization to be all that it can be. In today’s world, that means harnessing the power of your workforce and the community beyond. It means moving fast, embracing a certain degree of risk and shifting from thinking primarily about the organization and the process to thinking about the employee and the community. The nexus of forces is shifting the power from the corporation to the individual and the community. Tomorrow’s workplace, which we call Workplace 2020, will be designed to help the workforce be productive, effective and engaged, wherever they are.  HR and IT organizations who embrace this profound shift will help their companies leap ahead of their peers.

Now is the time to reimagine every aspect of how companies interact with and engage employees and communities, from talent planning to recruiting and onboarding to engagement and beyond!


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