They say sometimes you have to fall apart to get it together.
Thankfully, organizations don’t have to subscribe to a romantic philosophy to adapt. They don’t have to break down and fall apart. Sometimes, all they have to do is loosen up.
Break modes and codes
In truth, it’s not very hard to listen. Did you know that coma patients lose all ability to function but their ability to hear remains? We are physiologically manufactured to listen. But the brain is powerful; it can will a physiological function to appear as though it never happened. It’s not hard to listen but it’s hard to make sense of what you’re hearing, moreso if you don’t believe in it. This difficulty is exponentially increased by the novelty of the idea.
Truthfully, change is hard. You cannot expect your organization’s leaders, after listening to a preaching of icky wikinomics to go ahead, jump in, hold their breath and pray desperately to not drown in this new, icky wikinomics world. Ultimately, these organizations know it’s a sink or swim. But some have chosen a third option and that is to wait and see. Some organizations are still looking for that eureka moment and, yes, they are looking at us. So what do we tell them? I say break modes and codes.
And by breaking modes and codes, I simply mean listen to what’s going on in the workplace other than the clicking of keyboards. Marvel at the opportunities as pointed out by self-organization. Try to listen to what people are afraid to tell you because walls and walls of traditional business function tell them, it just isn’t the way things should be done. Do not flinch at the hint of an unorthodox approach to accomplishing a task. Don’t freak out at the sight of multiple windows open in your workers’ desktops. The best ideas don’t always present themselves printed neatly in your office stationery.
Perhaps the problem is that organizations have attached function to tradition. And somehow, that makes sense because for them, it is through their traditions that they are able to know themselves amongst a crowd of competition. But if these traditions have walled functions into the four corners of an office, then we may have to rethink as to whether we are sheltered by it or actually caged in it.
The thing is organizations sometimes get the wrong picture of the wiki workplace. They think of it as kindergarten and letting their guard down is like letting little children run around carrying scissors. In truth, it’s not really about breaking rules but about making new rules or tweaking those that exist, to foster creativity amongst your wiki workers. Stop them from running around like crazy, but don’t take the scissors away.
It’s not sacrilege to your organization’s traditions to come down from the pedestals of centralized authority. Also, it’s not a congeniality contest of organizational leaders. The point here is to nurture their skills, in perhaps what others may deem as unconventional, but ultimately serving the organization’s purpose. Don’t just make them work. Let them work. And they will, and probably accomplish so much more than what you would traditionally expect of them.
What organizations need to be assured of is this: workplace functions remain. Working in the wiki workplace does not necessarily mean working away from work or just metaphorically working. Teaming, Time and Resource allocation, Decision-making and Corporate communication have been made to fit the wikinomics paradigm. But everything’s still there. And more importantly, everyone’s still there. And look, they’re doing it all on their own!
For those wanting to work in the wiki workplace, I have this to say too: break modes and codes. And this to add: but not hearts.
Organizations have this fear: letting their best people loose may also mean letting them walk away. Losing the people that make your organization work is a valid fear.
Don’t let them nurture you only for you to slack off and/or walk away. Show that you deserve the attention that you are given. At least within your work hours let it be work and play, not work or play. Remember they can always listen because their physiological make up says so, but it takes a lot more for them to believe you.
Do it for yourself, for your personal growth. Do it for us, the future wiki workplace workers.
What the concept of the wiki workplace suggests is not abandonment of traditions—but tearing down the walls to help those people living out those traditions to stop working in restraint. I know I’ve mentioned tradition in this entry a couple of times and you can interpret it as age-old business practices, but this time, what I mean by tradition is staying true to what your organization truly is. You are allowed to play, but do not stray. Stay true to the heart of the organization. Don’t break it. Don’t break away from it.
For those rethinking of adapting a wiki workplace, do not fret at a possible exodus of your creative resource. If ever some employees choose to leave and bring the ideas they have created in your playground with them, you will be able to let them walk away. If you have created a way to capture your eureka moments into organizational memories, then you can always look back at these memories and create new, or even better ones.
Maybe modes and codes need to be broken, but spare your hearts, please 🙂