Bas Reus' quest on self-organization and online collaborative spaces

What is the influence of the Internet on organizational forms?

Posted in self-organization by Bas Reus on July 30, 2009

On the background page, I mention that the Internet enables us to participate more globally, which changes the way we communicate and cooperate. By using the Internet, people leave traces by posting comments, having their visits being logged, writing articles, updating Twitter and Facebook statuses, etc. By doing this, the Internet as complex environment or system changes. These changes caused by humans influences behavior of other humans. For example, articles on Wikipedia are created and getting better because people create articles and make changes to them. Even all changes are recorded and can be seen by anyone. Most of the time, these actions are uncoordinated, but stimulates a subsequent action. Direct communication is often not necessary. This phenomenon is also known as stigmergy.

I also mention that social structures are changing. Now we are more connected than we ever were, and this connectivity between humans will grow further and further. What is the influence of the Internet really? How do organizational forms respond to these changes? Is power shifting from in house to social media? How organizations evolve and adapt to their environments has been historically a major theme of organization theorists (Lewin et al., 1999).

pha0016lTo identify the mutation and emergence of new organizational forms in ‘real time’, as distinct from retrospective historical analyses (once a new form is in wide use), requires longitudinal research. The need for conducting longitudinal studies of organization adaptations over time is not new (Lewin et al., 1999), but is very difficult. It is difficult to have access to organization-specific data at various points in time on adaptation events. This will be a problem for this quest as well, but trends can be discovered. In industries that are undergoing dramatic deconstruction, or are in ‘crisis’, it is easier to discover trends and changes in, or emergence of new, organizational forms (Lewin, 1999). Lewin (1999) and Dijksterhuis et al. (1999) suggest that organizations that have transformed themselves to the ‘edge of chaos’ also will invent a new underlying management logic based on the principle of self-organization that will become the basic driver for new forms of organizing, strategy and leadership.

So I started to ask myself what the influence of the Internet is on organizational forms, but at the same time I have to identify industries that are in crisis because it is easier to track the emergence and mutation of new organizational forms. That means I have to take one step back first in order to make some steps forward. To be continued…..

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