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Talent, Not Title, Counts

By Allan Alter  |  Posted 09-13-2007 Print

For those who are growing up in the world of the Internet, credentials and titles count very little. They will have very little patience for working in traditional hierarchical organizations, where your progress is governed more by your political skills and your willingness to brown-nose the boss than it is by your contribution. They will have very little patience for many of the overtly bureaucratic behaviors like hoarding information, using information for political purposes or exploiting positional power to get your way. Those are the very behaviors that have allowed many of today's senior executives to get ahead. Those behaviors are going to be less and less tolerated by the generations that will be coming to work over the next decade or two. We are on the brink of a dramatic reinvention of management.

If you look at the last 15 years, basically every company around the world has been dramatically reinventing its business philosophies, logistics supply chain, customer support. The Web has been central to doing that. It allows 24-by-7 customer support. It allows them to deliver services digitally online, allows companies to arbitrage labor costs around the world. It has had a huge impact on business philosophies.

Most CIOs understand the Web as a powerful tool for driving operating efficiency and they understand the Web as a catalyst for new business like digital music. I don't think they yet see the Web as a tool for dramatically reinventing the work of management.

When management has reinvented itself, what will be the role of the employee?

In the organization of the future, every single employee has a voice and gets heard, something approaching a democracy of ideas that no executive will be able to control. Just like when no company can really control what customers have to say about its brand, executives are not going to be able to control the conversation inside of their companies, either.

One large organization I know, its employees have a social network in MySpace, and none of the senior executives I talked to knew that 7,000 of their employees were trading anecdotes, commenting on the company and sharing their ideas. The idea that somehow senior management will be able to control who knows what, who talks to whom, that's going to be gone. Increasingly, the organization's powers will be granted from below rather than from above.

If you look at any online community, you will find hierarchies of expertise, of talent. Some people's blogs are much more referenced by others. You get your influence by earning it with your peers, by having something interesting and important to say. In traditional hierarchies, big leaders appoint the little leaders. Power cascades down from the top. In the future, power will be granted from below and will be contingent on the particular value you add.


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