Power Centric vs. Network Centric Institutions : Schools, the Workplace & the Revolution

Organizations are evolving from a power centric linear relationship wherein those with means and access direct the production of those without, to a network centric exchange that encompasses shared risks and rewards among participants. The access to technology and communication at very low costs is a primary driver of this shift. Many of our institutions fail to adopt the new methodology because they were founded in the power centric mode. Shifting to the new paradigm would essentially remove power from those who in the past benefited from the power centric base. This is the central reason behind our major institutions present failings and ultimate demise. Two institutions that are common to most people’s experiences in “Western” society are schools and the workplace. Few better examples exists of institutions that are failing because their mode of operation has not departed from past and ineffective practices. However, successful groups and associations who adopt the network centric approach have emerged.

Our learning institutions, among others, are for the most part steeped in past tensed power centric and linear designs. These broken systems do not allow our children to learn using the new tools of the revolution. Ironically chalk boards, text books and bells signaling the industrial revolutions methods of work process, are very much the norm. Ivan Illych, whose ideas have gained widespread acceptance beyond fierce libertarians, opines on “schooling,” “deschooling” and democracy, eloquently addresses the point about what old method schools truly represent :

“The pupil is thereby “schooled” to confuse teaching with learning, grade advancement with education, a diploma with competence, and fluency with the ability to say something new. His imagination is “schooled” to accept service in place of value. Medical treatment is mistaken for health care, social work for the improvement of community life, police protection for safety, military poise for national security, the rat race for productive work. Health, learning, dignity, independence, and creative endeavor are defined as little more than the performance of the institutions which claim to serve these ends, and their improvement is made to depend on allocating more resources to the management of hospitals, schools, and other agencies in question.”

In new age learning institutions, democratic school s , students choose what they want to study, when they want to study it and how (see http://www.sudval.org). The structure of the school exists to facilitate the child’s choices and support them; using the tools of the knowledge age. Self-directed learning, based on utilization of the latest technologies, and equal say in governance, regardless of age, or position of authority is at the core of the philosophy. The institution is establishing a true network reflective of the manner in which the revolution will evolve both in our society and in our lives.

Similarly, the traditional workplace remains wrought with challenges. Some companies are beginning to understand the implications of the revolution on its people. Semco is a Brazilian company that was floundering 25 years ago with annual sales of $4 million U.S. Through his revolutionary approach; using methods where employees choose their own days of work, and set their own salaries. Semco now enjoys annual sales of $212 million and is growing at a rate of 20 to 30 percent a year.

Semler, who taught at MIT and Harvard Business School said: “If you wake up in a bad mood on Monday morning, you don’t have to come to work. We don’t even want you to come because you simply don’t feel like it and will therefore not make a contribution. We want employees who are ready and willing to work. If that means they only come twice a week, that’s okay. It’s about results.”

Shared risks and shared rewards; the basis of the new productive paradigm of network relationships. Failing to adopt networked approaches will result in failed organizational efforts.