What happened to the Spaghetti! There used to be a huge billboard with juicy fat Spaghetti noodles dripping over the sides of a white plate and great mounds of tomato sauce and meatballs piled on top. It wasn’t there. Not only that but the entire layout had changed! All of my expertise had disappeared in an instant. That’s how I felt that night and that’s how many organizations feel today. In a rapidly changing world, if we don’t pay attention, we become obsolete.
My wife and I, having just returned from Argentina, were visiting our daughter who was studying at Cincinnati Christian University. I thought I would be cool and show her and her friends how much I knew Cincinnati, so I offered to take them out for dinner. I said, “I know of a great place along the river called The Spaghetti Warehouse. You will love it.”
How was I to know the place had ceased to exist and that the entire riverfront had been redesigned. It had only been thirty or so years since I had been there.
Well, it doesn’t take thirty years for far more significant changes to occur today. The world is experiencing epic shifts that we are only beginning to understand. The main driver of this change has been technology. Technological breakthroughs have moved us away from the patterns of the industrial revolution: patterns of standardization, mass production, top-down authority, and fixed boundaries. Emergent design and decentralized authority characterize today’s world.
In response, an increasing number of organizations–including educational institutions, scientific research facilities, and manufacturing companies–are adopting an open source approach to providing services. Instead of asking customers to consume passively, companies encourage them to participate in the development of their products.
In an open source organization, users are able to modify the product, thus blurring the distinction between producer and user. Participants become a source of new ideas, new perspectives, and varied understandings and thus create an expansive dynamic that helps the organization break out of the stiff routines of the past.
Boundaries are more permeable, cooperation more common, and diversity more valued. In the past, organizations concentrated on expanding material resources and physical facilities. Today, they need to expand networks and empower customers to design their own solutions. These solutions then become seeds for new innovations that spread beyond the boundaries of the organization.
This is made possible through the social networks that are forming through the use of social media technologies such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Google+, and YouTube. Through these networks, the division between producers, distributors, and consumers is shifting. Users and designers blend into a hybrid of mutual engagement and continuous development.
Not only are customers helping to design the products they use, but through user-based communities, they are forging change in the organizations themselves. This is an open source revolution that is transforming both the tangibles and also the intangibles of organizations. It is a movement of expanding interconnectedness and open exchange that, instead of slowing, is just beginning to accelerate.
In this new world, we can no longer be guardians of knowledge who control the shape of our solutions. Instead, we must allow the solutions to emerge from the users themselves. This is indeed a network revolution. Learn about it. Embrace it. Use it. Don’t wind up looking around and saying, “What happened to the Spaghetti?”
Please share your thoughts in the comments section below. I would love to hear your feedback.