As we enter an age of enormous leaps in technology and its pervasiveness in our lives - the way we spend our time and interact with others, learn, plan and even think, so today, smart companies and organisations are taking initiatives to help their employees cope with the new technology-rich world. They design business models, structures and business processes to ensure the work systems best serve the organisation and maximise collaboration and effectiveness of its people. But on the personal front, most of us muddle through this new networked and open world, stumbling from decision to decision or crisis to crisis without an overarching strategy. With the myriad of technologies available to us, it is tougher to focus deeply on a task or to read and analyse a long piece of text. It is important for all of us to reflect on how the digital experience is enriching or distracting. We need to make conscious choices; for our families, as well as our lives and businesses or work commitments, to permit us to harness the power of this new technology, or have it determine our lives.
Thanks to the Internet, our new global medium for collaboration and an unprecedented level of social connectivity, people in business, government, and society at large have powerful new tools for reinventing our institutions, around a new set of organising principles for the 21st-century. There probably never has been a more exciting time to be human, but it is also a time of uncertainty with elements of confusion and even calamity to deal with. The networked world simply enables new possibilities, but also vast possibilities. Understandably, today's leadership does not necessarily approach all the options open-armed and welcoming. To succeed today, leaders need to see improving shareholder value as complimentary to improving the state of the world, as the defining challenge for all leaders in the decades ahead will be to ensure a sustainable future. We are all being called upon to undertake the historic act of stewardship - to take this responsibility in caring for a world that will soon be owned by our children. To this end we need leaders who can take us through this transformational time; work with and develop networks that are global and can reach across disciplines, institutions, organisations, cultures and nations, to tap into the collective ingenuity of diverse communities.
Social networking is becoming social production, where self organising groups of peers can design and produce everything from software to a car. Smart companies are increasingly collaborating globally to get things done. Whether designing a new product or the launching of global marketing campaign, Internet-enabled collaboration has become a powerful modus operandi for business and many other institutions. Collaborative innovation is now an essential skill, as important as budgeting, R&D and planning. Along with collaboration is the requirement for openness; associated with honesty, transparency, freedom, flexibility, expansiveness, engagement and access. To some extent, as we have already seen, this openness is no longer a matter of choice. The systems we are engaging with are becoming more open and transparent: from the customers with unprecedented information about the true value of products and services, to employees with access to knowledge about the company's strategy, management and challenges. And then there is sharing. If openness is about the communication of pertinent information to stakeholders of firms, government and other organisations, sharing is about using assets in a manner that permit the creation of new business opportunities, giving companies an open platform on which to build in operative and profitable solutions to the environmental challenges we face.
Integrity is an outcome of transparency. There is growing evidence that there is a need for more effective governance, better transparency and greater integrity in corporate management. There are three values – honesty, consideration and accountability - which together with transparency are the foundations of trust and integrity. Leaders in business and government with a combination of vision, energy and communication skills can help convince other leaders to share the risk and responsibility in meeting the challenges of the 21st century. And finally, there is interdependence. There is no denying we live in an interconnected world now. The intensification of climate change show us that environmental disasters do not respect national borders, just as the flow of drugs, diseases and weapons move readily from continent to continent. This phenomenon of interdependence is not only intensifying as the Internet renders distances irrelevant, but it also reinforces our consciousness of this interconnectedness. We are all, in turn, collectively dependent on shared resources and services and to this end we need the skills, talents, aptitudes and attitudes of our leaders, employers and workers to exemplify these five principles, openness, collaboration, sharing, integrity and interdependence to maximise our sense of well-being both personally, at work and in our communities.
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