Understanding the Impact of Network Technologies on the Design of Work Social and Peer Production




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Transformation in the CF

Understanding the Impact of Network Technologies on the Design of Work – Social and Peer Production

John Verdon

DMPFD 2-2

LCdr Bruce C. Forrester

DTEP 3-5

Leesa Tanner

DMPFD 2


Director General Military Personnel Strategy

Technical Memorandum

DGMPS TM 2007-04

April 2007




Author

John Verdon

Author

LCdr Bruce C. Forrester

Author

Leesa Tanner


Approved by

Susan Truscott

Director General Military Personnel Strategy


T
© Her Majesty the Queen as represented by the Minister of National Defence, 2007

© Sa majesté la reine, représentée par le ministre de la Défense nationale, 2007

he contents are the responsibility of the issuing authority and publication by the author does not necessarily reflect the official position of the Department of National Defence.

Abstract


This paper is part of a series that examine personnel and human resource concepts involved in network-enabled capability. In particular, this paper aims to outline the concept of peer-production and to make a case that peer-production is a vital key for unleashing the productive capacity of people by enabling group-forming network capability. The paper introduces the concept of peer-production and briefly describes its current context, emerging tools, its underlying economics and finally presents recommendations.

Peer-production represents an emerging new way to design how the Canadian Forces can power operational agility; it defines a new paradigm for the design and management of work processes that utilizes a knowledge commons, near-frictionless coordination, and ultra-specialization. Peer-production:

  • integrates continuous learning, and thus powers effective operational agility;

  • dramatically reduces the coordination costs (time, effort, people) of many types of activity;

  • increases the pool of available skills, knowledge and judgement that can be brought to bear; and simultaneously:

  • reduces costs of control (time, effort, people),

  • increases accountability, responsibility, and responsiveness, and

  • allows the organization to marshal more of its human capability/capital for productive and operational ends.


Résumé


This page intentionally left blank.


Table of contents


Abstract i

Table of contents iii

List of figures v

Acknowledgements vi

Executive Summary vii

1. Introduction 1

1.1 Background 1

1.2 Definition of Peer-Production 2

1.3 Peer-to-Peer Model of Learning 3

1.4 Peer-Production as a Human Capability Multiplier 3

1.5 Peer-Production in a Military Context 4

1.6 Aim of the Paper 4

2. Birth of the Web 6

2.1 The Emergence of Web 2.0 6

2.2 Web 2.0 Principles 8

2.3 Web 2.0 Capabilities 10

2.3.1 Wikis 10

2.3.2 Wikipedia 10

2.3.3 Blogs 11

2.3.4 YouTube 11

2.3.5 Massive Multi-Player Online Games 12

2.3.6 Folksonomy 13

2.3.7 Social Bookmarking 14

2.3.8 RSS and Aggregators 15

2.3.9 Validation 15

2.3.10 The Long Tail 16

2.3.11 Radical Decentralization 17

2.3.11.1 Grid Computing 17

2.3.11.2 Open-Source 18

2.3.11.3 Crowdsourcing 18

2.4 Impact of the Web 19

3. The Concept of Peer-Production 21

3.1 Industrial-Age Organizations as Machines 21

3.2 Emergence of the Network Society 23

3.3 The Relevance of Peer-Production 23

4. The Economics of Peer-Production 25

4.1 Attributes of Network Society 25

4.2 Economic Characteristics of Peer-Production 27

4.3 The Cost of Peer to Peer 28

5. Prototypes of Peer-Production 30

5.1 Wikipedia – Peer-Production Prototype 30

5.1.1 Validity 30

5.1.2 Self-Organization 31

5.2 CompanyCommand.Com – Peer-Production Prototype 32

5.3 Implications for the CF 33

5.4 Individual and Organizational Learning 34

6. Networked Decisioning 36

6.1.1 Wisdom of Crowds 36

6.1.2 Last Mile of the Market 37

7. Conclusion 39

7.1 Summary 39

7.2 Recommendations 41

7.3 Further HR Concept Development 42

Bibliography 44

List of figures


Figure 1 - An example of a tag cloud as a weighted list in visual design. 14



List of tables


Table 1 - Comparison of Web Capabilities and Possible Functions 8

Table 2 - Ideal Organizational Forms As A Function of Relative Social Cost 27


Acknowledgements


I would like to thank Susan Truscott, DGMPS for the support to pursue this line of thought. I would also thank LCol Jim Uchiyama for his belief and Brian McKee for his encouragement and feedback. In addition I would like to express gratitude to the Network Enabled Operations Symposium Working Group, notably John Bovemkamp and Sandy Babcock, for including me in the important forum for grappling with the implications of networks. There are many theorists and others whose works I also cite and have learned from – to these I am a humble follower. And thanks to all, who have given support, encouragement and feedback. Finally, I am profoundly grateful to my co-authors.

John Verdon

Executive Summary


T
Peer-Production

New paradigm for the design and management of work processes to increase the productive capability of human capital and incorporating: knowledge commons, frictionless coordination, and ultra-specialization.

John Verdon
he central argument of this paper is that network technologies represent a dramatic disruptive challenge to industrial organizational structures and processes. More profoundly, the emergence of a networked society suggests a fundamental new avenue of human coordination and self-organization. The exponential increase in the range and extent of human networks, made possible by computer mediated information and communication technologies presents a quantitative change that makes possible a qualitative difference in capability. The struggle to understand and effectively use emerging network capabilities (e.g. the Internet, cell phones and computers) represents the birthing of a post-industrial paradigm, influencing the individual, the organization, society and even the nation.

Network technologies are providing and continue to evolve the material infrastructure that is feeding the emergence of new concepts. A key concept is peer-production, which provides new principles for designing how work can be accomplished. Peer-production is defined as decentralized yet collaborative information gathering that depends on very large aggregations of individuals independently scouring their information environment in search of opportunities to be creative in small or large increments. These individuals are able to self-identify for tasks and perform them for a variety of motivational reasons. The fundamental advantage of commons-based peer-production lies in a better capability to identify and allocate human creativity available to work on information and cultural resources. Essentially peer-production demonstrates not just cheaper information, but very cheap coordination. Peer-production represents an emergent form of production that complements the market and the firm (organization).

A key metaphor to help us understand the traditional approach to designing an organization is the machine. The traditional organization is designed as an engineered machine as depicted by the organization charts/reporting relationships and functional processes. These organization charts in turn determine the hierarchic and occupational structures framing a highly specified division of labour, which in turn define relatively linear career trajectories. The design is top-down, separating the designer from the tool. The purpose of the machine as organization determines the required inputs and expected outputs. Although labour is viewed as an input, the worker is transformed into a replaceable ‘cog’ (task-specified job) constituting the machine and enabling it to function effectively. The worker, as any other ‘part’, is replaced as needed. Of course efficient replace-ability implies a high degree of standardization. In stark contrast, the metaphor more appropriate to the 21st Century (embracing complexity and rapid, continuous transformation) is to understand and design the organization as a complex, evolving system.

The emergence of the network society and economy and the development of the World Wide Web was the real birthing cry of the Internet. However, it is the rapidly developing Web 2.0 technologies that are the foundation of peer-production. If the Web (retro-actively named Web 1.0) was the implementation of the Internet as the world's greatest library (each particular view of a web site is called a Web-page), then Web 2.0 represents new and emergent capabilities, which transform the Internet into a space of spaces. Each site, is no longer simply a page, but is now a vast space where participants (sometimes referred to as ‘Netizens’) collaborate, share and build new types of collective enterprises. Although, Web 2.0 principles remain to be definitively articulated, there is a substantial and growing list of Web 2.0 technologies, tools and concepts including: Wikis, Blogs, Folksonomy, Social Bookmarking & RSS Aggregation, Long Tail, Open-Source, Crowdsourcing, and Massive Multi-player Online Games.

We believe that the knowledge of the military profession resides primarily in the minds of its members. Peer-production allows the knowledge of the profession-of-arms to flow from those who know to those who need to know, from those with specific experience to those who need that experience right now. Peer-production enables the quality of the relationships between members of the community to grow, and in turn enables members to determine how and where they can further serve other members. Peer-production helps enable context of trust to emerge and additional knowledge to flow – increasing the organization’s ‘social capital’. Relationships, trust, and a sense of professional community (as social capital) are critical factors that set the conditions for effective connections and conversations and set the stage for current and future operational agility and increase the speed of operational cohesion. Peer-production enables a tightly connected, decentralized network of leaders to quickly link members to knowledge and resources that might otherwise be inaccessible.

Peer-production:

  • integrates continuous learning, and thus powers effective operational agility;

  • dramatically reduces the coordination costs (time, effort, people) of many types of activity;

  • increases the pool of available skills, knowledge and judgement that can be brought to bear; and simultaneously:

  • reduces costs of control (time, effort, people),

  • increases accountability, responsibility, and responsiveness, and

  • allows the organization to marshal more of its human capability/capital for productive and operational ends.

In essence, peer-production is a human capability multiplier - it can allow the Canadian Forces (CF) to redeploy people involved in administration (coordination and control) into more productive uses (operations). It can also allow the CF to reduce the cost and negative effects of the posting cycle by enabling a greater degree of continuity and corporate memory as functional responsibilities are powered by wider virtual divisions of labour. This means less tail, more teeth, more types of teeth, and better prepared teeth.

The concept of peer-production has already begun to influence the military organization, through an increasing number of communities of practices, emerging standard practices of using web-based portals as mechanisms to improve information-sharing and group functioning, as well as emerging developments such as CompanyCommand.Com and Intellipedia1. The key to leveraging the power of peer-production will be less dependent on technology and much more on our human management practices, framework and culture. A great deal of work will be involved in developing the concept and other related concepts core to changing the HR in the military. Network technologies and peer-production will enable the CF to reap a much greater return on the tremendous investment it makes in its people. As CompanyCommand.Com demonstrates, peer-production can act as a 'force multiplier' for the CF infrastructure supporting learning and professional development.

In concluding, we have posited a view that the development of economic thought during the birth and development of the industrial age was mostly guided by metaphors of the machine. In the last half of the 20th century we have seen the birth of the information-knowledge-network economy the guiding metaphor must come from network oriented sciences including biology and particularly complexity. We continue to use machine metaphors; we conceive of organizations as machines and therefore design them as a machine. In turn, human resource management naturally view their task as one of making the person into an appropriate cog to function in the machine so that the machine will produce its expected output. This metaphor while reducing the human, to a machine-part, was functional in a relatively stable environment where there was hope of achieving a tentative equilibrium between the organization and its environment. However, in today's environment, which we can safely assume is one of eternal transformation, we can no longer conceive of the organization as a machine but must now design it to be a complex evolving system.

The need to design an organization as a complex evolving system has significant implications for all aspects of the HR system including its occupational structure, training, and learning. Therefore it is important to acknowledge a new paradigm for the design of organizations. HR must be able to facilitate the development of integrated security solutions and a system that enables the CF to marshal its own human capabilities, where and when needed. The use of Web 2.0 technologies to enable group forming networks and peer-production can power an organizational ‘overlay’ of a new type of agile and fluid division of labour. Using the untapped human capabilities within the organization, the CF can create a type of virtual layer, where people can ‘pursue their interests’ and self-select to contribute to projects that feed their interests, abilities, passions or curiosity in a digital division of labour, while continuing to fulfill the obligations of the traditional layer of occupational/operational jobs and work. In this way the last mile of the market is not necessarily a ‘coup’ even if it is a revolution. This is consistent with the ongoing challenge of transformation – running the organization and changing the organization.

The technologies, tools and their uses described in this paper are here now, they are being used now by tens of millions of people. Many of these technologies and their uses did not exist five years ago and there are new ones emerging every month. Foresight has been exercised in this paper only in an attempt to understand the emerging principles shaping the rapid evolution of network-enabled capability for society, organizations, groups and individuals.
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