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5th Generation Management

Afterword by Daniel Burrus

In Watterson's comic strip, Calvin and Hobbes, they occasionally play "Calvin Ball." The game has only one rule, it can never be played twice with the same set of rules. Survival in Calvin Ball is not holding onto the old set of rules; thriving comes by continually co-creating a new set, a process I explored in Technotrends.

Why is it so hard to continually let go of the tried and true and innovate instead? The familiar is comfortable, the unexpected is intimidating. Yet we live amongst sets of swirling, pulsating, and chaotic technological developments, which, in their own ways, are continually redefining the rules of the game.

Why do little Calvin and his sidekick Hobbes understand this so much better than most of us? Why do we worry so much about how much to "change" (noun), when life is itself a kaleidoscopic process of continual "changing" (verb)?

In Fifth Generation Management, Co-creating through Virtual Enterprising, Dynamic Teaming, and Knowledge Management, Charles Savage works many of these same underlying themes as I do in Technotrends, but from an organizational perspective. I might focus more on ways new technologies, such as genetic engineering, digital electronics, and intelligent networks, are shaping our business environment, whereas Charles focuses on the essential nature of work and human time. Even though our starting points are different, we are certainly kindred spirits when it comes to the underlying values we both believe in, such as the role of synergy, collaboration, and co-creation.

Instead of just protecting the canvas of the past, we both are excited about ways to paint in the opportunities of the future. Most of what life can be, it is not yet. It is up to us to inspire one another as individuals and companies to unleash our collaborative creativity. Charles helps us understand how we blend the color and texture of one another's ideas through virtual enterprising, dynamic teaming, and knowledge networking.

We do not put asset numbers on ideas, but it is these raw ideas which are refined on the canvas of the possible which provide our ever-changing products and services. Today our language still focuses us on the processes of transforming raw materials into finished goods. But underlying this is the process of transforming raw ideas into powerful products and saleable services. As Charles points out, the Industrial Era has focused on mining limited natural resources, whereas the Knowledge Era ushers in the possibilities of mining unlimited human resources, our minds.

The Industrial Era gave us an economy of scarcity, where we had to protect and control. The Knowledge Era is providing a platform to create the economy of abundance, based on non-scarce ideas, which through dynamic collaboration, can grow into inspirational arteries which nurture even more creativity. The Industrial Era was dependent on a well tuned infrastructure, while the Knowledge Era is dependent on vibrant "infostructure."

This infostructure is dependent not just on advances in computer based technology, from parallel processing to the World Wide Web on the Internet, but it is also dependent on a shift in our attitudes or mindsets. In the first part of Fifth Generation Management, Charles uses the analogy of high jumping. People reach higher levels because they are willing to rethink their mindsets. On the Web, people are valued not because of a fancy title or big car, but because of the quality of their interaction. It is not communication or discussion, but quality conversation and dialogue which count. Questions are more valuable than statements, because they nurture exploration and discovery.

Our tools are changing. In the Industrial Era we used heavy hammers to break apart the earth to free its riches. In the Knowledge Era we use probing questions to uncover the underlying patterns of thought, the new riches. The one breaks apart, the other helps weave fragments of tiny ideas into larger actionable patterns.

Indeed, in the Industrial Era we could only deal with complexity by breaking it apart, often to such an extent that we lost an understanding of the whole or the compelling context. In the Knowledge Era, as Charles points out, we are again comfortable with complexity, seeing its parts and its wholes at the same time. Fractals, holonics, agility, and hypertext organizations are metaphors which help us to begin to master the new paradigm, the dynamic interplay of the whole and the parts. This makes it possible to shift from the value chain to the valuing cluster, as Charles points out, where business becomes a strategic dialogue among and between our companies and our suppliers, customers and customers' customers, truly a process of co-creation.

Rather than protecting the past, we need to bring the playfulness of Calvin and Hobbes to the canvas of the possible. Instead of confirming rules, we need liberating roles, through which we not only create products and services, but we co-create ourselves and our cultures. Charles helps us move from the stifling "boxes and lines" model to the synergy of overlapping circles. He helps us rediscover the nature of human work, playful work, creative work, and co-creative work which is continually shaping our future and yet is never complete. The seeds of the economy of abundance, based on the mining of minds, of teaming capabilities and building off aspirations, are planted. How can we nurture their growth, because they are our growth?

Emerging trends in technology pry us loose from our blind bondage to yesterday's way of doing things. Can we seize the moment and experience the deep resonance of the dialogue of work? Can we discover ways to more effectively engage in the present, because we can mine the past and envision the future? Certainly, Charles has helped us to speak the new language in simple terms which bring value to what we do and who we are. By actively valuing one another as individuals and companies, our natural co-creative capabilities can blossom forth. We can leverage the intellectual capital already in our companies, a resource we have hardly begun to tap.

We are indeed on the threshold of a new infrastructure of understanding which will make the emerging infostructure a rich resource of minds out of which to build a vital Knowledge Era economy. This economy will not be built by a few barons of industry, but by us all, you and I and our colleagues in the world, because we have moved beyond our simplistic commutative attitudes and learned to value one another's capabilities and listen for one another's aspirations. Charles has pointed us in the right direction, but it is up to us now. The possibilities are exciting, but can we seize the opportunities?

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