A Trace in the Sand
by Ruth Malan
My Trace is a playground for developing ideas, for exploring architecture and the role of architects. I don't know where these ideas are going to come from, so I explore, finding the dots to connect and sharing them, and the connections I make, playfully and thoughtfully, here.
It is interesting to consider how the changing relationship substrate (technology that supports communication, for example, but also cultural changes like increasing education level and expectations around social equity) is creating different mechanisms for the co-ordination of markets, enterprises, and complex value streams and transformations. The (business) ecosystem has different options than it did a century ago. And with the different options, different expectations and aspirations.
There is a co-evolution of demands for complexity (indirectly; of course the demand is for something that is complex, not complexity itself) and the ability to achieve it (and then do it better, and better -- hopefully).
Hierarchies were (and in many ways still are) very good at co-ordination of work and resources and enabled very complex systems to come into being, and be run effectively and efficiently -- enough to sustain them... enough... to have some lifespan. To be sure, hierarchies have been modified with a criss-cross of informal networks that supplement the formal structure of control, resource and information flow. But as the substrate, the firmament, the infrastructure and social basis shifts, and as the apetite for complexity increases, and the ability to deal with it expands, new forms -- collaborative, co-creative, highly networked "podular" forms, for example -- can be tested by the trials of (a much sped up organizational and social and technological) evolution.
As fast as we can, we're moving responsibilities from people to machines, changing the work landscape. People become the interfaces and variability servers, the resilience buffers, and so forth, connecting points among increasingly automated systems-of-systems.
This places greater cognitive and creative demands on an ever thinning tier of humans in the loop. At the same time, there is greater amplication of those humans -- brain stimulation and cognitive skill building earlier (in childhood) and more richly throughout life, as well as the increasing capacity of "intelligence servers" at their command -- from Google to Watson's offshoots and Wolfram's computable knowledge. The discontent at hierarchy's efficient movement to, and concentration of resources in, the wealthy few is one matter; discontent at hierarchy's concentration of aspiration, prestige, and decision autonomy another. Discontent (not malcontent, but a desire for better) pushes at the fabric of organizations. As does the need to deal with ever more complexity and uncertainty, creative responsiveness and adaptability. Organizational adaptations like layering networks upon hierarchies go some distance. Enough?
The substrate is shifting and heaving, and society is reforming itself, dynamically trying to cope with the tumultuous changes in what is possible and desired.
We look around and much still seems the same. Except that the economic basis is shifting. Work is flowing to digitally enabled machines. Manual and cognitive. Co-ordinative. Fast. And ever faster? And relationships of organizations to people, and people to organizations are changing. When people are expendable, that is seismic. When it is you and I that are, we feel the quaking personally. Between IBM's Watson and Amazon's delivery drones, we're getting a glimpse of the near future, and it is putting people out of business as we know it.
We can't foresee where it all leads, but for now, we know that hierarchies will persist. For some time. And the cottage revolution that thrives on the infrastructural substrate provided by the likes of etsy together with the individuality aesthetic that gives the craftsman appeal will persist. For some time. Hierarchies. Networks overlaid on hierarchies. And more and less loosely networked pods. And suchness.
I find it useful to think how this translates to software intensive systems:
Thanks for the pointer, Peter Bakker.
I also write at:
- Bredemeyer Resources for Architects
Architects and Architecture
- Todd Hoff (highly recommended)
- Anna Liu
- JD Meier
Architect Professional Organizations
Agile and Lean
Agile and Testing
Other Software Thought Leaders
- CapGeminini's CTOblog
CTOs and CIOs
CEOs (Web 2.0)
- Don MacAskill (SmugMug)
- Wired's monkey_bites
Social Networking/Web 2.0+ Watch
- Dan Roam
- David Sibbet (The Grove)
Strategy, BI and Competitive Intelligence
- Freakonomics blog
Um... and these
- CNN Money Business of Green videos