Not enough fingers for the dam

Western Governments and organisations have spent decades evolving policies, statutes and by-laws into layers of bureaucracy for everything imaginable; and a few ‘unimaginable things as well.  For example; in the UK, “it is illegal to import potatoes into England and Wales if you have reasonable cause to suspect that they are Polish” (it’s the ascent that gives them away) or; in July 2013 a law was passed in China that states “it is illegal for adult children to ‘not’ visit their parents ‘often’” with a footnote that “they are also required to attend to their parent’s spiritual needs” (Wow – though technically they did invent zen).

And what about the Knowledge Management and Information and Communications Technology Sector?  Again every organisation has a plethora of policies; presumably to keep it and us under control.

Enter ‘homo sapiens’; renowned for their ingenuity and creativity; a species which almost seems to delight in thinking outside the square; for moving beyond the current paradigm, and a bunch of other metaphors as well.  No policies, statutes, by-laws or IT policy will get in their way.  And we have a bunch of examples to prove it.

Housing:  The linked article about some ex-pat kiwi’s returning home; finding they couldn’t afford a ‘conventional’ house so built their own for NZ$50,000.00. 

Uber:  Taxis have to be licensed.  Some airports even require vehicles to be less than a certain age with most charging a taxi fee, presumably for the privilege of being ripped off by all the other expense-increasing rules.  Uber does a big ‘Flip-the-bird’ to all that. 

If there is one thing the ‘free-market’ model teaches us it is the law of ‘supply and demand’.  So let’s move onto Shadow IT.  Is Shadow IT just a bunch of cavalier employees running rough-shod over tried and true rules?  Or is it more an Uber situation where the old standards no longer support the needs of a new model? 

How organisations answer that question will drive their response to emerging technologies.  Will it be like those cities and states at the turn of the 19th century who introduced ‘red-flag’ rules restricting car use?  Or the Florida Court that ruled ‘Off-Grid Living’ is Illegal?  Or perhaps airports trying to stop Uber pick-ups?

Or will they be like the European Union, encouraging citizens to help them meet carbon emission?  Or (the few) organisations front-footing Shadow IT by exploring and investing in robust cloud-based services with ‘Guide and Manage’ rather than ‘Eliminate and Control’ policies?  In considering that, can I propose that many traditional IT Managers are running out of fingers and toes to stick in the leaks appearing in their perfect 20th century IT model.

To survive; I don’t believe IT Managers have any choice but to become Change Leaders.  While the 20th century IT environment had its challenges; it was; more or less, merely a ‘Complicated Model’; a Linear System where all the components; and their interactions could be documented and controlled right down to the last nut and bolt.  Sort of like a Space-Shuttle Owner’s Manual (which incidentally is available from – (see link) which is itself disrupting the traditional bricks-and-mortar retail model. 

The 21st Century Knowledge Economy represents a Complex System which is typified by unpredictable, discontinuous, non-linear behaviors that are difficult to define or predict i.e. no Owner’s Manual.  Though complex, these tend to maintain a state of equilibrium.  Until something occurs to upset that equilibrium; like a bunch of cloud-based, credit-card purchased cloud-based systems.  While the current disruption these new technologies are causing across organisations is perplexing; we should take comfort that, in spite of the disruption and chaos, complex systems always; and usually quite suddenly, find equilibrium again.  A phenomenon called ‘Spontaneous Order’.  We are; I believe, in transition; somewhere between the past, 20th Century IT equilibrium, and whatever will emerge from the current disruption.  Much like the order that emerged from the disruption motor cars caused in the late 19th Century.


At StratSim we provide some simple and effective approaches, tools and methodologies for the Change Leader to better visualize their Knowledge Environment; to identify, direct and communicate innovation across the business.  We’d welcome an opportunity to talk to you about that.