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Making a more human organization

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Making a more human organization

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There has been a strong theme running through the social business movement in the past year around building organizations fit for human beings.  Central to this theme has of course been the comparison between the supposedly mechanistic methods of the industrial age and the more enlightened methods advocated by social business.

Whilst providing a work environment that sees employees as something more than a cog in the machine is a noble and worthwhile endeavour, The Rise of the Humans probably has more parallels with The Second Machine Age, the latest book by Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee, who of course launched the whole Enterprise 2.0 meme.

The book talks about the way technology is changing the work landscape, and in particular on the way data is changing our work habits.  It begins on common ground, talking about the huge amount of data we are bombarded with each day, and the impact this deluge on our productivity.  It’s a message that has been trumpeted numerous times, and it’s a well trodden theory now that the modern workplace is often far too distracting to enable us to do any meaningful knowledge work.

In much the same way as the Second Machine Age, the book then takes a slightly more positive angle and looks at how both employees and organizations can work with technology more effectively.  It talks about things such as better collaboration, more effective use of big data filters and the possibilities for creating a much more responsive and customer driven enterprise.

It’s a message that is perhaps not all that new to anyone that is absorbed in this area, and whilst it reinforces many of the usual points, it is much lighter on quite how organizations (or employees) can change their behaviours.  Given that this is the trickiest part of the process I feel this is a quite significant blindspot of the book. 

So with that, I don’t think this book will really shift the needle too much due to the lack of any real assistance in the change process itself.  If you need a short and punchy primer on some of the digital issues affecting modern working however, this could provide that, and it can easily be digested in one sitting.  If you want something deeper though, I would recommend The Second Machine Age instead.

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