Collaboration and democracy

The shift towards long-distance collaboration in the design and production of goods and services is helping shape the future of democracy. Some corporations recognise that old hierarchies aren’t working. Sometimes they even mandate that their subordinate units break with old practices. The irony!

“I demand that you all start disregarding hierarchy immediately!!”

The trouble is, any structure in which most individuals are inaccessible to others is going to be inefficient in turbulent times.

As Charles Handy said 5 years ago, ‘Hierarchy, generally, is losing its legitimacy while partnership is in the ascendant as different interest groups flex their muscles and individuals start to take back control of their lives from organisations and governments.’

Or, in Toffler’s words (only about 40 years before…), ‘It will be a long time before the last bureaucratic hierarchy is obliterated. For bureaucracies are well suited to tasks that require masses of moderately educated men to perform routine operations.’

How right he was.

Now it’s possible to share and create products, services and ideas at a long distance by finding others who are already solving aspects of the problem.

The implications for traditional, representative democracy is uncertain, but one thing is for sure… the explosion of new organisational forms diminishes the authority of the ‘centre’, in favour of decentralised decision-making, while providing rich information to the people that enables them to participate in new ways.

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