Old wineskins, new wine, and bottling up value in technology

John Hagel

John Hagel (Photo credit: superde1uxe)

In a brief and penetrating post, John Hagel and John Seely Brown focus the question best set up (though not by them) in the Biblical metaphor of wine and wineskins. Our institutions are the old wineskins. The new wine of disruptive technological innovation is being steadily poured into them. Its value is increasingly failing to be realized. In Hagel/Brownspeak:

we are reaching a tipping point of this exponential growth, and it is unclear how the cumulative effects of technology will reshape our economy, political systems, and collective future. One thing is clear: in the hands of existing institutions—firms, schools, non-profits, civic institutions and governments—this awesome technology will achieve only a fraction of its potential.

What is especially striking to me is that those companies and business models most closely correlated with the digital/Moore’s Law explosion are proving highly resistant to evolutionary development of their systems, assumptions, and corporate culture. Worse, some are clearly throwbacks. And there may be a principle here to be noted: That when disruptive technology drives value the companies involved will hunker down and defy any cultural alignment with the innovative principle.

I’ve written about this several times, both in  respect of Facebook’s Murdoch-style corporate governance, and the general failure of social media businesses to do anything other than follow the tired IPO route. We need congruent innovation of financing and governance models to enable these powerfully disruptive, tech-driven businesses to deliver value. Yet not only have they old-style approaches to governance, they are among the least “social” businesses on the planet. This huge disconnect has been noted far too little.

Hagel and Seely Brown are making a wider argument, but this seems to me as dramatic an example as one could find. New wine flows, and the search is on for antiquarian wineskins.

Something’s gonna give – suddenly, and with the dramatic impact that will leave the leaders of our current top social/search brands stammering with surprise. My money is on the emergence of socially-aligned governance models based on some version of mutualization and giving users ownership.

We need a social social network:

http://futureofbiz.org/2012/12/11/please-may-we-have-a-social-social-network/

http://futureofbiz.org/2012/11/21/unsocial-networks/

Hagel and Seely Brown:

http://techonomy.com/2013/03/whats-next-in-the-techonomy/

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