Some 10 years ago the great management thinker the late Peter Drucker told me that he did not think that the computer had yet begun to effect the way organisations were managed. At the time, it seemed to be a crazy remark, but thinking about it afterwards it made more and more sense.
Henry Ford transformed industry after industry with his adoption of the production line in Detroit 100 years ago. Theoretically, the interactive information generated by the computer network should be having just as much disruptive impact on business now as Ford had then.
But few pre-existing companies seem to have changed their shape, size or business model to reflect what they now know about the clients and customers.
The mass production corporation tells itself it is making things its customers want to buy, and giving them a choice. But big companies seem to erect walls around themselves to keep the customer at bay. They commission market research rather than themselves go out and ask questions, and they mainly want customers who want to buy the things they make, not the other way round.
I think he’s right. Even those companies seen as cutting edge — Google, Innocent, Zappos and so on — are really not that different from what has been before in terms of the way they are organised. There’s going to be a lot of change in how we organise in the near future. Something we wrote about in Disorganisation — although I’d go even further if I were to write it again now, having run a company for a couple of years.