David Wilcox has just put up a post which helps think about the relationship between formal and informal structures – whether in non-profit or profit organisations.
He cites a thought which popped into the head of Lloyd Davis at It’s Social Stupid. It occurs to Lloyd that creativity most often happens in the ‘shadows’ – the informal links into and out of formal organisations – rather than within the naturally constraining structures which were designed to get things done.
I think we all spend some considerable time in the shadows. You know: the conversation with someone in another department which comes up with a great idea, yet sadly one which doesn’t fit the current structure. Those conflabs more often end with “we should set up our own business doing that” (whether you do or not!) rather than “the boss/customers will love this”.
And lurking in the shadows is the diversity of ideas and talent which are often missing in organisations where everyone has been structured to believe in the same vision, the same way of doing things. (A useful read here is The Wisdom of Crowds) These shadow dwellers can include friends, family, customers, supporters (in the case of non-profits) – even the books/blogs people read and ideas they have at 2 o’clock in the morning.
One way to capture some of this dark matter may be through online social networks, internal wikis and other social networking” stuff”. So do you have a plan to encourage people to live more comfortably on the dark side, one which might allow you to use shadow to cast fresh light on what you do?