Q. What are your thoughts on collaborative versus top-down management?
A. Collaboration is one of the most difficult challenges in management. I think top-down organizations got started because the bosses either knew more or they had access to more information. None of that applies now. Everybody has access to identical amounts of information.
Q. Why did that shift occur?
A. I would say two things. One is just the massive information revolution. But equally important is the fact that before, while there were global companies, they were really just a collection of very local businesses operating independently from each other. Now a global company means a company composed of teams that are themselves dispersed. So every team can be global in many senses, not just the company.
But with the explosion of information, and flattening technologies starting with e-mail, I think that a C.E.O. needs to focus more on the platform that enables collaboration, because employees already have all the data. They have access to everything.
You have to work on the structure of collaboration. How do people get recognized? How do you establish a meritocracy in a highly dispersed environment?
The answer is to allow employees to develop a name for themselves that is irrespective of their organizational ranking or where they sit in the org chart. And it actually is not a question about monetary incentives. They do it because recognition from their peers is, I think, an extremely strong motivating factor, and something that is broadly unused in modern management.
Q. How do you create that culture?
A. One thing we use is a Twitter-like system on our intranet called Yammer.
Timely interview considering my comments about virtual teams just now, although there is more to this that just enterprise microblogging!
Hat tip to Andrew McAfee, who also highlights some key points if you want the abridged version of this interview.