Challenge:

The o-lab: How might we create the next iteration of our organizations?

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To prepare companies for a challenging future, the o-lab seeks to bring rapid experimentation to organizational structure.

Inspired by the emergence of the Internet and social media, the idea of the “networked organization” emerged in the 1990s and early 2000s, with some speculation that vertical hierarchies and centralized bureaucracies would move towards fluid, project-based, peer-to-peer work and distributed authority. Then, in the last decade, the rise of social media has led some to suggest that organizations need to go even farther towards structureless, emergent collaboration (like open-source communities). Much has been written by thought leaders to offer answers for the future of organizations. And yet, for all of the chatter, organizational structure has remained largely unchanged.

Meanwhile, creative destruction in business is accelerating, exponential improvement in core technologies is fueling exponential innovation, and competition comes from any quarter thanks to globalization. In order to survive and thrive under these conditions, companies must be more dynamic.

The o-Lab aims to make actionable progress by taking a different approach. As innovation shifts from planned initiatives to rapid experimentation, we aim to do the same with organizational structure. We therefore wish to engage business leaders around the world in a process of (1) understanding the most tractable current challenges, (2) gaining inspiration from leading-edge companies and other disciplines about experiments that might address those challenges, and (3) collaboratively designing and executing those experiments to identify and prototype the next iteration of their organizations.

To get started, share the challenge your organization is failing to overcome at scale and the features of your organizational structure that permit the challenge to go unaddressed.

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