Book Review: Wirearchy

Wirearchy: Sketches for the Future of Work is an ebook by the Wirearchy Commons. The persons who have contributed to the book are (in alphabetical order) Thierry de Baillon, Jon Husband, Harold Jarche, Valdis Krebs, Richard Martin, Jane McConnell, Anne-Marie McEwan, Robert Paterson, Luis Suarez, and Frederic Williquet.

Jon Husband coined the term wirearchy in 1999. Wirearchy is defined as ”dynamic flows of power and authority based on knowledge, trust, credibility and a focus on generating economic and social value, enabled by interconnected people and technology” (p. 5). The pillars of wirearchy are:

  • Knowledge, which is ”freely shared” (p. 5);
  • Trust, which ”emerges through transparency and authenticity” (p. 5);
  • Credibility, which is ”earned through collective intelligence” and ”developed through active questioning of all assumptions, including our own” (pp. 5-6);
  • Value-creation, which is enabled through ”collaboration and cooperation”, including ”the furthest possible distribution of authority” (p. 6).

What I particularly like about the book is Jon Husband’s active questioning of all assumptions, including his own. He writes that ”no doubt much of what we understand and think today may be quite different in two or three years’ time than seems to be probable today” (p. 5). I also appreciate the book’s focus on wirearchy as an ”emergent organising principle” (p. 8), and not on ”solutions or methods or best practices” (p. 8). The reason is that I share Ralph Waldo Emerson’s view that: ”The man who grasps principles can successfully select his own methods. The man who tries methods, ignoring principles, is sure to have trouble.” I think it’s crucially important to understand why you do something, and not just how to do it. And I think this is very much related to wirearchy’s pillars, which leads me to Jon Husband’s question (see below) whether I have any recommendations on how to make the next book better. My recommendation would be to continue focusing on the principles as they emerge. This also means that it would be helpful to understand more about how the principles have emerged historically. This doesn’t mean how-tos are unimportant.

If I would give any additional advice, I would suggest reducing the number of contributors per book, and instead, give each contributor more space. I do like the different perspectives provided by each person, but I think there were too many contributors in such a short book. I look forward to the next book. The journey from hierarchy to wirearchy continues!

Below are some quotes from the book:

Adapt now or adapt later, but adapt you will have to. 1

… wirearchy is about the power and effectiveness of people working together through connection and collaboration, taking responsibility individually and collectively … 2

A principle is something that holds true across a system, and is defined to address the essence of the system – its fundamentals. 3

People have an intrinsic need to find meaning and experience community in their work. 4

… we cannot escape the fact that power-based hierarchies … are key to the dominant paradigm that prevails today … 5

The solution lies in the power of people. 6

Organizations work by their connections. 7

A better alternative to viewing a hierarchy as a pyramid, is to view it as a network! 18

Organizations need to help knowledge flow and this only happens when people are connected. 9

Mastery of a discipline is more than attending a course and taking a test. 10

Loose hierarchies and strong networks can help build a functioning wirearchy. 11

Operational skills for complex contexts include learning to ask questions, thinking critically and challenging the status quo. 12

Play is increasingly important for a whole range of reasons. … In short, play deepens friendships that give energy, courage and emotional support. 13

All along, it’s been all about a personal transformation journey. 14

The workplace of the future, the so-called future of work that everyone seems to keep talking about lately rather extensively starts off today. Not tomorrow. Not in the future, but today. 15

Change is a personal choice that begins today through … constantly nurturing your networks … while acquiring a new set of practices … 16

Merely connecting people in the old context does not work. 17

Emergence is like when a small child connects enough words and can make all the right sounds and then one day just starts talking in sentences. 18

Organizations are composed to two types of networks – prescribed and emergent. 19

Building emergent communities and informal networks is a lot like gardening. 21

Instead of focusing on … Hire and Fire, … now focus on Hire and Wire! 21

You may not yet be familiar with the term, but you are very likely already experiencing wirearchy to some degree. 22

Decision-making is influenced by wirearchy in that the traditional top-down command and control way of working is reaching its limits. 23

Teams tend to operate under loose frameworks rather than minutely detailed plans. 24

The fluidity of roles is hugely important … [People] move fluidly between them as context and circumstance requires. 25

1 Jon Husband, Wirearchy: Sketches for the Future of Work, p. 5.
2 Ibid., p. 8.
3 Ibid., p. 9.
4 Ibid., p. 12.
5 Thierry de Baillon, Ibid., p.15
6 Ibid., p.18
7 Valids Krebs, Ibid., p. 19.
8 Ibid., p. 20.
9 Harold Jarche, Ibid., p. 25.
10 Ibid., p.27.
11 Ibid..
12 Anne marie McEwan, Ibid., p. 35.
13 Ibid., p. 38.
14 Luis Suarez, Ibid., p. 39.
15 Ibid., p. 43.
16 Ibid., pp. 43–44.
17 Rob Paterson, Ibid., p. 45.
18 Ibid., p. 52.
19 Valdis Krebs & Jon Husband, Ibid., p. 56.
20 Ibid., p. 60.
21 Ibid., p. 61.
22 Jane McConnell, Ibid., p. 62.
23 Ibid., p. 66.
24 Richard Martin, Ibid., p. 71.
25 Ibid., p. 72.

Related post:
Wirearchy vs. sociocracy

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