icm2re logo. icm2:re (I Changed My Mind Reviewing Everything) is an 

ongoing web column  by Brunella Longo

This column deals with some aspects of change management processes experienced almost in any industry impacted by the digital revolution: how to select, create, gather, manage, interpret, share data and information either because of internal and usually incremental scope - such learning, educational and re-engineering processes - or because of external forces, like mergers and acquisitions, restructuring goals, new regulations or disruptive technologies.

The title - I Changed My Mind Reviewing Everything - is a tribute to authors and scientists from different disciplinary fields that have illuminated my understanding of intentional change and decision making processes during the last thirty years, explaining how we think - or how we think about the way we think. The logo is a bit of a divertissement, from the latin divertere that means turn in separate ways.

Chronological Index | Subject Index

Governance of relationships comes at a price

Changing gear and introducing the people issue

How to cite this article?
Longo, Brunella (2016). Governance of relationships comes at a price: changing gear and introducing the people issue. icm2re [I Changed my Mind Reviewing Everything ISSN 2059-688X (Print)], 5.6 (June).

How to cite this article?
Longo, Brunella (2016). Governance of relationships comes at a price: changing gear and introducing the people issue. icm2re [I Changed my Mind Reviewing Everything ISSN 2059-688X (Online)], 5.6 (June).

This new model is demanding for the individual and may well exacerbate inequalities. In the past, several models of social success existed. Are we not moving towards a form of unification today, with the model of individuals who take full responsibility for themselves and become increasingly autonomous and employable? Should they fail, the onus is on them to get back on their feet. Some sociologists of the family or labour have observed these new forms of vulnerability appearing in both the professional and the personal sphere. In the case of individuals heading for disaffiliation, to use Robert Cartel's expression, we can certainly talk of negative individualism. Networks are breaking down, disintegrating. Individuals no longer have a place in society, and by gradually linking up to multiple networks, they end up in a situation of social isolation.
[Patrice Flichy (2004)]

And in the spring I shed my skin
And it blows away with the changing winds
This is a gift it comes with a price
Who is the lamb and who is the knife
[Florence + The machine, Rabbit Heart (2009)]

London, 7 January 2017 - Last summer I was dealing with a cyber security problem that had arisen from the initiative of an employee - actually a freelance software engineer - my customer had employed for less than six months through a work agency. He was then recognised to be scared of losing his job and over scrupulous more than incompetent, disgruntled or distracted: he acted in a certain way, against his own judgement of the situation, in order to comply with the requirements of the job and what the team was expecting him to do.

Everybody else would do the same, he told me. But if he had felt more respect and incentives for his own initiative, he would surely opted for a more sensible choice.

His behaviour is nothing else that one of the many consequences of what psychologists and sociologists define as groupthink or social compliance.

With social engineering risks on the rise, my client engineer's incident sounded nothing particularly surprising to me. However, his manager was very impressed and asked me with genuine interest why it is so difficult that even geeky computer experts are reluctant to adopt, embrace and facilitate change in their work, including the change needed to save the organisation from major security or confidentiality disasters, especially when they are recruited and rewarded as innovators and talented disrupters!

Since my project was actually very small and focussed on something else, and I had bumped into this guy's job just auditing some data while I was looking for something else, and with no wish to indulge in socio-technical or cyber-philosophical conversations, I found convenient to reply that we have not defined any budget for me to deal extensively with such type of problem in this occasion. I cut it shortly, explaining few technicalities and suggesting to move on as any other consultant would probably do.

However, I promised I would write up some broader reflections on the romanticised and indeed very diffuse and dangerous myth of disruptive networked individuals, to explain why cyber security, as well as any other IT matter, requires understanding and management of the so called human or behavioural factors: more time should be devoted to change gear on security problems, the nature of which is usually 50% organisational and 50% technical and in an overwhelming majority of cases intertwined with human errors, irrational behaviours, fear and love.

When I started my first internet business, in the 1990s, only few academics and management gurus were used to talk about the network economy. The main reason for that was in relation to outsourcing and talent drain experienced within large organisations. Today the notion of networked individual has become the most common and also misleading way to refer to human resources in the gig economy. Also the theory of disruptive innovation introduced in business schools and big consultancy firms in the late 1990s turned out to be completely inadequate to manage change in digital organisations (where IT systems have already replaced human labour in innumerable processes or have created processes that do not have any chance to exist outside the digital environment). Executives and boards overestimating the positive impact of these two notions within corporate culture have caused colossal failures in public and private programmes and they should necessarily move on - as I will elaborate later in the next issues of this column.

So, with such ruminants thoughts going on in my mind, I announced to my contacts that in the next icm2re article I would distance myself from public policies and the Brexit political agenda and I would be back on more practical, technical and organisational issues, such as governance of relationships, a subject many executives are nowadays prompted to consider as the key arsenal in their innovation and digital farmhouse.

Being the people issue very topical for IT marketing, social media and global ventures, following my anticipation I was suddenly posted with tons of suggestions on what to say and how to frame it: academic references, reports, blogs, advertorials, links to video lectures and new products and technologies etc etc. I welcomed some of these unsolicited contributions as intellectually interesting as they genuinely inspired me to go and review assumptions and catch up with sociologists' and technologists' reflections (what happened to the public perception and representations of the academic notions of networked individual and the disruptive talented freelance in the last ten years, I asked myself). Other were undoubtedly engaging but not for me. Some turned out stupid but innocuous - or stupid and annoying.

All in all, the ethnographic materials I was exposed to for just having simply anticipated the subject of the next article seemed not touching any of my specific concerns, nor making any of the points I would like to raise. Well done, I said myself. There is great interest for the diffusion of ideas and the influence on behaviours through social networks. There is also space for reasoning on other dimensions of what we do to help people and organisations to bring about - and get along with - changes in their life, particularly in respect of the technologies they use and how they use them. I may wish to say something also on the theoretical assumptions of many innovative projects.

Under the sway of such avalanche of bits and pieces and immediate reactions, I decided to delay the publication of my modest dissonant one while I was waiting my eyes to heal from an immune system disorder that limited my reading and writing activities for more than four months (after the extreme distressful experience of being homeless for over seven months last year, but this is another matter I would possibly talk about in another occasion). So, the article I had in mind entered a ruminant stage. It became a series of seven articles, in which I consider different aspects of the "people issue" dealing with technologies of collaboration and organisational goals.

Something else happened as well in the meantime. A change of perspective about my own commitment to write and publish icm2re regularly, especially with that protracted annoyances affecting my eyes. I felt that I am so entitled to express my own views, no matter how dissonant (or perhaps disaffiliating) they are from other dominant narratives, that I believe people should pay to read them.

I know that it may seem pathetic to ask payments where the reader is so used to find everything for free, especially for a product that is evidently a by-product of other activities - in my case, the consultant's backstage. But suddenly it seems to me that it is not acceptable anymore that some people read and reuse for free the stories I write and publish in this column.

icm2re articles go to the core of a subject in plain terms and with an original, interdisciplinary and insightful approach to innovation and digital technologies and systems, outcome of thirty and more years of my intentional, sometimes very hard work I do swimming through different disciplines and communities, organisations and socio-technical environments. Thinking and talking of relationships, I cannot help to notice that colleagues and acquaintances have used my articles to introduce very relevant ideas in their organisations and to start new projects, often attracting the public funds I am being denied access to: instead of spending hours in research and browsing, instead of digging out libraries and archives and corporate business cases, instead of thinking and talking about new ways of working, they have just printed out and commented my crazy, crappy, funny things drinking coffee or planning events. That is something that sounds perfectly fine to me and I am delighted with, but for the fact that I too want to have my coffees (or cups of green tea) and holidays - now and when I will be older.

Let's start, if you like, a new journey: from 2017 on, icm2re will trial a sale and subscription policy (one pound to access each article for one month or only one hundred pounds to access the entire archive up to the whole of the issues published in the year in which you make the decision to pay. In between the two options, there is also a respectable convenient print on demand offer for each article priced at just ten pounds that I would recommend to share icm2re with a team, a corporate library or for a PhD project. All prices include delivery costs and taxes).

And now, we can talk about governance of relationships in the changing landscape of this digital age.

Post scriptum: 5 March 2018 - I have changed my mind again, in that reflecting a sort of agony the entire publishing industry has been going through dealing with digital disruptions! Following the unsuccessful trial of the pay per print and the pay per access policies I wanted to experiment, the magazine is now exploring other ways of generating income besides copyright royalties. See icm2re 7.1 | Look for money in the world, not in the journals. About the business model for online contents for an update.