Organizations like PCD
How would you react if the Pussycat Dolls suddenly released a single featuring all five members singing equal parts of the song? I bet you didn’t even know there were five members in the group, did you?
To answer my own question, I would feel very surprised, even uncomfortable. What, after about 15 songs where Nicole Scherzinger sang majority of every song (or more like the entire song, with the other four dancing sensually, sometimes skankily, along the tune), they suddenly decide to do things differently and actually give a fair chance to everyone in the group?
As a matter of fact, a move almost as fair has already been done. Other members like Jessica Sutta, with her songs consistently topping the Billboard charts, are right now at the helm of their solo careers.
I felt the same sense of discomfort after finding out that organizations like Best Buy are actually beginning to use the experience and intellect of their frontline employees–as in the ones who would do the dirty job of selling products to and interacting with customers (to and with–that means there’s a lot of interaction going on in there). To their delight, employees can even use online multiplayer games as a valid form of communication. The power afforded to them is so immense, that they can even make their own strategies to engage customers, and ultimately increase the bottom line of Best Buy.
Both PCD and the Best Buy puzzled me simply because I was not used to it. I’m more than used to Nicole Scherzinger singing all her group’s songs, the same way I’m used to hearing participative decision-making—not all-out empowerment of employees. You know, treating employees at the lowest tier as intellectually capable as top level managers?
This, in a way, contradicted certain ideas that I learned in theory. In my early years in the academe, I remember learning about organizational metaphors and concepts. A few years forward, I don’t even think most of them are still applicable. For one, I distinctly remember being told that traditional management still works at certain situations. Now, I daresay they don’t at all.
The Academe as an Organization
With the fast rate by which innovations are happening in various organizations left and right, I am compelled to ask: how is the academe dealing with all of these? The last time I checked, citing Wikipedia entries are considered abominable. They are not scholarly and the sources are not the least bit credible.
This condemnation strikes me as maladaptive. The Pussycat Dolls are learning to innovate, organizations like Best Buy are handing to the bottom-level employees the power to strategize, all employees of Geek Squad are given the permission to critique the product design of their colleagues, but academicians will have nothing of written content citing Wikipedia and other mass collaborative sources.
Though I understand that one of the reasons is to give premium to educated and well-researched opinion, what does that make the opinions of publishers in Wiki sources? Are they any less credible, just because they are written by a 12-year old student, who happens to know very well the culture of a secondary school he goes to–relative to a researcher who applied the ethnographic method to understand the culture of the same school? Or are these Internet sources not to be trusted, just because they can be corrected in real time by anyone–much different from the way scholarly opinions are beyond correction but not beyond criticism?
In fact, not giving credit to whatever information is produced across different collaborative platforms in the Internet can be dangerous. Not only will it restrict learning to what is in the books or in the academic journals, it will also ignore what is happening in the real world. That which can only be read in informal channels such as blogs and gossip sites. That which in no means can be cited in any “scholarly” work output–at least to most academicians.
To me, the academe as a conglomeration is just one of the many examples of organizations that are hostile and unresponsive toward the rise of mass collaboration. They comprise people who simply don’t understand why people from the Net Gen are putting in our two cents’ worth of matter in pretty much everything, even the scholars’ zone of comfort.
So allow me to end this reflection post with a battlecry: if academicians continue to condemn the otherwise valid content of mass collaborative publications in the Internet, students like me will continue to be uncomfortable whenever something new comes up.
It’s nice to know that organizations are going as far as letting Wikis compile information from everyone in an organization. Sadly though, the academe as an organization is far from moving forward to what is called the Wiki workplace. It has to loosen up to new media; it’s the Net Generation they’re dealing with, good heavens.