Brokering in a Digital Age

November 3, 2014

It’s been widely reported that one of the revolutions of the internet (and being accelerated by Artificial Intelligence) is its impact on traditional jobs. Many of these jobs are disappearing, particularly in middle management, and being replaced by machines.

This clearing out of management “suits” has had the consequence of exposing the contributors of the digital age; the craftsmen (or subject matter experts if you must). These craftsmen are analogous to the Goldsmiths, Vintners and Merchant Taylors of the middle ages. They are the IT developers, the web innovators, the biotechnologists, the home carers, the medical assistants. These are the growth jobs. These are experts who love what they do and strive to be the best at what they do.

Digital age craftsmen see no point in reporting to someone who simply measures what they do…that’s management and management is for robots. What craftsmen want is coaching, mentorship and leadership,

So, as a leader in an organisation, how do we create a culture that enables the digital-age craftsmen to thrive?

Unsurprisingly, we believe that at least some of the answer lies in collaboration, with a particular form of collaborative behaviour helping teams to thrive – we call it ‘brokering’. As we say in our website, brokering is connecting people to each other so that they can solve problems and find new ideas. Creating these relationships enhances ones reputation and develops goodwill but, crucially, there is generally be no immediate benefit to the broker.

Adam Grant (Professor of Management at Wharton in the USA), in his book ‘Give And Take’,  uses the term ‘Giving’ in a similar way to brokering. His research shows that in a world where a job is not for life (i.e. movement from organisation to organisation and from project to project is the norm), giving cultures are optimal. A giving culture fosters ‘giving’ behaviour and can be found to provide just the right environment to enable craftsmen to innovate, solve problems and help others.

So, the craftsmen in our organisations thrive in a culture that is good at brokering.  This culture is difficult to create and is fiendishly hard to maintain but it can be done with collaborative leadership. It’s worth it.

Extended Mind are helping organisations to actively increase this essential Brokering in their culture using the Extended Mind “Collaboration Profile” – just contact us to find out more.