the private platforms overshadowing the public institutes and the promise of purposeful social spaces

There lies a big challenge ahead for everybody who leads, influences and is part of an organisation. A deep rethink about what organisations actually do, their constitutions and their effect on society is called for. Organisations as the more or less structured building blocks for human endeavour influence large parts of our human existence. And today we seem to have lost control over the effects they cause.

Social media companies through their provision of huge and ubiquitous platforms to make sense of the plethora of digital data and to share the results on the limitless scale, create new sources of authority. An authority that used to be a prerogative of the public organisations which are somehow rooted in a public responsibility for the collective. And in terms of reach and monetary valuation these private platforms overshadow the public institutions.

An interesting and yet very disturbing illustration of this development can be read in an article by Katharine Viner in the Guardian: ‘How technology disrupted the truth’ (12 july, 2016). The author describes how the efforts of social media enterprises to cater for individual preferences with the aim to maximise advertising yields, lead to ever smaller views on the world where facts and truth no longer have a relationship. This profoundly effects the workings of our society.

The question is not so much about the right or wrong of the new authority, the question is on what grounds and with which intentions it is invoked through an organisation and how it can be challenged. Both the principles of the design and the consequential details matter in this case. 

The idea of the purposeful social space is a new concept to organisational design. It is a positively oriented approach which puts shared desire, free will, spheres of connections and the promise of beauty at the center of its design thinking. 

This notion can give people who are involved in the existence of any form of organisation and the authority associated with it, ideas for new means to shape that organisation and to positively stay in control of its effects.