Managers’ authority is being replaced by the need to influence, so how will they manage in the future? How do you manage online environments and encourage them to be a productive use of people’s time? Being obsessively interested in what people are doing and asking great questions is the way to help steer their collective energy towards successful outcomes.

Let’s assume for the moment that you have built a suite of online tools, either for your staff or customers, in which people are beginning to be actively engaged in talking about their work, their challenges, their opportunities, and their solutions. They are beginning to think for themselves and work out together what to do about things. But there are also people not using the tools and sometimes those who do get into unproductive behaviours or cause tension and dissent. How do you deal with this? What do you do to help the network figure out how to work well? You have stuck your neck out and got the tools installed – what if they don’t work? What if things go wrong? Perhaps the hardest hurdle to overcome is having faith in people and expecting your users to have the capacity to make this thing work with the right help.

People used to think that no one did anything until told to by management and there is still a culture in many organizations of doing the minimum possible and staying safe. The assumption was that we needed to be directed and without that direction, would be unproductive. This ...

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