Stowe’s point, as I understand it, is that the important thing for the new social tools is giving people the ability to form the groups they need at the moment they need them (Stowe says this much better and in more detail). This implies that groups (the vast majority of them) are short lived and serve a specific purpose. I think this should also be the case for networks and communities even though their purpose is often more complex and they are therefore longer-lived.
More importantly, I think this kind of thinking greatly illustrates the kind of organization that are emerging today: organizations centered on people. Organizations that give every employee the ability to organize the resources she needs, at the moment she needs them, in order to do her job (think, execute, share, solve problems, …). And today, resources means talent resources, that is fellow employees.
And I think this goes way beyond tools (which are key):
– It means ensuring that employees have the sense of responsibility that is needed to go beyond the existing boundaries of the organization (geography, product, hierarchy, …);
– It means ensuring that the employees that are able to break boundaries in the interest of the business are proprely recognized (I have already talked about how to reinvent assessment and development systems here),
– It means ensuring that employees have the skills and behaviors needed to be able to work in different environments (we call these collaborative models), hierarchical, community of practice, peer network, functional network, …
– It also means ensuring that leadership at organizations recognizes the potential of these new ways of working and of organizing and that they go the whole way they need to go to adapt their own individual and leadership styles.