CrowdConf: Learning to Let Go
Tuesday's CrowdConf 2012 was an eyeopener: In order to do the best by their organization, modern leaders may need to let go - of employees inside their walls in exchange for partners wherever in the world they are. Let go of pay secrecy. Let go of formal sources of funding.
Approximately 500 people attended CrowdConf at UCSF's Mission Bay Conference Center. The sponsors included Jefferies, a global securities and investment banking group, and the high-tech law firm Latham & Watkins. This signals to me that crowdsourcing is getting hot.
Bluechip organizations are becoming more comfortable with on-line freelancing (e.g., oDesk and Elance), full platforms to support specific functions (e.g., Poptent for video marketing, Kaggle for data science/analytics), the use of micro tasks to get real work done (e.g., Amazon Mechanical Turk and CrowdFlower), and innovations driven by open prizes (e.g., xPrize Foundation).
The main theme in this transition is that change is happening, but we don't have a clear body of leadership knowledge to help us leverage these capabilities either in our organizational design or in how we lead the individuals who are participating.
I suspect that Steve Kerr's ideas around "substitutes for leadership" will be of increasing value - ironic given that he coined the term in 1973. The substitutes for leadership idea is that the need for interactive leadership can be reduced by clear and meaningful tasks and goals, among other things. Keith Murnighan's more recent book, Do Nothing: How to Stop Overmanaging and Become a Great Leader also bubbles to the top when you think about leaders letting go to do more. Murnighan writes, "This is what great leaders do. They don't work; they facilitate and orchestrate." Modern leadership may be more about facilitating strategy than charismatic face-to-face interaction. This is not to say less important. Leadership may be even more important as the organization itself becomes more diffuse.Continued on the next page