The strategy of the Individual
Replacing a team with a network
The jewellery buying for the counter in Hyper Hyper, could, in theory, have been handled using a strategy of managed teams. A team could have been used for market research to determine the best jewellery items to buy. What would be the actions of the project leader in such a team? What kind of team would be needed to keep track of the rapidly changing trends and fashions? Would such a team do any better job than an intelligent sales girl behind the counter who could observe and communicate directly with the customers?
The sales girl was a direct communication link in a communication network, a link that lead from the customers to the suppliers. There were no special procedures involved in her job, or, special training needed. She simply communicated, observed and passed the results on to a supply network
Now think of the buying side. Once the necessary information as to what to buy is available, why couldn't a managed team be used to buy directly from the manufacturers, rather than go through middlemen, the wholesalers? How would the leader or manager of such a team fulfill his or her role in directing the team? How many team members would be needed to cover all of the manufacturers? How many controls and safeguards would be needed to make sure they were working conscientiously as they travelled around the country visiting manufacturers to find out if they can make the items needed?
Even if such a team were created, what would be the pressures on team members to go to work for a competitor once they had been trained and had familiarized themselves with all the manufacturing contacts? Retaining the loyalty and services of team members would certainly require much work and ingenuity on behalf of the team leader.
The switching of loyalties in the world of bricks and mortar isn't that easy, but, what about in the environment of the Internet, where making contact and communicating with people is so easy? This brings into question the value of training people and putting them into positions of responsibility. If it is easy for people to switch loyalties as soon as they have been trained, learnt the ropes or know all the contacts, the value of a managed team would disappear. This situation was illustrated in chapter one, where all the students who were educated at the research establishment found their education put them in a position to get better jobs elsewhere.
There may be certain practical and logistical restraints to changing employment in the world of bricks and mortar, but, in the environment of the Internet the restraints are minimal. It certainly makes it reasonable for a company think carefully before they hire anyone on a permanent basis for any role in the environment of the Internet; it may make better sense to call upon the services of speciality experts as and when they are needed:. Maybe it is not practical in the world of bricks and mortar , but, it makes a great deal of sense in the environment of the Internet: the environment of e-business and e-commerce. After all, in any area of fast changing technology, job changing and the poaching of staff is a fact of life; this is not very far removed from the temporary hiring of specialists and experts.
Compare the strategy of using a managed team to buy costume jewellery buyers with the strategy of a virtual team consisting of the wholesalers. Does it make any sense to retain the same set of wholesalers each week? Doesn't it seem sensible to chop and change the members of this virtual team around as fashions change and the various virtual team members, the wholesalers, run hot and cold.
It makes sense because the virtual team is not really a team at all but a selected part of a vast information network. The interaction with this network is achieved by selecting appropriate nodes. If we replace Berwick Street with the Internet and the wholesalers of jewellery with information providers, we can see how buying costume jewellery was arranged by tapping into the nodes of a vast network of people involved with the manufacture and supply of costume jewellery.
The selected nodes act as the interface to a vast dynamic network of information flow. If this were likened to a complex electrical network, the virtual team could be thought of as a multi-wire socket: each wire to the socket coming from a different point in the electrical network. Connecting to this network is simply a matter of plugging into the socket. The trick in both cases is to make sure that the leads going to the socket are coming from the right places in the network.
If this analogy of a plug and socket is taken further, two sockets can be connected using a connecting wire and two plugs. This is the connection between two solution points in Solution Space; it can be the link between a demand and a supply. This throws the spot-light onto the sales girl who ran the jewellery counter and also did the buying. She was the connecting wire with a plug at each end. It is here, at this link between demand and supply that the efficiencies can be realise and the profits made. The trick though, is to be able to connect the right wires up to the sockets at each end. In the world of the Internet this involves finding the right collection of people to be the connection nodes into an environment of information.
It is this kind of abstract vision that provides the Zen-ness for e-business and e-commerce solutions. This ability, to abstract away from the myriad of real life detail, is what allows the streetwise to out pace and out maneuver their competitors. It allows the streetwise to avoid the many pitfalls brought about by confusion with issues relevant only to the world of bricks and mortar.