Today we are transitioning from a hierarchical society to a network society that favors peer-based relationships. The network society does not automatically privilege rank, so in cases where genuine communication will occur only between peers, networks ensure that the individual is not trapped in a limited perspective that does not accurately reflect reality. Because flow is more important than power, individuals who facilitate processes will be more valued than positions in static hierarchies. Networks reflect the assumptions of peer-based thinking and conflict with the assumptions of rank-based thinking, especially when it comes to addressing power and other people.
Peer-based organizations will have a competitive advantage over rank-based companies in the network society. With help from the work of Manuel Castells in The Rise of the Network Society (1996) we can identify some of the characteristics of this kind of society:
No single centralized authority, but multiple centers of decision making that are globally interdependent
Different, yet parallel, paths of systems and processes making the network society resilient yet incredibly open and adaptable to a changing environment
Ability to expand without limits and to innovate without threatening its balance
Open communication and information flowing across all domains of human activity and experience
Belief that process is more important and powerful than position, and that the key resource is neither land nor capital, but knowledge and information
Networks apply the logic of peer-based management for decision making and for the meaning of individual identity and human relationships in organizations ”fundamentally different from the management logic in rank-based organizations. It's commonly said that you lead people and manage things, but I suggest that leading, as we understand it today, is a rank-based practice that will no longer serve our social and organizational contexts. In peer-based organizations, the practice of management will exclude leaders as we have come to understand the concept. It's not about learning a new gimmick or technique to "lead," something that all employees know is just another attempt to manipulate them to get more for less. It's about rejecting rank-based thinking altogether and the false belief that a single person, or just a few persons, at the top of the organization create its success or failure. Again, networks require a different logic from that of hierarchies to be successful ”a peer-based logic as opposed to rank-based logic.