Burst Economy

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= work style of web workers which Anne Zelenka contrasts with the busyness economy.


From http://annezelenka.com/2007/06/knowledge-economy-drucker-vs-web-economy-zelenka :

"The busyness economy works on face time, incremental improvement, strategic long-term planning, return on investment, and hierarchical control. The burst economy, enabled by the Web, works on innovation, flat knowledge networks, and discontinuous productivity".


From http://annezelenka.com/2007/06/knowledge-economy-drucker-vs-web-economy-zelenka :

If you produce what you need to, we don’t care when you do it or how long it takes

Busy: Show your face during all standard working hours. Burst: If you produce what you need to, we don’t care when you do it or how long it takes.

The busy economy relies on face time as a proxy measure of real work. The burst economy relies on workstreaming — the flow of output that a worker creates, documented online as automatically as possible. With the Web, we don’t need to use proxy measures like face time any more. We can see what people are doing, through their blogs, the knowledge they put onto wikis, via source code check-ins or online to do lists showing marching progress towards a goal.

For those still stuck on face time, though, the burster who doesn’t show up at normal hours looks unproductive no matter how much he produces. The busy aren’t watching your workstream — they just want to know whether you showed up before 9 am and left no earlier than dinnertime.

Use better ways to communicate when available including blogs, wikis

Busy: Immediate response to email required. Burst: Use better ways to communicate when available including blogs, wikis, IM, chat rooms, SMS, and RSS.

Email is the natural habitat of the busy — everything goes there, from reminders of tasks they need to do to documents they’re collaborating on with colleagues to read-only announcements to an archive of project information. The busy expect immediate response to email. They live in their email and they expect you to also.

Bursters realize they don’t need to live in their email or respond immediately because the information will find them in other ways. They look irresponsible to the busy who jump on each email as soon as it arrives. Bursters know you should try instant messaging if you need a quick answer, go with a blog post if you’re announcing something, and use a wiki for archiving information useful to the entire team. Bursters know that you can use RSS readers with RSS alerts to track all sorts of useful events from system management to code check-ins to development schedule updates to mailing list messages — your email doesn’t have to serve that role. Bursters know that the less they respond by email, the more their colleagues will seek them out using other channels.

Connect laterally outside your department and company.

Busy: Manage the hierarchy inside your company. Burst: Connect laterally outside your department and company.

The busy prioritize good relations with their boss and their boss’ boss and their boss’ boss’ boss. The busy spend time managing down also, by making sure their subordinates are not slacking off on showing their faces and immediately responding to email requests.

Bursters see that opportunities to take 2,000 steps forward in one hyperleap are more likely to happen through connections with people outside the company. To the busy, bursters look uncommitted to the company because they’re not playing by the old hierarchical rules.

Declarative availability.

Busy: Always available during working hours. Burst: Declarative availability.

The busy wouldn’t dream of announcing on Twitter that they were headed to the mall to stock up on underwear — because that would ruin the carefully constructed illusion that they’re always working from 8 am to 6 pm.

Bursters don’t hesitate to declare what they’re doing whether it’s personal or professional, because this makes it easier for colleagues to connect, collaborate, and coordinate with them — it makes teams more productive and binds them together on a human level. Of course, this is yet another way that bursters look to the busy like irresponsible, unproductive goof-offs.

Web surfing fertilizes and seeds the soil of the mind.

Busy: Web surfing is bad. Burst: Web surfing fertilizes and seeds the soil of the mind.

Bursters spend some working time each day surfing the Web, so they can understand the present and see the future. To the busy, that’s just wasting time.

Try agile experimentation and fast failure instead.

Busy: Long-term planning rules. Burst: Try agile experimentation and fast failure instead.

Bursters try crazy projects and watch them flame out fast as the busy look on with smirks on their faces. “How dumb,” the busy think. But it’s not dumb, because one day those bursters will fly forward at warp speed, when one of the experiments works. Meanwhile, they’ll have learned all sorts of things from their failures and made good connections in the process." (From http://annezelenka.com/2007/06/knowledge-economy-drucker-vs-web-economy-zelenka)

More Information

See the related entry on Workstreaming