The bulk of Leandro Herrero's talk focused on the paradox of the Designed vs. the Emergent organization. The designed organization is the organization represented by org. charts and teams, rational decision-making and control. The emergent organization is represented by ambiguity, social networks and communities. All enterprises have both, and the claim is that to continue learning and innovating enterprises MUST create space for the emergent activities without trying to control them. Significantly, Herrero argues that communities begin to die as soon as you try to add structure and control to them (move them from the emergent side to the design side).
Similarly, knowledge sharing and learning cannot be imposed. These things emerge from social networks and serendipitous meetings of people. Designed knowledge-sharing leads to homogeneity and sterility and very little in the way of innovation.
Given this, how do leaders create organizational learning? They don't. Sharing and learning cannot be imposed from on high. If it isn't happening, then leadership is reinforcing the wrong behaviors. Herrero described the hope that people have that if we have good objectives and processes and good technology that the "right" behaviors will just naturally fall out. This isn't the case at all. Behavior is based on many other factors, including how people are measured.
From here, Herrero went on to discuss what we can learn from some theories that are being newly applied to the business world. The six-degrees ideas suggest that we learn more from our weak ties than from the strong ties. The strong ties are people we already know and who share many commonalities with us already. The weak ties are the people who will teach us something new or give us new perspectives on vexing problems. The fact that knowledge is "leaky," that people talk, is another emergent idea. Why not let people talk in the right kinds of environments? Do not force them to be "working" all the time. Set aside 15% of their work for new projects, like they do at 3M. What about swarms and "smart mobs?" Are there ways people are using technology to collaborate and organize that we haven't exploited in the business environment? Can we? And the Open Source movement also says something about how people work. People are more than happy to give up hours of their time to collaborate on a project (Sourceforge.net has nearly 70,000 hosted projects). And people are giving up their time during the workday too, not just their "hobby time." Again, can enterprises learn from what motivates people to work together like this?
This all leads to Herrero's point that voluntary collaboration plus technology leads to "Smart mobs inside," a takeoff on the "Intel Inside" logo that everyone knows. Herrero has a new paper on 'Smart Mobs' Everywhere (pdf) that explores these ideas. Leaders must encompass both design and emergent behaviors. They need to carve out protected spaces where people can try new things. Leaders are also teachers, brokers, architects and historians.
As an aside, Herrero gave an example of a successful KM tool implementation pathway with this in mind. First, tools have to be selfish - they have to provide obvious benefit to the users, otherwise they won't bother to use them. Next, tools have to enable collaboration and communication without being a required activity in the organization. Herrero suggests that the best use for these tools needs to emerge out of how people interact with them. Only then can an enterprise make the next step and add design to how the collaboration tools are used. Finally, the organization should examine the new behaviors people have learned and design those into the fabric of the organization to reinforce the continuous learning environment.