I’m currently reading ‘Pandaemonium 1660-1886: The Coming of the Machine as Seen by Contemporary Observers’ (by Humphrey Jennings, co-founder of the Mass Observation movement of the 1930s)  


It fascinates me to compare the benefits and dangers of the industrial revolution with today’s digital revolution.

Pandaemonium collects texts taken from letters, diaries, literature, scientific journals and reports of the time, and traces the development of the machine age in Britain. Covering the years between 1660 and 1886, it offers a rich tapestry of human experience, from eyewitness reports of the Luddite Riots and the Peterloo Massacre to more intimate accounts of child labour, Utopian communities, the desecration of the natural world, ground-breaking scientific experiments, and the coming of the railways. Pandomonium was originally published in 1985, and in 2012 it was the inspiration behind Danny Boyle’s Opening Ceremony for the London Olympic Games.

Interestingly (for me anyway) is the book is divided into 4 sections:

 Observations and reports

  • Exploitation
  • Revolution
  • Confusion

I spend much of my time looking at how organisations introduce and sustain knowledge sharing, collaboration and communication technology and associated behaviours.  

If we get adoption and adaption right these are disruptive technologies that can assist in changing the nature of the way colleagues engage, communicate, share, learn, nurture and collaborate with each other.

If we get adoption and adaption wrong organisations, and the people / networks within them, go through the trials and pains articulated in the chapter titles above (quick reality check – I’m not comparing the suffering of the industrial revolution with that of an employee who can’t work out the # function on their enterprise social network).

We have seen the observations and reports of how a more open and transparent environment can enhance both employees and organisations.

We are at the exploitation stage where there is a mad rush to social without the analysis or change management processes needed to create the value.

We will soon have the revolution as organisations and employees fight, struggle, resist or forge ahead in the use and value of this new way of working. Many organisations will embrace, while many will fail to get value and asset it’s the technology and / or culture that is the issue.

For those that forge ahead confusion will be created if we lose interest in the on-going stewardship of these tools and behaviours and at worst we see employees burdened with another deafening channel in an already noisy eco-system or technology.


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