No Image Available


Read more from TrainingZone

googletag.cmd.push(function() { googletag.display(‘div-gpt-ad-1705321608055-0’); });

The Network Economy


At this Breakfast Meeting, organised by The Institute of Continuing Professional Development, and held on 21 November 2000 in London, Will Hutton, Chief Executive of The Industrial Society explored changes to the ways in which we work and do business and highlighted some of the social and political implications.

Will began his talk with the observation by Keynes that the point about the future is that it is unknowable. But if we start with the present – and in particular the economic state of the world – we cannot help but be struck by the huge financial flows and increasing volatility of world trade. Against this background we are witnessing a continuing growth in the liberalisation of trade and rapid increases in the demand for both products and labour. The globalisation of the economy has given rise to dense concentrations of corporate power and at the same time, from a technological perspective, increasing digitisation has made it easier for industries to converge.

The ICT revolution is bringing with it an organisational shift: from hierarchical structures to networks. The media industry is a good example of this shift. Not so long ago programmes were largely centrally commissioned and made in house, with each person having a specific job and a clearly defined position in the hierarchy. Now the usual scenario is such that independent commissioning editors, writers, producers, directors, camera operators, sound technicians, and so on come together to work on and complete a project, after which they split up and form new networks for their next projects. Developments in ICT and the growth of networks also have an effect on the speed of scientific progress. The human genome project has made such rapid progress because digitalised information has been circling the globe and worked on twenty-four hours a day, with the result that the project has taken 3 years to complete instead of 10.

Will then went on to draw distinctions between what he called hot and cold networks. Hot networks exist in, and indeed create, areas of considerable affluence. They comprise individuals who are skilled in the use of ICT, count knowledge among their key assets, have high levels of interpersonal skill, and are mobile both geographically and socially. At the same time as developing their own networks, hot networkers help to create a growth in new services including, for example, personal training, coaching and educational therapy. These networkers tend to be individualistic. Cold networks by contrast consist of people who are cut off from advances in ICT and the knowledge economy. These people generally lack key social skills and are by and large engaged in unsatisfying jobs. They usually have to take what work they can get and are more likely to suffer from social exclusion. Much work in cold networks is sub-contractual. The lack of appropriate social skills makes it difficult for members of cold networks to access hot networks. There is then a big gap between members of the two types of network and this gap seems to be getting wider. There is also an increasing geographical separation.

Following the collapse of communism we now see more clearly some of the negative aspects of extreme capitalism, where, says Will, the haves have and the have-nots are excluded. The relative egalitarian nature of Britain, evident during the 50s and 60s, and appearing as social democracy or one-nation Conservatism, is declining and a drawbridge community developing. It is essential for the cohesiveness of society that the members of cold networks be pulled in to hot networks, but how is this to be achieved? High-quality health and education are vital for a successful and inclusive society. Such a society, according to Will, also requires a degree of redistributive taxation, a strong social insurance system, solid pension provision and effective unemployment support.

During the discussion session there were questions about the position of the UK in relation to the social models of Europe and the USA. Will Hutton spoke of the US culture, which emphasises the importance of the individual, whilst at the same time accommodating high concentrations of corporate power. Will’s own preference is for the European social model, with which he believes the UK has more in common and which is better equipped to tackle the problem of social exclusion. As the global network economy grows, one of the most pressing issues facing us is how to ensure that its benefits are made available to all.

A more detailed report of the meeting appears in the January 2001 issue of the ICPD Newsletter available to members. Enquiries should be addressed to Helen Nother at the ICPD office.

Report by Graham Guest.


Get the latest from TrainingZone.

Elevate your L&D expertise by subscribing to TrainingZone’s newsletter! Get curated insights, premium reports, and event updates from industry leaders.


Thank you!