Power doesn't scale like it used to

SG stands for So Good, and it's no coincidence in my view that those two letters are also the initials of one of my favorite thinkers, the inimitable Seth Godin.

Today's contribution to the literature is a great piece from which I extracted the above headline. The fact that power doesn't scale like it used to explains a lot.

There was a time when absolute rulers were more useful. In days when communication was slow and distance was unconquered, authoritarian rule had some compelling advantages. Hierarchy made sense when knowledge was centralized among a small elite. And that small elite perpetuate the privileges of rank by closely holding that knowledge.

The invention of the printing press made the word available to the masses, but the technology cost limited the writing of mass communication to the same elite. The old mentality was "Never fight anyone who buys ink by  the barrel", which was code for "mass communication costs a lot of money and you can't afford it".

The broadcast era initially only reinforced this media elite, as radio and TV stations were even less democratic media than print.

That began to change in the 60s with the proliferation of FM stations competing with the oligarchy of AM radio, and UHF and then cable competing with the three or four TV network.

But the real disruptor was the internet. Virtually universal web access and platforms like Twitter and Facebook gave control of the means of communication production and distribution to the masses.

Gutenberg democratized reading, Zuckerberg democratized writing. 

Everyman (and woman) is a publisher today, and we are each free to earn, churn, and burn circulation, As a result, one has to be more careful than ever who one believes. But also as a result anyone really can have their 15 minutes of fame, or even be President.

In that kind of world, where everyone can give and take information from anyone else, top down, authoritarian management is archaic in virtually all spheres of human activity: spiritual, political and commercial. We all choose what and who to believe. No one has a monopoly on either giving or receiving information and thus no one has a monopoly on power.

Organizations and leaders that cling to autocracy are unlikely to  thrive in this environment.