In addition to the political, economic and historical environment, ultimately, factors determining the success of a nation are: an adequate institutional structure with an interrelated set of norms; an organizational culture – a system of shared meaning within an organization that determines, to a large degree, how employees act; and management as a set of activities that act on organizations’ resources to achieve given objectives with efficiency and effectiveness.

Two otherwise similar societies will slowly drift apart institutionally. The differences created by institutional drifts become consequential, because they influence how society reacts to changes in economic or political circumstances during critical junctures.

There has long been recognition that organizational bureaucracy impedes innovation, agility and success. Walk into a typical office less than a century ago and one would expect to see long rows of desks, regimented in army fashion, with typists clicking away from nine to five – all under a managerial ethos that borrowed heavily from the military’s command-and-control structure.

For half a century from 1962, there have been successive theories and attempts to free the creativity of human capital. Most of these management theories were based on the view that computers could change the ways organizations work.

The theme of network was big in the eighties, and empowerment and networking were big in the nineties. But what has really changed?

Corporations have become networked in the sense that they build business webs with partners on a platform of information technology. While this is a huge development, fundamental changes in the internal structure and management of organizations have been elusive.

Traditional hierarchies still exist. Bosses still expect to be bosses. Command and control is alive and well. To researchers, this partly explains why there is considerable dissatisfaction in the workplace today.

However, the new business environment, the internet Generation, and the rise of a new web are finally beginning to change all this. Most large organizations today are geographically dispersed. This fuels a need for people to communicate and work together while being separated by great distances. Networking technologies allow companies to run cohesive yet decentralized operations by linking employees in virtual teams and communities of practice.

Competitive pressures, meanwhile, are making organizations leaner and more agile. More focused on the customer, and more attuned to dynamic competitive strategies. At the same time, the nature of work itself is changing. Work has become more cognitively complex, more team-based and collaborative, more dependent on social skills, more time pressured, more reliant on technological competence, more mobile, and less dependent on geography.

The continuous flow of new technology into the workplace has been a key source of change in the way that we work. Today, a younger generation of workers is embracing new web-based tools in a way that often confounds older generations but promises real advantages for companies that adapt their style of working. Tools such as blogs, wikis, chat rooms, peer-to-peer networks, and personal broadcasting are putting unprecedented power in the hands of individual workers to communicate and collaborate more productively. This in turn is driving a new revolution in workplace collaboration of a different, qualitative nature. Having matured quickly in the last three years, these weapons of mass collaboration enable employees to engage and co-create with more people, in more regions of the world. The increasingly open source nature of these tools means that this new infrastructure for collaboration is accessible to a much wider base of people and businesses.

A new demographic is arriving in today’s workplace that cannot imagine a world without Google or mobile phones. The Net-Gen (net generation) has experienced these inventions and breakthroughs as part of their birthright, and unlike earlier generations who have had to adapt or acclimatize to instant messaging, chat groups, playlists, peer-to-peer file sharing, and online multiplayer video games, they will increasingly bring a new collaborative ethos into the workplace. The new workplace is about much more than wikis and other technologies, just as wikis are about much more than Wikipedia.

Whereas previous generations value loyalty, seniority, security, and authority, the Net-Gen’s norms reflect a desire for creativity, social connectivity, fun, freedom, speed, and diversity in their workplaces. Attracting, engaging, and retaining these employees in an increasingly competitive environment will demand that companies understand the Net Generation and the individuals who will emerge as its leaders. Leaders in governments, big and small organizations and big corporations operating as national and multinational businesses have the responsibility to make use of present day facilities for the good of the common individuals confronting a host of problems everywhere — in developed as well as developing societies.

 The Writer is a former director NIPA, a political analyst, a public policy expert and an author.