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No organization is an island. Success may have once belonged only to those organizations that could make the most improvements and create the most value within the four walls of their own enterprise.

But now, such improvements and value creation cannot be best accomplished in a vacuum. Seemingly by the day, we are moving more toward what I am referring to as the “interprise.” (I’m sure this term is not of my own invention.)

The interprise is made up of those links that connect your organization to partners, customers, suppliers, competitors, investors, and community.

So how efficient are your links?

Are you learning from key customers and perhaps engaging them as paid consultants to improve your own products and processes?

How well-managed is your value chain?

Are your information systems prepared for real-time, multi-enterprise collaboration? Have you begun to explore the areas of common opportunity that your organization shares with partners or competitors?

The old heroic model of the enterprise — the go-it-alone, Thor-the-market-dominator model — is passing before our eyes. It reminds us of those isolated CEOs who would surround themselves with somewhat faded copies of their own opinions. In this era of the “learning organization,” that is a kind of slow death.

With the arrival of the interprise, CEOs, indeed their entire organizations, must be like Peter the Great, sneaking out of the palace late at night dressed as a commoner, so as to hear the genuine, bold voices of those who must be served.

When I think of the interprise, certain ideas percolate:

* Using the rise of Linux as a model, could there be such a thing as an “open source corporation”? And, if so, what would it be like? What kind of corporation could emerge from distributed invention?

* How must corporate governance be reexamined in the light of the increased need for collaboration and the closer integration of global supply chains? * Given greater dependence on suppliers, what are the information security threats and how can you guard against them? * Is it possible that someday soon we will see an initial public offering from a group of allied companies that recognize that their very survival depends on their connections to each other? * Could there be new life for the “cooperative” like farmer’s co-ops? * Will women — who I have long seen as better attuned to collaborative situations — take a far more important role in corporate leadership? * What are the implications for advertising, public relations, and marketing? * If the lion’s share of critical data is going to be generated outside your enterprise, how does this change the meaning of the word “integration”? When you think of your organization’s current links — its alliances, the level of its technological integration with customers and trading partners and suppliers, its commitment to its community, its dialogues with its investors — are these links creating real value? Or have they achieved exactly what some public relations or alliances person wanted them to achieve, i.e., little more than fodder for occasional promotional activities?

I assure you, there are new markets, generative ideas, and opportunities waiting in your organization’s connections, like seeds lying dormant until conditions change. And there is a wholly different type of organizational thinking that comes from thinking through your links.

This Web Marketing article was written by Chris Maher on 3/18/2005