I was just discussing the future of publishing—in particular, the future of the magazine I edit, Home Energy—with our publisher Tom White. Tom had a great way to describe the transition we feel we are in as a magazine: We are moving from the Sage on the Stage model to the Guide on the Side model. Leadership from within, leadership that shapes and facilitates the conversation. I have worked in very top-down hierarchal systems and those that professed to be consensus/consultative based, and each has it’s drawbacks. The Guide on the Side model is an attempt to bridge the gap with something that works in the information-packed free roaming world of the internet and social media.
The problems with the hierarchical model, where the Sage imparts wisdom to the hungry masses, are clear and well documented. But an organization I worked for professed to operate as "circles within circles." What we soon discovered was that some circles are more equal than others. It was never very clear how decisions were actually made. We knew there was an editor in there somewhere deciding policy. And individual circles could be dominated by the loudest and most attention-needy. When it worked well it was because someone was a great facilitator.
I guess the Guide on the Side, when it comes to magazine publishing, depends on editors and publishers that can listen to many voices and ask some to join in a conversation—about the best way to ventilate kitchens in a Passive House, for example, in our case. Then we invite our readers into that discussion, all the while trying to mediate for clarity and to stay on topic.
Just some thoughts at this point. But wanted to practice what I want to preach. So... what do you think?