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Barley’s Law

At the Academy of Management annual meeting in Montreal last week, I attended the OCIS division keynote presentation by Steve Barley entitled IT in the Wild.

Speaking about the introduction of new technology, he proposed Barley’s Law:

You almost never get only what you expect and most of the time you don’t even get that.

And, the Corollary:

However, something will happen.

His talk was primarily about industrial relations, how worker and management relationships have been impacted in the last 20-30 years due to increased Information Technology and telecommunications usage. The broad outline of his message is that IT has largely failed to deliver promised benefits to workers, instead largely serving established powerful interests.