Is the present ‘corporate model’ outdated and flawed?

One thing that fascinates me is how as humans, when we get together in groups, and I mean big groups, things can suddenly get a whole lot more complicated, particularly in the way that individuals feel within that group.

Think about large companies and how often people will say that the culture is toxic. Think about cultural change initiatives, and even though the best intent is there, and the time and money investment is made, in many instances it just remains a miserable place to work. There are definitely some great places to work, and there are extraordinary people who are committed to creating and supporting such work places, don’t get me wrong, but I am wracking my brain as to why it is so hard for work places in general to maintain an inspiring and productive culture. Time and time again I hear of almost Dilbert like examplesof really silly things happening in the corporate world, not necessarily because of oneindividual's stupidity, but as a result of the way that the individuals work and communicate with each other! (By the way, Richard Branson believes that eventually office buildings wont even exist, I wonder how that will impact the system if it becomes reality?).

This Daniel Pink quote (from this popular Ted Talk about motivation) I think provides some of the answer…

"In the 20th century, we came up with this idea of management. Management did not emanate from nature. Management is not a tree, it's a television set. Somebody invented it. It doesn't mean it's going to work forever. Management is great. Traditional notions of management are great if you want compliance. But if you want engagement, self-direction works better."

The interesting thing about this is that the Ted Talk is seven years old! And as much as autonomy, mastery and purpose seemed like a great idea at the time, how many companies are managing to do this well? I think he is bang on about his ideas around management and reward/recognition working only for low skilled tasks, but what is the new way to incent people and get them performing not only at their best, but also with a higher level of fulfillment?

The very smart Dr Jason Fox states in his book ‘How to Lead a Quest’ that the default ‘enterprise model’ has been built to instill order and resist change, and that this is exactly what holds us back. He suggests that the way forward is to instead look at pioneering leadership, which is essentially looking at things differently and embracing experimentation and learning, accepting uncertainty and celebrating smaller wins, having fun with quests and recognizing meaningful progress (sorry Jason if that is a bit of a dog’s breakfast of a description, I just think it’s all so good!).

I mentioned Patrick Hollingworth’s thought provoking blog about a month back where he basically has the guts to call it like it is (on our western approach on general!) and say…

"Our traditional western approach to the world is fundamentally flawed. As in, it’s fcuked. Broken. Kaput. C’est finis."

So what’s the answer?

For me personally, I am leaving it up to the insanely smart minds of the likes of Jason, Patrick and Daniel to continue to explore and challenge. They are looking at all sorts of things from technology to gamification to neurophysics for the answers.

In addition to the experts mentioned here, I think Raj Sisodia’s and Seth Godin’s work are well worth a read, as are Jason Fried, Stephen Johnston and Simon Dowling. Here in New Zealand, Michael Henderson and Blacksmith’s Kate Billing are leading the way in my opinion.

My personal focus is now clearly on individuals and how they can work within their own environments and lives to create success, fulfillment and freedom for themselves.

It may sound like a cop out but personally, I find the complexity of working out how humans can play nicely together in big groups a little overwhelming. I do believe that with our time of unprecedented change, the old ways are not going to serve us any more. The more people start challenging the status quo, the more likely the overarching model will transcend into something way more powerful, enjoyable and relevant to our tomorrow.

If you are part of a large organization, and particularly if you are in a leadership role, then I urge you to start listening to (and even partaking in!) some of these fascinating conversations around the future of working in groups. Congratulations to those of you who are already doing this; I know of some brilliant initiatives, which are succeeding in spite of being within ‘the machine’.

If you are a disillusioned individual, I believe you have three options;

  1. hang in there (that’s not really an option!),
  2. work out what you truly want to do and go out and make it happen or
  3. start to champion being a change in the organization where you presently work (definitely the harder option, but maybe the most fulfilling!). For the latter two options, my program LabYOU would be ideal to support you with this.

The answer is not easy, but the more of us who operate within the present and flawed system start challenging and exploring, rather than accepting ‘what is’, the more likely we are to find it!

Posted on November 4, 2016 .