Ackoff on Business Schools

Russel Ackoff about business schools. His thoughts fit into my exploration of human friendly organizations as one of several clues. In fact we cannot discuss how to make organizations more human friendly without also deconstructing the mental models of our education systems. I hope things have started to shift in business schools since this was written, but I have to admit that I see very little evidence of it.

"I have ‘‘endeared’’ myself to some faculty and business schools by identifying the three things that business schools do for students. First, they provide students with a vocabulary that enables them to talk with authority about subjects they do not understand. Second, they transmit to them a set of principles that have demonstrated an ability to withstand any amount of disconfirming evidence. Third, they provide a ticket of admission to a job where they can learn something about management and business. Around 95 percent of what managers use on the job they learned on the job. The most they get out of business school is connections. Attendance at a business is justified economically in terms of return on investment, but not in terms of providing an education."

(Quote from STRATEGY & LEADERSHIP, VOL. 31 NO. 3 2003, pp. 19-26, MCB UP Limited, ISSN 1087-8572)



Exploring human friendly organizations

It is my conviction that the future of any organization, commercial or non-commercial lies, in becoming human friendly. Organizational life today is mostly a drag. Up to 75% percent of employees are unengaged at work. This represents a huge waste of potential and real value. Social, economic and ecological value. But foremost human value!

In the coming (somewhat irregularly written) posts I'll explore what I mean by being a human friendly organization. I'll show you examples of organizations that are doing good work in this space. I'll visualize the kind of transformation the rest will have to undergo. I'll give you insights into the types of human qualities we need to encourage and build within our organizations. I'll share leadership challenges.

This is all part of my ongoing exploration work so I'm very happy for comments, questions and contributions.




Rant on innovation

I wrote this on January 2, 2009. After coming back from two days at a conference on innovation in the public sector I was just about to write a rant about the goings on in this field. But something in me said I had already written it… And so I had. Here is a small excerpt:

If you really want your organization to be more innovative, creative and entrepreneurial – go to school and study the best. Steal from them and implement. But foremost understand that this is a process of changing culture that takes time, a long time. And be humble to the fact that you might not succeed. Organizations have been known to resist change…

Here is the full post. I'd love to know what you think.


PS. In general I find it more and more intersting to explore the charades we employ in our organizations. I'l be writing about this in a coming post. DS.


Troubling stuff

Read this.

"The study, called "State of Create," found that eight in 10 people believe that creativity is critical to economic growth. But it also found that only one in four people feel like they are living up to their own creative potential. And 75% of respondents said they feel like their employers put more pressure on them to be productive than to be creative."




Holy moly

This post in Management Issues just baffled me. Consider this:

"In fact, four out of 10 of the 500 employees surveyed said that innovation is either a long shot for their company or a mere "buzz word" the company would like to embrace."

"According to research carried out in 2010 by the Nielsen Company, organizations with less senior management involvement in the new product development process generate 80 per cent more new product revenue than those with heavy senior management involvement."

"A culture of innovation will support ideas coming from any individual, any level and sometimes from unusual places in the organization."

I rest my case. Do you now get why organizations need to be more human friendly?


Hacking Management

A couple of years ago I went to London and participated in the launch of Julian Berkinshaw's book Reinventing Management. That put me on track for his and Gary Hamel's joint work into Management Innovation. As with all new strands of work you see some very interesting stuff and you see some not so impressive stuff. But they have stayed on track and their work has among other things evolved into The Management Exchange or The MiX.

I can recommend that you spend some time at The Mix. Check out what they are doing. See some interesting clips. Read about the different 'hacks' of management that are being tested.

It is work life this that we need to be doing on a wider scale, in each organization. I agree with the basic premise they make. Management as a technology is mature and needs to be innovated, or rather reinvented. 20 years from now we'll be amazed over the progress we've made. For now we're stuck in confusion and frustration over an organizational model that is losing it's ability to deliver what we need. And is step by step draining us of our most precious resource – our dignity and humanity.



Peter Senge on collective smartness and more

Peter Senge shares his thoughts on systems, learning and collaboration vs individuality. See the whole clip. Take a while and reflect. Then think hard about you organization. I hope you see some potential for new perspectives and initiatives ;) If we want our organizations to suck less, this is the kind of thinking we need to put to work.



What goes around comes around

The last two weeks have been pretty amazing for me. Lots of exciting things in the making and I have been a little over-whelmed about the relative easiness in moving things ahead. When I reflected upon why I was experiencing this I reached these conclusions.

  • People I interact with respond favorably to the new directions I am exploring, not only because they like the directions, but also just because I now have a more apparent direction (or directions). Direction matters.
  • Enthusiasm and engagement can be very contagious. People respond better to folks who are engaged in their work. They want in on the energy. They offer to help. Enthusiasm matters.
  • Most of the folks I'm interacting with are my friends. New friends, old friends. Friends of friends. They are not primarily business aquaintances. They are friends. Relationship "capital" matters.
  • We might forget details from the past. But we remember if people are honest and friendly. We remember if they have made good contributions before. Obviously I have a few screw ups in my track record but today I am extremly happy I have always chosen to be responsible, generous and fair. And always delivered at the top of my capacity. History matters.

What goes around comes around. No rocket science, but good to reenforce. 



Some personal thoughts about work

In my early thirties I spent a night in intensive care with a suspected heart attack. It later turned out to be a massive stress reaction. I didn't sleep that night. Instead thought about why I was constantly pushing myself to the limit in my work. What was so important that I evidently was prepared to destroy myself?  

Early next morning I had figured it out. I had arrived at the conclusion that I was prepared to kill myself to earn love and recognition. 

Now, once I had exposed this to myself it was impossible to continue with the destructive behavior. It just seemed so stupid. And I quickly realized if it was love and recognition I was after, there probably were smarter ways to get them. I had reached a new level of understanding about myself. 

I will admit that it took some time to change the everyday realities of my life. There were a lot of social "contracts" that had to be renegotiated with family, friends and colleagues. Not always successfully which has ended some relationships. Still, all in all a real improvement in my life.

The remaining problem with this process is that it took away the meaning of work from me. What happened was I started to work less. To do away with the immediate pressure. But also because it freed up time to explore other things, or simply do nothing. On an intellectual level I understand that I need to work, both as a means for supporting myself and a way of building my self worth. But I must admit I have very little emotional drive in my work.

The paradox is that I seem to be doing better work than ever and earning more while working less and less. This baffles me a little as it is contrary to what I was taught to believe in. 

During my current sabbatical I have examined this paradox some and have challenged myself to rediscover the meaning of my work. The model I'm currently running may work well enough for me, but what I have discovered is that I'm easily bored and seldom challenged to my full potential. This cannot be sustainable. So, I find myself convinced that if I'm going to work for 20 or so more years I'll need to put more emotional "capital" into my work.

Where this will put me looking forward is to be discovered. It is darn scary and very exciting at the same time.