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.



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.


World’s shortest business book?

We all agree that business books have a tradition of being way too long. This night I googled the term and came up with – nothing. Could this be real? Has there been no claim of this title? This cannot stand!

So, please join me in an exploration to find/create the shortest business book in the world. I'll pitch in my contribution here below. Slightly idealistic, but hey that's me… Please ammend/change it as you fit by writing comments. Or submit your own version. Or point to the ones already written. 

Hopefully we can collectively claim the title in the near future. Or just have fun trying ;)

But remember. Keep it short! :)


Title: How to build a sustainable business

Chapter 1. Over time revenues should be higher than costs. Preferably much higher.

Chapter 2. Only sell what customers actually want to buy. 

Chapter 3. Be kind and helpful. To customers. To employees. To society. And to the environment. 



The coming decade: will we learn to live sustainably?

Right. It has been more than two weeks since I posted my thoughts on the coming decade. You can read the extended Swedish version here. And the English summary here. Today I thought I’d further explore the first of five proposed action areas – Stopping the destruction of our planet.

This does sound awfully pretentious, and I’m pretty sure I’ll expose myself to criticism either way I decide to write about it. So here goes.

I’m certainly no environmental expert, or climate expert for that matter. But I can look with my own eyes and I can use my common sense. The ways we humans are pushing the usage of planetary resources is unsustainable, and we must sooner, rather than later, get on to a track of sustainable life on Earth.

This simple conclusion seems to be very difficult for us to grasp.

It seems we don’t have dealing with such a challenge wired into our systems. Sure, there are lots of smart people out there that have written smart stuff that would make sense to adopt in order for us to be more sustainable. But we don’t. Or we do, but extremely slowly. There is no way we are adopting new technologies and lifestyles fast enough to offset the destruction. Add to that the amazing level of population growth we still have.

The pressure on planetary resources is continuing to build, instead of easing off. Some smart folks are speculating if we’ll be passing a tipping point soon. Or if we already have. Some other smart folks are saying there might not be a tipping point – we can carry on as usual.

Me, I say let us use the precautionary principle. Let us not put us in a position where we find out if there is a tipping point or not. Let us ease off and share what we have. Let us also make sure that we use planetary resources in a way that they can replenish. Let us stop using the stuff we know is poisonous. I could go on, but I know you know the drill.

Point is, I’m pretty sure we know how to live sustainably – at a personal level and at a societal level. The biggie is to chose to do so. The biggie is to chose another mental model to live by. And since my professional arena is helping businesses and organizations develop I’d also like to point what perhaps is bleeding obvious – this cuts right to the core of any organization’s raison d’etre! All organizations have to make the transition to sustainability. Period.

This I believe we have to put in place the coming decade. No more. No less.

I once again quote Daniel Quinn who I think has captured our challenge very poignantly:

”Something extraordinary will happen in the next two to three decades; the people of our culture will learn to live sustainably – or not. Either way, it will be extraordinary.”   

With hope for the right kind of extraordinary decade.


Rant about the innovation charade

I seldom have much to say about innovation. I might have a little more to say about entrepreneurship, and perhaps even a little more about creativity. And always always from a strategic point of view, and rarely from a tools or methods point of view.

After reading a number of posts and tweets about innovation recently I feel obliged to put my foot down. There is too much hogwash going around, almost exclusively spread by consultants and ”experts”.

I admire any organization that genuinely wants to become more innovative. But quite frankly this is very rare. Most approach issues like innovation and creativity with very shallow insights about organizational behavior, if any at all. I’m not saying I’m all knowing myself. But I do know when efforts to innovate are wasted and only part of a charade to look good and active.

You see, there is a universal truth of some sorts regarding creativity, entrepreneurship and innovation – those that are already good have the fabric to get better. Those that are mediocre or bad stay that way.

In general, but not always.

If you really want clues about how to break loose from mediocrity read Good to Great and apply the principles. After 7-10 years of hard disciplined work you may have success at your culture shift. 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…

So, don’t bring in the marketing experts or the creatives from your ad agency and think they can do anything smart with your mediocre organization. Well, they can be smart of course, but stuff needs to be implemented by YOU and your org. And if you don’t have a creative and innovative culture how can you ever hope to deeply understand the stuff they suggest in relation to your business. It becomes blind leading blind. They are creative but don’t deeply understand your business. You are weak on creativity but (hopefully) understand your business deeply. Not a good match, and very very hard to bridge.

Furthermore, consider the customer’s perspective. You offer him/her new services, features, new slick design, etc. Top notch innovative standard (if you are lucky). But most likely your employees and your administrative structures can’t keep up with your efforts. They weren’t involved. And if they were, they weren’t given time to learn and adapt. So, they most likely will not be well grounded in your new innovative approach. Question: do you think your customer will notice? You bet your ass they will. And they will let you know about their dissatisfaction in relation to what you promise them through your marketing. And you will struggle. And save some relationships but lose others because you can’t be everywhere. And eventually you’ll be back at square one, only more frustrated.

I know this is a depressing message to convey. But this is also where we can dig out our ultimate organizational challenges. By approaching issues of innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship as a continuous process that involves EVERYONE in your organization, and not a as short term fix involving a few ”top” people.

On the other hand, if you are cool with keeping up a charade then by all means keep it going. Nobody will be happier than your consultants.