The first and most important truth any leader must understand is that the human beings who work inside every kind of organization possess unlimited potential. They have the ability to solve any problem and the adaptability to respond to unforeseen circumstances. It may be the most overworked truism in the business world, but employees are indeed the most valuable resource and asset that any company has.
“Well, good morning. Nice of you to finally join us!” “He’s always taking long lunches.” “Wish I could leave at 4:30 every day...must be nice!” “Is he ever at his desk?” “Sure must be great to work from home every Friday.” “Seems like she uses all her sick days to go shopping.” “Oh, she’s home with a sick kid... again. I need to get myself a kid.”
Do any of these phrases sound familiar? We call this “Sludge.”
Sludge is the workplace chatter that reinforces the idea that people can’t be trusted with complete autonomy. We identified Sludge as one of the most powerful and persistent barriers to a productive, creative, and fulfilling workplace when we were developing the Results-Only Work Environment (ROWE). Sludge can be mean-spirited gossip or even friendly banter. We Sludge (it’s a noun and a verb!) for many reasons, but it’s ultimately meant to either directly or indirectly shame a coworker for not approaching work the way it’s “supposed” to be approached.
Sludge is a powerful force in maintaining the status quo and implies that work only happens at...
In April 2013, CIPD and the Management Innovation eXchange (MIX) invited HR and business leaders to crack the adaptability challenge through a hackathon—an online problem-solving event designed to harness the collective intelligence of progressive HR and management practitioners from around the w
When it comes to building management and business models that are fit for the 21 st century, one of the fundamental challenges is developing organizations that are capable of discovering, nurturing, aggregating, and appropriately rewarding contributions from employees, customers, suppliers, and other stakeholders across boundaries.
So much of the conversation in business is about power: what you control (“I run a $200 million piece of the business”), who you control (“My 350 direct reports”), and how you control (org charts, pay grades, policy manuals). Of course, power and control are spectacularly subpar strategies for unleashing human imagination, initiative, and passion—all those qualities every organization needs in abundance in order to thrive in the Creative Economy.
For all of the billions organizations invest each year in “leadership development,” a criminal amount of human potential is left on the table. Training and development programs almost universally focus factory-like on inputs and outputs: absorb curriculum, check a box; learn a skill, advance a rung; submit an assessment, fix a problem. Flavor-of-the-month remedies, off-the-shelf programs, immersions, and excursions stuff people full of competencies and skills but produce astonishingly few great leaders.
The fact is, truly gifted leaders are rare. Gandhi, Abraham Lincoln, Steve Jobs—all sui generis . We celebrate them because they are the exception to the rule. That doesn’t stop us from constructing a model of executive perfection that borders on fantasy. The thousands of books, models, and gurus that make up the leadership industry are remarkably in sync when it comes to the qualities of a great leader: confident yet humble, creative yet analytical, flexible yet focused, bold yet prudent, decisive yet reflective, visionary yet practical, demanding yet empathetic.
Who on earth embodies all of these estimable (and contradictory) traits? No single person, of course. And that’s exactly the point. We live in a world where change is too fast, relentless, and surprising and...
Is everyone creative? Sure they are but in very different ways and to varying degrees. There is a big difference between the folksong you wrote for your college sweetheart and a symphony composed by Beethoven. Our democratic longing to make everyone and everything equal has lead us to make creative greatness indistinguishable from an act of personal expression. What is lacking is meaningful appreciation of the different levels of creativity and how we can use them as steps for increasing our own potential.
Borrowing from everyone from Aristotle to Zappa, let’s examine the five levels and types of creativity, from the easiest to the most difficult to master, and some of the creative methodologies associated with each.
Mimesis is a term passed down to us from the Ancient Greeks meaning to imitate or mimic. This is the most rudimentary form of creativity. Animals from Caledonian crows to orangutans have the ability to create tools simply by observing other creatures. Watch a mother and child together and it becomes clear that we do the same. It is the foundation of the learning process.
An often overlooked form of creativity is simply taking...
For too long the ruling ideology of too many organizations has been control: controlling people, controlling information, controlling deviations from the norm. The good news is that we already have a potent model of freedom as an organizing principle. It’s called the Internet.
While the Web has its limits, it is a relentlessly productive seedbed for new organizational forms where: coordination happens without centralization, contribution counts for more than credentials, all ideas compete on equal footing, power comes from sharing rather than hoarding, and where intrinsic rewards matter most of all.
We have experienced such an expansion in freedom in our personal lives with the emergence of digital, social and mobile technologies and the principles that undergird them. It’s time for the workplace to catch up.
When it comes to expanding individual autonomy—and reaping the rewards of increased initiative, creativity, and passion—organizations will get the most traction if they focus on experiments and clever designs for enhancing five crucial freedoms:
CONNECTION Social media opens up endless possibilities for connection. The ability to reach others—instantaneously, without friction—is now woven into the fabric of daily life. Twitter opens the door to the famous, the powerful, the iconic—anyone...
Over the last decade, digital, social, and mobile technologies have greatly expanded the scope of personal freedom—the freedom to connect with anyone anywhere in the world; the freedom to contribute and to make a real impact on the basis of merit rather than position; the freedom to create and express oneself; the freedom to choose what to buy, what to join, what to work on; and the freedom to challenge , to speak up, to push back, to rise up.
Thanks to digital technologies and social media, we have more choice than ever in our personal lives; but at work, not so much. To be sure, many companies have adopted “Enterprise 2.0” technology and tools to drive internal collaboration and engagement with external communities, but there’s little evidence that these new tools have significantly enlarged the scope of employee autonomy.
That’s no surprise. The broad majority of organizations operate according to bureaucratic practices and principles designed to maximize standardization, specialization, predictability, and efficiency. In other words, most of our organizations are designed for control—controlling people, controlling information...
Remember that classic New Yorker cartoon with Rover sitting in front of a computer? The caption read, “On the Internet, no one knows you’re a dog.” Well, on the web, no one knows you’re a senior vice president either. That’s why every leader is going to have to learn how to get things done in a world where authority is the reciprocal of followership.
In 1973, Peter Drucker stated in his book Management: Tasks, Responsibilities, Practices , "Management is not culture-free, that is, part of the world of nature. It is a social function. It is, therefore, both socially accountable and culturally embedded."
Tom Peters some thirteen years later in an article, Managing As Symbolic Action, remarked: "It requires us, as managers, to get people to share our sense of urgency in new priorities; to develop personal, soul-deep animus toward things as they are; to get up the nerve and energy to take on the forces of inertia that bog down any significant change program."
Yet, here we are in 2013 with organizational leadership models that continue to deny the social nature of organizations and wallow in inertia.
Our leadership practices remain authoritative. People are disengaged, distrusting and perhaps even disenfranchised.
According to the 2013 Edelman Trust Barometer, less than 20 percent of respondents believe leaders are actually telling the truth when confronted with a difficult issue in their organizations. Furthermore, a study conducted by the Human Capital Institute and Interaction Associates in 2013 found only 34 percent of organizations had high levels of trust in the places they...
Remember working for that start-up? Things were good. You responded quickly to change. You could, and often did, roll out new programs within weeks or days. Your boss approved quick changes with a simple nod. And you got results—fast.
Big Data is big business. Sensors, GPS tracking, math modeling, and artificial intelligence offer companies real-time market insights at massive scale and open the door to unprecedented ways of monitoring, targeting, and measuring employees and customers. Analyst firm Gartner predicts that enterprises adopting Big Data technologies will “outperform competitors by 20 percent in every available financial metric.”
Big Data might well be “the new oil,” but I would caution us not to worship it as the new religion. I’m afraid that amidst all the data frenzy we are not only losing a more holistic view of business but also an important part of our humanity. How do we appreciate quality if we capture it only in quants? How much (or little) space do we leave for creativity and human expression if we equate better living with better algorithms?
I am not a dataphobe, but I am concerned about relying only on data. I am not against quantitative metrics, but I question their authority as the main indicators of business performance, prosperous societies, and meaningful lives.
Big Data comes with many benefits, but let’s complement it with Big Intuition . Here are six...
We live in a world where never before has leadership been so necessary but where so often leaders seem to come up short. Our sense is that this is not really a problem of individuals; this is a problem of organizational structures—those traditional pyramidal structures that demand too much of too few and not enough of everyone else.