Death to the Hierarchy

I picked up a magazine on an airplane last week. I opened to a page that read, “Dissent in the ranks. Difficult employees should be brought in the fold or shown the door.”

What fold? The world as it was is no more.

I believe that the root problem in our struggling economies is not the mortgage crisis, gas prices, wars or global warming. It’s the companies refusing to change, suffocating the passion, curiosity and creativity that employees bring when them when they join a company. Sticking to the past will not bode well for the future in a competitive, global marketplace.

The world as it was is no more.

The design of THE CORPORATION came out of the Industrial Age, where it was most important that we manage processes. Organizations needed to be lean, mean machines with zero defects. Recognition was based on numbers. Promotions were based on technical skill.

Now instead of managing process, in the Information Age, the Technological Age, the Age of the Internet, the focus must shift to leading interconnected communities of people.

The world as it is, is different.

The workforce is more educated. The workforce is less afraid of change. They grew up online searching, reading, scrutinizing, authenticating, collaborating, sharing and expressing their views. They don’t want to be told what to do. They want to be challenged to find what is best to do.

Have you heard of the website TakingITGlobal.com? It’s a website focuses on solving difficult issues in the world, like improving education in developing countries, decreasing HIV/Aids, dealing with climate change and promoting the presence of youth in the major World Summits. Who logs on here? Kids. Teenagers. From all over the world, they come together to participate in and contribute to the global society.

And when they don’t feel so serious…
A child in Kentucky fights an enemy of the universe with another kid in Hong Kong. A young girl in Tokyo writes a song and shares it with her new friend in Paris. A boy tells the history of dance through his moves on Utube and he becomes famous world-wide in a week.

These are your new employees. How are you going to engage them?

Performance is no longer an independent quest for achievement. It’s about peering, sharing, socializing, collaborating and creating with loosely connected communities. Can you create a culture like that? Can you help to shift your company to incorporate peering, sharing, socializing, collaborating and creating with loosely connected communities…what would your org chart look like? It reminds me of a brain; certainly not a hierarchy.

There is still the need for productivity and profitability. Yet what drives these numbers is different. The single most important variable in leading today is engagement.

Engagement is the power to activate an employee’s passion and desire to go beyond the goals and expectations. They are doing it on the Internet. Can you tap into that?

Daniel Kahneman, a 2002 Nobel prize winner, said, “Business is more about emotions than most businesspeople care to admit. It’s time to put the passion for work and the joy of creation back into business.”

Are you up to this challenge? Are you willing to do what it takes to engage employees today, to inspire and steer their energy and their attention, to share their knowledge and commit their skill?

In the past, it the key word was security. Today, the key word is community. In the past, we wanted to accumulate. Today, employees want to create.

I propose a quick death to the rigid hierarchy, to the old paradigms and to the language of measured performance.

What will you put in their place? This is your challenge today, to create the environment to engage both the hearts and minds of this new generation. I have some ideas. What are yours?

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