Our newest MIX Maverick and author of "HOW: Why HOW We Do Anything Means Everything," argues that the "soft stuff"—leadership, trust, reputation, relationships—is fast becoming the hard currency of advantage. How we behave—as individuals, leaders, and institutions—makes all the difference in the 21st century.
This summer, it’s Walter Isaacson’s biography of Steve Jobs’ singular genius that seems to be propped open on beach towels, in hammocks and at every third airplane seat. As fascinating as Jobs’ person, career, and legacy are, the intense interest in his insane greatness raises a question. What if we directed that level of intensity and interest at awakening the genius (if slightly less great and hopefully less insane) inside of each and every one of us—each child, each student, each parent, each working person?
What leader doesn’t want his or her organization to be more resilient, inventive, and inspiring? What leader hasn’t called for the full ingenuity, passion, and initiative of every person in the organization? Yet how many organizations are designed to unleash and mobilize the full potential of the people who work inside them?
Those were the questions on the table when David Kelley, the founder and chairman of leading design and innovation firm IDEO , joined Stanford professor Bob Sutton on the stage at the recent MIX Mashup , our first-ever gathering of the vanguard of management innovators earlier this summer. Widely recognized as one of the world’s leading design...
The inaugural MIX Mashup gathered the vanguard of management innovators—pioneering leaders, courageous experimenters, agenda-setting thinkers—to explore disruptive ideas, share fresh thinking and compelling storytelling, and to connect and energize participants in the quest to make our organizations fit for the future and fit for human beings.
The insights were deep and important, the storytelling was human and full of humor, and the collective spirit in the room was powerful and palpable. Here are just 100 of the countless highlights, aha moments, and practically radical takeaways.
All too often, direction setting happens in an ivory tower—cut off from valuable in-the-trenches insight and expertise and out of tune with shifts in the broader environment. What’s more, when strategy is cooked up in an elite enclave, the process of “selling” it to the very people expected to implement it becomes an arduous and uncertain chore.
In their excellent new piece in the McKinsey Quarterly , MIX co-founder Michele Zanini and Arne Gast, a principal in McKinsey’s Amsterdam office, explore a set of compelling alternatives (many of which emerged as stories on the MIX) —and make a case for cultivating the social side of strategy.
Here’s a taste of the piece:
In 2009, Wikimedia launched a special wiki—one dedicated to the organization’s own strategy. Over the next two years, more than 1,000 volunteers generated some 900 proposals for the company’s future direction and then categorized, rationalized, and formed task forces to elaborate on them. The result was a coherent strategic plan detailing a set of beliefs, priorities, and related commitments that together engendered among participants a deep sense of dedication to Wikimedia’s future. Through the launch of several special projects and the continued...
There is no doubt that there is tremendous goodwill, not to mention countless exciting experiments, when it comes to making the world of work more deeply human—designed to promote more freedom , equity , and engagement , and passion . Why, then, can those words sound so cheap and drained of their juice when we hear them repeated over and over by leaders of all stripes? Probably because they’re spoken so much more often than they’re ever enacted.
That’s why it’s so very refreshing to spend time with a leader who is relentlessly inventive and impressively effective as a champion of the fullest expression of humanity at work. We aim too low, says Ricardo Semler, the irrepressible force behind Brazil’s Semco Group . “We constantly talk about passion—serving customers passionately, filling in forms passionately—but what if we created the conditions for people to feel exhilaration, to get involved to the point they shout ‘yes!’ and give each other high fives because they did if their way and it worked?” What if, instead of assuming passion will just show up when we invoke it, we focused on designing organizations to unleash human flourishing?
In the few years since the financial crisis of 2008 hit us where it hurts, the calls for the “end of capitalism” have rung out from the streets and the halls of power alike. We’ve witnessed a lot of hand-wringing and high-level conversation—and some serious approach to reform at the national and organizational level.
What leader today doesn't want more innovation? Yet, producing more (of anything) inside an organization generally leads to more process, which smothers individual creativity and all-too-often kills organizational innovation.
Innovation isn't about structuring a process to lead to an outcome so much as it's about creating space—both elbow room, the space to roam free of bureaucratic rules and red tape, and head room, the freedom to see differently, think wildly, and aim higher. The leaders who generate more creative energy and innovation are always wrestling with the question: How do we design in more slack? Or, how do we cultivate an environment and support work that enlists people as drivers of their own destiny and inventors of the company's future?
As a reverse fairy tale for the CEO set, the reality television program Undercover Boss is fascinating, not so much in the witness-to-a-train- wreck mode of the rest of the genre, but because it is so revealing of our conflicted relationship with "the boss."
The premise of the show—that the only way to get a clue about what's really going on in his (or her) organization, is for the boss to go undercover on the front lines—is all too often the actual reality in organizations of any size. Yet, at the same time, the view of the boss as the ultimate authority with the heroic power to swoop in and save the day—whether that means paying down a mortgage, granting an instant promotion, or banishing a reviled policy—holds sway in real life as well as on "reality" TV.
Our big goal here at the MIX is to inspire and unleash as much collective aspiration, audacity, imagination, energy, and passion as possible when it comes to making all of our organizations fit for the future--and fit for human beings.
We've said it before: so much is broken when it comes to how most companies are managed, organizations are structured, and work is designed. "Modern" management was developed by a bunch of long-dead big thinkers who were solving for a very different set of challenges than we face today: maximizing control, conformance, discipline, reliability, and predictability. Those are important organizational virtues, but they're not what creates real value today.
If we want organizations that are resilient enough to change as fast as the world is changing, inventive enough to imagine a whole new way to create value, inspiring enough to invite and unleash the best gifts of employees (and other stakeholders), and mindful enough to find a way to win without others (the community, the planet) having to lose--we can't just scrounge around for best practices. We have to cast off the ruling (and stifling) ideology of control, power, and growth-at-all-costs for a new ideology--a new set of...
That chestnut has morphed from sales proposition to object lesson on the perils of clinging to convention in less than a generation. We've ditched the dark suits and "sincere" ties of our father's IBM for black turtlenecks and jeans, and we've embraced the "think different" ethos of Apple's celebrated campaign :
"Here's to the crazy ones. The misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in square holes. The ones who see things differently."
I'm delighted to share the first of six videos from my conversation with our latest MIX Maverick Seth Godin. Seth needs no introduction--he's a 13-time bestselling author, serial entrepreneur and tireless game-changer . He is a one-man army when it comes to unleashing the passion and initiative of individuals to make a positive difference in the world. I'm always struck by his ability to make sense of the economic and cultural moment in a way that is both practical and profound.
Our recent conversation was clarifying and galvanizing. I hope it is for you too.
First up: "Why being human is the only way to win."
Seth sums up this moment for workers and leaders of all stripes with two questions:
For workers: "The real debate if you're a worker is: do you want a job where they'll miss you if you're gone, a job where only you can do it, a job where you get paid to bring yourself to work--because those jobs are available. In fact, there's no unemployment in that area. OR, do...
In the spirit of constant experimentation and evolution, we continue to invent new modes of engaging the most adventuresome practitioners and boldest thinkers in tackling the big challenge of making our organizations as resilient, inventive, inspiring, and accountable as they need to be to meet the future.
One of those approaches is a twist on the software world’s hackathon: a burst of intense, coordinated effort designed to generate an enormous amount of progress (or code) in a relatively short time. With the MIX Management Hackathons, we aim to unleash the collective intelligence of progressive management thinkers and doers from around the world in an intense, hands-on, collaborative effort to generate truly fresh and radically practical new ideas and practices.
We recently wrapped up our pilot hackathon: the Communities of Passion Management Hackathon . I’m delighted to report that it was such a success that we are launching a second—even more intense, inclusive, and (we hope) productive—management hackathon today.
Before I get to that, a few words on the Communities of Passion hackathon, which was ably moderated by our own community guide, Chris Grams. Designed to tackle the crucial challenge of widespread disengagement at work—and to explore the...
Some fifteen years ago, in the early days of starting up Fast Company magazine, co-founder Alan Webber, shared one of his rules of thumb with me: "a good question beats a good answer." That pithy wisdom sunk in and took hold immediately. In the course of hundreds of reporting journeys and thousands of conversations with leaders, entrepreneurs, thinkers, and doers of all stripes, I've tuned into the questions people ask.
The first thing you notice when you have your ears pricked for questions is that most people (especially businesspeople) are more interested in presenting solutions, making assertions, and sharing their vision. This isn't surprising. School programs us to focus on producing the right answer and the job description of the leader for the last century has basically been "the person with all the answers."
That's why it's so refreshing (and instructive) to spend time with people who lead with questions rather than answers. Why? Why does inquiry beat certainty every time? Here are just three reasons:
1) Questions are a powerful antidote for hubris , which inevitably arises in a culture that celebrates mastery, values decisiveness, and reveres the top guy...
We announced the winners of the Management 2.0 Challenge (the first of three legs of the HBR/McKinsey M-Prize for Management Innovation ) here last week. Those seven entries offer compelling evidence that the undergirding principles, social structures, and social technologies of the Web not only offer up winning business models, they are the building blocks of a new management model for making organizations more resilient, inventive, and engaging.
Here are just three lessons from our management innovators about leveraging social technologies to create truly social organizations:
Trust your people with the future of the company For all of the talk about empowering, involving, and engaging employees, why is it that so many organizations still tap into just a sliver of what individuals have to offer? According to Management 2.0 Challenge winner Jim Lavoie, it’s because too many leaders focus on what they can get out of their people rather than entrusting them with the future of the company.
There’s an emotional as well as a practical logic at work here. Only that level of trust, freedom, and responsibility can stir people to bring forth their full imagination, initiative,...
So much of the leadership conversation centers around the question “how do I get more out of my people?” I don’t think I’ve been at a conference or sat in on a conversation with business leaders where the subject—and that exact phrase— hasn’t come up.
Now, without a doubt, bringing forth the full ingenuity, initiative, energy, and passion of every person in the organization is one of the most urgent agenda items for leaders in every realm of endeavor. But when it comes to unleashing the best gifts of people, that mechanistic metaphor of extraction ( “how do I get more out?” ) and, more importantly, the approaches it engenders, quickly break down.
Which is why it’s so refreshing to encounter a leader who brings an entirely different mindset (and vocabulary) to the challenge of shifting from an organizational model designed to generate rote productivity to one designed to yield genuine creativity, discovery and breakthrough (and to support human flourishing in the process).
Ivy Ross , our newest MIX Maverick, has been tackling that challenge with powerful results in a range of organizations for three decades. A veteran design executive who has...