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The Most Important Problem: Unlocking Human Potential

by Polly LaBarre on February 6, 2014


polly-labarre's picture

The Most Important Problem: Unlocking Human Potential

Maverick Hangout: Jonathan Becher with Gary Hamel

A Maverick Hangout with Gary Hamel and Jonathan Becher

When it comes to building management and business models that are fit for the 21st 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.

Today, employees are enlivened by unprecedented levels of openness, autonomy, participation, and flexibility. At the same time, customers have become more active (and powerful) contributors, collaborators, critics and evangelists. In some cases, customers or “users” are the company. The most vibrant companies are re-imagining their boundaries to connect with a web of partners and stakeholders and facilitate new forms of social production.

In this context, leaders must recognize the value of individual contribution. Individual ingenuity, initiative, and passion are the fuel of the Innovation Economy. Yet, these deeply human qualities cannot easily be corralled, commanded or “ordered up” from on high. They must be properly invited, nurtured, and inspired.

This means that organizations must become increasingly inventive in devising new models of engagement that emphasize the power of the individual over command and control. And it means that the work of leadership must increasingly focus on energizing and enlarging the community rather than managing it from the top-down.

These are challenges that Jonathan Becher, the chief marketing officer of global software giant SAP, and Gary Hamel, co-founder of the MIX and author of The Future of Management, have put at the top of the agenda for years. In conjunction with the ongoing Unlimited Human Potential Challenge, Gary will host a special edition of our Maverick Hangout series in conversation with Jonathan. The two will:

  • Make the case for inverting the pyramid and routing out bureaucracy
  • Unpack the big shifts disrupting the world of work
  • Explore the new principles and models defining the next era of organization, work, and leadership
  • Share stories about the most progressive approaches making a real difference when it comes to unleashing human potential
  • Unpack the very real challenges leaders and companies face—and offer up insight on how to get started from where you are

Participating in the Hangout is as easy as coming back to this link on Tuesday, February 18th at 12pm ET. Gary and Jonathan will be answering your questions, so please post them in advance in the comments section here (and via Twitter during the Hangout #MIXHangout). In the meantime, read Jonathan’s M-Prize winning story Culture Eats Strategy here and check out his blog here.

And if you’re inspired by the themes of the Hangout, please share your own story or bold idea in the Unlimited Human Potential Challenge. Learn more here.

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ethan-boyd's picture

To build a strong management system, we have to follow different goals and plan for the best. The most important thing is to unlock our potential value to develop strategies. But due to lack of opportunities and skills, most of the cases,we fail to improve the management system. From here, we learn something better and implement it for better management with our potential skills. Thanks for such wonderful instructions.

jan-douglas's picture

In my experience management is often the largest barrier to innovation even when they intellectually understand its value and how critical it is to success.

The main reasons include:
- Mgmt loses control when employees are driving massive changes to processes & products
- Innovation involves risk and change
- Many managers see it as their domain or that of a "special team", employees do the "grunt work"
- With downsizing many managers struggle with just getting all the work done and even though innovation could solve their problems they don't feel there is time for it

Obviously there needs to be a culture change but managers also need support to help them evaluate and prioritize new ideas. A pool of innovation funds and team of consultants or key resources could make it easier to implement changes and explore product ideas.

francis-cepero's picture

Jonathan and Gary, Thanks for the open conversation. Excellent insights.

Being a firm believer that culture will always been over strategy imho the discussion on unlocking human potential needs to address two very distinct cultural components: culture of work and culture of executive decision making.

Why ? because those two cultural components hold the key to resource allocation. A proper culture of work will unlock the resources of individuals and teams and they will come with innovative ideas. And yes, collaboration tools will be a huge support for those individuals and team trying to revert the irrelevance clock (they always hear it ticking first) .

If this innovative culture of work does not meet the proper executive culture of decision making nothing will get done. Even worse, as people are not stupid, they will understand that the culture of work is just a means of eliciting great ideas, but there will be no corporate action on them. At any point in time executives hold the budgets and resources to make/kill any research project and any innovation. That's why this layer is extremely important.

That needs to be fixed from the top at the same time as the culture of work is enabled from the grass-roots level.

dan-simpson's picture

Gary/Jonathan, Isn't the core issue one of synergy - between strategy and culture, between hierarchy and network, between consistency and agility?

daniel-paulino-teixeira-lopes's picture

Hi Jonathan and Gary, thanks for the opportunity to participate in this event. As a management innovation researcher and strategy professor in Brazil, there are many issues I would like to ask you. But I will focus on two: are workers and customers prepared to really embrace new management principles? How could organizations make the appropriate transition? Thank you again!

daniel-paulino-teixeira-lopes's picture

That was great to hear your suggestions. This is really challenging. Let's see what we'll have within ten years!

guillaume-salmon's picture

Hi jonathan,
With the run better platform you have the best story telling ever at a time where native marketing is a game changer.
the only question is: people don’t buy a platform, what is the story of the run better platform?

bala-subramanian's picture

My own story or bold idea is to provide everyone in the whole world with their own silent-office ( ) for ever,so that their digital presence can continue to interact with humanity. Such interaction will enable discovery of new knowledge about free-will, consciousness, biological-mind and whole host of related subjects.