Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Future of Organization


Today, I want to give enough of an overview of the system, process and strategy so as we can each better understand how to engage ourselves in the process, and then use that engagement in our own directives.

What Is This "Organization of the Future"??

The OofF is a working title for what is a broad based philosophy, system, process and strategy for understanding, adapting and leading the way at the individual or organizational level for the challenges and opportunities the near and long term future brings.
As such, it is heavily based on living systems and complex adaptive systems.
Dedicated engagement and practice of the system will give a decided edge in keeping individuals and organizations ahead of the curve. To use evolutionary parlance, to keep individual and organization "fit" and "adaptive" to its environment.
It is based on the belief we both shape our environment, and are shaped by our environment, and that this is a dynamic, non-linear ongoing process. Our efforts and engagement dictate how much we shape, and how much we're shaped by the environment. A nuanced position here is leaders shape, followers are shaped, and to optimally lead or follow, those roles reverse and are dynamic. Living systems thrive on cycle dynamics, of which this is just one. This also shapes our mental models where concepts like "bottom up" and "top down" are blurred into an endless dynamic cycle.

Vision and Philosophy--A Sketch.

Vision and philosophy sets context, and as we will continually see context is everything.
Vision helps us shape where we want to go, vision helps us shape the world we would like to move towards, rather than the world that moves towards us.

Vision is also how and what we see. 

The greater context that shapes our vision is we are in the midst of one of the worlds major paradigm shifts, morphing from what was the industrial revolution based on mechanics to a 'digital' revolution based on biology and living things. This shift is being being shaped by the most significant advent of information communications in human history, the internet.

This shift away from the mechanical basis to that of a biological basis creates an entirely different way of understanding of the world, as much of the models that the industrial economy used to shaped the world were based on mechanical systems and physics, along with political ideology that each have their philosophical roots from 200 plus years ago.
These ideologies and the institutions that have been built up around them form the barriers to growth for a healthy transformation to an emerging digitally networked economic ecosystem. This provides us with both significant challenges, and significant opportunities.

Our Vision and Mission is to be the leaders and leading organizations in creating and growing an econosphere and ecosystem based on living systems and the health of that system is measured both by the health of the individual unit (that you, I, people!!) and the ability of the environment to support the social economic activity of these people.
This very basic sketch provides us with a pallet on which we can all paint, creating a shared vision of a radically different, and very exciting future. This also shapes our philosophy in subtle ways, helping us be leaders in creating constructive bridges across ideological divides, divisions that currently have us on a precipice, divisions that have us divided against each other, rather than united towards a future where our individual potential is enhanced, and our relationship with the whole more clear, neither the whole or the individual trumping the other.
This is in keeping with networks, the biology of cooperation and competition (coopetition!!), and the winning logic of non-zero sum relationships.
This is also an important fundamental shift in human organization, as zero-sum, warring strategies have played a role in bootstrapping humanity to this point (life is an arms race), that strategy now is decidedly sub-optimal in relationship to globalization, technology and interdependence of trade, along with a growing need for a global response to environmental stresses that potentially nine billion people will put on a planet.

Model and System

Describing biological systems is inherently difficult, so lets look instead at the functionality of what I call the "three pillars" of highly adaptable organizations, Systems Thinking (Living systems), Organizational Learning, and Social Technologies. Each of these 'pillars' (bad metaphor, I know!!) are like trunks of a tree (better?) that re-enforces the other in a continuous dynamic loop. Fully understood and engaged, this system also shapes and informs an individuals and organizations "social media strategy", and naturally creates "overgrowth" on the traditional silos and boundaries of the traditional model based on neoclassicism.
Leadership in these styles of organizations take on a much different dynamic to fully utilize the power and energy that has been dormant in the system. Traditional models stifle individuality, personal engagement, desire, creativity and the massive amounts of dormant social and intellectual capital that resides in most every organization.
With leadership styles shaped to the living system organization, overall vision is greatly enhanced, along with its ability to "sense" its environment, that is to touch, hear, see, smell and taste. The extent as to how much this is mere metaphor as to how much this actually extends the cognitive reality of the organization depends on the ability of its individuals to reshape their own mental models.
This is not a trivial distinction, as this will significantly shape also how the organization "sees" data, models data, and uses data. More importantly how it extends trust with that data, along with transparency. This all together helps form the foundational basis for the "social business" strategy of an organization. This properly attuned and engaged strategy will give the organization a very distinctive advantage over its peers in any given arena.

What is not immediately obvious, is that the full engagement of this model and system leads naturally to the ongoing innovation any organization will need to not just adapt to the ever shifting environment, but give it optimal conditions to spawn and speciate. Put more plainly, to create new products and services that are the key to its survival, its leadership in its arena, or if necessary, morph into a different environment altogether.

Lets look briefly under the hood.

Living Systems Thinking
How Organizations and Individual See and Experience the World

I can not stress enough this is not mere metaphor, but a mental model. I also can not stress enough this is a significant shift in how we think and see the world. But it is also manner of thinking best suited to live, lead and adapt in complexity. Much of traditional schooling does not do well to prepare us to think and see this way, for that matter it is an effort to overcome the traditional schooling, training and training. Again, massive opportunity. As individuals, we've likely been exposed to a lot of the different sciences that have established and extended on the concepts of organizations and economies as living systems and complex adaptive systems, however my experience has been there is also much more to learn, and better yet, much much more to learn and do in transforming our organizations as such, and learning how to lead within them.

We not going to learn much in this blog post, this is a life long journey. But to give us an idea, lets look to our own brain/bodies (there is no dualism!!) for inspiration, which are themselves 'complex adaptive systems'.
We used to think of the brain, and a part of the brain as having an "executive function", this centralized unit of control that was the mastermind behind our day to day actions. We know now that is false. Our systems take in enormous amount of data of which our 'conscious' (our interface with the outside world) is only partially aware of, around 5%. We know that data is organized behind the scenes, in a highly distributed, complex way which is more emergent than 'planned'. (the more we explore this relationship, the more we will see a cycle, rather than linear "planned economy" of our mind) This is self organized at blinding speed, and presented to ourselves milliseconds before we "act".
While we may think we have this elevated executive function, this is a false sense of reality. What we are is a living complex adaptive system that is highly attuned to an environment.
While there is a rich body of work in how we can achieve higher conscious (meditating, etc) as an individual, there is much more than can be extended towards how we reshape our thinking of ourselves and our organizations, and how we interact and shape our environments.
The organization brings in enormous amounts of data, and for fun, lets assume its only aware of around 5%.
Even a subtle shift in our mental models can open ourselves to a lot of unused data, information, knowledge, wisdom within our organization.
That's our "internal conscious".
The relationship with our external environment can be where enormous "personal growth" is possible.

Key concepts here.
Conscious, five senses, empathy, untapped energy and potential.
Relationships are dynamic, non-linear. Environments are complex, always shifting, we shape and are shaped by our environments. Control is illusionary. Attraction and engagement brings in and amplifies resources.
Synthesis of expertise. Generalists.

Organizational Learning
Adaptive Information, Adaptive Learning

If living systems thinking is how we see and experience the world, then organizational learning shapes how we learn about the world.
Lets again use the mind/body as a metaphor, with each person within the organization both representing a neuron of the mind and a nerve ending in our central nervous system.
We don't have to explore the organization very deeply to see enormous amounts of untapped potential here to both vastly improve the "intelligence" of the organization, and its ability to sense and understand both its external and internal environment.
Organizations that do not understand it kill these cells and nerve endings. Everybody reading here likely knows what I mean--the disengaged employee who after having all their corners rounded off, do just enough to do what it takes to get the paycheque.
This, understandably, is costly in ways that extend well beyond the border of the organization itself. It is unhealthy. It is no wonder that so many organization look and feel "cancerous" to both management and employees--its because they are.
The learning organization changes all that. Each node (person!! Bob!! Sally!! Tim!! Jane!!) is seen as a highly valuable neuron and nerve ending in what is a highly engaging and energized living system. Each one fully engaging their own senses and capabilities that harmonize the interests of the whole and
their own interests. Themselves and the organization interact in a dynamic, interactive harmony that dramatically enhances both, exploding the potential of the individual and the whole.

This dynamic creates a learning environment. That seems simple enough, but it is what it learns, what each person both already learns, and is inspired to learn that makes this such a dynamic force.
Because it is synthesized with the mental model of the living system, we now have a living breathing body of energy that is actively learning about its external and internal environment! 
What that information and knowledge might is of course highly contextual depending on numerous factors, but one universal thought pattern is everyone is learning to think in terms of living systems.

Key concepts.
All living systems have ways to process data and sense their environment, we as people can highly amplify that dynamic.
What you do affects others, what others do affect you.
More so than ever, environments are constantly shifting, the learning organization can be much better suited to understanding, adapting and leading in those environments.
Being highly valued for your role in the organization inspires more learning both for your own interests and that of the whole, creating engagement and value driven actions and systems. Win win for all involved.
Note: I'll leave it separate from here, but for the advanced organizational intelligence, we have a specific framework to radically enhance organizational learning and intelligence. That framework also dovetails with the social technologies and social media strategy. I leave it separate as the system can work independent from this framework.

Social Technologies
Social Engagement

If living systems is how we think of the world and see the world, and organizational learning is how we inform ourselves of that world, and enhance our intelligence and five senses towards the world, social technologies is how we engage and interact with the world, and the world with us, and how we ever refine our senses.

Social technologies not only are radically changing how you and I are engaging in the world, they are more radically altering how the organization engages in the world. Social technologies are also radically (and already have of course!) reshaped how information flows. 
From an evolutionary standpoint, this has created a Cambrian Explosion.

Again, we can barely scratch the surface of potential here, as the potential is shaped by the mental models of the living system mind, and the organization's willingness to learn and engage.
That there are so many barriers here, both psychological, mental, and organizational only amplifies the potential for those who can fully adapt and engage the three pillars system, and develop organizational models based on biology and living systems.
Fully engaged models will have both very rich information flows, but also high degrees of trust and engagement with all the individuals who ultimately are part of an organizational 'system'--management, employees, customers, investors, suppliers, citizens, and the living breathing environment of life itself--our ecosystem.

Social media, socially engaged employees, socially engaged customers, and the freer flow of information and relationships are radically altering both the organization and the environment it operates in. Static adherence to the status quo is not an option.

The Whole
 Winning Combinations

For every person and organization, there are hundreds of ways to combine these three pillars in to a highly robust system. Many of course already are. Context and leadership is the key towards winning combinations. 
To fully comprehend this, we need to have a wide and deeply distributed and engaged sense of our shared "current reality" along with a wide and shared understanding of our "shared vision".
This is why the Community of Practice (CoP) is essential to fully utilizing the potential of this model and system.
Without getting into the entire buffet of learning engagement strategies and processes (which I cover extensively on my Google Plus stream), these shared realities and visions give us the context and purpose that fills our value system, our desire to create and sustain something that will have an enormous positive impact as to how we organize our economies, the kinds of products and services the people will need to live sustainable lives, and as the individual and their health is at the heart of the organizational web, the values of those products and services become self apparent.

The winning combinations are patterns that emerge from the dynamic relationships we and the organization forms with all its components upon which its survival depends. This sets its leadership style, its incentives programs, and the type of resources it attracts. Resources that intimately include the management, employees, customers, investors, suppliers, citizens and the environment into one organism that whose strength is dependent on the quality and value created in these relationship webs.

This extends well beyond what would be traditional called the internal of the organization, out into a vast web of win-win relationships that shape further our political environment and economic system to what we will come to understand as the Sentient Econosystem. 
The winning combination are self aware enough that greater trends of environment and climate, plus resource management will need high value webs to insure the entire system upon which everything depends survives.
This is not an ideological position, this is the inherent logical of the sentient organization, the result of highly attuned awareness, of leaving the narcissism of the organizations of the past behind.

Next Steps
Developing the Community of Practice for the Development of the Organization of the Future. 

As we should know by now, this is a journey, as shared journey.
As perhaps is obvious by now, this is not a system that can be employed via tradition top down roll outs, etc.
It is also one that needs a community of practice to develop the skills and knowledge, the art and the practice to fully engage and develop the benefits.
Because of its very nature, the CoP we're developing around this system, model and engagement lends itself to both high trust networks and the massive potential for innovation within.

With this in mind, how we engage, and practice the model and system.
Again, this is a cycle. The more we get to know you and your purpose, your goals for being here, the more we can help you get there, and the more you understand the model and system, the more you learn, the more you can give back and the more potential we all have for "spontaneous collisions" from which all manners and matters of innovation can arise.
Not just products or services, but models. Networks. And how to attract the resources.

We already have an amazing combination of knowledge and experience, cutting across lines from the science of networks, synthetic biology, finance, business and business systems, social media, community management, reputation systems, just to name some, all of which can be combined and morphed into the novel combinations which can amplify in ways that can change the game.

The keys here are:
--Numbers, generally 150 to 300 is ideal. Why? Social capital.  Network spread. Because of the rich potential we already have, but constrained due to nature of each our own limited time and resources, to bring together the teams that can put into action individual projects we need a fairly deep and wide pool of social capital. Also, for the kind of business and social intelligence we want to have, we need at least that many eyes, ears, voices and inputs. Too few people puts too much strain in too few people. We don't want to burn out, we want to build energy.
--Methods and Practices. There is a lot to learn here, as it is a very rich field as to how to best use and develop collective intelligence, smart swarming, crowd sourcing, collaboration, smart teams, project development, much etc.
--Outputs and Inputs. Practical engagement will be a key here, that is how quickly can we put something together that you can most readily use for your own advancement, and advance the community itself. To repeat, the more we know of your purpose, strategy etc, the more the "room" can help. Conversely, the more you'll learn how to put back into the system. Like all economic systems, the more you put in, the more we all get out. We can't starve the system.
Where does this all "take place"? We all know what a great open engagement place G+ is, or even FB, LinkedIn, or even Twitter is.
But they're not great for the kind of community building this needs to make it work.
I know the Caucus Conferencing System well, its been home to Howard Rheingold's Brainstorms for 14 years, and is particularly well suited for the CoP we'll be developing. It has a rich history, and several members of our tribe have belonged to it for years, and there also comes with it very good collaborative alignment potential and resources.
I have the bare bones of four conferences awaiting for us to grow from, with enough of the framework to get us to where we want to go.
It gives us a very secure environment (it is not web searchable) to develop the trust we need to do what we want to do.
I must also stress this is part of my own consulting strategy for building organizations of the future. If this concerns you in any way, I am more than happy to explain further this dynamic, and how it enriched the potential for us all, and how we use this to extend into the organizations we may be a part of already.

Thanks for reading. This may have been a bit dry, and not reflective of my enormous belief and enthusiasm for the potential of this model and system. The more we all catch this belief and enthusiasm, the more this will form massive connective collective energy and radiate back out through each of us in our projects and engagements!!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

A Worthy Manifesto for Any Organization

This cuts right to it. While I can preach these sorts of cultural guidelines, coming from a guy who has run one of the world most successful hedge funds gives this a functional credibility that can't be brushed away.
Hat tip to  The Big Picture and to Farnam Street . The Farnam link will take you to the full piece.

Management Lessons from Ray Dalio

Ray Dalio, the sixty-one-year-old founder of Bridewater Associates, the world’s biggest hedge fund, offers the following management advice. Dalio says “Taken together, these principles are meant to paint a picture of a process for the systematic pursuit of truth and excellence and for the rewards that accompany this pursuit. I put them in writing for people to consider in order to help Bridgewater and the people I care about most.”
“Two of the biggest impediments to truth and excellence are people’s ego’s and organizational bureaucracy. Most people like compliments and agreement, and they dislike criticisms and conflict. Yet recognizing mistakes and weaknesses is essential for rapid improvement and excellence. In our culture, there is nothing embarrassing about making mistakes and having weaknesses. “
“We need and admire people who can suspend their egos to get at truth and evolve toward excellence, so we ignore ego-based impediments to truth. We have a different type of environment in which some behaviors discouraged elsewhere are rewarded here (like challenging one’s superiors), and some behaviors encouraged elsewhere are punished here (like speaking behind a subordinate’s back).”
Think and act in a principled way and expect others to as well“all outcomes are manifestations of forces that are at work to produce them, so whenever looking at specific outcomes, think about the forces that are behind them. Constantly ask yourself, “What is this symptomatic of?”
If you don’t mind being wrong on the way to being right, you will learn a lot
“I once had a ski instructor who had taught Michael Jordan, the greatest basketball player of all time, how to ski. He explained how Jordan enjoyed his mistakes and got the most out of them. At the start of high school, Jordan was a mediocre basketball player; he became great because he loved using his mistakes to improve. I see it all the time. Intelligent people who are open to recognizing and learning from their mistakes substantially outperform people with the same abilities who aren’t open in the same way.”

I have tended to point to fear as the biggest barrier to the kinds of necessary changes so many organizations need to go through, but ego and bureaucracy are highly related.
There is more here as well. Bridgewater--Culture and Principles

For those who are interested in joining our tribe (more on this to come), this is required reading!

News Flash! Canada Needs to Cultivate Innovation

Wanted: Culture of Innovation

Innovation doesn’t happen in the abstract – corporations have to manage for it. Successful innovation happens in four distinct areas.
Product innovation: The capacity of a firm to introduce new products and services ahead of competitors, to anticipate consumer needs or even to create them.
Market innovation: The capacity of a firm to decide to change its market, whether it’s geographically, virtually or creatively.
Process innovation: The capacity to change how goods and services are produced and delivered to reduce cost, improve efficiency and increase convenience for customers.
Organizational innovation: The capacity to convert creativity, market and customer knowledge and technology into marketable innovations.

I believe the organization is where we can best leverage our individual abilities to be part of a groundswell surge of innovation. The nexus of it is, we don't have to belong to business organization, or any specific organization to invest our social or intellectual capital. Rather, we can be part of a network that extends itself within the organization, where you, me, we can collaborate to create value and innovation.
I will be extending on this very theme in the coming days, weeks, months.
The question is, how can we create a solid enough network where we can further our skills, knowledge, connectivity in way that enhance the group, can extend itself within networks in collaborative ways where both parties benefit, and sustains itself?

Power Corrupts

Power, corruption, exploitation. Holdovers from the twentieth century, and the centuries that preceded it. And the very antithesis of what is going to get us through this century.
Where is currently one of the worst examples and practitioners of power, corruption and exploitation? You might be surprised.

The Shame of College Sports.

Its a very long piece from The Atlantic, but should be required reading for all of us who want to relegate this kind of organizational abuse to the history books. The practices of the NCAA and big business universities of college football and basketball in the U.S. have no place in a modern society.

For all the outrage, the real scandal is not that students are getting illegally paid or recruited, it’s that two of the noble principles on which the NCAA justifies its existence—“amateurism” and the “student-athlete”—are cynical hoaxes, legalistic confections propagated by the universities so they can exploit the skills and fame of young athletes. The tragedy at the heart of college sports is not that some college athletes are getting paid, but that more of them are not.

Don Curtis, a UNC trustee, told me that impoverished football players cannot afford movie tickets or bus fare home. Curtis is a rarity among those in higher education today, in that he dares to violate the signal taboo: “I think we should pay these guys something.”
Fans and educators alike recoil from this proposal as though from original sin. Amateurism is the whole point, they say. Paid athletes would destroy the integrity and appeal of college sports. Many former college athletes object that money would have spoiled the sanctity of the bond they enjoyed with their teammates. I, too, once shuddered instinctively at the notion of paid college athletes.
But after an inquiry that took me into locker rooms and ivory towers across the country, I have come to believe that sentiment blinds us to what’s before our eyes. Big-time college sports are fully commercialized. Billions of dollars flow through them each year. The NCAA makes money, and enables universities and corporations to make money, from the unpaid labor of young athletes. 

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Creating a 21st Century Organization

This is my big audacious dream. An organization that networks together investment management, capitalist enterprise, investors, management, workforce, venders and suppliers, customers, community.
The culture, the management philosophy and tools, the technology, the need all exist right now to make this possible.
With the right leadership, drive, determination and desire to become the model, the leader, in what an organization can be and what it can do, we can and will create this organization.

For myself, I am driven by a sense of purpose around defining what capitalism can be in the age of networks. A capitalism that can spread it's creative awards to those who participate.
A capitalism that not only rewards its core participants, but also looks forward to be part of solving society's most pressing problems.
A capitalism that can help create the vibrant, healthy social and economic society the future wants, the future needs. A win-win capitalism.

We're at the beginning. We're a seed. To grow, we want to attract the attention of those that can give this concept energy. Their social capital, their intellectual capital, their financial capital. Those that can understand the concept, and contribute their experience, their skills, their minds to make it better. To seed that culture of constant, never ending learning and improvement, a culture of growth.

A concept I am looking for feedback on right now is the idea of creating a investment fund, I am calling the North American Capitalism Investment Fund. I believe I have sound ideas around this, but it needs the expertise of fund managers who are looking for a creative edge in their investment strategies.

The Significance of a Socially Networked Organization

This for me illustrates the necessity for a socially networked, team environment organization. Protecting your top performers:
The Dark Side of High Achievement  (Hat Tip--William Reichard via Google Plus)

 In the movies and on stage, the leader usually fails because “absolute power corrupts absolutely,” a la Charles Foster Kane. Or, as in the case of Macbeth, the leader is tortured by thoughts of a sin for which he can never atone. In real life, however, many managers face similar problems even when they have committed no major sins and when their power is far from absolute. Indeed, becoming isolated and self-obsessed is something every business leader should fear, not just corporate titans but also middle managers and owners of small companies. To the detriment of their firms, their employees, and most of all themselves, many managers cling to the techniques that got them to the top long after those techniques have become obsolete.

One reason for this has to do with the personal attributes that lead to success within an organization, says Thomas DeLong, Professor of Management Practice at Harvard Business School. Characteristics such as a high need for achievement and a focus on task accomplishment, which are invaluable in precocious new employees, can lead to counterproductive habits once a person has attained a managerial position. High achievers, while intelligent and hard working, are often terrible at taking criticism and examining their own weaknesses. Driven by their need for tangible accomplishments, these people end up managing their professional images at the expense of their core skills and their personal relationships.
Culture matters. A socially networked culture matters more. A team environment is intrinsic to a socially networked culture. High performer sports teams know this. They protect their top talent.

This also illustrates the strength of a learning organization. Today's socio-economic environment is evolving too fast, is too chaotic, too complex for anybody's knowledge, skills and techniques to last long.
A learning organization understands this, and creates an environment where learning is part of the everyday experience.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Back from a Self Imposed Hiatus

It's been six months of digging deep within myself to find what it is I really want to do with the rest of my life. I am 52 years old, I've spent the the last fifteen years of my life studying and learning, developing a role I can effectively play in helping create the kind of sustainable future we need to sustain a growing population of us humans with the resources we have available. Oh, and earning a living being a carpenter.
Out of that learning process, there was no position I was particularly suited for other than a consultant. A consultant of what? is a reasonable question.
The answer comes back (every time I examine it) is I want to help organizations to thrive in any kind of future social and economic environment.
As we cannot predict the future, by the very nature of this purpose organizations have to a certain self awareness, a certain awareness of trends, an aversion to complacency, and what I've learned as two stand out features:
A desire to lead.
A desire to innovate.
While this has always been true, as numerous others have written, it is not easy.
Groups, organizations tend to ossify.

I continually seek out material, seek out the people with the skills that can transform organizations out of complacency, to break free from ossification.

My personal barriers to playing a more active role in developing highly adaptable organizations are working full time in the exciting and demanding field of custom home building, as it has it's own demands of time and energy.
That in itself is not that difficult to overcome. What's more interesting, is my process involves a pretty radical change, and people natural resist change. This is inherent with all those (there are too many amazing people and firms that endeavor to create the changes we need for healthy sustainable organizations) who ply these same waters as I do. Change is hard!
It's exciting for me, as I get to experience the changes I need to continually develop in order to pursue my passion, and learn from those who share this passion.
This is to say, securing willing clients is a tall order.

I also have a passion for creating and building. Essentially, building homes has been a very satisfying way to create and build!
But at this stage of my life I want more, much much more.

The question became this past six months, where and how to direct this energy, this passion? How to best utilize and express my full potential?

It keeps coming back as: Develop and grow an organization that is the full expression of all I've learned to this point in my life.

An organization isn't, of course, a solo unit. It is a company of people with a purpose. As the organization I envision is a capitalist one, a profit is the key output.

To develop this organization, we need a team. That core. This tribe of equally passionate people who want to build the same thing, be part of this mission we are on.

The purpose of this blog, along with my Google+ account, is create this shared vision, and find the people who want to build it.

One of the core values we begin with is win-win relationships. Win-win actions. We win, our workforce wins, our customers win, our suppliers and venders win, our investors win.
This is a key insight into what we are building. We are network of those components. Our whole will be greater than the sum of those parts.