We live in a creative age. John Hagel says so in the Big Shift. Gary Hamel says so, in the Future of Management. Seth Godin clearly articulates how each of us play a role in this age in Linchpin. There really is no doubt that what we produce and how we produce it is different from previous eras. Meaning, we are beyond the era of production where we produced cars and we valued physical power. General Motors was powerful then. We then entered the era of information where we valued mental powers and produced things like computing chips. Intel and IBM were powerful then. Today, we live in the era of creative work where we what we produce is often a product of co-creation and uses emotional power in that effort. FaceBook and SalesForce is powerful.
Terri Griffith, an organization specialist in management (http://www.terrigriffith.com/) shared her perspective on this when I taught her class in January
She pointed out that we managed the era of production with scientific management. We studied the differences of different tools in the hands of people to increase efficiency. We asked questions like: would a longer shovel yield higher productivity? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientific_management. I believe this division of labor from the scientific method actually continues today with roles being neatly described and the predominant focus of rewards still focused on whether each person does what they are assigned to do. Which I think is a weakness for today’s current work model. The incredible focus on division of labor — defined in terms of roles while necessary are not sufficient — they don’t help us to achieve success. Sure, they help us define what each person does. But as soon as we are thinking of boxes, what we also get is the space between the boxes. Those gaps — those spaces in between the boxes — they are where organizations fail. It’s the lack of connection across a company or a silo-ed approach to going in a new direction that quite often causes failure. Roles matter, but what matters more going forward is how those roles interact.
In the era of information, management theorists studied the work conditions to see if changed lighting, or better work conditions would cause greater employee satisfaction. The Hawthorne study was famous in that they proved that basically people thrived if you paid attention to them. Human Relations Movement http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_relationsis the official name. People then started teaching interpersonal skills because people actually had to interact and if we could teach them not to just do stuff but to coordinate activities, the business would benefit. Funny thing is that in today’s context more people are acting “political” or holding back their opinion because they think their environment wants “nice” over “debate necessary issues”. So we focus on satisfaction than results in our interpersonal skills. We need to teach people how to “fight fair” inside companies so people can deal with the actual messy reality of work — we have some tough choices to make and we need to know how to debate those to the ground to get to shared understanding and tradeoffs. Without that, all we are left with is an “air sandwich” in the organization that ultimately causes failure.
So for the creative era, we will need to have a new set of management tools for how to manage. After all in a creative era, we need to co-create, not just coordinate work. FaceBook grew more powerful when they figured out how to co-create value. And between users, developers, and FaceBook themselves, many parties are co-creating that experience. Compare that to say .. Yahoo, where the proportion of value creation is within the hard walls of Yahoo and control is focused on getting the user to come to Yahoo. (Which is what yesterday’s twitter deal is all about; more content to come to Yahoo.) On a scale of 1-10 of collaborative work with 10 serving as high, Yahoo might be a 4, Google would be an 8 and FaceBook or SalesForce would be a 9 in terms of co-creation of work product. I use that to set a spectrum but not as a definitive point. I’d love to actually define a metric / scale to evaluate companies, because that would be an core aspect of why to invest.
We all want and need an organizational model and approach that lets us build that kind of momentum in **everything** we do. It’s going to be an organization system that lets businesses acts more like a living, breathing organism that can take in information from the market, knows what questions to ask and answer, can envision many options to success, can decide amongst all those option quickly and can take the vision into reality. Momentum then keeps up with or sets the pace for the competition. Momentum allows us to act flat rather than wait to pass information up and down the hierarchy of an organization. Our creative talented people organize to create value. Now Terri was kind enough to suggest that The New How embodied this new model because the focus was on engagement to co-create value. Whether or not that’s true, I’d like to see more discussion on the practical ways to enable all of us to thrive in the Creative Age. The Future of Talent Institute plans on doing that at their fall conference. If you are interested in that discussion, maybe you can come?