Saturday, June 25, 2011

Order or Progress

Every organization must choose between order or progress since order and progress are rarely found together. Rules, manuals, regulations, codes of ethics, and bureaucracy restrict intuition and encourage conformity--not creativity.

Creativity, intuition, and excellence are developed when order is lacking. Did Mozart create his symphonies under the direction of another? Did the United States develop as a Super Power under the direction of a king or queen? Did Orville and Wilbur, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, or Nikola Tesla develop their ingenuity under the watchful eye of another? Does most innovation develop in large companies or small, chaotic start-up companies?

If this is the case, why aren't businesses intentionally structured to empower and free the ingenuity of individuals?


  1. I don't agree with your equating chaos and creativity. Creativity must be ordered or it amounts to nothing. I just doesn't fall into an organizational structure. This doesn't mean that creativity can't take place within a structured organization. Apple is an example of a creative products developed within the confines of an organization. In fact, if democratic companies are to survive and compete, they must have some structure and organization, even if that structure is loose and gives lots of room for creativity.

  2. Very good points, Tina. I agree with all you said, and I struggle to see where we disagree. Organizational democracy is all about a 'loose structure' that, as you put it, "gives lots of room for creativity." Maybe I wasn't clear about what "order or progress" means.

    I must admit that "order or progress" is not my own theory. This theory was explained in the best selling book "Maverick" by Ricardo Semler. Semler is often considered the father of the modern, organizational-democracy movement.

    Maybe this paragraph from "Maverick" will help clarify what I meant to say about "order or progress."

    He said, "To survive in modern times, a company must have an organizational structure that accepts change as its basic premise, lets tribal customs thrive, and fosters a power that is derived from respect, not rules. In other words, the successful companies will be the ones that put quality of life first. Do this and the rest - quality of product, productivity of workers, profits for all - will follow. At Semco we did away with structures that dictate the "hows" and created fertile soil for differences. We gave people an opportunity to test, question, and disagree. We let them determine their own futures. We let them come and go as they wanted, work at home if they wished, set their own salaries, choose their own bosses. We let them change their minds and ours, prove us wrong when we are wrong, make us humbler. Such a system relishes change, which is the only antidote to the corporate brainwashing that has consigned giant businesses with brilliant pasts to uncertain futures."

    Apple is a perfect example of a giant business with a brilliant past and uncertain future. Where will the company go now without Steve Jobs' charismatic leadership? It certainly floundered in mediocrity while he was away from the company in the late 80's and early 90's.


How Will You Measure Your Life?

I recently read this article by Clayton Christiansen out of Harvard entitled, “How will you measure your life?” It is what he tells his students on the final day of his class.

One of the items that he mentions sticks out to me. It reads as follows:

“One of the theories, . . . . . how to be sure we find happiness in our careers—is from Frederick Herzberg, who asserts that the powerful motivator in our lives isn’t money; it’s the opportunity to learn, grow in responsibilities, contribute to others, and be recognized for achievements. I tell the students about a vision of sorts I had while I was running the company I founded before becoming an academic. In my mind’s eye I saw one of my managers leave for work one morning with a relatively strong level of self-esteem. Then I pictured her driving home to her family 10 hours later, feeling unappreciated, frustrated, underutilized, and demeaned. I imagined how profoundly her lowered self-esteem affected the way she interacted with her children. The vision in my mind then fast-forwarded to another day, when she drove home with greater self-esteem—feeling that she had learned a lot, been recognized for achieving valuable things, and played a significant role in the success of some important initiatives. I then imagined how positively that affected her as a spouse and a parent. My conclusion: Management is the most noble of professions if it’s practiced well. No other occupation offers as many ways to help others learn and grow, take responsibility and be recognized for achievement, and contribute to the success of a team. More and more [people think] that a career in business means buying, selling, and investing in companies. That’s unfortunate. Doing deals doesn’t yield the deep rewards that come from building up people."

I’m sure you can see why it sticks out.