A start-up’s success is not gauged by earnings or quarterly reports; it’s measured by how well it identifies a problem in the market and matches it to a solution…But that’s not what life is like within a mature organization. When corporations reach maturity, the measure of success is very different: it’s profit.
Once a business figures out how to solve its customers’ problems, organizational structures and processes emerge to guide the company towards efficient operation. Seasoned managers steer their employees from pursuing the art of discovery and towards engaging in the science of delivery. Employees are taught to seek efficiencies, leverage existing assets and distribution channels, and listen to (and appease) their best customers.
Such practices and policies ensure that executives can deliver meaningful earnings to the street and placate shareholders. But they also minimize the types and scale of innovation that can be pursued successfully within an organization. No company ever created a transformational growth product by asking: “How can we do what we’re already doing, a tiny bit better and a tiny bit cheaper?”
The industrial model broke down work into its simplest elements and linked it together in complex processes. The knowledge component was removed from workers and reserved for management, while workers were provided with just enough knowledge to “do their job”…..
Breaking down that model and restoring the knowledge creation and sharing function to all employees requires executive commitment to reexamine business processes, HR policies, and IT infrastructure.
The Internet isn’t really a technology. It’s a belief system, a philosophy about the effectiveness of decentralized, bottom-up innovation. And it’s a philosophy that has begun to change how we think about creativity itself.
The ethos of the Internet is that everyone should have the freedom to connect, to innovate, to program, without asking permission. No one can know the whole of the network, and by design it cannot be centrally controlled. This network was intended to be decentralized, its assets widely distributed. Today most innovation springs from small groups at its “edges.”
A manager recently voiced his concerns: “Most employees prefer being told what to do. They are willing to accept being treated like children in exchange for reduced stress. They are also willing to obey authority in exchange for job security.” That is the way we have seen it: managers inspire, motivate and control employees who need to be inspired, motivated and controlled. These dynamics create the system of management and justify its continuation.
If we want to meet the challenges of the post-industrial world, this relationship needs to change. The workers changing their role are often seen as a matter of the extent to which the managers are willing to allow it and give up responsibility. In reality it is as much a matter of how much the workers are willing to grow their (management) capacity and take more and wider responsibility.