There is a wealth of good reasons (historic and current) to make the transition away from the status quo model, it is nevertheless, a process of innovation and adventure. It would be inauthentic to promise a risk-free way forward or to claim there is an evidenced laden, ten-step process to an enlightened organisational future. Not least because the very use of a fixed process is a 20th Century approach to change, not one suited to the complexity of the 21st Century.
But one thing is for sure: we can’t stay where we are. So, the biggest risk of all lies in doing nothing.
Here is a shortlist of reasons why we should be encouraged and confident of success when moving towards a higher empathy, more responsive organisational structure and culture:
- There are organisations successfully adopting this kind of change across almost every industry and at every scale. Not in huge numbers, but with widespread success nevertheless. This group of frontrunners continues to grow.
- Fascinating similarities have emerged in the culture, structure and processes of organisations that have made this change, despite them having no knowledge of any other company attempting it. These shared experiences demonstrate there is a way forward - there is no clear plan but there are learnings and knowledge to guide our way.
- There is substantial evidence that points to more sustainable business models with their high degrees of social and environmental empathy - both of which are more likely to emerge from organisations which have redistributed authority. See: "What evidence is there for a "better", more conscientious way of doing business?"
- Some of the organisations operating like this have been doing it for decades and have sustained, established success; it is not a recent innovation.
- Elite business schools have been using case studies on these companies for decades: they have long been academically credible.
- Some 21st Century ways of operating have caught the attention of almost everyone, particularly in the technology arena: we know something new is here to stay.
- We know where the pain is and what needs to be different across our structures and processes for this to work: remuneration issues, decision making etc.
- Many small start-up style businesses operate more like a 21st Century Organisation because of the purpose that drives those involved and their relational nature; the idea it can't be scaled is just an assumption, not a fact
- Despite the hierarchy present historically in organised religion, faith-based communities are not only some of humanity’s longest-standing organisations, they have stood the test of time by being highly self-organising and purpose-driven - these qualities required in 21st Century Organisations have been tried and tested over millennia in navigating uncertainty.
- All complex, natural ecosystems - from our bodies to our forests - successfully operate in a networked, responsive fashion. Our workplaces are about the only mass organisation of organic beings that does not operate like that - it is the anomaly, not the norm.
- We run our personal lives and families like this. We don’t plan and manipulate our lives - we have an idea of where we want to go and who we want to be, but for the most part, we just sense our environment and context and respond to it.
- We know that our most valuable and fruitful relationships are those where we get to authentically express our whole selves.
- Our communities - from the smallest villages to global metropolises - function like this. They are complex networks that just work. We couldn’t successfully run our communities with the methodology we apply to our status quo organisations. The success of cities is a leading example of how self-organisation can successfully scale.
- We enthusiastically adopt a more democratic approach within Western nations and would not want them run like we do our companies: with concentrated power and a high degree of population control.
- We long for a new way of working that will bring us more joy, meaning and freedom. This longing is a valid source of truth that speaks to our human needs, and our capacity to make it a reality.