It’s possible that we are destined to fail, that our organisations will crumble, that the pace of change the Social Age demands will simply be too much for our creaking hierarchies to handle. Not every organisation will fail, but maybe most. But that cataclysmic view may be our salvation: it’s possible that only from the ruins of the old can we build the new.
I call some of this work my 1% thinking: ideas at the edge of the sketched map, only shadows of ideas really, but a space to explore these outliers. Notions about the next generation of ’Organisational Design’, about the ‘Disruption of old Power’, and the need to find comfort in ambiguity, notions of the ‘New Guilds’, and ’New Knowledge’. A time of ‘Trusted Tribes’ and an ’Age of Engagement’.
As society evolves, so too must the social constructs that we call ‘organisations’. And they must evolve in line with the emergent social norms and demands. Society does not exist to serve the Organisation: rather Organisations exist to serve society.
I had a thoroughly enjoyable session today, exploring some of that 1%: toying with the idea of ‘Citizens of Brand’, exploring the ‘Dynamic Tension’ of Social Leadership, and reflecting on this broader picture: can we evolve, do do we build from the ruins? Is it possible that ALL social structures will ultimately stagnate, codify their power, nest within hierarchy, and hence need to be swept away, again and again. Waves of social organisation, each replacing the old.
Something about this rings true: no organisation persists, no nation has lived forever, no empire survived the fall, there is no permanence in the social organisation of mankind. We invent new structures as need demands.
In my own work, i talk about the Socially Dynamic Organisation: it’s evolved, adapted, ready the thrive in this new space. But i suspect we have to grow it out of the ruins of the old. Sure, we can take some things forward: we can carry our pride, our reputation, our purpose, but we may have to shed the structures of power, control, and resistance, which hold us back. You cannot carry everything from the past into the future, the load is simply too heavy.
We can, perhaps, take the ten year view: not what can we carry for ten years, but how can we use those years to create the culture, to hold open the spaces, to build the communities, that will deliver, from the ashes, the evolved organisation.
I don’t mean that it will take ten years to build, but rather that our mindset should be beyond our own tenure. Not what can we achieve today, but what legacy will we leave tomorrow.
In the Change Handbook, which i’m working on at the moment, i talk about ‘co-creating, and co-owning’ the future state: providing an ability of people to both shape the future, and invest themselves in it. This is the lifeboat.
As the old organisation sheds it’s structure and control, as it seeks to become more dynamic, lightweight, scaffolded, and reconfigurable, it must create space, and opportunity, for people to both shape, and own, aspects of the future state. Because so much of that future state will be created by people. People who are enabled, empowered, and endlessly curious, in a structure that permits them to be so.