Kill Your Business to Keep it Alive! Organisational Implosion for Post-Innovation Survival.

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Kill Your Ideas Early

In a blog post by Peter Diamandis last weekend, he gave some hot tips on how to organise creativity. The advice is based on his work with semi-secret R&D facility Google X, or  X as it’s called now.

It’s an interesting read, and there was particularly one section which grabbed my attention. Principle 2: Try to Kill Your Best Ideas Early.

According to Diamandis, we need to kill ideas as soon as possible. Because we don’t want to waste resources, time, money and people on ideas that won’t work.

This makes sense to many of us who love ideas and ideation, but become bored once we need to act on them.

But for me Diamandis’ principle triggered another thought. Can this principle of killing ideas be applied in a larger context?

Kill Your Organisation

An organisation is also an idea.

An idea, which usually exists for a long time. But it’s still an idea. Google was originally an idea to catalogue all the world’s information. Twitter is the simple idea to let people write instant 140-character blog posts. Uber is an idea to let everyone be a taxi driver.

These ideas seem to work. Most people even consider them to be good ideas. They’ve obviously inspired and helped many many people and made a dent in the universe as Steve Jobs put it. The companies threw out these ideas from the drawing board into the global marketplace to see if they worked. And they did. Or rather, they seem to work today.

But if we take a longer perspective, we don’t know if they actually are good ideas. They might be considered bad ideas in hindsight. Or even destructive.

In the 19th century we humans began to drill oil. This seemed like a great idea at the time. The black gold helped modernize societies and our living standard increased vastly. But now we know that this idea wasn’t that good after all. Unintended consequences, which were unknown back then, has damaged our planet enormously – and together with mining of other non-renewables – perhaps so much that it will become uninhabitable soon.

Standard Oil and other organisations, which were founded on the idea to remove oil from the ground and sell it, are now rapidly being killed. By lack of innovation, external pressures, a change in values, shareholder fear etc.

Kill your organisation! shout the anti-oil and gas protesters who are now after COP21 backed by the majority of the world’s politicians and more and more investors.

Innovation is Dead

Diamandis’ creative / destructive principle of killing ideas also made me think about how to generally “do” innovation these days.

I’m actually pretty fed up with the word innovation. There are so many ways to innovate, so many books, blogs and consultants who help organisations innovate. So many…. no, too many people talk about innovation.

I think it’s time to cut the crap and be really innovative. I think the best way – or perhaps the only way – to innovate is to actually extrapolate Diamandis’ principle and kill organisations from within. Before external pressures (like those mentioned above) will kill an organisation, an organisation should kill itself.

Let me explain.

One of the buzz words of the past decade (since Clayton Christensen wrote the book The Innovator’s Dilemma) is disruption. Digital disruption, disruptive innovation, disruptive everything. How to avoid being disrupted. Disrupt or be Disrupted! 8 ways to avoid getting disrupted within your industry. Blah blah blah…

I believe that the only way to avoid being disrupted is to disrupt yourself. Innovation is dead. Implosion is the way forward. A slow implosion if you want your organisation to survive.

Nine Principles for Organisational Implosion

So how do you disrupt yourself? Because I think it’s only the organisations which manage to do this that will survive in the future. Here are my nine principles:

  1. Make the decision that your organisation is obsolete.

    First you must realize that your organisation will be disrupted and die. If you don’t do this already, start by researching and reading. Douglas Rushkoff and Jeremy Rifkin are good for instance. When readning books you have shied away from, you will realize that your organisational structures are wrong. Your culture is wrong. Your staff are great people, but there is no place for that greatness in your organisation. As soon as people come in the door on Monday morning they enter another state of mind. Sure, you encourage creativity and push for a new innovation culture, but the structures and systems in place won’t tolerate this. Too many people will try to stifle it. It’s too dangerous. It will rock the boat so that it capsizes.

    So first you have to deeply believe in that your organisation will be disrupted. This is not 2006. Disruption happens much faster today. So you will make the decision that your organisation is obsolete. Most CEOs won’t / can’t do this, so you’re ahead of the game if you do it now.

  2. Launch the Organisational Implosion.

    Once you’ve convinced the few people in power that you are history, decide that you will attempt organisational implosion. Most organisations won’t do this so will be disrupted and die at this principle.

  3. Create a parallel organisation on the edge.

    And now for the real innovation.

    Once you’ve let go of your organisation, you’ve left it behind, and truly realized that it has no reason to live, you shift your focus on a new organisation at the edge of the old one. There is quite a lot of literature on this work, for example by John Hagel, @ScottDAnthony, Gary P. Pisano and Prof. Thomas Schildhauer. Literature on how to set up a space / lab / experimental unit in parallel to your organisation is easy to find.

    To do this, you basically start from scratch and look at the problems and challenges you want to solve. What was the original purpose of the organisation? What could we do to make this happen instead of the old useless way?

    Of course it’s impossible for you to answer these questions as your leaders and staff work in the old tired organisation, and hence don’t see fresh ideas with a beginner’s mind.

    You need new blood.

  4. Put new people in charge of the new.

    So the only way to create a parallel organisation on the edge is to let new or fresh employees loose. Let them experiment. It’s the only hope you have. Hire new interesting people who you’d never hire in the old organisation. Then let go of control. You might as well, as you will die if you don’t. It’s either new blood or death.

  5. Suck out the blood from the old dying organisation, purify it, and inject it into the new.

    This is hard.

    The aim of this exercise is to move as many people as possible from the old to the new organisation. Most people are not ready to move. So one of the tasks for the new organisation is to educate the hesitating people so that they can take the leap. Why do we need to implode? Why can’t we just continue business-as-usual in the old organisation? Most people will not be able to shift their mindset, and hence cannot thrive (or even survive) in the new organisation. A landing pad must be built. Upsetting but still safe experiences must be designed. Provocations followed by reassuring activities are key.

  6. Clear Goals.

    The only goal of your organisational implosion is to close down the old organisation asap. Nothing else really.

  7. Pull, Don’t Push

    Don’t ever explicitly try to push people from the old space to the new. They will come when they’re ready. If they’re ready… Some people will never move. They cannot or do not want to shift to the new. Retrenchment programs and costs will be a heavy burden for you.

  8. Don’t Bring Them Back!

    Here’s a thing that most organisations don’t get, but that you must understand: When people jump from the old to the new, they cannot be expected to come back and operate within the old one. Once they have made the leap and changed their thinking, learnt the new way, opened their minds, gone through the dark night of the soul, the catharsis etc, they will not identify with their old role. So don’t ask them or expect them to share or implement their learnings back in the old organisation.

    No, what they learn in the new space on the edge will be used only in the new space. If it would be used in the old organisation, it might help that entity survive longer. And that’s exactly against principle 6 – the goal of implosion is to kill the old organisation asap.

    Many organisations struggle to implement or embed knowledge they gain through hiring outside consultants, sending staff to external learning and development programs, letting staff work in open innovation hubs such as coworking spaces etc. Why this fail is obvious. Knowledge, understanding, insight and wisdom and other “content”, which is new and fresh, should not be stored in a container that is old, rusty and falling apart. This might have been the case before – McKinsey and others might have helped organisations over the years do this, but it won’t work any more. Organisational implosion must come from within.

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  9. Give Them a Home

    A physical space where people can build the new organisation will speed up the process. Physical interaction and experimentation, which is kept separate from the old organisation is important. Buy them a big old house at the other side of town. Don’t give them bean bags, ping-pong tables and fixed-gear bikes though. They can decide what to buy themselves. A free innovation space like this is impossible to control. The new people might waste all your money and sink your ship. But that’s a risk you’ll have to take. So give them a home.

***
Organisational implosion is obviously an incremental exercise. A gradual shift of power and people from the old to the new. The old organisation must of course still run the old business, which pays for it all, but that can be done with less people as you know.

I strongly believe that organisational implosion is the only cure for disruption. In order to survive the ongoing slaughter of weak organisations, you have to disrupt yourself. No matter whether you’re disrupted by the digital, by Silicon Valley behemoths, by new values or by your own idiocy.

Organisational implosion is the new innovation. And a hell of a lot more fun.

 

Intrapreneurs Build Better Typewriters

electric-typewriter-540

I recently wrote about the current slow death of the institution.

It’s  increasingly obvious that the efficiencies we humans have gained in using institutions (to create scale, while minimizing transaction costs and increasing profits) no longer are relevant. The internet have changed this and institutions are obsolete.

Huh?

Yes.  As futurist and director of IFTF Marina Gorbis explains in this talk, there is no financial point in us having institutions any more, and therefore (as we live in a world where money decides) institutions will soon disappear.

“You can think of organisations as a technology for creating scale and minimizing cost. This technology is being disrupted.”

They will likely be replaced with online networks, peer-to-peer solutions or other post-organisational structures.

But the centralized institution as we know it will soon be gone.

It’s like the typewriter. Once an important and ubiquitous technology… And now gone…

***

For years I was a believer in intrapreneurship: To use the principles of entrepreneurship to hack or disrupt large organisations from within, while maintaining the actual system, the organisation.

Today I think of intrapreneurs as a bit like those guys who tried to re-invent the typewriter back in the day.

“Hey, Look! We can add another colour to the pad so that you can type in both black and red now!”

“Look! We have invented an electric typewriter. You don’t need to move the paper down with the scroller thingy, now you just plug the typewriter into the wall and press this button!”

These guys had no idea that the typewriter would be replaced with a smartphone soon. They thought that the typewriter would always be around in a different shape or form.

Exactly like people who spend their time managing and trying to change or develop large rganisations today. They think that these organisations will always be around.

But why?

Organisations are a technology like any technology, and it is obsolete. The benefits are no longer there.

Sure, there are social and other benefits, but that’s not enough. If it doesn’t make financial sense it will go.

***

Do you work to make organisations better? As a manager, organisational development expert, change management consultant, intrapreneur or similar?

Be careful. You are likely holding evolution back. You are probably a barrier to progress.

As John Hagel recently pointed out in his excellent 21st Century Global Declaration of Independence:

“We find ourselves now at a crossroads in history. The institutions – commercial, educational, political and civic – that we created in an earlier era in an effort to expand our potential have now become increasingly significant barriers to progress. It is not surprising that our trust in these institutions is plummeting around the world. We see so much opportunity and yet the institutions that are supposed to be helping us are increasingly standing in our way.”

Don’t try to build a better typewriter.

The Future of Work: From Coworking to Noworking

Obsolete Model: Hard Work
New Model: No Work

***

 

Obsolete Model: Hard Work

I used to write and send CVs and job applications. But I never got the jobs I applied for, and most of the time I didn’t even get an interview. This worried me for years, but as I wrote here, it is something I now have accepted.

I will not get a job these days as I am not meant to get a job. I am meant to do something else now. Something, which I’m currently exploring in these postnormal times.

Some recruiters suggest that job seekers should be more truthful in their applications. After hearing this I started to send another CV, which was more true to myself:

demonstrated record of exceeding profitability goals, turn around underperforming units and driving increased revenues
and market share – See more at: http://workbloom.com/resume/sample/coo.aspx#sthash.JPcldSiq.dpuf
demonstrated record of exceeding profitability goals, turn around underperforming units and driving increased revenues
and market share – See more at: http://workbloom.com/resume/sample/coo.aspx#sthash.JPcldSiq.dpuf

Adam has no demonstrated record of exceeding profitability goals, turn around underperforming units and driving increased revenues and market share. He has not spent the past 20 years consulting to FMCG, non-profit and the resources sectors. He has no experience in Six Sigma or Lean methodologies. He didn’t direct the execution of a pioneering portfolio diversification and channel expansion strategy. He doesn’t care about KPI:s. Adam doesn’t want your job. Because your job and your organisation contributes to maintaining the old paradigm; the obsolete model, which needs to be replaced.

demonstrated record of exceeding profitability goals, turn around underperforming units and driving increased revenues
and market share – See more at: http://workbloom.com/resume/sample/coo.aspx#sthash.JPcldSiq.dpuf

I didn’t get any jobs with this CV. And honestly I didn’t want them anyway. I’m in the fortunate position to choose whether or not to work (like many people in the Western world – we can live off relatives, live on welfare or work for some years and then move to a country in the developing world and retire).

But the main reason for stopping to look for work is that I believe there are more important things to do than work. For example to build better futures.

Considering the state of the world, the best thing I think most people in the developed world can do to help, is to not go to work on Monday morning.

Hard work will not help us out of the interconnected messes we’re in (climate change, extinction of species, poverty, inequality, peak oil, debt, lack of meaning… etc). Perhaps right work will, but no one knows what that right work is. Therefore we will need a new model instead.

I suggest No Work.

 

New Model: No Work

I’ve done research on the history and futures of work for years now. And it still fascinates me. I have participated in online conversations about the futures of work, presented and consulted on the futures of work, and written papers about these. And my conclusion after all this work, is that my preferred future of work is no work.

No work doesn’t mean idleness. Being idle is not necessarily bad, as the fantastic people behind The Idler know. But our new model is not an idle life. It’s only a life of no work.

One of my favourite graphs of all time is one from Peter Senge’s Fifth Discipline Field Book from 1990.

senge

Simply explained, this systems map illustrates that our CO2 emissions increase with increased economic activity. We all know that increased CO2 is bad and we want to decrease rather than increase emissions. So we need to reverse these two so-called reinforcing loops, R1 and R2. There are five obvious intervention points in this system; five things that we can decrease in order to decrease CO2 emissions. Economic activity, capital investment, money, consumption and jobs.

It’s hard for most people to do something about the R2 loop; capital investment and money, but for R1, there are two things we all can do;

a) consume less and

b) work less.

These days, most of us in the West know that consumption is no recipe for happiness. Naomi Klein, Adbusters, the Occupy movement and other activists, writers and academics have done lots to change consumer behaviour. But there hasn’t been as much focus on the second intervention point in this R1 loop; changing behaviour and mindsets of people to get them to work less.

Because to work less is a choice we have – or at least everyone who reads this. And to work less or be voluntarily unemployed is a sign of weakness in our Western societies. A sign of failure. A sign of egotism. A sign of laziness.

To me it’s none of this. To me it can be a sign of courage, strength and thoughtful inaction.

If we work less we reduce CO2 emissions and help safeguard the planet for future generations, as the graph clearly illustrates. Consequently, completely ceasing to work, is the best future for our planet and therefore my preferred future of work.

The question is what we should do instead.

Work has been discussed by many thinkers from various fields. Here are some who have pointed out that we should stop working so much:

 

In his 1932 article In Praise of Idleness, philosopher Bertrand Russell wrote about his issues with work;

“Hitherto we have continued to be as energetic as we were before there were machines; in this we have been foolish, but there is no reason to go on being foolish forever.”

 

andre-gorz

French philosopher André Gorz argued in 1989 that our technological advances and the microchip revolution would lead to big savings in labour in the industrial, administrative and service sectors. He predicted that we would no longer need to work on a full-time basis. However, since Gorz wrote this, we have not seen a decrease in working time in the developed world – rather increase.

 

 

bucky

The man who inspired this series of blog posts, Buckminster Fuller, said the following on work;

“We should do away with the absolutely specious notion that everybody has to earn a living. It is a fact today that one in ten thousand of us can make a technological breakthrough capable of supporting all the rest. The youth of today are absolutely right in recognizing this nonsense of earning a living. We keep inventing jobs because of this false idea that everybody has to be employed at some kind of drudgery because, according to Malthusian Darwinian theory he must justify his right to exist. So we have inspectors of inspectors and people making instruments for inspectors to inspect inspectors. The true business of people should be to go back to school and think about whatever it was they were thinking about before somebody came along and told them they had to earn a living.”

I believe we should listen to these old wise men and stop working.

The fun will begin when we start to talk about what to do with our time and how organise our societies instead 🙂

***

This blog post is part of a series, which started with some of my issues.. I call this the irresponsibility series, as my inner conservative tells me that the posts and thoughts here are “utterly, completely irresponsible”. In the series, I discuss obsolete and new models for five things which I have issues with: Democracy, Hard Work, Cars, Heroic (or Dickhead) Entrepreneurship and Settling. This series is based on Buckminster Fuller’s excellent quote, which has inspired many of us;

“You never change things by fighting the existing reality.
To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”

***

Future of Work: Free Piano Lessons

 

From an article about Salman Khan, founder of the free virtual learning centre and Silicon Valley not-for-profit Khan Academy:

Silicon Valley, he notes, is full of opportunities for the best and brightest to burn their energy on “some hot, new thing”. But, he notes, “that kind of creation can sometimes become an addiction to the point that you are not necessarily filling your soul properly. I have personally wondered, considering the amount of resources here, why there isn’t as much as you would expect devoted to the arts, and to things that you would normally expect out of a society that has an incredible amount of wealth … more rose bushes on the street and art installations and more museums …”Perhaps the absence of these life-enhancing priorities is tied to the loss of an element of play among adults, which Khan believes is particularly discouraged in the workplace. He has plans for the new offices that include a Lego room, recording studio, child-to-adult toys, a photography studio and musical instruments. Children will be welcomed at after-hours events and there will be on-site childcare. “You can work at any kind of intense company and there is an acceptance that you can go to the gym, but not take piano lessons,” he says. “We are not only going to pay for you to take piano lessons, but also carve out a space where you can come and get piano lessons, and practise and improve in all these other dimensions.”