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…

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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Organisations are a technology like any technology, and it is obsolete.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.

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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.

Four Scenarios for Humanity Based on Rolling Stones Guitarist Keith Richards’ Life

Keith Richards of The Rolling Stones is known as a rock’n’roll survivor. Unlike mythologized stars like Janis, Jimi, Jim, Kurt and Amy, who all died young, Keith is still with us. And not only that: He’s had an amazingly eventful and crazy life with several near-death experiences. Over the years, sensationalist music journalists, fans and other close observers have speculated on his self-destruction many times, but surprisingly Keith is still with us. With us on the global stages, touring the world with an old Fender Telecaster and a cheeky grin on his lips.

Sometimes I think of our planet as being a bit like Keith. A survivor that has been through remarkable things: Ice ages, supervolcano eruptions, asteroid impacts and so on. And now it seems like good old Earth is up for another big challenge: The Anthropocene – this era where the clever, fast, ruthless organisms called humans geo-engineer and hack their way into the planet.

So what are some plausible scenarios for us humans on this planet? Well, here are four of them based on some of the eras in the Keith Richards’ life:

 

1. Mischievous Lad

Keith 1965 (CC BY-SA 2.0 – Kevin Delaney)

The Rolling Stones formed in London in 1962. In the swinging 60s London, there was a naive belief that rhythm & blues and rock & roll could change the world. And it actually did. Keith and his merry band of musicians built on the old American rhythm and blues tradition, and turned it into something of their own. Together with other young mischievous lads like The Beatles and The Who they took the world by storm and global domination ensued.

But long West End nights at places like The Marquee Club were often followed by early morning flights to gigs in other countries. This lifestyle required stimulation beyond natural and legal highs. Amphetamines and other drugs were needed to keep playing and partying.

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In the Mischievous Lad future we’ll all keep on playing the game. We’ll keep on churning out hit songs, like there is no tomorrow. We’ll go on never-ending global tours because the show must go on. Just as Keith and his fellow 60s musician friends were fuelled by “uppers”, the planetary citizens in this future will be fuelled by various drugs and medications to keep us going.

 

2. Elegantly Wasted

Keith 1972 (CC BY-SA 2.0 Dina Regine)

In the late 60s and early 70s Keith Richards turned into an enigmatic, globetrotting counter-culture hero. Like other elegantly wasted aristocrats, successful artists and rich debauched heirs, The Rolling Stones set up camp on the French Riviera for the summer. In 1971, Keith reigned like a king in the Stones’ rented villa at Villefranche-sûr-Mer outside of Nice. Here, surrounded by his friends, he waterskied and entertained princes, writers and mannequins by day, drank bourbon and recorded incredible music by night. He could do whatever he wanted to do. However, the British tax authorities, various drug dealers, former girlfriends and others were on his back.

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In the Elegantly Wasted future we will have lots of fun, since we will do what we like to do. We won’t have any money or material wealth but we will have lots of friends. The space we inhabit will look very different, where most things are derelict and overgrown with plants and scattered with strange technological gadgets. Essential societal institutions like hospitals and fire departments will still function. Many of us will die on the way to this future but those who survive will thrive.

3. Heroin Casualty

Keith 1982 (CC BY-SA 3.0, Gorupdebesanez)

The elegantly wasted Keith sunk deeper down during the 70s, and in the 80s many counted him out as his severe heroin habit got in the way of his creativity and life. He was rumoured to have replaced all his blood at a special clinic in Switzerland because it was so toxic and could kill him from within (!) He was emaciated, dark and gloomy – a ghostly shell of his former gloriously, elegantly wasted self. The cheeky grin was gone.

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Too much excess, wild weather and apocalyptic events make way for the Heroin Casualty future – a scenario, which feels like sleeping on a damp mattress in a dark and gloomy basement. The Heroin Casualty future is a bit like those dystopian zombie futures we’ve seen in the movies, but where the narrator has a constant flu with accompanying phlegmy cough. Our vital infrastructures have collapsed. All is dark and the streets are full of lethal threats and diseases. The global society in the Heroin Casualty scenario is all but resilient, as all systems are out and only the faintest of reserves remain. A virus outbreak could end all life.

 

4. Captain Jack Sparrow’s Dad

Keith 2008 (CC BY 3.0, Siebbi)

 

Keith survived the cold, lethal period. And from the 90s and onwards he’s taken on a crazy, colourful and unpredictable character: The role as Captain Jack Sparrow’s dad in the Pirates of the Caribbean films. Johnny Depp, who plays the charismatic captain, is friends with Keith, and when asked if he wanted to star in the sequels, Richards said yes. He had always considered himself a pirate, so why not?

Captain Jack Sparrow’s dad was once the most feared pirate in the world, so is highly respected and feared by all the pirates in the Brethren Court. He was once the Pirate Lord of Madagascar but later resigned to become the Keeper of the Pirate Code, the Pirata Codex, which he keeps with him at Shipwreck Cove.

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The Captain Jack Sparrow’s Dad future is similar to the Pirate future, which is propagated by many thinkers and hackers around the world today. A global, transparent future based on direct democracy, where all is open and free, as pioneered by The Pirate Bay and various European pirate parties.

Captain Jack Sparrow’s dad is however different from the regular Pirate future. This future is older, wiser but slightly erratic and nutty. The Captain Jack Sparrow’s dad future has been to hell and back, but on the way it went through a fundamental paradigm shift. It is something of a wise fool with its youthful cheeky grin intact, but with strange beads and braids in the hair.

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Keith Richards is still alive and a fifth scenario for the future of humanity will be added to this list when we have identified it. Or as Keith himself puts it:

“I don’t want to see my old friend Lucifer just yet. He’s the guy I’m gonna see, isn’t it? I’m not going to the Other Place, let’s face it.”

 

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With apologies to Jim Dator for (ab)using his four Alternative Futures archetypes.

The Future of Work: From Coworking to Noworking

Obsolete Model: Hard Work
New Model: No Work

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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 🙂

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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.”

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