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.

 

Cars

Obsolete Model: The Car
New Model: The Human

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Obsolete Model: The Car

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“The spirit of generosity already threatened by the horse, evaporated entirely with the motor car.”

– Bruce Chatwin in his Patagonia notebook

***

I’m about to buy a car. And I don’t like it. I wish I didn’t have to.

I’ve had an issue with cars for a long time now. I don’t remember disliking them as a kid or teenager, so I can’t see any hidden psychological traumas that I have oppressed. In my 20s, I thought cars were great for getting to the French or Austrian Alps to snowboard. My friends and I always had some old rubbish car for that reason. But I don’t remember ever liking cars. They were more of a tool for getting far away from boring university studies.

I have owned cars a few times, but have always had problems with them. One lost the exhaust pipe in the Moroccan desert, one caught on fire on a French Autoroute, and one was stolen in East London. And I’ve always disliked buying and selling cars. Cars are very expensive to most people and the large sums of money, which change hands in these transactions create mistrust between all parts that are involved.

But these days my issue with cars is not with my own car or other peoples’ cars. It’s with cars in general. The car.

I think we can now declare the car an obsolete model which needs to be replaced. Why? Well, let’s look at a couple of things.

Costs:

  • Cars pollute
  • Cars kill playing children and insecure teenagers
  • Cars lead to unhealthy behaviour (sitting down in a metal bubble instead of walking)
  • Cars are expensive and terrible investments
  • Cars are inefficient as a means of transport in urban areas
  • Cars lead to road rage

Benefits:

  • Cars can take me anywhere quickly once outside a city centre.
  • Cars give me freedom
  • Some cars are beautiful
  • It’s fun to drive too fast with a car
  • My car is a place which I like as I’m on my own there. It’s my temple. A place for reflection.

And so on… We all know these things. A cost-benefit analysis would perhaps be more favorable to cars in remote areas, but in urban areas there is no reason for cars.

New model: The Human

A recent report I read said that human drivers will disappear within a generation. I was a bit disappointed. I had hoped that they will disappear before that. But most people agree that self-driving cars will transform our lives when they come.

I’m curious to see whether self-driving vehicles will solve my problems and still give me the benefits with cars, mentioned in the cost/benefit analysis above.

Let’s list everything  again and see if the self-driving car will change life for the better:

Cost/benefit Change Comment
Cars pollute + Won’t be solved, the self-driving car will still pollute, but much fuel will be saved.
Cars lead to unhealthy behaviour (sitting down in a metal bubble instead of walking) 0 Won’t be solved. We’ll still get fatter and move less.
Cars are inefficient as a means of transport in urban areas. + Won’t be solved. Yes, there will be less congestion, but cities will still be packed with cars.
Cars kill playing children and insecure teenagers +++ This will be solved! Self-driving cars cannot kill children or teenage drivers.
Cars are expensive and terrible investments 0 No change (but at least insurance costs will go down)
Cars lead to road rage +++ Will be solved! We will relax with a book or DVD instead of raging against our fellow machines and motorists.
Cars can take me anywhere quickly once outside a city centre. 0 No change.
Cars give me freedom 0 Same. Future Jack Keroac’s can now even write as they “keep on rolling under the stars”.
Some cars are beautiful 0 No change. Some cars will still be beautiful.
It’s fun to drive too fast with a car This will not be possible any more. Hoons and revheads will disappear and have to get their testosterone levels balanced elsewhere.
My car is a place which I like as I’m on my own there. It’s my temple. A place for reflection. 0 No change. My car will still be a place for reflection.

Yes, the self-driving car will solve some of my issues, but not all of them. We need a better model than the self-driving car. A self-driving car is perhaps what the electric typewriter was to the typewriter; a solution which seemed logical at the time, but didn’t stop the innovation from being disrupted.

I wonder what will disrupt the car in the same way as the car disrupted the horse. I suggest the human.

 

***

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.”

***

 

The Dynamic Integral Governance App Store

Obsolete Model: Democracy
New Model: The Dynamic Integral Governance App Store

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In my home country Australia we have decided to destroy the Great Barrier Reef.

Over the past year we’ve seen a lot of media reports on how plans for a new coal shipping lane in Queensland will impact on the highly sensitive and unique ecosystem of the Great Barrier Reef  – one of the true wonders of the world today.

A UN report said that the plans are a bad idea. Most non-Australians who read these reports think we Australians are completely nuts to sacrifice a million- year old generative colourful ecosystem of immense beauty for a 150-yr old dying dirty technology to create energy.

But what the ignorant foreigners do not understand is this:

We Australians must destroy our beautiful country.

There are many reasons for this. But this post is only about one of them: Democracy.

We Australians live in a democratic country and therefore we must destroy our country.

In a democratic process the reef was decided to be less important than the coal industry. We Australians believe in democracy and therefore we must destroy our beautiful country.

And this sums up my issue with democracy well.

***

new and old

So what’s better?

I wrote a bit about my experiences with various forms of governance, such as sociocracy, liquid democracy and autocracy in a post named “Who Decides?” last year. Since then, my thinking has not progressed much, so I quote myself:

“We shouldn’t be afraid of trying new models of governance in small-scale experiments. Democracy is only an idea, which works in certain contexts. The challenge might be to create a world where any of all these types of governance is accepted, and where we acknowledge that they all have benefits at certain times. We might need an integral model which can hold all these and the new ones which we will dream up.”

Over the years I have met some brilliant people who dream up platforms for new forms of governance: Hackers, academics, writers, futurists, designers, social entrepreneurs and more. I think all these “how-to do decision-making ideas” are valid and together will form our post-democratic governance system. I was involved in a very interesting Facebook conversation earlier this year, where this analogy came up:

“Maybe we have to see our individual “how” projects as apps in a larger, global “game” for change. This game / platform should be able to hold all these, like Google or Apple do today with their app stores.”

So, some sort of dynamic, integral global game or repository of a lot of governance forms from autocracy to direct democracy and internetocracy, which are all useful for decision making in various contexts. If some -ocracy is missing people can add it. And if some -ocracy is rubbish it won’t be used. But it is still there on the app store for reference.

I guess Wikipedia already is the repository for all these. The issue for us today is which one to choose for each context. Especially for the planet.

Planetocracy anyone?

Shit, I don’t know. But I’m very intrigued to see what will emerge…

With a shift in values towards planetary values comes shifts in systems, such as governance towards planetary systems. But even if we build the planetary platforms, app stores and -ocracys, our values will have to come along on the evolutionary journey. Otherwise it won’t work.

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Thanks to Christer Nylander, Klaus Petritsch, David Bovill, Jonas Zachrisson, Sharif Shawky, Magnus Liljebergh, Fredrik Gadd, José Ramos and  for inspiring this post.


 

This blog post is part of 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, with which I have issues: 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.”

***

Dare to be Delusional: Beyond Social Entrepreneurship pt. 1

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Entrepreneurial Development

I’ve been thinking and researching a lot about the development of entrepreneurship and entrepreneurs over the past three years. Some elements seem to always be there when an entrepreneur is described;

  • Creative destruction
  • Restlessness and curiosity
  • Listening to people but not believing them
  • A touch of delusion
  • Building structures based on resources, to which the entrepreneur does not yet have access

The list goes on and there are thousands of blog posts on this. But which elements are not always there? Which elements are added as the entrepreneur matures or evolves?

For instance, Richard Branson started out selling Christmas trees, student magazines and records, and continued to build an airline, train and mobile phone businesses. In the late 90’s he started discussions with Peter Gabriel and Nelson Mandela how to tackle global problems. Now his focus seems to be on space travel and other “big picture” projects. Bill Gates started out in computing and software, and has now turned to AIDS vaccines, polio eradication, financial services for the poor and tackling other massive global problems.

Why did these mega-entrepreneurs shift their focus towards global problems and disadvantaged people? Was it only because the problems the dealt with in their other businesses weren’t challenging enough? Or is there something more to the development of an entrepreneur?

Moral Development

Laurence Kohlberg was an American psychologist famous (to some) for his theory of stages of moral development. Perhaps his theory can be applied to Branson, Gates and other entrepreneurs who have shifted focus towards tackling global issues rather than selling more products and services? (Sure, both these mega-entrepreneurs still sell a lot of stuff, but it seems like their passions lie elsewhere now.)

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The essence in Kohlberg’s work is that we care about a larger group as we develop. An individual can develop from egocentric (focused on me) to socio-centric (focused on my culture, society or group) to worldcentric (focused on all humans no matter sex, race, creed etc) and onwards to higher, more all-encompassing levels.

  • A pre-conventional entrepreneur (stage 1-2 in the figure) would care only about themselves;
  • a conventional entrepreneur about their own culture (stages 3-4);
  • a post-conventional entrepreneur would consider all human cultures (stages 5-6) and
  • a post-post-conventional entrepreneur would care about all sentient beings (beyond the figure).

At which stages would a traditional entrepreneur and a social entrepreneur work?

Cognitive Development

Another thing that seemed to happen to Gates and Branson is this:  In order to be able to help these larger groups of people they increasingly cared about, they needed to understand how larger systems work. When they started out as young entrepreneurs, they needed to understand a computer, a small start-up, a town in one country, but while developing as entrepreneurs and in their global travels they learnt more about other cultures and ways of doing things. Their cognition (thinking) developed to include larger parts of the world with increased complexity, and today they “get” cultures, social systems, politics and technologies across the whole planet. Their cognitive level has shifted – just like their moral level.

The million dollar question here is of course this: How does an entrepreneur develop to be able to operate across many moral and cognitive levels without building a global business empire like Branson and Gates?

Well, that would be one of the main questions I think should be explored in a school for systems entrepreneurs.

 Schools for systems entrepreneurs

When I read Bridgette Engeler Newbury’s post “When marketing sucks, the future suffers”  a while ago I was taken by a recommendation at the end: “Dream bigger than ever”. “Marketing has always relied on big, inspiring ideas. Daring and brave, innovative and far-reaching. Ways not just to make sales but to transform lives (and the marketplace).”

Over the past year I have started to get increasingly frustrated with social entrepreneurship – a concept of change and way of life, which I earlier believed had real transformational qualities. Perhaps my issue with most social entrepreneurship is the small-scale of it. There are fantastic social enterprises such as Grameen and Kiva, but most of them are small-scale initiatives in local communities. These are important and must continue, but I think that local issues need local and global solutions. Most ideas in social enterprise are modelled on normal business without transformative or international impact. The ideas are too petty.

Meanwhile, right now in Silicon Valley a huge part of our common future is created by the next generation of Bransons and Gateses;  Sergey Brin, Larry Page, Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg & company. Tech billionaires, whose thinking, morals and worldviews have massive impact on us all and our planet. These guys think big for many reasons. And I believe that most social entrepreneurs must think as big as they do to create real change today.

Social enterprise (as most enterprise) is needs-based. So, one of the early questions a start-up gets from investors or advisors is “what is the customer need you target?” or something similar. The problem in this question (and the answers it leads to) is that this need often reflects a problem symptom and not its underlying systemic factors. Most entrepreneurs tackle symptoms rather than underlying problems.

But as a wise man said; we cannot use the same thinking to solve our problems as we used when we created them. Social entrepreneurship mostly uses such old ways of thinking with polarities like rich/poor, profit/non-profit, sustainable/unsustainable, developed countries/non-developed countries etc. I believe we need more entrepreneurs who think beyond these dichotomies.

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We need bigger thinking.

We need systemic solutions.

We need global and local solutions.

We need networked solutions.

We need more systems thinking entrepreneurs.

We need more deluded social entrepreneurs.

We need to train people to think about crazy, unreasonable and preposterous solutions to our challenges.

We need schools for systems entrepreneurs.

The mission of the Singularity University is to educate, inspire and empower leaders to apply exponential technologies to address humanity’s grand challenges. That’s an excellent ‘big’ mission, and we need more of those in our educational institutions.

Still, we need to remember the entrepreneurial development pieces mentioned above; the cognitive and moral dimensions.

If I would run a school for systems entrepreneurs I would therefore steal the Singularity University’s mission but add a couple of things. Perhaps this one:

To develop, inspire and empower networked entrepreneurs to apply exponential technologies across systems of wise innovation clusters to address grand challenges.

Is that deluded enough for you?

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.”