The Radical Redesign of Business – are you ready?
One could argue our industrial world has reached the edge of its adaptive range.
We are faced with a world that in a very short period of time has gone from seemingly linear (simple) to complex and non-linear (chaotic). Now is the time when we need a way of evaluating how we deal with volatility and unpredictability.
In the words of Prof. Mervyn King, Chairman of the GRI & IIRC:
‘I have little doubt that commentators in 2020 will look back on the decade of 2000 – 2010 and describe it as the decade of stupidity, because generally companies with knowledge of the crises faced by the planet carried on business as usual. They continued to take, make, waste, as if the planet had infinite natural assets and an infinite capacity to absorb waste….The decade of 2010 – 2020, I believe, will be known as the decade of change.’
Transformational times call for transformational change
What is called for is nothing short of a ‘radical redesign of business’. Alan Moore, author of No Straight Lines, and Giles Hutchins, author of The Nature of Business, partner up at Schumacher College to explore this ‘radical redesign of business’.
In redesigning the world, Alan Moore argues that we need human creativity in the sense of the capacity to ‘make’ and we need visionary leadership in the sense of ‘making a positive difference’. In this ‘making’ we need a craftsman’s approach more focused on quality than quantity – we seek the craftsman’s critical eye, steady hand and creative mind.
The call for Craftsmanship
The craftsman’s critical eye and creative mind is vital to evaluating new possibilities; he/she must be open to new ideas, information, tools and materials to make things that enable humanity to flourish in these challenging times. But this requires us to think and act as craftsmen and women and apply our critical thinking to understanding our non-linear world, which is in part shaped by participatory cultures, open, complex and seemingly ambiguous systems that are highly interdependent of each other.
Giles Hutchins notes that we need humanity to flourish in harmony with all of life for there to be anything resembling a successful outcome for business, society and humanity; hence a business paradigm that is both inspired by and in harmony with nature. Seeing the world with different perspectives begs the question of humanity’s purpose and place in life. Is the shift from a mechanistic, linear world to an emergent, non-linear world aided by a changing relationship between humanity and the wider web of life? Can this shift in business and beyond also include a shift from anthropocentric and reductionist thinking to eco-system being?
Sir Ken Robinson famously said:
‘We educate our children from the waist up, then we focus on their heads, and then we only educate one side of their brain. The whole purpose of education is to produce university professors who live in their heads, their bodies are only there to transport their heads to meetings’.
As Alan Moore says, humanity now ekes out its existence under the industrial tyrannical twins of obsession with numbers and measurement of efficiency in every walk of life, whilst ignoring its fundamental needs. In addition, an unfettered pursuit of material wealth over any other value has come at a terrible cost for society; deeply damaged us spiritually and, ironically for many, materially.
Education was created at a time when the need was to fuel the explosion of industrialisation, yet in its present form, it is becoming a devalued commodity. The current education system educates creativity out of us.
describes a sense of hopelessness, and isolation that deconstructs our character in the workplace; ’unfettered capitalism’ makes it impossible for us to create coherent ‘character’ with its deadly consequences. Eric Beinhocker points to the failure of neoclassical economics, becoming enslaved to an ideology of neoclassical theory that is in the process of being supplanted by what he calls ‘complexity economics’ – the view that the economy is a complex adaptive system made up of realistically rational people who dynamically interact with each other in an evolutionary system. When people communicate with each other it is not simply a matter of communication, but it is a sharing that takes place in a very real, embodied way.
We are not atomised, rational people; we are creative, social, intuitive, relational people. As Cacioppo and Patrick point out, brains and bodies are designed to function in a collective and networked fashion, not in isolation. That is, they say, the essence of a social species: ’social connection is not just a lubricant that like motor oil, prevents overheating and wear, social connection is a fundamental part of the human operating and organising system itself.’
The rise of the Human Operating System – the ‘super organism’
As Alan Moore insightfully recognises:
‘We are midwives to a world that’s evolving from the straight lines that were representative of an industrial era, to a world that in its networked beauty is more like nature; more like us. Nature’s default setting is connection.’
Authentic living seeks a different way to work, one that provides greater meaning. This quest is driving a revolution in the structure and methods of business. A radical redesign of business where no corner, no open-plan office, no meeting room is left out. We need a new language and philosophy, an idea of a different type of society, by unfolding and exploring ideas of language and creativity that brings us new ways of describing and comprehending our world. You might call it a new common sense. This human operating system looks beyond materialism to something greater to liberate us from closed systems. In this way, we can become meaningfully re-engaged with the world, understand how we make our way in it, be truly accountable to each other and enjoy the full richness of life.
A transformation to a networked world where people ‘get connected’ is only whole if people also ‘re-connect’ with life, with their sense of purpose and place in life. Richard Sennett tells us that the craftsman constructs authentically. His honesty is communicated through his work, which then holds an inherent eternal truth. And the craftsman represents all of us with a desire to do something well, concretely and for reasons for other than material profit. It’s the unleashing of this deep motivation that we seek.
Alan Moore’s ‘No Straight Lines’ can be found here.
‘Anyone worried about where business is going in today’s chaotic world – and everyone concerned with where it should be going – must read No Straight Lines. Alan Moore has captured what is happening, but more importantly provides prescriptions for what individuals, companies, and society should do about it to create a better world’.
– B Joseph Pine II, Co-author, The Experience Economy and Infinite Possibility
‘The Nature of Business’ is not just a very entertaining read, but also a redoubtable sparring partner. A must read for everyone involved in the business of the future…. and aren’t we all?
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