Thursday, 13 February 2014

Freedom, collective intelligence, the baby and the bath water

With a group of young entrepreneurs, we were discussing the ways and means to make their enterprises more agile. A consensus soon surfaced:
"To be more agile, you must free the people."
"To be more agile, you must develop collective intelligence."
The conversation developed around these two challenges, drifted to organizational and managerial sideways, away from customers' stakes and eventually resembled the famous expression: "throw out the baby with the bath water".

Freedom. We all want- rightly- to break free from the Taylorist prison and design a more inclusive company. But for the sake of freedom, when getting rid of the alienating Taylorist process "bath water", we tend to throw out the baby along with it: the baby being the customer, our ultimate goal. Without focusing on that goal, freedom is meaningless. I recently visited the headquarters of a large distribution company: beautiful campus, organic food cafeteria, sports complex, etc. During the visit of the logistics center, I am told that today's delivery delays are due to the company’s internal olympic games: part of the logistics team is playing the volleyball final! The young boss, whom I met a little later lamented about the growing gap between the open and free atmosphere he had implemented and the lack of people’s motivation.

Collective Intelligence. We all want - and rightly - to free people's intelligence from the shackles of Taylorism (the water bath), but we often end up forgetting the baby again: intelligence idles and withers when not applied to the purpose of the company, solving problems and finding opportunities to improve customer value. To grow customer centered collective intelligence, you need a rich soil with caring gardeners able to design and secure "spaces of thought ", daily places and time spaces dedicated to learn together how to develop and create value.

Freedom and collective intelligence are starting points, pre-requisites and success factors: you must be free to engage yourself and commit your intelligence. But they are not the destination. Satisfied and loyal customers are our one and genuine destination: a free and wise engagement!

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