Belief in progress and development is as old as mankind. Since the Enlightenment, all of us are constantly contemplating a better world. Economic disruptors coupled with a growing scientific insight into the nature and culture of man form today a formidable alliance in predicting how the world of work will evolve. Everyday, a new book, article or tweet announces a better view with firm authority.
I started reading the intro to Reinventing Organisations by Frederic Laloux (http://www.reinventingorganizations.com) a couple of days ago. Frederic talks about the soulful organization, explaining how every time humanity has shifted to a new stage of consciousness, it has also invented a radically more productive organizational model. He suggests we could be facing today another critical juncture and that we are about to make such a leap again. I really encourage you to watch the video on his blog where he explains the emergence of a new management paradigm.
Whether or not his thesis holds water or not, is for you to speculate and the future to reveal. What made me pause was the following sentence: If we accept that there is a direction to human evolution, then we hold here something rather extraordinary: the blueprint of the future of organizations, the blueprint to the future of work itself.
With these words, Frederic suggests human evolution to be teleological: meaning there is a purpose, an end, a goal, a direction, a progression to evolution. This idea, as old as mankind, was torpedoed by Charles Darwin on November 22, 1859. Science has since then respectfully delegated this conviction to the realm of beliefs.
Randomness, mutation and selection drive evolution but do not inherently provide direction. The economy, and hence the world of work, does not escape the laws of evolution.
The only certainty is that organizations will need to adapt to their environment to survive. Predicting the environment beyond 5 years is impossible. Nokia doesn’t live to tell. Nor might Volkswagen.
I fear that even an essential element of Frederic’s work, namely the emphasis on growth and productivity, is bound to hit the wall in a world of finite resources. Which he recognizes. In his defense, he adds that It is probably no exaggeration, but sad reality, that the very survival of many species, ecosystems, and perhaps the human race itself hinges on our ability to move to higher forms of consciousness and from there collaborate in new ways to heal our relationship with the world and the damage we’ve caused. I seriously doubt the human race is moving into a higher form of consciousness. The European political landscape is indicating the opposite. Correcting the damage we caused to the planet might be best served without the human race around.
However, the issues Frederic is trying to address are very real. We need to improve the world of work. Too many people are caught in mechanistic organizations doing pointless jobs. The improvement will not lie in higher productivity and growth but in fundamentally addressing people’s unhappiness at work. Soulful organizations deserve credit and respect in trying to address the deeper human needs. Evolution will take care of the others.
The first thing we need to address in today’s organizations is the over-emphasis on individual contribution. Food for another blog. Meanwhile I challenge any organization to be as straightforward, harmonious, warm and human as Ludovico Einaudi’s I Giorni (link) and encourage everyone in the profession to contribute just like Frederic.