This is an article which I wrote for Bright HQ - a Danish firm with independent consultants that help businesses create and capture value from emerging trends in technology, society and the workplace. The article is also available on: http://www.brighthq.com/archives/change-towards-an-organizational-ecology/
This is the first blogpost in a series on why and how organizations should change towards an organizational ecology where it is possible to navigate, organize, manage and create value throughout a network of connections and valuable relations.
Over the last couple of years I have been conducting research on the role of leadership in promoting and optimizing an environment in which every staff member gets the ability to create and share new knowledge; the knowledge we are craving for to make sense of and decide over fast-changing and global opportunities and problems. By not having this new knowledge, organizations will become less innovative than its competitors and – in worse case scenario – will lose the competition.
It has become clear that traditional leadership was formed to deal with a very different set of circumstances and is therefore of questionable relevance to the contemporary work environment. Taking a far too simplistic view of the organization’s structure and culture for the promotion of knowledge-creating processes, will falter the required innovation. Leadership is a key element in a successful change of especially the culture where leadership should less focus on controlling the flow of information and knowledge by letting information and knowledge flow across and beyond the borders of the organization. As a result, traditional leadership is making way for a new type of leadership in which the leader is getting people to share their knowledge by not only new processes but also a new covenant between employer and employees.
It is rather easy to make this statement. It is of a different kind of scale and difficulty to implement this new way of leadership. That is the reason why Bright is assisting organizations and its leaders in social business design. Professional assistance from – for instance – Bright is needed, because what was one of the reasons of the recent crisis in society – the credit crunch? A lack of leadership in a free and open space!
Many guilty parties have already been found for the crisis of today, with the financial system as main suspect. However, who had the leadership’s role in this system? Were those the bankers or the governments? Certainly, the crisis started in the financial market itself. Governments did not construct the bonuses or the complex financial products which pulled the wool over everybody’s eyes. However, it is the task of governments to lead and interfere if the free market is getting out of hand, by setting out rules which, consequently, should influence behavior. The bankers were taking too much risk which was being made possible by the flexible rules of governments. Innovations within the financial markets resulted in obscure products and services which governments could not keep up abreast. As a result, governments failed as leaders because they did not have the ability to anticipate, identify, and respond to unpredictable occasions.
This example outlines the importance of leadership in fast-changing and highly competitive environments where there is a free and open working-space for the creation of innovation. In order to anticipate, identify, and respond as a leader in these spaces, new models of leadership continue to develop in which leadership relies less upon managerial authority, and a new set of ideas that transcends the physical, biological, and social science. Thereupon, organizations are moving towards a belief that organizations are not so much machines but, instead, organisms which are based on the advances in complexity science, combined with the knowledge from the cognitive science.