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Slide Notes

No one wants to move to the future today. We are avoiding it. - Kevin Kelly, Protopia

The only thing that can be safely predicted is that sometime soon your organization will be challenged to change in ways for which it has no precedent. - Gary Hamel

Leanership values experimentation over execution, places agility above process, and puts learning ahead of knowing. - Stowe Boyd, Leanership: A New Way Of Work

Leanership: A New Way Of Work

Published at Nov 18, 2015
The manifesto for a new way of work by futurist Stowe Boyd



A New Way Of Work
No one wants to move to the future today. We are avoiding it. - Kevin Kelly, Protopia

The only thing that can be safely predicted is that sometime soon your organization will be challenged to change in ways for which it has no precedent. - Gary Hamel

Leanership values experimentation over execution, places agility above process, and puts learning ahead of knowing. - Stowe Boyd, Leanership: A New Way Of Work

Stowe Boyd

My focus is the future of work, and the tectonic forces pushing business, media, and society into an unclear and accelerating postnormal era. I consider myself a web anthropologist and futurist.

I started blogging in 2000, and along the way I coined the terms ‘social tools’ and ‘hashtag’. I have over 250 stitches in my head, mostly from brain surgery.

I have presented at numerous conferences and events worldwide, including Web 2.0, Enterprise 2.0, GigaOM Net:Work, Reboot, Next, Mesh, Shift, Lift, SIBOS, Defrag, SxSW, and TEDxMidAtlantic.

I am working on a book about the future of work and our place in it called Leanership: A New Way Of Work.

In October 2013, I launched Chautauqua, is an open community organized to understand and channel new ways of working together, to redefine our connection to work and each other, and ultimately, through that, to change the world.

I am the lead researcher for social business and the future of work at GigaOM Research. My writing here is my own, and does not reflect the views or opinions of GigaOM.

A Manifesto

For A New Way Of Work
We need a revolution in our thinking about business, and how we organize ourselves to accomplish work, as individuals, networks, and businesses.

This new form factor of work cannot be a soft layering of a handful of new ideas on top of the enduring premises of today’s way of work. We've tried that before. It’s what we have today, really. Something new is called for.

Postnormal (Not PostModern)

While the coercive controls of early industrialism have gradually transitioned toward a more consensus-based managerial regime, and hierarchies have flattened, businesses remain profoundly undemocratic on the whole.

Today’s late industrial form factor of work is a tailored version of its predecessor, but it is the same fabric and style. It is not as slow to change as the industrial behemoths of Henry Ford and Thomas Edison’s day, but today’s way is too slow and tight for the economy we are now in: the postnormal.

I wrote last year, "The arrival of social tools is one part of a larger, swirling mess of large-scale change smashing into our lives like a tornado, and tearing the roof off the world of business. The elements of that mess all influence each other — tech factors like digital, mobile, and the cloud, societal shifts like urbanization, new media, and the always-on lifestyle, and correspondingly massive stressors like climate change, globalism, the shifting social contract, and the boom/bust cycle of the world economy — these seem to be the new normal in the 21st century. The new normal is that there is no normal anymore. Welcome to the Postnormal."

The changes necessary to accommodate the postnormal are sweeping, the exploration of which is the purpose of this talk.

Work tech 1º (Not 2º)

Success in the this brave new world will require rewiring work patterns with next generation web-based social and mobile tools — new way tools — at the core of business, not as an afterthought. These tools will serve as the actual basis of business operations not as an adjunct or support for unmediated business operations.

A new generation of work management tools is coming that will, to quote Ginni Rometty of IBM, serve as your production line, not as your water cooler.

Dissent (not Consensus)

Active and directed dissent is a better way to counter the cognitive biases of groups and individuals, and to sidestep groupthink. This is essential to increased innovation and creativity truly driving business.

Cooperative (not Collaborative)

Leanership sidesteps the politics and collectivism of consensus-based decision making, and shifts to looser, laissez-faire cooperative work patterns.

Creativity (Not tradition)

We are in a time when new solutions to problems need to be contrived, and traditional approaches may be not only broken but dangerous.

Autonomy (not Heteronomy)

Paradoxically, as we come into a time when we acknowledge that we are more connected to each other than ever before, a great degree of autonomy will become the norm.

The old demands to subordinate all personal interests to those of the collective will be displaced by a personal reengagement in our own work and a commitment to a deeper work culture that transcends any one company’s corporate culture.

Democracy (Not Oligarchy)

Today’s management theory and organizational structure is basically a holdover from the earliest days of the industrial age, a time prior to democracy, when monarchies ruled.

Businesses today are oligarchies, where the few lead the many. In recent decades, there has been a transition from coercive controls to more consensual ones, but if we are to move fast enough to compete in the new economy we will have to move to a hyperlean and agile democratic form factor for work.

Fast-and-loose (not Slow-and-tight)

Companies need to become much looser — higher degrees of autonomy and voluntary association into working teams — in order to run faster, increase innovation, and provide the sort of environment that top performers best operate in.

Laissez-faire (not Entrepreneurial)

The growing uncertainties in complex, interconnected, global economy means that predicting the future and judging risks has become extremely difficult if not impossible. Therefore, the notion of organizing any reasonably sized company around a single ‘official future’ is broken.

We'll need to adopt a laissez-faire operating system for business, where many experiments based on different hypotheses can run in parallel, instead of lining up all the troops and making them march to a single unified strategic plan.

Hyperlean (Not Waterfall)

All business operations will transition away from top-down, long-term, waterfall-style models to a bottom-up, short-term, hyperlean approach. Those closest to the problem will work on its solution, and divvy up the pieces in a way that makes sense to them, and refactor as needed.

Small-and-Simple (not Large-and-Complex)

The technological advances that will disrupt markets and patterns of business in the future will increasingly be small-and-simple, but paradoxically, may force the reevaluation of everything, like file sync-and-share applications, which are destabilizing the enterprise software market.

Open and Public (Not Closed and Private)

The number one factor today in work happiness is the transparency of management practices, and that happiness is likewise reflected in higher engagement at work.

Emergent Strategy (not Deliberate Strategy)

The nature of strategy changes in a time of great change, when the future is difficult to foresee.

The role of leadership changes with it, as well. Instead of concocting a strategic vision and pushing it out to the organization through cultural and managerial channels — the deliberate style of strategy — leadership must shift to distributed, action-based strategic learning about what is actually happening in the market: emergent strategy.

Emergence is property of complex systems, and as Henry Mintzberg observed, it does not mean chaos, but unintended order.

Leadership in Leanership

The new way of work is as big a break with the industrial model as the industrial model was with the time of artisanal and agricultural work that preceded the rise of steam power and electricity. Unlike that transition, however, we will not be looking for inspiration from armies, or the slave battalions that built the pyramids. No, instead we will look to nature, or the growth of cities for inspiration.

The new business of the near future will run more like a forest or a city than a machine. We need to learn by imitating rich ecosystems, where the appearance of chaos yields to emergent order, and reject order imposed by fiat.

The largest change will be the refactoring of leadership, away from ancient command-and-control, and contemporary entrepreneurial flat oligarchies. Leadership will be profoundly diffused as individuals and networks grow more autonomous, cooperative work becomes the norm, and emergent strategy decentralizes direction setting.

The leadership of leanership-based businesses will seem more like a town council than 18th century royalty or 20th century management elites.

And the psychological difficulties in that transition for today's leaders may be the largest barrier to leanership displacing the conventional notion of managerial control.

A Stowe Boyd Sampler

2014, Leanership trumps leadership http://sto.ly/6HLd
2014, Making sense of social networks, social graphs, collaboration, and cooperation in the new way of work: Leanership http://sto.ly/SWMA

2013 We don’t need a rethinking of management. We need a reworking of work. http://sto.ly/Y44b
2013 What Drives Us? http://sto.ly/fweE
2013 Cultural change is really complex contagion http://sto.ly/i1ld
2013 How ‘positive deviants’ help a culture change itself http://sto.ly/gHZy

2013 What top performers do, and how to do it http://sto.ly/2U6E

2013-2014 Socialogy series http://sto.ly/s055 (28 interviews)

2012 I've Given Up On Balance. I'm Going For Depth Instead http://sto.ly/ia2w

2011, Our Time Is Not Our Own: Time Is The New Space http://sto.ly/adoo
2011, What About The Weak Ties? http://sto.ly/YFOT
2011, The Meaning Of Work, Connectives, And Swift Trust http://sto.ly/exhO

2010 The False Question Of Attention Economics http://sto.ly/qhq4
2010, Umair Haque Is Another New Spatialist http://sto.ly/YmHd
2010, Social Scenes: The Invisible Calculus Of Culture http://sto.ly/gSN7

2009 The Rise Of Networks, The End Of Process http://sto.ly/dXFY
2009, Secrecy, Privacy, Publicy http://sto.ly/8zJl (commented on by many, including TechCrunch and the NY Times http://sto.ly/93I)

2007, Hash Tags = Twitter Groupings http://sto.ly/9SkC (where I coined the term 'hash tag')

2006 The Individual Is The New Group http://sto.ly/LOl5
2006 A Chat with Linda Stone http://sto.ly/n3Xf

2003, The Game Neverending: an IM Community http://sto.ly/pYGm