27.07.2012 von Mark Poppenborg (Kommentare: 3)
The rise of the natural.
Since I started my Paleolithic or Caveman diet three months ago, i.e. a diet based mainly on meat, veg, little fruit, nuts and water, I have been diving deeper into the idea of a more natural approach to, let's say, everything. Recently it occurred to me that it is probably only a matter of time until someone will introduce the term Paleo Leadership. Is there any good in that?
Paleolithic refers to the Old Stone Age. In short, Paleo followers will tell you to consequently refer to our ancestors when dealing with a certain situation or problem. The argument goes like this: Although the Old Stone Age is a long long time ago (began around 2 million years ago), it was only in the last 5.000-10.000 years, that radical changes made their way into our modern society. The agricultural revolution and human settlement changed virtually everything. Until then we behaved similar to early mankind. Evolution isn't fast enough to change humans within this relatively short amount of time, hence our genes are pretty much what they were like in the Paleolithic era.
For some years (5-10) we have been experiencing a growing movement around the Paleo approach, especially in California (where else?). So far this movement has focused mainly around the nutritional benefits but I have come across numerous websites addressing the fitness, psychological and other positive aspects of Paleo.
So what does Paleo mean for us today? Here are some relevant examples that come to my mind when I think of management. Feel free to complete.
Researches know that the natural group size of human beings is somewhere between 8 to 12 people. Our brains have evolved to work and live with this condition. Therefore we find it hard to lead a discussion within larger groups and this is also why larger groups can seem incapable of solving problems. In today's businesses groups do tend to be around 5 to 14 employees BUT typically they are formed by function. Therefore they are dependent on other units/departments/functions within the organisation. This in turn means that they need to either work in a larger group or delegate the problem upwards to their superior. The former leads to inefficiencies and signs of paralysis due to the larger group sizes, the latter leads to work overload in management positions. All of which we are well aware of today.
Human's ability to make predictions about the future is one of the most distinguishing traits of all. We can anticipate and therefore judge and plan far more extensively than any other creature on earth. But these anticipation abilities are limited to linear thinking. We have evolved to identify causalities wherever possible. This was good until recently, i.e. 5.000-10.000 years ago, when the world gradually started increasing its complexity, i.e. non-linearity and unpredictability. It used to go “Oh, if I approach my pray from two sides with a group of hunters, then chances of catching it are higher than if we just run after it.” But today it goes: “How can it be that our sales figures have dropped after we invested so heavily into marketing and the growth rate forecasts looked so promising. Maybe we need to…” - predictions have become almost impossible. This trend has increased heavily within the last 10-40 years depending on the sector of work. The interdependencies in today's world and organisations are not comprehensible to anyone in the slightest. Even the arithmetically simple exponential function, that almost all growth is subject to, largely exceeds our intuition. Many of us still believe in cause and effect but this is just our desperate urge to satisfy those linear thinking needs. Instead of accepting the complexity we deny it and assume linearity. This ubiquitous error in reasoning leads to many misjudgements, false plans and a consequent fall for the narrative fallacy, i.e. believing in stories that are trying to explain observations that don't comply with our anticipations, e.g. the rise of Google and Facebook, 9/11, the financial crises, etc. After their appearance we then try to reason them with a cause and effect logic, call it news and are reassured of our assumptions about the laws of our world, where often all it really was is chance.
In the Old Stone Age no human being would have performed the same movement or task twice. Every challenge was unique though very similar. I contrast, today we go to the gym to run on treadmills and lift weights, we sit in offices all day, we follow routine processes and instructions, we obey rules and policies. Briefly spoken, we are reduced to the norm and therefore most of human output is mediocre. We systemically avert creativity. Scary when you think about it.
Any group will always form natural, i.e. informal hierarchies. If you were locked in a room and given the task to build a wardrobe, naturally the lead would be given to the person most respected as a wardrobe builder (whatever that is). Leadership requires followers.
In business though this natural tendency to form informal, highly effective hierarchies is overridden by imposed hierarchies. This hasn't always been the case but since the introduction of Taylorism, in the early 20th century, thinking was separated from doing into what was then to be known as the organisational pyramid, non-existent before those days.
I have my reservations whether it is necessary to introduce another buzzword to the world of management, seeing that we have already coined a whole bunch of terms that promote a new, more natural approach to organisational design and leadership. At intrinsify.me we call it Intrinsifiers (the companies) and happy working people concept (the approach), others call it betacodex, Beyond Budgeting, Management 3.0, Holacracy or Stoos, the latter being the newly emerging international movement that I mentioned in this post.
However, I think any idea embracing a more adaptive, networked, natural, democratic and human based, not mechanistic approach to organisations will help us overcome this periodic disaster that we call management and that served us well only during this short era of low complexity, when markets were wide and competition was low, during and after the industrial revolution.
I am very curious what you think of this and the idea of introducing yet another term (Paleo Leadership) for a future that will be all about the perfect reintegration of work and life, not a work-life-balance.