I’ve been interested in “conscious capitalism” for a while and it now seems that there is a growing adoption of management theories in some ways related to philosophies like that of Eckhart Tolle. A “non egoic” leadership model is emerging.
“Holacracy is a comprehensive practice for structuring, governing, and running an organization. It replaces today’s top-down predict-and-control paradigm with a new way of achieving control by distributing power. It is a new ‘operating system’ that instills rapid evolution in the core processes of an organization.”
Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos, is a key proponent of Holocracy. Tony spoke at the Wisdom 2.0 summit in 2014 and has implemented the system at Zappos.
Tony’s unusual management style is profiled in an article in The New York Times:
“Such self-management remains the exception in the workplace today, yet its advocates constitute a small but growing movement. Holacracy has other adherents, including the David Allen Company, a consultancy, and Medium, the blogging platform started by the Twitter co-founder Evan Williams, though none of the other users are as large as Zappos.”
Two business books have laid the groundwork for this movement:
“Holacracy: The New Management System for a Rapidly Changing World” by Brian J. Robertson
and “Reinventing Organizations” by Frederic Laloux, with a foreword by philosopher Ken Wilber. It is a source for Tony Hsieh’s efforts at Zappos.
Interestingly, other business publications have looked askance at these efforts, even though they are in a germinal and experimental phase. This summer Forbes asked whether the implementation was a “failure”:
Robertson’s vision of holacracy comes with some baffling terminology. The goal to build a “flat” company composed of concentric “circles” of employees assigned to certain general tasks. Holacracists call problems “tensions,” rely on mediators dubbed “lead links,” and use software called “Glass Frog.” This can create incomprehensible dialogue like this: “An employee (unknown) brought it to the road block role with safety being the tension. The road block role then took it to the grease and disrupt circle where it went through the process and was eventually passed with no objections,” according to a recent New York Times article.
Regardless of the outcome, one has to admire Hsieh’s courage in making such dramatic changes at a company that was already so successful.
Another term for what Hsieh is implementing at Zappos is “Teal” – as opposed to a simply “green” company. He has expanded this concept to embrace and rebuild much of downtown Las Vegas to help house the homeless and support local artists and musicians.
Forbes: “Zappos also takes their role in the community very seriously. On Thanksgiving, 2014, the company opened its doors and fed over 1,000 Las Vegas families, also giving away shoes and socks to anyone that needed a new pair. It doesn’t have to, but the company’s financial and time contributions help foster a culture that is putting purpose alongside profit.”
At the same time, most of corporate America is struggling with issues raised by their younger workers and with changes in the workplace brought on by technology.
This cultural divide comes at a time when many younger workers cannot find middle level jobs that have been taken over by computers; it no longer takes a person to analyze data to confirm or reject a loan or insurance policy.
These issues are also addressed in Saving Capitalism: For the Many, Not the Few by former Secretary of Labor Robert B. Reich.
Like many who now support Bernie Sanders, Reich still believes that our system can be revived and revised by taking on corporate and banking interests that place shareholder value over human values.
The problem is – how do ordinary people become true shareholders when they cannot afford nor understand the risks involved in owning shares of common stock? At the same time, stakeholders in successful startups become instant millionaires by risking nothing other than their time.
Obviously technology—robotics and artificial intelligence—is at the heart of these controversies, but it will take new leadership styles and philosophies—like Teal and Holacracy—tweaked and modified “on the job” to rebalance the U.S. and global economies for the sake of humans rather than mere profit.
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