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More on Hamel: Five Models for Business Innovation

In the first two parts of his "Future of Management," Gary Hamel has been a witty, engaging visionary, beguiling and impressing managers into thinking they must change (indeed, I find myself randomly rethinking my own approaches to problematic issues here at Fitzgerald Enterprises).

In part three, the professor begins his pep talk. He wants to inspire managers, especially those not at the highest levels of a company, to get out there and change. And change is hard and change is costly and change means challenge. It will not be a snap of the fingers. But imagine (and he uses the word in the way a New Age guru would have a student visualize), imagine the Future of Management, your Future, manager.

Imagine that your company is not the company of today, but the company of tomorrow, without hierarchy, without naysayers who reject change, endlessly innovative and open to new ideas, where the talent rises to the top and the budget goes to where it should. And imagine the profits!

For instance, he cites the example of Semco, a Brazilian company that has 3000 employees, all of whom decide when they're going to work, how many hours they'll work and, in many cases, what they'll be paid. It has no organization chart, it has almost no managers. Its turnover rate is 1 percent. It's a very successful firm.

Hamel argues that to reinvent companies in this mold, or in that of Google or W.L. Gore or Whole Foods, draw inspiration not from the business world, but from elsewhere. Five elsewheres, in fact.

  • Life, which has evolved from the simplicity to immense diversity (thus the business manager should think things like: experimentation beats planning, the broader the gene pool the better)
  • Markets, which are flexible (a market is better at change than a hierarchy, and opens the door for innovators)
  • Democracy, which is built around activism (leaders are accountable to the governed, everyone has a right to dissent)
  • Faith, which gives life meaning (set a mission employees care about)
  • Cities, where serendipity can occur (ideas can come from everywhere in a diverse place)
At the end of this extended cheer, he tosses in a caveat --it will take time to reinvent your company.

He has one more section in the book, and that will be the subject of my next post.

Michael Fitzgerald

Michael Fitzgerald writes about innovation and other big ideas in business for publications like the New York Times, The Economist, Fast Company, Inc. and CIO. He’s worked as a writer or editor at Red Herring, ZDNet, TechTV and Computerworld, and has received numerous awards as a writer and editor. Most recently, his piece on the hacker collective the l0pht won the 2008 award for best trade piece from the American Society of Journalists and Authors. He was also a 2007 Templeton-Cambridge Journalism Fellow in Science and Religion.

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