The last resort

We draw inspiration from some funny places. The moments, the stories, the experiences that sometimes we even struggle to place can form our thinking, our feeling and our doing. As a kid, I had a collection of Aesop’s Fables, I can’t even remember whether they were read to me, or I read them myself. Or perhaps even both. But I remember the stories.

The one that sticks with me most is the story of the North Wind and The Sun. If you’re not familiar with the fables then you can read more about it here. The message being that gentleness or persuasion is more powerful than force or bluster. A lesson that has stuck with me through life and work.

The organizational context within which we co-exist is becoming increasingly complex, with relationships stretching across borders and boundaries. Inter connecting departments, shared purpose with separate ownership, leadership from within not above.  The world of work is increasingly full of ambiguity.

And faced with ambiguity and complexity, the natural instinct is to create order from disorder, certainty in uncertainty and control the uncontrollable. But the rules of the games have changed forever and the traditional methods of management are themselves ineffective, outdated and the refuge of the ineffective and outdated; the last resort of the inept.

In this increasingly complex and inter connecting world those that succeed are the ones that understand that trust beats control, that persuasion beats force, that collaboration beats independence. We create cohesion not by instruction, but by willingly coming together, we create certainty by collectively defining the future, we create success through self-determination and empowerment.

The future of work bears little resemblance to the past, the environment is changing at such a pace and some will adapt, but many won’t. The scared, ill prepared and ineffective will try to hold it back. The wise will listen, understand, talk, create, co-operate and succeed.

When things are bafflingly complex, only through empowering, respecting, trusting and collaborating will we find the way through.

Only by letting go will we hold on.

3 comments

  1. interimity · October 14, 2013

    Neil, a lovely idea but I see so little evidence of it, particularly from our current government. My husband is a teacher and the whole profession is being run on targets, command and control and overworking them to the point of exhaustion, whilst the pupils are being ‘encouraged’ to push for 13 GCSEs and god knows how many glittering prizes in the A level firmament. The next thing is to offer Saturday morning teaching and reduce the school holidays.

    The reason why this is so important is that (not just Tim’s sanity) the generations coming through are focused on exam results, competition, beating others, attainment on one dimension only, league tables and long hours equating to performance. Nothing about teams, collaboration, networking, creativity at all. We need to change this model fast if we believe that the future of work is really as you describe.

  2. Chris Underwood (@JedisMaster) · October 14, 2013

    Neil – great article and on an almost identical subject to a recent debate I have been having about the changing work place and the ambiguity and complexity that comes with it.

    “trust beats control, that persuasion beats force, that collaboration beats independence. We create cohesion not by instruction, but by willingly coming together, we create certainty by collectively defining the future, we create success through self-determination and empowerment.” really chimed with me !

    There will certainly be those that resist the changes in attitudes and behaviours (from individuals, leaders and organisations) and those that don’t grasp the concept of ‘leadership from within’ but partly they resist it because they know no better and the way to address their challenges is traditional command and control, reinforced through formulaic management training mantras…it takes an incredible leader to take organisations, their cultures and people on a new journey, challenging the status quo and traditional models, empowering people and teams to have a voice and opinion and desire to make ‘things’ (whatever they may be) better.

    To truly embrace the leadership from within, you need the leadership from above to drive it….and they have usually spent their professional lives trained to think and operate like those that came before.

  3. Joshua Bamigboye · November 12, 2013

    totally spot on…..Chris…without management or leadership by-in, it will only remain on the “wish list” of what we expect to see.

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