10 mins

A brave new (and rewarding) world

By Steve Cook

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Let us imagine that we are all here to define, create and co-create the optimum organization of the future.

We have to be visionary, maverick and iconoclastic. We also have to think about this from the outset, in completely different conceptual ways to those used to vision, build, grow and sustain organizations in the past.

Our start point has to have a different frame of reference and, therefore, our end point has to as well. As a result, every point in between will also have to be different.

Visionary thinking and strategic outcomes have to be maverick because all organizations will need to have profoundly different frames of purpose (we call this virtue) and modes of societal contribution, interaction and discourse, to anything that has gone before.

The optimum organization of the future may not even be the same linear, solus, closed ecosystem that organizations like businesses have been historically based on. They may be networks of linked, non-hierarchical ecosystems that work together to organize – they are a new collaborative, shared organization.

We are all here to create a brave new world and we have no precedents, and that’s a great start point for mavericks and iconoclasts!

Why do we need profoundly different frames of organizational virtue, interaction and societal contribution?

While most business leaders were sleeping and dreaming (or having nightmares) about technology, and how to change their organizations without too much disruption to their steady state, the world around them changed profoundly.

Although technology played a part in this, most of the meaningful change came from a surprising source – people.

People are now leading us to a point in evolution where we can and should start to lose some redundant historic tags: customer, consumer, worker, employee, leader, business, corporate, enterprise, and even politician and government; because the interrelations between these have begun to change in some dramatic and highly nuanced ways.

These tags are becoming counter-productive or even redundant because people are primarily considering themselves and the world around them in radically different ways.

They, we, are now primarily concerned citizens.

This insight alone changes everything

It changes the perspective on everything and everyone a person, a citizen, interacts with.

It changes the interaction itself and so it changes the contexts by which interaction can take place.

It changes the types of organization that people will want to interact with and why they will want to interact with them.

It will even change the types of organization that people will want to create or co-create.

It doesn’t matter whether that person is a business buyer, a consumer, a voter, or a fan. And it doesn’t even matter what the context is, as everyones’ mindset has evolved to thinking about everything from a citizen-centric perspective.

Perhaps a good example of this is the current obsession with ‘customer experience’ as practiced by almost every business. In the future, maybe the focus should be on ‘shared experience’ – the common, shared experience of people inside and outside an organization based on a co-created, mutually believed in, virtuous vision.

If we look at the deep inferences, concepts, and the implications behind this very simple but profound change, we can start to see profoundly different interactions, contexts, and possibilities. Customer experience is engineered by one party – say a business, and aimed at another – say a customer of that business. Shared experience is co-created for common ends and experienced together. As a result, the routes to creating shared experience would inevitably be more powerful, sustainable, beneficial and valuable than any previous experience born from one party wishing to do something to the other.

It’s time to lose the ‘us and them’ mentality.

By losing unhelpful tags and lines of demarcation, we can lose the ‘us and them’ mentality that has prevailed in the consumer age and replace it with, simply, ‘us’.

This should be as true for businesses as they lose the ‘them’ i.e. customers, as it should be for charities where the ‘them’ has been donors or volunteers or beneficiaries, and governments where the ‘them’ has been voters, the public.

So, if we lose all those historic tags as primary descriptors we leave ourselves with three basic elements – the future organization, the concerned citizen and their interconnected conduct. We can now create fundamentally different frames of reference and start points where;-

1) There is organization, an organizing influence, creating a new reorganized world.

2) There are concerned citizens, both within (formerly known as employees) and outside organizations, who can together be an active driving force and co-creators with organizations out in the world.

3) There is shared conduct, by organizations and concerned, connected citizens and in the interactions between them. Because throughout history the ways that people and all forms of organization have thought about their world has led directly to the ways they conduct themselves in it, interact with it and, ultimately, change it.

If we follow these concepts, we can see that there need to be new catalysts for completely new interactions between organizations and citizens, born out of completely new ways of thinking about both. Initially, these catalysts will engender change but they will and must lead to future steady states, because perpetual change over protracted time is ultimately destructive – as we are seeing now as peoples’ change-related coping mechanisms fail.

As maverick visionaries and strategists, we should celebrate change while building optimum organizations of the future, inclusive of all concerned citizens, where both create desirable future steady states for each and all.

So, what should the catalysts that create completely new interactions between organizations and citizens be?

If we follow the logic so far, we can imagine a future world where there is organization, and there are organizations, and there are concerned citizens (inside and outside of organizations), and those organizations and citizens conduct themselves in new ways based on new shared, critical, knowledgeable thought and action.

We can now start to reimagine all the multiple ways that organizations and citizens will need to engage and interact with each other, in order to create shared future conduct, shared future benefit, and a shared future.

Historically, most businesses, political parties, charities, in fact most organizations, have created a vision. Often this vision starts out as an undefined but truly heartfelt, natural and zealous purpose, at or before the organization’s start point.

Some organizations create positionings to express their vision, purpose, and value. More often than not, there is a gap between the vision and the positioning, the ideal and the way it is expressed to, and experienced by, internal and external audiences.

Over time, the vision, purpose and positioning of organizations alter to respond to various changes in business, propositions or markets. Usually, each iteration of these ‘brand’ elements moves further away from the original zealous vision and becomes more and more contrived, self-serving and unbelievable. This shift is in direct relation to the way that most businesses true purpose and vision are “replaced by an increasingly narrow focus on short-term gains sought by short-term shareholders and financial institutions. The other stakeholders, customers, employees, the surrounding community, the environment, become largely excluded from the corporate, decision-making table.

But what if the vision was so powerful, so virtuous, so purposeful, so inclusive, so relevant and so co-created that it could be sustained and supported indefinitely. Or if it needed to change in the future it could do so with the full support and advocacy of everyone?

What if virtuous vision could be the catalyst and the driving force behind both the organization of the future and all the concerned citizens who interact with it – a shared vision leading to co-created shared benefits and outcomes?

A brave new world indeed.

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