Does management need to be at any price "fast": a constant stream of decisions that merely suffice to get us by until the next crisis. I use the words of Derek Cheshire, in his article "Slow Innovation". For those interested in his challenging ideas, they can consult his blog (that I also put in the list of interesting blogs in my readings page). I would like to elaborate on some of his ideas.
He uses slow innovation as opposed to fast innovation, and he refers to the fast food industry. What is the difference between fast food and slow food? In the managerial world, there is a huge pressure to deliver "results" fast, and therefor we need to take decisions fast. But with fast food we know what we loose: the pleasure of sharing our food and a nice moment together. We no longer enjoy food and we do not give it the time necessary for its nutritional role that is primarily contributing to our health. The quality of fast food is highly questionable; there is a clear addictive effect (it asks for more); that "always more" works highly toxifying. We indeed seem to go from crisis to crisis, and they only become more severe. I am afraid the fast food metaphor is a correct one for fast management.
The word "value" dropped already. Cheshire refers to value when he defines innovation: a blend of creativity and knowledge (or know how; probably the enacted cognition concept of Varela would do very well here). As a business concept, innovation is sought to create value. I would say, management and business is about creating value and that is not something that goes fast.
When value creation would become again the main purpose of business, business will have to slow down. And what we have most probably seen while business has been speeding up over the last decade, was the end of value creation. Management no longer cared for value creation. Instead we created money and we managed numbers.
Today we arrive in a split. We know it goes too fast; we know we are exploding the use of our natural resources and we are polluting our planet in an unacceptable way. We know we have to change: we all start talking about sustainable development, corporate social responsibility, even ethics. But we do not have the concept, the paradigm that gives that manager that is willing, the tools to manage slower. That is the real challenge for business today and of course it is the same challenge for Business Schools today. Can we make a shift to a slow food society and can we become aware again that we are here to create value, value for all, and not money for few.
To use a last time Cheshire's words: "In the world of slow, there will be less waste as there's time to be more resourceful and to use materials already available."