This BLOG has a double purpose. It aims to contribute to the discussion and development of the academic field that could be situated in between complexity theory, knowledge management, innovation and learning; in summary a more holistic and systemic approach to management. As such it reflects the activities that take place in the Euromed transversal research track on this subject. The Home Page and the Reading host this contribution. In the News and Discussion sections, this BLOG is used to animate courses in the area of “Complexity and the Networked Economy”, "Knowledge Management and Learning" and "A quantum interpreation of business".
For almost one year, I have had an awfull pain in my left arm. It started slowly February last year and culminated in the summer. On a flight back from LA (where we visited the IONS annual conference) I was literally crying. I went through the classical medical pathway, RX, electro research of the arm, scanner, MRI, etc. All of it. And indeed, they could observe that the nerve of the left arm was completely inflamed. Only solution: cortisone. And of course it improved; and of course it came back. Next step: injection of cortisone in the spine. And there I stopped.
Those that know me, are aware that I am an ayurvedic massage therapist (also, yes). And once more I wondered why I did not belief a bit more in it myself. Hence I went to a chiropractor, and today I am feeling fine again: it is all over. (Thank you Valerie)
Our spinal cord is essential for our health, both physical and psychological (and sorry for the childish link, but it is clear, isn't it?) It seems that over the years that same spinal cord captures all stress and causes a number of well known back aches. But worse, as in my case, the stress of years not only fixes itself in that spinal cord, but it goes further.
A chiropractor only (what you call only) reprograms the brain. They retrain it to stop sending out the wrong messages. A body is a perfect example of a systemic (autopoetic) system. It re-produces and self-organizes in such a way that is ideal for survival. It warns you by pain that you should slow down, relax, etc, and the more we ignore that, the more the body is going to give stronger signals. Then we take pain killers (Cortisone ?) but the body continues to send signals. Until it goes seriously wrong.
And now the company, you didn't doubt, did you. A company, just as much as our body, has a spinal cord. That spinal cord captures all the stress of the body (the company): a company that equally is a perfect example of an autopoetic system. It seeks reproduction and selforganisation with one aim: survival, the long term hence (and yes, not the highest shareholder value). The company sends out signals of pain, of warning, of suggested improvement, but if the management does not want to see them, that stress is going to fix itself in the corporate spinal cord. And at the end, the company, that has ignored for years the signals, is going to be completely "sclerolised". Drugs don't help anymore, we really need a thorough reprogramming. Stress is today a serious issue in many of our companies. Do we recognise the emergence of the phenomenon? And do we see what role we play ourselves in this?
And a last question: What is the spinal cord of the company ?
Not my words, but those of Juana Bordas (Salsa, Soul and Spirit). She gave an interview in my favourite Ode. According to her, politicians and business people need to spice up their management styles (he, maybe somebody who understands Sarkozy?) She argues for diversity, sharing, and in general a focus on "we" and not on "I". I don't know whether she also suggests that the leaders need the fire of salsa dance (or flamenco dance, to stay within my own interest). You know that seminars are organised, using for instance argentina tango as a metaphor for leadership?
In the same Ode, an interview of French psychiatrist Christophe Andre about happiness. By the way, meaning and happiness are not the same thing. So where Andre gives the recipe for a happy life, it is not yet a recipe for a meaningful life. But a meaningful life might well lead to happiness. Choose where to start. If you want some help, you might want to have to look at Erna's blog.
His six lessons for a happier life:
1. Accept that there will be unpleasant things in life. All the time, every day, you'll face hindrances: You'll be too late or make a mistake or say something stupid. It's the rent you pay to live in the house of life. It's part of life. There's no point in being disappointed when things don't go your way.
2. Open your eyes and look around. There are more opportunities for happiness than you think, certainly for a Westerner in 2008. Embrace the moments. Try to remember them. Enjoy them.
3. Take time out. The ability to pause, mentally as well as in your actions, is important. Taking breaks is a prerequisite for experiencing happiness.
4. Pay attention to your family and friends. Social ties are important for happiness. Don't let a day go by without thinking of, or seeing, someone you love.
5. Try to get in touch with nature every day. Take a walk in the park and spend a few minutes looking at nature.
6. Express your gratitude and respect for the good things you experience. Being thankful makes you happy and increases the chance of social connection.
And if not yet interested, happiness does contribute to the bottom line.
First of all an ode to "Ode". Ode is a very interesting, fresh and meaningfull magazine. According to his founder and editor, Jurriaan Kamp, a magazine for intelligent optimists. It believes in progress, ongoing opportunities and the creativity of humankind. They claim to offer their readers the chance to link up with an international network of inspiration and cooperation, strengthening the forces devoted to respect, justice and equality. In doing so, they hope to invite their readers to make their own contributions to a more just and sustainable world. It exists in an English and a Dutch version. Hehe, refreshing and exciting I would say.
In the Jan/Feb issue Muhammed Yunus, 2006 Nobel Peace Prize and founder and managing director of the microfinance institution Grameen Bank, gives some insight in how we could move away from the narrow interpretation of capitalism we believe in. In this narrow interpretation, we create a one-dimensional human being to play the role of entrepreneur. We insulate him from other facets of life, such as the religious, emotional, political dimensions. He is dedicated to one mission in his business life: to maximize profits.
He invites us to be brave, recognizing that this is because of the failure to capture the essence of a human being in our theory. Most people take pleasure in helping others. Our eyes are blind by the theories taught in our schools. Social business entrepreneurs: entrepreneurs in the non-for-loss business; they do make profits, but they all do it for a societal purpose. A social business entrepreneur is in for adding real value to markets, countries and people.
He suggests interestingly to start producing what he calls social MBAs. Social Business Entrepreneurs need to develop their own norms, standards, measurements, evaluation criteria and terminology. This can only be achieved by creating a separate stock market for social business entrepreneurs. Interesting and challenging.
As coincidence doesn't exist (recall, a quantum reality), Le Monde of this Saturday February 2 writes about Google: "At Google, work becomes like a game". The article reiterates the observations I made in my previous post: healthy food, massages, a fifth free experimentation day, etc.
In l'Express of last week (24-29 January) Bill Gates wishes president Sarkozy that he would understand the importance of education and would invest more (all) in it. But what kind of education? Does France need more ENAs (Ecole National d'Administration) or more enterpreneurship?
And at the same time I get an evaluation of one of my courses, in which I try to give my students another paradigm, based on a quantum interpretation of business and complexity theory. Not something what somebody would call "sectarian", but in France, some do. According to some French (apparantly) Nobel prizes are given to sects. I have to admit that most of the evaluations were rather good, but that one did trigger me.
In Canopee, a French magazine on nature, discovery and ecology, I read an interview with Vandana Shiva who says that "ecology is profoundly linked to spirituality". Without the spiritual dimension, according to her, one becomes an ecological technocrat, untouchable by the pain that mismanagement causes. Good news, I am not alone.
I do not only wish Sarkozy to invest seriously in education, I wish him to invest in learning, from the very begining (primary school) onwards. Learning should be fun and have a larger purpose than only making carreer (and money). And in order to support him, I wish him parents that would not be traumatised about sects. What Al Qaida is for the US, sects seem to be for France. Not everybody who doesn't agree with the US foreign policy is a potential Al Qaida member; it is not a choice of being with or against "us". Equally, not everybody who is searching for meaningfulness in life and work is a member of a sect.
Dean Radin gave beginning January a lecture on Science and the taboo of Psi for Google. Interesting stuff, as you can imagine. But equally interesting are some observations of Dean about Google. Google is rated as one of the best places to work. They have free (gourmet) food available, 24/7, lots of snack bars (with healthy food) scattered around the campus, free massage at work during the work day, a meditation room, etc. Amazing is it? Or isn't it. Should we just start opening our eyes for things that we know already for a while in science and just start applying them in our business environment ?
I have started again with my most favorite course (Knowledge management and management learning: the biology of business) that I am doing together with my wife Erna. For the students, the first few powerpoints are available on the readings page. At the same time I have taken over from a colleague the fundamental in Management in Complexity, a course that I have been doing for a number of years but stopped a few years ago. In fact, my book "Organisational learning and knowledge technologies in a dynamic environment" (1998) was the first version of my course book. It has evolved ever since.
I understood better that knowledge is less of a technological matter (though that was already argued in that book). It is more about the purpose of business, the network of cooperating people (that are willing to share and co-create) and above all of a different philosophical perspective.
I can suggest a very interesting article in that respect of Ed Weymes (Waikato Management School): A challenge to traditional management theory. According to him, the historic and possibly arcane purpose of business, to maximize shareholder wealth, is no longer a relevant proposition. It is according to him timely to reflect on the purpose of business as adding value to society and rejecting the focus on accumulation of personal wealth.
Knowledge-creating enterprises (according to Ed) are founded on the development of sustainable relationships within the organisation and with stakeholders and thus require a different philosophical perspective.
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."
As you know, adhesion to the Global Compact program of the UN requires an annual report on the progress that the School (the company) makes concerning the application of the Global Compact principles. Our 2006-2007 report is ready in French and can be consulted.
Thursday I had the honour to have Prof Bishara Khader as a guest in my Euro-Mediterranean Management course. He gave a wonferfully clear and insightful presentation on the Mediterranean Union, Sarkozy's latest idea for the Mediterranean region. For those that read French, and in parcular at least for all my students, mandatory literature.