We are in the midst of a metamorphic period of change unlike anything the world has seen since the Late Middle Ages. With “meta” (meaning “form”) and “morph” (meaning “change”), the word suggests the transformative change in form of human institutions now emerging as we awaken to the realities of climate change and the destruction of ecosystems we have long relied upon for our survival. As the organization specialist Peter Drucker insightfully said, ‘In times of turmoil, the danger lies not in the turmoil but in facing it with yesterday’s logic.”
Nowhere is this metamorphic change more evident than in the way business organizations are being organized and managed. The ideal of ‘organization-as-machine,’ which was dominant for hundreds of years into the late 20th century, is now giving way to an ideal of ‘organization-as-living-system.’
Increasingly, as our organizational context requires us to become ever more emergent, innovative and adaptive, so leadership must become more about empowering, empathizing, encouraging interconnections, innovation, learning, local attunement, reciprocating partnerships and an active network of feedback. As such, the aim of leaders becomes more focused on nurturing conditions where the organizational living system can unlock its creative potential, learn and flourish in a purposeful and coherent way, so that it can create and deliver value while being mindful of the wellbeing of all the people it serves and the wider fabric of life it relates with. This is not some utopian dream, it’s happening now as you read this article.
Enter a myriad of organizations thriving amid uncertainty by applying living-systems logic: the healthcare provider Buurtzorg, the bank Triodos, the employment agency Vaga, the chemicals manufacturer Scott Bader, the global network of social-enterprise community centres Impact Hub, the multimedia provider Sounds True, the Brazilian hi-tech manufacturer Semco, to name a few.
To aid this transformation, here are five important areas for leaders and change agents to focus on in these transformational times:
Gone with the winds of change is the artificial certainty and mechanistic linearity of command-and-control cultures and ‘human resource’ management, revealing a fresher, purposeful, altogether more human approach to our ways of working.
Interested in hearing more from Giles Hutchins? Join him at SB’16 Copenhagen where he will be discussing what it means to become a future-fit business, along with the personal and organizational qualities it takes to get there. Next month’s Copenhagen event will boast 3 days of in-depth discussions, access to tangible tools and latest research, as well as valuable networking opportunities with some of today’s leading business minds, brands, organizations, NGOs, exciting new startups, and more! Don’t miss this chance to connect with the brightest minds in business and sustainability. Register now to secure your seat at the table!