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I Can’t Prove It

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Drew Jones

Head of Consulting at Conjunctured
Drew Jones, Ph.D is an organizational consultant, educator, and writer. He is a Lecturer of Management, Organizational Behavior, and Corporate Social Responsibility in the McCoy College of Business Administration at Texas State University, in San Marcos, TX. He has consulted with firms in the software, food and beverage, construction, advertising, sports management, coworking, and for profit education industries. He has published two books (The Innovation Acid Test: Growth Through Design and Differentiation, Triarchy Press 2008), including the first book about the coworking movement (I’m Outta: How coworking is making the office obsolete, with Todd Sundsted and Tony Bacigalupo, NotanMBA Press 2009), and has a third book (The Fifth Age of Work: Redesigning Work for a MobileSocial World, Night Owls Press), coming out Fall 2013. He has been involved in coworking since 2007, as a coworking space owner, partner, academic researcher, and consultant. He is a partner at Conjunctured Coworking.
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Several years ago, at the Transform Innovation Summit at the Mayo Clinic, Roger Martin gave a moving talk about what kills and what drives innovation.  In the talk, which he called a rant, he suggested that the two words- prove and it- when used together, are innovation killers.  He provided several powerful examples in the talk, which I recommend that everyone should watch.

Roger suggests that, because so much of corporate decision making today insists that the outcome of initiatives, projects, ventures be known and provable before they even begin,  it becomes virtually impossible for firms to actually create new and emergent forms of value.  “We would love to do that,” the thinking goes, “but we are too busy and have too many immediate things to do to take such a big risk.”

This is just excuse making.  Which leads to my own rant of the day.  I am convinced, after working with organizations and business school students for many years, that many (perhaps most but I hate to be so negative) corporate decision makers are more interested in maintaining a general sense of order and control over their social universes than they are in actually driving success and excellence in the firms they run. To some extent this makes perfect sense.  None of us likes to be surrounded by chaos and uncertainty.  It would be easier to accept, though, if timid managers acknowledged, truthfully, that these are the grounds of their objections.  The tired, worn-out discourses about risk management and decision “sciences” are harder and harder to believe. Just come out and say it like it is: “I would rather run the company at a suboptimal level of performance than embrace those actions and practices that will make us great.”

I Can’t Prove It

This dynamic/delusion is relevant to the bold initiative that we are launching atConjunctured.   We know, pretty much without much question (though we can’t prove it in the way many corporates insist on), that today’s young knowledge workers aspire to work in environments that emphasize maximum choice and flexibility, doing work that is meaningful and makes the world a better place.  It turns out that this is pretty much what’s going on in the world of coworking.  If you plop coworking into a large corporate organization, what you get is corporate coworking.  While I can’t prove it, I am nearly certain that most of your employees would love to work in a space like the one we have at Conjunctured, and that in this they would be more engaged with their work and their colleagues.

But if that generates too much cosmological chaos, I guess I understand.  If, on the other hand, you want ‘to boldly go’ where your employees want to go, then there are solutions and pioneers out there to help you get there.

Source: Drew Jones Daily Drip

The Lonely Frontier

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Drew Jones

Head of Consulting at Conjunctured
Drew Jones, Ph.D is an organizational consultant, educator, and writer. He is a Lecturer of Management, Organizational Behavior, and Corporate Social Responsibility in the McCoy College of Business Administration at Texas State University, in San Marcos, TX. He has consulted with firms in the software, food and beverage, construction, advertising, sports management, coworking, and for profit education industries. He has published two books (The Innovation Acid Test: Growth Through Design and Differentiation, Triarchy Press 2008), including the first book about the coworking movement (I’m Outta: How coworking is making the office obsolete, with Todd Sundsted and Tony Bacigalupo, NotanMBA Press 2009), and has a third book (The Fifth Age of Work: Redesigning Work for a MobileSocial World, Night Owls Press), coming out Fall 2013. He has been involved in coworking since 2007, as a coworking space owner, partner, academic researcher, and consultant. He is a partner at Conjunctured Coworking.
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It is cliche to say, but change is never easy.  The kinds of organizational changes I am advocating in my new book- The Fifth Age of Work- are far from easy.  The comfort of familiarity and tradition should never be underestimated.  Established tradition and known routines make the world easier to understand and navigate.  Yet, established traditions and known routines also bring us some of the most stultifying and inhumane cultural practices in the world- subjugation of women (“well, that’s just our tradition”), slavery, the caste system, etc.

Moving forward into unknown futures and frontiers is always scary.  Just imagine what it felt like for early American pioneers when they left their families in Europe and moved out to the prairies of Nebraska. Willa Cather’s world was stark, beautiful, and lonely.  Frontiers always are.  The world of work and organizations that is emerging is also frightening.  Asking established professionals to significantly change their worlds is challenging, to say the least.

“Hey, I know you  used to have a huge office with a big oak desk and two personal assistants, but now we’ve taken that away and you need to work in the cafe with all of the other folks!”

Naturally, few people will want to do this.  However, we are at the cusp of a new frontier, and the comfort of tradition is no longer a good enough excuse for not embarking on the journey and crossing into the unknown.  It’s what I call the difference between slingshots, which propel in one direction into the future, and boomerangs, which go out a bit and then return to where you started.  No question, people do get hurt by rocks flung by slingshots.  But tradition for the sake of tradition, I contend, hurts many more people.

 

Source: Drew Jones Daily Drip

Co-Leadership: Corporate Coworking, Part III

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Drew Jones

Head of Consulting at Conjunctured
Drew Jones, Ph.D is an organizational consultant, educator, and writer. He is a Lecturer of Management, Organizational Behavior, and Corporate Social Responsibility in the McCoy College of Business Administration at Texas State University, in San Marcos, TX. He has consulted with firms in the software, food and beverage, construction, advertising, sports management, coworking, and for profit education industries. He has published two books (The Innovation Acid Test: Growth Through Design and Differentiation, Triarchy Press 2008), including the first book about the coworking movement (I’m Outta: How coworking is making the office obsolete, with Todd Sundsted and Tony Bacigalupo, NotanMBA Press 2009), and has a third book (The Fifth Age of Work: Redesigning Work for a MobileSocial World, Night Owls Press), coming out Fall 2013. He has been involved in coworking since 2007, as a coworking space owner, partner, academic researcher, and consultant. He is a partner at Conjunctured Coworking.
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Co-Leadership is the third installment in our series on ‘corporate coworking.’  In Part I we introduce the notion of corporate coworking to a broader audience.  We have been kicking this around for a while, and apparently so have others in the world of HR (see John Sullivan’s parallel but rather different take on corporate coworking here).  In Part II, we talk about the cultural dimension of working (and coworking) in corporate organizations.  Today, in Part III, we explore the leadership dimension of the changing world of work as it is informed by coworking.

Across the coworking world, numerous innovative leaders have been busy pioneering, quite literally, an entirely new approach to leadership.  David Walker here at Conjunctured, Tony Bacigalupo at New Work City (NYC), Alex Hillman at Indy Hall (Philly), Jacob Sayles and Susan Evans at Office Nomads, Roman Gelfer at Sandbox Suites, among others, have successfully created and nurtured this new organizational form for many years now.  It is sometimes easy to forget that as recently as 2006 coworking (as we all know it today) didn’t even exist.  Talk about making shit up as we go along!

Defining (C0) Leadership

While the intricacies of a person’s leadership style are quite personal and unique, what each of these pioneers has in common is an ability to build thriving, organic communities without overly taking center stage.  The leadership success that they’ve had stems from an egalitarianism that is for the most part alien to the corporate world.  As David Berreby put it most eloquently over a decade ago in his Strategy & Business article, “The Hunter-Gatherers of the Knowledge Economy,” gone are the days of the alpha male lording over the tribe.  Counterdominant behavior is now the norm, and consensus and sharing have replaced hierarchical notions of leadership.  Even Ginni Rometty, CEO of IBM, gets it. In a recent speech to the Council on Foreign Relations, she suggests that in today’s organizations a “person’s value lies not in what she/he knows, but in what he/she shares.”  Such a mantra has also been at the center of the success of coworking over the past seven years.  Which leads to the question: How do we define such a leadership style?

Arguably, by putting words to it we might in fact be spoiling it, so apologies in advance.  However, I strongly believe that, in the same way that the ‘organizational form’ of coworking is a model that the corporate world desperately needs if it is to ever be fully humanized, the style of leadership that has driven the success of coworking is equally important.

burning man Co Leadership: Corporate Coworking, Part III

For this, I refer to what is happening in coworking as co-leadership.  One would think that this is already a highly developed notion, but not so.  David Heenan and Warren Bennis’ book, Co-Leaders: The Power of Great Partnerships, is a nod in the right direction, but doesn’t go near far enough.  What I am talking about here isn’t about two or more people leading an organization together, but rather ‘leadership being an emergent social dynamic that is merely the result of the context co-created by a group of people.’  Perhaps at the center of the context are visionaries like David, Jacob, Tony, Susan, and Alex, but their visions are advanced not through traditionally defined leadership, but rather through the sharing that Ginni Rometty talks about.  This isn’t “servant leadership,” either, which usually has as its goal the purely financial success of a firm or organization, even if that is achieved in a more humble manner.

Co-leadership, as it seems to be evolving in the coworking world today, is different.  It reflects the counterdominant values of today’s Gen Flux, where Silent Gen and Baby Boomer assumptions of power and authority no longer hold.  That said, this is, even if it is a totally different animal, a form of leadership nonetheless.  Perhaps un-leadership is better than co-leadership.  Either way, it is clear that, in light of the cultural values that are rising to the surface in a highly networked global culture, such an approach is effective.  Yet another of many lessons that the rest of the world can (and should) learn from the world of coworking.