What Was Wrong with 20th Century thinking?

At the end of the 19th century, there were quite a few voices speaking up about what was wrong with it. We are going through a similar shake out now and the story line is simple — the 20th century drive to ultimate efficiency levels made institutions too rigid and unable to adapt to changing circumstances.

If you are interested in the longer version of this story, check out Greg Satell’s post for Forbes. He tells the story well.

But if the 20th century was too inflexible, how do we get more flexible? We do this by empowering individuals to see more clearly what changes or adaptions are needed and how to bring them about. This is why “empowerment” is such an important word these days.

But there is a hitch. You cannot just willy nilly empower everyone to do whatever they want to. That is called chaos. The empowerment has to be around a shared vision. Gen McChrystal’s efforts in Iraq were based on this idea (see link for the story or buy hi sbook)

It was that shared sense of purpose that enabled (McChrystal) to empower his forces on the ground.  But as the General stresses, the order is important.  As he writes, “an organization should empower its people, but only after it has done the heavy lifting of creating shared consciousness.”  That’s how he transformed his command into a “team of teams” and prevailed.

Right! So how do you developed a “shared consciousness”? There are two elements to this. The first is creating the consciousness to be shared. The second is persuading folks to take it over (to help them see it).

So, after me clas

  1. create consciousness
  2. sell consciousness so that is shared
  3. empower folks to act on the shared ocnsicousness

Got that? Great! Have a great 21st century!

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