Monthly Archives: October 2004

Managing the Gamer Generation

From the Harvard Business School Working Knowledge series:

They are different from you and me, this generation born after 1970. They grew up with a finger on the keyboard and an ear to the cell phone, and in a world where the forces of globalization have broken down national barriers like no time in history.
And right now this group is moving up in the business ranks, becoming managers, partners, and eventually CEOs.
Chances are you manage employees from this generation, and it’s not far-fetched
to believe you may yourself be managed by them before you check out of your
career.
If the book Got Game: How the Gamer Generation is Reshaping Business Forever is correct, the “gamer generation” will make very different kinds of employees and managers.
Actually, say authors John C. Beck and Mitchell Wade, gamers will make great workers and great employees. They know how to work in teams, are creative problem solvers, and believe that nothing is impossible. But managers need to know what makes this new generation tick in order to manage them effectively.

The nature of the creative organization

From my posting to the ISTT egroup:

Organizations can be creative in two ways…! maybe three!
One, consider the case of a traditional Indian licence rajconglomerate that seeks to be ‘creative/innovative’ in the new age…It’s better off trying to replicate the ‘skunkworks’ analogy and isolate the creative group (with high business outcomes) from theexisting culture and help them flourish …! Lots of organizations have tried this approach and succeeded like Indian automobile manufactures .
This is the structural solution…easy to do…but the cons come inthe integration part…the ‘skunkworks’ will never truly be ‘a part of the bigger organization’…always be considered the ‘geeks’ amongst the ‘suits’.
And eventually most of them will leave and the business would have lost the lessons they had learnt…unless the business tries to take on the culture.
That’s when we go to approach two .
Approach two is to embed creative thinking into the organization, have dedicated champions who understand benefits…strive and keep at it …and nine times out of ten this won’t succeed…and the companies will have obits written about them..But for the one in ten who succeeds, well you can be sure that HBR will write a case study !And approach three ?Well you can begin a creative company to start with ! Jokes apart, when I read Edgar Schein’s views on Organizational Innovation, it made me a little sad :-( From the Businessworld site:

MIT’s Edgar Schein has very strong views on organisational culture. He believes business theory has got it all wrong – it is impossibleto transform an innovative company into a business-driven one.”A culture of innovation doesn’t scale up. As a company grows, it must either find a way to break away small units which continue to innovate, or abandon innovation as a strategic priority. Also,different organisations with different cultures are needed at different stages in the evolution of a market. Current business theories are too locked in making a mature corporation in a maturemarket not only economically effective, but innovative as well. That may be just as difficult as making an innovative company economically effective. In a developing market based on new technologies, you may need more organisations like Digital, many of which will not survive,but will create an industry. Thus, playing their role as innovators.I am not sure that companies can avoid getting into such a culturetrap. Business books always have a solution for everything. I am trying to be a bit more pragmatic. Some problems don’t have an easy resolution. Companies do die. Wang could not make this transition. Neither could Polaroid. It is not something which you can necessarily fix unless the entrepreneur is able to see it and chooses to abandon some of his original values. But you cannot say he should see it -some do, some don’t. It is very easy for us to say what theentrepreneur should or shouldn’t do. But it is very difficult to predict if they, in fact, will do it.”

Communication factors and future organizational structure

From Fortune: (yeah, it’s a little old !)

Get ready to choose your own boss.
MIT visionary Tom Malone sees big changes coming to the workplace.

Malone sees a parallel between the evolution of human society and the evolution of business. “For millenia,” he says, “all human societieswere organized as small, autonomous, egalitarian groups called bands.Then we saw the rise of bigger and bigger, more centralized societies called kingdoms. Only in the last 200 years have we seen the rise on a large scale of the third way of organizing human society-democracy.” Each of those stages, Malone says, can be explained by a change in a single factor–the cost of communication. In his view,writing is what enabled hierarchically organized kingdoms to arise.Printing led to democracy.
Likewise, he says, “until a couple hundred years ago businesses were still organized like bands. It was only when new communications technologies like telegraph and telephone and even the Xerox machine made communication cheap enough to coordinate larger groups of people that we saw the rise of the centralized corporation–the kingdoms ofthe business world.” I like the way this guy thinks. So where are we now? It’s the revolution, he says. “Near the end ofthe 20th century, it became possible for the first time to exchangethe detailed kind of information necessary to coordinate a businesson a very large scale even as lots of individuals made decisions for themselves. When communications costs fall it becomes possible forvastly more people to be well-enough informed to make decisions instead of just following orders from their uniquely well-informedsuperiors.”For most of our lives, Malone says, “the big message of business history was that getting bigger and more centralized was the way yousucceed. But now you can have both the economic benefits of bigness and the human benefits of smallness.”

He’s really talking about a new era of empowerment, and how companies and workers will inevitably have to adapt to these new realities inorder to thrive.”When people are making decisions for themselves a lot of other good things happen,” he continues. “People are often more motivated,creative, flexible, and just plain happier.”This is by no means the death-knell for big companies and their managers, but it may be a test. Malone thinks adapting to this inevitable decentralized decision-making may be hard, but he posits four different ways companies will be organized in the future. First are what he calls “loose hierarchies,” organizations that still have managers but in which a lot of decision-making is delegated to lower-level workers. The open-source software-development model embodies an extreme form of this, he says. Second, he expects to see the rise of literal democracy atwork, “where employees actually vote on who their managers will be.”As appealing as this sounds, you might think it far-fetched. Don’t.As an example of how it can work, he cites fabric-maker W.L. Gore,where managers have to recruit employees for a project. “If you don’tget any employees you aren’t a manager,” he explains. Another radical example is Brazilian conglomerate Semco, where workers decide ontheir own where, when, and on what projects they will work. To get ajob at Semco, you have to be interviewed by the people who will be working for you.

Lucknow musings

The visit to Lucknow was quite an experience. The city has changed so much !

There are all the big brands there, Pizza Hut near the GPO, Dominos on Faizabad Road, Barista’s and Cafe Coffee Day on Ganj, McDonald’s in Gomti Nagar in a multiplex. Wow!

Then there were reports that large areas of Lucknow were being wified ….also places like the Gomti corridor between Lucknow and Kanpur.

Then there were some shockers like Aminabad seemed less cluttered ! :-)

But somethings hadn’t changed. Tunday ke kabab were as delicious as ever (suggestion, have them straight, don’t choose the option of having them with parantha !), chat at Royal Cafe next to Capoors was as fingerrlickin’ good and the Residency looked forlorn as ever (barring a few couples furtively hiding ;-)

Of course, there were the mandatory relatives to be met, the Puja pandals to be visited. The roads have grown wider, but traffic seems to have quadrupled ! I missed seeing the Vikram autos. Now Lucknow has 3 seater autos like other cities, and scary white Sumos and some white mini-buses that pass off as public transport ! Of course, the white is not too visible, as student politicians from LU and KKC have used these as mobile billboards to campaign for their respective union elections ;-)) !

Vinay, Soumitra, apologies for not being able to meet. Am also mortified to miss Vishal’s wedding (but was too scared to go near Clarks during Dussehra evening, later heard horror tales about the traffic jam there!)

Passed infront of SFC, and noticed a new hotel on Shahnazaf Road, that somebody said was a “great place” for food.

God! I love that city !

Simulated enterprises, Reworking Intuition

Interesting approach to turning around a failing enterprise.

About 3 years ago, psychologist Lia DiBello surmounted a business challenge that would have stumped Donald Trump. Armed with an unconventional theory of how people learn, DiBello and her colleagues coaxed some key employees at three financially endangered companies to confront their organizational failures and to devise new, successful operations. What’s more, these transformations of workplace thinking and culture unfolded in a matter of just months after DiBello’s team ran mere 2-day exercises at each site. The National Science Foundation partially underwrote this effort as part of a larger attempt to encourage research on how learning occurs in organizations.
DiBello, who heads Workforce Transformation Research and Innovation, a private company in San Diego, takes a different instructional approach. She designs fast-paced, stressful simulation exercises in which small groups must assemble products, ship them to customers, and turn a profit, at least as determined by computer software that tracks each mock venture.
In line with psychological positions known as activity theory and situated cognition, DiBello holds that what experienced workers understand about their jobs grows out of their daily goals, such as making products on time or quickly satisfying a few major clients’ demands. If a business’ goals change, then employees must reorganize what they have come to know intuitively about their jobs, or that company won’t succeed.
This type of learning requires a hands-on challenge that mirrors workplace demands and enables employees to tap into their collective knowledge
, in DiBello’s view.
Three decades of learning research coincide with this approach, says psychologist Lauren Resnick of the University of Pittsburgh. Evidence indicates that what a person already knows about a subject or an activity lays a foundation for new learning and achieving expertise in that area, she adds. Data also show that knowledge is best cultivated through active participation in relevant tasks, not through memorization or drills.

Read more here. So does this approach work only for organizations that are in the do-or-die situation? Would employees rework their intuitive approach if they knew things were just fine with their organizations?

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