CO-OPERATION – THE MISSING VALUE OF BUSINESS EDUCATION

Abstract

Purpose – The article demonstrates that co-operation is a vital behavioural skill that should be developed in educational systems, particularly business and management programs, because it is an intangible factor that boosts productive output.Design/methodology/approach – The article explains why cooperation is an important intangible factor for organizations and the larger economy. It recommends the development of educational designs to remediate the pedagogical lack of focus on the cooperative disposition. Findings – Co-operation is contingent on trust – an indispensable factor to engage in distant relations, accept rule of law across nations, and confer in intermediaries the authority to arbitrate unresolved differences between organizations. In other words, without cooperation, people within organizations commit themselves to parochial concerns, inhibiting efforts to combine resources towards a collective goal. The lack of a cooperative attitude is not destiny – it can be forged through careful educational designs and organizational strategy.

Research limitations/implications – There is little empirical data available to measure co-operation in a diverse environment and co-operation is an intangible concept that is difficult to pin to specific organizational habits. The concepts developed here based on broad social science data would do will to be tested in an empirical framework at the micro level.Practical implications – Low co-operation arises in an environment which does not foster trust. Management might inadvertently reward low organizational capacity by not evaluating cooperation and monitoring narcissism. Recruiters need to adapt recruitment strategies that pinpoint individuals capable of managing the specific cooperation needs of situational organizations, especially in diverse situations. A successful managerial education program will target training that optimizes thoughtful and sustainable co-operation.Originality/value – Formal management training to instill a thoughtful sense of co-operation would complement the current emphasis on teamwork and leadership. Without the moral and methodological goal of being co-operative for the greater good, organizations waste human resources and fail to reap benefits from collective productions.
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Why Organizations Should Embrace Randomness Like Ant Colonies

Consider the common ant. Each one is by genetic design capable of only a few simple behaviors and binary choices, making it a pretty dumb, rigid, inflexible being. Yet the collective behavior of an ant colony is adaptive, flexible and even creative; it’s a highly structured social organization.

Now consider your average human. Most of us are individually adaptive, flexible and very creative. Yet the large organizations in which we work are often inflexible and incapable of adaptation and true innovation.

Why are ant colonies so much better than the sum of their parts, while governments and companies are so often much worse?

I think it’s because of the different ways in which ant and human organizations deal with uncertainty. In my new book, I talk a lot about how ant societies exploit randomness and “leaderlessness” to learn and flourish. As a colony is exploring a new environment (such as your house), forager ants walk around aimlessly until they find something surprising, say a piece of fruit on the floor. Through random interactions, the location of this new information spreads quickly Very soon, thousands of ants converge on this food source and begin transporting bits of it back to the colony. When ants don’t find food, they increase the randomness of their searching. As Deborah Gordon, an ant biologist at Stanford, points out, “Elegant top-down designs are appealing, but the robustness of ant algorithms shows that tolerating imperfection sometimes leads to better solutions.” Without any central control, “food acquisition strategy” or risk management, ants are one of the most successful species on the planet, 10 million billion strong, giving them roughly the same global biomass as humans.

Human organizations tend to take a completely different approach to exploration and have the opposite response to setbacks. Most try to decrease randomness, with executives conducting feasibility studies and risk analyses or tightening budgets, introducing more processes, standardizing operations. When projects come in late or over budget, as so many inevitably do, the result is “deep-dives” and lengthy PowerPoint presentations about “lessons learned” so everyone can plan better next time (even though the situation will undoubtedly have changed by then). Even successful companies have trouble resisting the temptation to reduce uncertainty and fight noise.

What would happen if we stopped resisting, and instead took the terrifying step of embracing randomness? Organizations would start to learn, just as individuals do when they are surprised. Scientists have explained it to me like this: When something unexpected happens, the human brain reacts by focusing attention and increasing stress. A driver swerves in front of you, and for a few seconds when you’re consumed by avoiding that car, all other thoughts disappear from your consciousness. The more unexpected the event, the better you will remember, and the more you will learn from, it.

Surprise is information. So an organization that puts all its effort into planning, tracking, monitoring and documenting to minimize surprise and the chance of failure prevents itself from acquiring and spreading information, and consequently from learning. Innovation slows, and the company either atrophies or gets superseded by more agile organizations.

Some entrepreneurial companies, such as Valve, the entertainment software and technology maker, and Netflix, the video-streaming service, have obviously learned to relax controls to increase randomness and make the most of their flexible, creative individual contributors. The rest should aspire to act more like those ant colonies.


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Innovation and learning through knowledge gatekeepers: a critical examination of the relationship between trust, openness, and the use of gatekeepers in organisations

The term ‘gatekeeper’ is widely used to represent a class of those who collect information, knowledge and contextualise this before they can share with the rest of the members of the organisation knowledge networks – both formal and informal organisations. In this study, it was found: 1) that there is a strong relationship between the openness of a given firm, as regards its knowledge sharing culture and level trust, and that firm’s use of knowledge gatekeepers; 2) that the stage of a given firm’s growth corresponds to its strategic use of different types of gatekeeping. In early and decline (renewal) stages, for instance, firms tend to maintain an informal gatekeeping strategy, while firms who are in the peak phase generally focus on formal gatekeeping.
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Rethinking the Work of Leadership

In 1973, Peter Drucker stated in his book Management: Tasks, Responsibilities, Practices, “Management is not culture-free, that is, part of the world of nature. It is a social function. It is, therefore, both socially accountable and culturally embedded.”

Some thirteen years later, Tom Peters remarked in the article Managing As Symbolic Action: “It requires us, as managers, to get people to share our sense of urgency in new priorities; to develop personal, soul-deep animus toward things as they are; to get up the nerve and energy to take on the forces of inertia that bog down any significant change program.”

Yet, here we are in 2013 with organizational leadership models that continue to deny the social nature of organizations and wallow in inertia. Read more

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The Next Big Opportunity for Startups

When I made the transition two years ago from working with a 100 year-old organization — one I had called home for almost eight years — to working with companies sometimes less than 100 hours old, I assumed I would see tremendous differences.

In my early career, I had experienced the textbook definition of outdated management thinking that centered on hierarchy and lack of trust.

Our physical presence at the office during the workweek was considered proof that we were doing our jobs. Someone was often assigned to stand at the door to make note of the people who were more than a few minutes late. Despite the fact that almost every employee was a working parent, if you wanted to see your child in a school play or take him or her to the doctor during work hours, you had to request a half-day off — time off was not allocated in hourly increments. There were also fairly rigid dress code requirements; for instance, if women wore skirts, we expected to wear pantyhose (and this was in 2003). Read more

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Innovate and Scale: A Tough Balancing Act

m4s0n501

By Christian Seelos & Johanna Mair

SUPPLEMENT TO SSIR FUNDED BY THE ROCKEFELLER FOUNDATION

The term social innovation captures
our collective desires to
find novel solutions to persistent
social needs. The necessary innovations
at a scale that matches
the size of the problem can be enacted only
by organizations. Social innovation is thus a
crucial organizational topic. Read more

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