Rethinking Your Government

Corporate governments don’t often look to the past to see the evolution in tribal and national governments, and consider whether the next step in management will follow along the same lines. In fact, in the business writing and discussions that I’ve encountered, very rarely if ever have I noticed even the suggestion that a corporate “governance model” and a national government might have deep and important similarities.

In fact, the true genius of capitalism from a human-development standpoint was that it decoupled and abstracted political and economic realities. What were formerly struggles between nation-states (consider Machiavelli’s Italy) could now be struggles between nation-corporations, with the toll counted in jobs lost instead of lives lost.

Another impact it had was to more effectively hybridize government, i.e., I am subject to the government of the United States, the particular state and city where I live, and the business for which I work, as well as any other organizations in which I participate. This hybridization makes the world more efficient because each organization can seek the most effective form of government for its activities.

So when I say that most businesses’ governments are totalitarian, oligarchic, and/or socialist, I don’t mean these are negatives. They are simply characteristics that can be properly aligned or misaligned with your organization’s values.

Consider how your organization’s government works. Is it a top-down affair, like a monarchy or an oligarchy? Are there democratic features, and are they really democratic or are you just pacifying the people to keep them from revolting? Who wields the practical power within your organization? And how is your Constitution holding up? Have you added features (like an Innovation Department or a Chief Happiness Officer) instead of revamping your system to fit your present values?

Forward-looking businesses will have to leapfrog the development of world governments in order to keep pace with the future. They will have to skip from where they are (perhaps a little ahead of feudalism) to a post-democratic solution.

Fortunately, we’re starting to get a handle on how such governments work. Frederic Laloux has a great lecture (with Q&A) on the priorities and operations of forward-looking organizations. I have a few things to add, as you will see later this week, but please speak up in the comments about your own experiences with forward-looking governments.

Get Rid of Your Employees

For the past few hundred years, employees have been a pretty great thing to have. But that’s all over now. Employees just aren’t useful anymore.

You see, during the Industrial Revolution, we developed a massive machine that was capable of making other machines. And all the machines we made were ultimately made of people. They were rough approximations of things that we would do if we had the right kind of machine power. Employees were educated in things like handwriting and arithmetic so that they could be parts of these machines, these massive–what will we call them?–computers!

A couple centuries later, we finally have on the horizon what we really wanted this whole time: Machines that could do all our machine work for us. So we no longer need employees. What we need today is partners.

And that’s why you’re going to get rid of all your employees. Because instead, these people who were once pieces of a machine will become the people who scheme new machines and new businesses and new and better ways of doing things. They will be the ones to introduce new ideas and new perspectives.

This is what our workforce is becoming: a superpower of humanity, unchained from the need to keep up the drudgery of machine work. You will see your former employees bringing value to the table that neither you nor they at one point thought was possible.

This isn’t the distant future. This is happening now. Today. And it entails bigger changes than many people realize. But it is also bright with possibility and the hope of a healthier world.