WEB EXCLUSIVE Add value or get out, says Hamel

Second up to bat at the LBS' Global Leadership Summit this morning was Professor Gary P Hamel, who preached - and loudly - that when looking for inspiration on the future of management, all eyes should be on the internet. It shows how far things have come. If someone had stood up and done that in 2001, at the time of the catastrophic dot.com collapse, the audience of business experts would have probably had them lynched.

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Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

Hamel's argument is that today's companies are hostage to traditional methods, an inflexible bureaucratic ‘operating system' set up to deal with the key driver of the early 20th century - efficiency. (‘We have more words for hierarchy than an Eskimo does for snow', he says). If you froze a CEO in the ‘60s, thawed him out today and plonked him in a FTSE hotseat, apart from the technology and the speed things are done there wouldn't be much to challenge them in the way things are run. This Hamel describes, using a popular construct of the day, as ‘management 1.0'.

But management 1.0 we're told is simply too much of a dinosaur to cope with such a changing world, and one where the pace of change itself is changing. So what's his solution? Look to the web. Firms like Google reset the boundary between discipline and freedom, and eschew the ‘us and them' manner of control that characterises traditional companies. Online set-ups like that behind the Linux operating system may look hierarchical, but operate on a far more dynamic basis - you can have your seat at the top, but the minute you stop adding value to the community you're out. In management 2.0, he says, everyone has a voice, ideas compete on equal footing, capability goes before job title, and people's commitment is voluntary.

Here at MT we can imagine it may take a while before Hamel's vision is anywhere near accepted by UK plc ­- if women still can't get into the boardroom, it's hard to imagine the boardroom disbanding itself all-together so that everyone gets a fair bite at the cherry. But as Hamel points out, experiments like the John Lewis partnership and the Whole Foods chain in the US are showing that the path of community and engagement really can work. Watch this space...

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