Why and how self-organizing agency can create and sustain a decisive competitive advantage
I wholly agree with Sunnie Giles that radical innovation, “the kind that causes everyone to play by rules that [begin italics] you [end italics] define, changes the fundamental dynamics of an industry, catapults your company a generation ahead of the competition, and sets a new framework — a new platform for others to build on, with 10X improvements, as Peter Thiel calls it.”
Consider the probable implications and potential consequences of what is generally referred to as the Digital Revolution. First, it is creating a competitive business environment that is more volatile, more uncertain, more complicated, and more ambiguous than at any prior time that I can recall. So what?
Giles observes: “The speed with which this fast-changing dynamic environment is producing new information has exceeded the speed at which traditional bureaucratic hierarchy can send information up and down through its chain of command. As a result, decoupling of information, power, and responsibility reside with top managers. Hence, employees cannot take action in a timely fashion, which creates inefficiency and ineffective decision-making, a deadly situation in this fast-changing complex world.”
Albert Einstein once defined insanity as doing the same thing the same way several times, expecting results to be different. I was again reminded of that as I absorbed and digested what Giles characterizes as five future leadership “mandates.” Briefly, here are a few key points:
Decision-making: “Decisions must be made at the boundaries of the organization, where it interacts with others in the environment because that’s where information is most current and relevant. Employees will demand more autonomy and self-organization.”
Control and Accountability: Leaders “must build a team that heals itself by curating peer policy. To institute this type of self-policing, leaders must clear all hurdles n the communication by maximizing transparency (e.g.share everything in an all-hands meeting, except things that will put you in jail or devastate your company.)”
Performance review and feedback: “Instead of annual performance reviews, leaders must provide real-time feedback, focusing on what they want to see more and less of, instead lf good or bad performance.”
Risk management: Too much is happening too fast. Have fast failures on a small scale are. “Leadership competencies must include flexibility in thinking, tolerance for ambiguity, and resilience to failures.”
Results: If you have both short-term And long-term goals, you should also have both short-term and long-term incentives and rewards. Consider a five-year rolling average.
These are among the dozens of passages of greatest interest and value to me, also shared to suggest the extent of Giles’s coverage:
o Principles of Companies (and AI) That Win (Pages xiii-xviii) o Harnessing Complexity (11-13) o The Role of Neuroscience in Leadership (14-16) o Toward a New Paradigm of Leadership (19-21) o Complex Adaptive Systems Theory (28-35) o How to Create the New Sustainable Competvitive Advantage (35-40) o The Interdependent and Unpredictable Quantum World (41-45) o The Importance of Quantitative Measures (56-61) o Competency 1: Self-Management (61-72) o Quantium Leadership Competencies: Providing Safety (84-90) o The Benefits of Differentiation (92-98) o Capitalizing on Self-Organization (106-110) o How Activating a Corporate Brand Provides Constraints Necessary for Unity and Creativity (122-125) o A Micro View: Attachment as the (126-136) o Creating Knowledge from Profuse Experimentation and Adaptation (140-141) o Adaptation Through Effect Feedback (153-159) o The Edge of Chaos (164-167) o Integration [of uniquely differentiated parts of a complex system] (169-174) o CEO as Chief Meaning-Maker (180-190) o CEO as Systems Thinker and Champion of Simple Rules (190-197) o Factors Shaping the Complex Environment (198-202) o Transforming from a Traditional Company to a Quantum Company (205-210)
Reading this book can certainly help senior-level executives to lead their organizations effectively in months and years to come. Sunni Giles urges them to visit her website and take the Quantum Leadership assessment, if they have not already done so. The aforementioned new leadership mandates are eminently sound. In fact, all of the information, insights, and counsel in the book can be of incalculable value.
That said, Thomas Edison offers a useful reminder: “Vision without execution is hallucination.”
Editor's note: This review was written by Robert Morris and has been published with his permission.Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.