by Julius WiedemannMar 31, 2022
I have written before here about management style in the 21st century. But the new digital era also implies different management rules. Technology opens doors instead of closing them and new ideas of corporations arise from them. Below are some of the movements I have observed in literature but also in practice of how companies are starting to manage their people, to distance themselves from the top-down management that existed before. This is not to mean that all companies work like that, and all managers understand it profoundly. It has to do with the transformational moment we live and must live in if we are to change the rules of engagement for businesses and people in the future.
Assumed trust, we are all doing the best: The old assumption was that trust had to be conquered. These days we don’t have that much time anymore. We should work with people who we trust, and the only thing that can happen is the trust is lost eventually in the process. That assumed trust is vital for people to perform their best, mentally and physically, so that we are all on the same page when we understand what the mission is.
Constructive doubt: we live in uncertain times when being too sure about something can be quite dangerous. The best position to be in is to doubt, but in a constructive way. Here we need to separate doubt from insecurity. When economies, technologies, processes, and methodologies are so dynamic, doubt is the territory we need to be comfortable with. This is what we need to master. We need to make sure that the next day we are prepared to deal with uncertainty or a new technology. This will give us an incredible competitive advantage.
Collaboration: perfection is very difficult to achieve, but excellence is the way through. In order to achieve that, people need to work together, exchange information, and polish together rough ideas into fine-tuned serious propositions. Companies are now building blocks of digital tools and human knowledge. Collaboration is the only way we can look into the future where everybody shares the success and is committed to overcome together the difficulties that will come. And they will come.
Rational compassion: this comes from a theory elaborated by Paul Bloom, the psychologist who wrote the book Against Empathy, The Case for Rational Compassion. A lot of the decisions we need to take are counter-intuitive. Relationships are not always easy, and we need to share objectives in order to look at a brighter future in those relationships. Companies with a strong ESG (Environmental, Social, and Corporate Governance) need to exercise a good dose of rational compassion. Empathy is always driven by intuition. An intuition can very often be misleading. Rational compassion is the idea that we can look at the right things to do, even when they look a little strange, and do not respond immediately clear to our intuitions. With that, we build the capacity to rationalise on good and prosperous ideas and the people around them.
Well-being: in order to be fit mentally as well as physically, there is a minimum of well-being that needs to be achieved. It is the responsibility of the leadership to try to enable an enjoyable life in a working and personal environment, so that everybody can perform their best, and make available their best talents. We all have good days and bad days, but the notion of well-being is that it will keep us afloat, and the perspective of a cruise, stable flight.
Transparency: to be transparent about everything is not easy. It needs commitments by every part so that it’s not used for manipulation. However, without transparency these days, it is impossible to share common objectives looking at the progression that everybody needs to make. Especially when we depend on each other so much. This is maybe the hardest thing for companies to cope with. Enabling full transparency but being aware of the conscious use of it. Nevertheless, it is an exercise that cannot be forgotten.
Progressive development: because the world moves so fast, many of us develop an anxiety for having immediate results. But to build something really relevant and meaningful, we need time. Development is not a miracle. It takes hard work, long thoughts, difficult decisions, a lot of sweat, and many times, a lot of uncertainty. Both workers and investors share that anxiety. And it is important for them to communicate how they feel about it. But most importantly, it is vital that people share a common future, which can only be achieved through progressive steps. If everybody understands that, the chance of success is much higher.
Measurement: with all anxieties, shared objectives, and long-term perspectives, it is vital to keep a track of how we make progress. In this day and age, of data and KPIs (Key Performance Indicator), that can sound like a neurosis. But it is actually the only way to correct the course when things start to go wrong. Worse than having a big problem is to see that problem too late. Measurem
Experimentation: the endless developmental nature of nearly every new initiative demands that we are still to discover what the next big thing is. Some of it can be done by progressively developing things. But there’s a big chunk of ideas that come out of experimentation, including making mistakes. And many new products and services are discovered by experimenting and letting curiosity lead the way. When we are so busy that we think we don’t have time for anything anymore, it’s hard to leave space for thinking outside the box. If we let ourselves think wild and let curiosity show new horizons, a lot can be unearthed.
The digital age functions almost like an enforcer for every one of these points. And I think this is a good thing.
Read more from the series Digital Legacies where our columnist Julius Wiedemann investigates the many aspects of digital life.