What If… Questions for Reinventing Management

A tweet by Tim O’Reilly came through my stream the other day, which I followed to Managment Innovation eXchange, in order to read the leading questions. As expected, they are intriguing.

Many businesses tout themselves as radical and disruptive. This is especially true in places like the Bay Area, where small startups with fast-paced, development-driven cultures are trying to develop the next innovative technology.

Building a startup into a successful company requires growth in many areas, including employees and customers. This growth brings with it significant challenges, which often require a difficult transition in how the company operates. As leadership and management functions evolve in an organization, it’s important to retain the same culture of innovation.

The questions asked by MIX are intended to be thought-provoking, as they aim to reinvent management for the 21st century. Indeed, I found them interesting enough that I decided to collect them here.

What if…

we were led by values rather than controlled by bosses?

your company felt less like a bureaucracy and more like a community?

you could offer a dissenting opinion without jeopardizing your job?

we didn’t go to work for a company but dedicated ourselves to a cause?

we spoke the language of honor, truth, love, justice, and, beauty inside our organizations?

the short-term didn’t always trump the long-term and the urgent never displaced the important?

our organizations were truly open to the world?

decision-making reflected more collective wisdom and less politics?

power flowed to those who add value and away from those who don’t?

making a difference was just as important as making the numbers?

our management systems were designed to amplify imagination and unleash contribution?

work felt like play?

the only way to win was to figure out a way for everybody to win?

our companies were as human as the human beings inside them?

people spent a lot less time cutting red tape and a lot more time inventing the future?

you didn’t need permission to try something new?

management education was designed to enlighten and ennoble as much as to promote?

our organizations were highly adaptable, endlessly inventive, and truly inspiring?

management values matched up to management behaviors?

direction came from the bottom-up and the outside-in as much as from the top-down?

organizations grew without losing human scale?

we had such a compelling sense of purpose it would spell the end of micromanaging?

your company’s measurement systems captured the things that really create value?

every leader in your company was someone actually worth following?

our organizations actually deserved the very best that every employee can give?

more people in your company challenged the status quo than defended it?

big ideas were never squashed by little minds?

your company had no secrets from you, its customers, the world?

leaders placed as much emphasis on experimentation as on planning?

authority and influence had nothing to do with your hierarchical postion and everything to do with your ability to lead?

innovation was something that happened because of the system, rather than in spite of it?

every company was great at discovering great ideas and contributions from beyond its borders?

leaders dropped “command and control” for “motivate and mentor”?

our work answered the question, “What’s worth my life?”

people inside companies were freed by trust instead of ruled by fear?

we valued diversity, disagreement, and divergence highly as conformance, consensus, and cohesion?

As I was reading the questions, I couldn’t help recalling the ideas of Umair Haque, whose articles on strategy seem designed as answers to many of the questions asked. That’s no surprise, as Gary Hamel, who Haque cites as a mentor, is one of the people behind MIX.

There are some real gems in there. Let me know your favorites in the comments.


Lonna Hanson
November 10, 2010 at 12:22 PM

I really enjoyed these quotes. I had a hard time picking the one I liked best, but I thought how nice it would be if “work felt like play.” Thanks for making a list of great quotes (ideas.)

November 14, 2010 at 7:53 PM

Yes, very interesting questions. They are all good. I think they all should be followed and if so, innovative technology would move along even faster then it does now. All businesses would be much more successful. I have two favorites:

“What if you could offer a dissenting opinion without jeopardizing your job?”

“What if you didn’t need permission to try something new?”

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