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D’Abilene au collaboratif: faut-il encore apprendre à travailler en équipe?

March 17, 2016

Post publié à l’origine sur LinkedIn ici

Il y a quelques temps, j’ai participé dans une grande entreprise technologique au démarrage d’un projet ambitieux. Une équipe pluridisciplinaire constituée pour l’occasion s’est attelée à designer un outil d’analyse et de décision futuriste. L’idée était de mieux partager toutes les données techniques possible, d’analyser tendances, erreurs, de produire des tableaux de bord savants et des conseils opérationnels pour nos clients. Nous nous sommes réunis longtemps, mais n’avons jamais pu formaliser un ‘blueprint’ viable. Tout au long de ces mois, j’ai défendu ce projet qui me faisait rêver, tout en doutant silencieusement de sa viabilité et des directions prises. D’autres doutaient aussi, comme j’ai pu le comprendre lorsque le projet a finalement été arrêté. Pourquoi ce temps perdu ? Si nos réticences avaient été partagées avant, nous aurions pu arrêter le projet plus tôt, ou peut-être le réorienter…

J’ai découvert plus tard que j’avais vécu ce que les sociologues appellent le ‘Paradoxe d’Abilene’ (mis en lumière en … 1988), lorsqu’un groupe engendre des décisions et actions contraires à ce que les individus qui le composent pensent. Des histoires comme celle de ce projet sont courantes. Des budgets restent alloués aux mauvais projets, des programmes dépassent leurs budgets pour ne jamais aboutir, des groupes engagent des stratégies qui font le buzz, mais se révèlent des voies sans issue. Et quand tout capote enfin, il y a un grand soulagement, et aussi une frustration pour tous ces efforts stériles.

Aujourd’hui, avec l’avènement des outils collaboratifs et des médias sociaux, collabore-t-on mieux? Est-ce que la technologie nous aide? En tous cas, elle augmente le travail collaboratif : dans l’article Collaborative Overload[1], la Harvard Business Review publiait en Janvier les résultats d’une recherche de l’université de l’Iowa montrant que ce travail collaboratif constitue maintenant entre 50% et 80% du temps passé en entreprise. Alors que, toujours d’après l’étude, seuls 3% à 5% des employés produisent le tiers de la valeur ajoutée collaborative.

Flickr Leon Riskin Suivre Sheeps Pyramid 1 - CC attribution - 6337525967_49a46c72c5_b

Leon Riskin – Sheeps pyramid 1

On ne sait pas encore bien comment faire pour qu’une collaboration ou une équipe fonctionne bien. L’entreprise Google a beaucoup investi dans la recherche sur ce domaine: sociologues, psychologues, ingénieurs et statisticiens y ont étudié sur plusieurs années le fonctionnement des équipes au sein d’un projet nommé Aristotle. S’ils ont pu trouver des comportements et organisations spécifiques dans les équipes qui fonctionnent mieux que les autres, ils n’ont pu mettre en lumière de recette parfaite. Comme rapporté dans l’article du New York Times de Février[2] : « Chez Google, nous sommes forts pour modéliser les bons comportements, mais nous n’en avons trouvé aucun qui soit vraiment marqué ».

Alors quoi, n’y a-t-il pas de recettes simples pour tout de même éviter les écueils comme celui du Paradoxe d’Abilene? Il y en a, mais aucune n’est vraiment ‘magique’. Il y a deux approches assez courantes en entreprise, surveiller la constitution des groupes, et établir des règles de fonctionnement.

Pour la constitution des groupes, la diversité est de mise, pour éviter la pensée unique. Les entreprises qui s’engagent vraiment dans cette stratégie, au delà du greenwashing, ont certainement l’avantage de d’une plus grande richesse des connaissances et d’idées innovantes, néanmoins ce n’est pas forcément suffisant pour que les personnes soient prêts à exprimer leurs doutes face à des décisions importantes. La culture d’entreprise, la conduite du changement, le recrutement même diversifié, tout concoure à l’alignement, plus qu’à la divergence.

Pour les règles de fonctionnement, il y en a quelques-unes, assez simples, qui peuvent améliorer le fonctionnement d’équipe. Comme celle répandue au Japon qui consiste à faire parler les plus jeunes et les moins élevés dans la hiérarchie en premier dans les réunions – moins de risque que tous suivent la ‘voix du maître’. Ou encore avoir des séances de ‘vidage de poubelle’ (on comprend facilement l’idée) au début des réunions trimestrielles, comme me le rapportait récemment une Directrice IT qui le pratique dans sa société. Il y a encore des cultures d’entreprise qui se méfient des consensus trop rapides, trop ‘faciles’, et valorisent la confrontation, dans la mesure du raisonnable. Sauf que lorsque cela devient une règle de fonctionnement, l’effet pervers est que finalement un manager devra prendre une décision dictatoriale pour qu’on puisse avancer (je l’ai vécu).

Il y a encore les règles de fonctionnement de l’intelligence collective: ce n’est pas le bon QI d’un ou de plusieurs membres d’un groupe qui garanti ses bons résultats, le QI a même peu d’influence[3]. C’est l’intelligence relationnelle, la fluidité dans les activités, le leadership partagé, et aussi l’intelligence émotionnelle et la capacité à écouter, connaître l’autre et créer des liens. Ah, on tient la recette miracle ? Pas encore, car on ne sait pas très bien encore mettre en œuvre l’intelligence collective au delà de petits groupes et d’activités définies. Il y a bien les essais d’entreprise libérée, qui génèrent un engouement certain et la montée de méthodes propriétaires comme la Sociocracy ou l’Holacracy. Mais pour ce que j’en ai vu jusqu’à maintenant, la transformation passe par un stress important et beaucoup de bureaucratie, et le résultat est fragile. Un changement d’équipe de direction ou changement d’actionnaire peut engendrer un retour à l’entreprise hiérarchique traditionnelle, et exit l’intelligence collective.

Il y a une dernière approche que j’aimerai mentionner, une autre approche d’intelligence collective, probablement encore à plus long terme, et pas forcément facile non plus à mettre en œuvre. Il s’agit non pas d’améliorer le fonctionnement du groupe pour ‘libérer’ les hommes, mais de développer les facultés adaptatives des hommes eux-mêmes. Les sciences comportementales et cognitives s’intéressent particulièrement au fonctionnement du cortex préfrontal, siège de la forme la plus évoluée de notre intelligence. Dans le fonctionnement du préfrontal, je vois au moins deux aptitudes qui permettraient d’éviter le paradoxe d’Abilene : la capacité à rationaliser, et l’individualisation. En d’autres termes, être capable d’une part d’évaluer toutes les facettes d’une situation, pas seulement ce qui est visible ; d’autre part à former et émettre une opinion sans être limité par l’opinion du groupe ou la pression sociale.

Toutes ces idées peuvent se compléter. A chaque entreprise, à chaque groupe de trouver sa recette magique, le jeu en vaut la chandelle.

J’animerai en Avril pour les praticiens de l’Institut de Neurocognitivisme un atelier sur le thème du Paradoxe d’Abilene (voir la plateforme des praticiens ici). Cet atelier fait partie d’une série de Socio-Cafés, dont celui de Juillet sera ouvert à tous. Pour plus d’information, voir « Les 1001 visages de la procrastination, et moi, et moi, et moi » ici.

Image : Leon Riskin – Sheeps Pyramid 1

[1] Collaborative Overload, Harvard Business Review Janvier 2016

[2] What Google Learned From Its Quest to Build the Perfect Team , New York Times Magazine 25 Février 2016

[3] Cf recherches du MIT de Stanford sur l’intelligence collective, voir l’articleEvidence for a Collective Intelligence Factor in the Performance of Human Groups de Science du 29 Octobre 2010

Comment le langage modèle le cerveau

February 26, 2016

Si je vous disais que grâce au langage, le cerveau humain peut développer une capacité d’orientation ? Que comme les oiseaux, certaines personnes savent en permanence où se trouvent l’Est, le Sud, l’Ouest et le Nord. Si je vous disais que nos capacités arithmétiques dépendent de notre langue de naissance?

Le débat de l’influence de la langue sur nos capacités cérébrales et sur la manière dont on pense dure depuis des décennies, et on a longtemps cru qu’il était impossible de mener de réelles recherches scientifiques. Jusqu’à récemment ou plusieurs chercheurs se sont intéressés à la question, en particulier Lera Boroditsky à l’université de Stanford.
Je suis tombée sur les travaux de Lera Boroditsky alors que je préparais une intervention au NeuroLeadership Summit – elle y était intervenue dans la session précédente. Dans ses articles et présentations, l’exemple qu’elle cite le plus souvent est celui d’une communauté aborigène d’Australie pour laquelle l’orientation est totalement intégrée dans le langage. Les notions de droite ou de gauche n’existent pas, on communique en fonction desDirection_Watch - wikimedia commons points cardinaux : « le garçon qui est au sud de Marie est mon frère », ou « tu as une bête sur ta jambe nord-est ». L’orientation est aussi au cœur des relations sociales : pour se saluer, on demande « Ou vas-tu ? », ce qui entraine ce type de réponse « Loin vers le sud-sus-ouest. Et toi ? ». Dans cette communauté, une enfant de 5 ans à qui on demande de pointer une direction cardinale le fera la même précision qu’une boussole. Or cette capacité, on la croyait réservée à certains animaux, comme les oiseaux qui auraient un système magnétique dans le bec, ou aux insectes dont les multiples facettes des yeux leur permettraient de s’orienter en fonction de la lumière. Dans le cerveau humain, cette capacité physique n’existerait pas – et pourtant…

L’autre exemple que je mentionnais en introduction touche aux mathématiques. Selon Lera Boroditsky toujours, la tribu Piraha d’Amazonie, qui n’a pas d’autres mots pour les nombres que « un peu » et « beaucoup », ne peut pas surveiller ou contrôler une quantité précise de denrées ou d’objets. Il y a beaucoup d’autres illustrations : selon les langues, le développement de la capacité à reconnaître les couleurs, les odeurs, et même à exprimer certaines émotions peut énormément varier. Etc. Ce que ces chercheurs explorent, c’est la manière dont notre langage modèle notre cerveau, au delà de l’influence de l’éducation, de la culture ou de la société. Ces effets sont généralement ignorés, car à moins de parler plusieurs langues et d’être linguiste, on ne connait ni les limitations ni les avantages de sa propre langue.

Qu’est-ce que cela peut vouloir dire pour nous, dans la vie de tous les jours ? Dans de nombreuses disciplines, on travaille des référentiels : en marketing pour communiquer sur un produit ou une marque, en stratégie et conduite du changement, pour pouvoir Pieter_Bruegel_the_Elder_-_The_Tower_of_Babel_(Vienna)_-_Google_Art_Project_-_editedcommuniquer sur l’organisation, les valeurs et les concepts qu’on veut déployer, faire en sorte qu’ils soient acceptés, retenus et adoptés, et s’encrent dans les esprits. Pas si facile, parce qu’il faut commencer par imaginer un futur différent, puis y coller des mots, parfois inventer des concepts, pour enfin pouvoir communiquer à tous les niveaux – émotionnel, rationnel, conceptuel … C’est peut-être plus facile pour les bilingues, mais pas forcément. Les travaux des linguistes, dont ceux de Lera Boroditsky, peuvent nous apporter de nouveaux angles de réflexion, nous faire prendre du recul sur les méthodes habituelles.

Ce sera le sujet d’un socio–café que j’animerai à l’Institut de Neurocognitivisme (INC) pour les praticiens qui y ont été formés. Le travail de ces praticiens touche à la gestion du stress, ainsi que plus généralement au développement personnel et professionnel des individus ou des équipes. Il s’appuie sur un modèle structuré issu des sciences du comportement et neurosciences modernes. L’une des boites à outils utilisée pour gérer le stress, travailler sur les pensées limitantes ou carrément bloquantes est la Gestion des Modes Mentaux. On pourrait peut-être concevoir de nouveaux exercices en se basant sur ces travaux sur le langage? Qui sait.

Images Wikimedia commons: Direction watch; Pieter Bruegel the Elder, The Tower of Babel (Vienna), Google Art Project

A propos des socio-cafés à l’INC : ce socio-café fait partie d’une série de 5 sessions, dont 4 sont réservées aux praticiens formés à l’INC; la 5ème, début juillet, aura pour thème « La procrastination » et sera ouverte à tous. Programme des socio-cafés sur la plateforme de l’INC ici; socio-café « Les 1001 visages de la procrastination, et moi, et moi et moi » ici.

What corporations could learn from startups

June 24, 2013
tags:

Rainbow Bridge © Messiah Devinem FlickrI spent the past months becoming increasingly interested in sustainable innovation entrepreneurship. It is a bit far from my regular organizational change practice, yet it was a great opportunity to compare mindsets and gather some insightful ideas.

Here are some of the clues I spotted.

1 – The right to fail.

During project reviews, some venture capitalists look for evidence that entrepreneurs experienced some flops in the past. They don’t want to invest in ideas, but in men who grow ideas to businesses. When entrepreneurs suffered setbacks during previous startup creations and drew out the lessons from it, they are better equipped to drive a project toward success, and can be handed the necessary resources.

How can we translate this inside the corporation? In the English-speaking world letting people have room for error is not unusual. It can even be a pillar of the learning organization. ‘Trial and error’ originates in scientific innovation and was adopted as a motto by most computer engineers. The right to fail can also be traced, remotely, in the set phrase ‘quick and dirty’ which expresses the choice to get around a problem in an inelegant way, rather than address it the right way, spend more time than planned, or even worse, put other priorities in jeopardy.

When hiring talents, some recruiters ask candidates if they recognize having made mistakes through their careers and what they learnt from it. But in many companies, mistake is rather stigmatized and goes together with a strong resistance to change. And there, asking the question to candidates is rather to check how they would behave when facing attempts of destabilization than to ensure they are able to adapt. Short viewed.

2 – Create ecosystems rather than organizations.

Startups have to ensure that the right persons get connected to the project at the right moment. They need to be adaptive enough to quickly and successfully move forward. A startup might have to change its business model to address the market, or look for complementary technologies to get from a concept to being operational. They need to find the person who has the exact right expertise for a specific issue, who will join the team for a period of time. Such people do not necessarily join the startup as there might not be enough work for a full time job – and their involvement in multiple projects guarantee their insight.

How can we translate this inside the corporation? By both accepting ephemeral teams, letting them be quite autonomous and make their own decisions. It goes beyond the concept of intrapreneurship, when a project is isolated from the main organizational structure, get its own funding and the right to bend some of the standard processes. The idea is to operate this way for all kinds of innovations or projects. It might even lead to include partners or clients inside project teams.Of course we are far from the traditional corporate model. In the post When E2.0 transforms the organization chart, I mentioned some pioneering trials of this nature: as the discussion goes on with my contacts, I notice that this transformation is one of the most difficult but also one of the most promising. Executives backpedaled when committees were changed, this and other crises were overcome: when the organization really tries to operate as an ecosystem, it creates energy and motivation that cannot be found elsewhere.

3 – Hands-on rather than crunching numbers.

When a startup raises money from investors, it has to present some strong and credible business plans.  But we all know that these business plans are expected to last as long as a summer night’s lightning bug. Their aim is to solicit funding, full stop. Managing and developing the business will need a functional knowledge and the ability to put things in perspective. “Hands on!” will command the entrepreneurs.

In the corporation, management relies on reporting. Figures are asked again and again, and it is dreadful if there is no historical data to benchmark.  We compare internal data to market data, competition compares to us, then market surveys compiles all of this, then we refer to these market surveys; are we chasing our tail? From intermediate management level up, one loses sight from the real job of the enterprise if it is not translated in KPIs. “What can’t be measured can’t be managed” said Peter Drucker, and he should have added “and is not knowledgeable by executives”, even more as they hate being drawn in daily issues. While some famous CEOS started at the bottom of the ladder (think Jack Welch, Jim Skinner or Anne Mulcahy), often executives are distant from workers and day-to-day operations, and don’t value common sense and instinct in the corporate environment. Here too, entrepreneurs can inspire corporations.

Startups make a fascinating area, especially when they deal with sustainable technologies. It seems everything can happen, they can take us out of the gloomy set of crises we are living through. Of course, some of them don’t survive and risk is ever-present: here too, the spirit is light-years away from the corporate one.

This post was originally published in French in 01net here.

Billets publiés dans 01Net Entreprises (liste mise à jour périodiquement)

November 23, 2012

Voici la liste de mes billets publiés par 01Net Entreprises:

Les grandes entreprises devraient s’inspirer des start up 10/11/2012

Au moins trois idées très 2.0, issues du fonctionnement des start up, peuvent être récupérées par les grands comptes : accepter le droit à l’erreur, créer des écosystèmes plutôt que …

Manager: embaucheriez-vous un Mage ? 24/09/2012

Maîtrise d’environnements complexes, apprentissage de la gestion d’équipe : les jeux en ligne ne sont pas si loin des serious games. Leur mention sur un CV mérite qu’on y prête attention.

Et si les neurosciences pouvaient aider le changement ? 20/08/2012

En aidant à comprendre le fonctionnement du cerveau, les neurosciences donnent des clés pour comprendre, anticiper et lutter contre la résistance au changement dans les organisations. La discipline … Version anglaise ici

OWS, Anonymous, Wikileaks – trois idées applicables par les entreprises 02/07/2012

A l’instar des mouvements de contestation comme les Anonymous, des salariés en entreprise seraient tout à fait susceptibles de s’auto-organiser pour contrôler, notamment … Version anglaise ici

Le talon d’Achille des projets d’entreprise 2.0 : une courte vue 06/06/2012

Pour réussir, un projet 2.0 a besoin d’une vision d’entreprise clairement définie et d’un appui suffisamment long pour achever son déploiement.

Comment le 2.0 transforme l’organigramme 07/05/2012

L’organisation 2.0 est non seulement plus agile mais elle déplace les pouvoirs et les responsabilités. Version anglaise ici

L’iPad : outil professionnel pour tous 19/03/2012

Les répercussions du succès de l’iPad seront sans doute multiples, que ce soit en entreprise ou à l’école. Des tendances se dessinent déjà comme le Bring your own Device (BYOD), la réalité …

DRH : trois tendances à surveiller 06/02/2012

Ça y est. La période des kick-off est passée, nous entrons dans le vif de l’année, et nous allons bientôt vérifier la validité des plans pensés à l’automne. Selon moi, trois…

Zéro e-mail : une nouvelle stratégie qui va faire des émules ? 02/01/2012

Il y a quelques mois, Atos annonçait vouloir remplacer la messagerie électronique par d’autres outils dans l’entreprise. Si cette stratégie a d’indéniables qualités, les difficultés …

Entreprise 2.0 : cherchez la technologie, trouvez l’humain 07/11/2011

L’entreprise collaborative est trop rarement perçue comme la transformation organisationnelle qu’elle est pourtant, avec tout ce que cela implique de … Version anglaise ici.

Could neuroscience help organizational change?

September 3, 2012

Flaming Lotus Girls Neuron (c) SanFranAnnie in Flickr

This summer during a lunch on a terrace with a friend, one of the guru 2.0 of a French multinational company, we speak about organizational change (yep, even on a terrace in summer…). The issue that concerns us here is how to tackle inhibitors and resistance to change, at a general level, and efficiently. At an individual level, it is possible and quite simple to target each person’s specific needs. If we look at, as an example, the transformation toward collaboration and collective intelligence, the needs may vary from one person to another, from succinct information- for someone already well involved in social networks – to a structured training on tools together with a constructive dialog about benefits expected for the corporation, for the teams and for the individuals, along with threats and best practices.

But during a major strategic change, no corporation can afford to approach individually each of employees, not to mention customers, partners and other stakeholders. A standard program will miss to cover the whole range of individual needs or will become a Rube Goldberg machine. To circle the problem, an idea could be to target people’s ability to address and digest change. Neuroscience brings some interesting ideas to consider here.

Since I’m going to be part of the Organizational change and neuroscience panel at the Neuroleadership Summit in NYC in October, I ask my friend why, according to her, around here many corporate executives seem perplex about neuroscience, while in the Americas there is a growing interest. Her answer comes straight: one can see neuroscience as a manipulative set of tools, and it is not clear how it really works.

I’d like to use this post to revisit some generally accepted ideas.

Neuroscience: spectacles rather than a magic wand

Neuroscience’s objective is to study the brain functioning with the help of the most up to date medical imaging technology. It is a scientific practice that supports other domains, such as cognitive sciences (psychology, AI, philosophy, linguistics, sociology, anthropology), and quite shyly but increasingly some more practical domains such as politics, economics or marketing. All domains use it to validate their models or explore new thinking. Speaking about neuroscience to the corporation thus means that traditional practices will be strengthened by brain study results. Using neuroscience findings independently, haphazardly, would just be like using a language without grammar: it is not workable, given the complexity of our environment. For example, knowing that stress generated hormones kill the short term memory, or that one of the location of automatism is the limbic territory has no practical direct use.

As a matter of fact, the goal of neuroscience is observation rather than intervention to change behaviors. Regular disciplines take care of this. As an example, neuromarketing does not aspire to spur buyers neurons on making them buy unwillingly, but rather to understand how they make their buying decisions, and then hand over to classical marketing. Among other emerging practical disciplines, neuroeconomics aim at understanding why, while we have access to a phenomenal amount of validated knowledge, bad decisions are made and lead to multiple crisis.

The four different brain layers vs. change

Neuroscience validated and completed theories about the brain structure, including for example those like evolutionary psychology from the neurobiologist Henri Laborit. We now know that reptilian complex, the eldest in human evolution, is the location of instinctive states related to survival, including calm action, escape, fight or inhibition (as when an animal plays dead to elude a predator, it is a totally instinctive reaction). The next area, called palleomammalian complex, probably dates from the origin of mammals, manages relations in a group. The neomammalian complex that big apes share with us is the main location of consciousness, moral values, temperament and personality. All these areas work in automated mode, more or less conscious. The last area in the human evolution is the prefrontal cortex, which evaluates the environment and action means around the clock, elaborates new strategies and is the location of creativity.

Cecile Demailly and Dr Riadh Lebib, Research Scientist at Institute of Environmental Medicine

For many of us, change is exceptional and the prefrontal cortex is rarely at the helm; it seems that our evolution is not complete from this point of view. Automatisms from other layers of the brain are rather efficient from known and simple situations. When a new situation or a peculiarly complex one arises, if we address it with automatisms, the response will not be adequate. It will generate stress, which is just the human version of instinctive survival states managed by the reptilian complex: anxiety, aggressively, discouragement, etc.

For people who are involved in a corporate change there are two ideas to draw from the above: first, it is worth to dampen impacts of change by building it in a way that will generate as little stress as possible. Second, it will help to develop people’s ability to face change, i.e. teach them to call upon their prefrontal cortex. This can be learned, just like a sport, through theory, practice and training.

Neurosciences and organizational change

Getting back into our terrace discussion and to the issue of facilitating change at an overall level, here are some typical assignments I deliver inspired from the IME’s[1] neurocognitive and behavioral model:

  1. Understand and anticipate resistance to change: when one knows that it is not possible to change a behavior without unlearning the old way, and that unlearning is far more difficult than learning from scratch[2], one has to acknowledge how difficult changing usages and practices can be. Here, the idea is to match the planned change to the corporate culture. For example, a transition toward more collaboration and collective intelligence should work more easily in a corporation that already values collective frames, such as team spirit, leadership, emulation, or care for the corporate impact on the society and the environment (corporate sustainable responsibility). It should work less well when these traits are lacking, and in rather individualizing cultures such as those based mainly on observation, research, innovation, sales or security.
  2. Evaluate the corporation readiness to change: being used to organizational change is an asset, of course, but it is not enough. Many studies about stress show that it inheres in a decline of adaptability (it is both a cause and an effect[3]). Knowing the level of stress in the organization can be very useful to prepare a change. Benchmarking the stress level against national data will give a first assessment[4]. We then can identify more precisely organizational stressors, such as an uneven distribution of power and responsibility, or opaque areas in the information flow that hinders problem identification and solving. Focusing specifically on these stressors will help planning preparatory actions and improving change facilitation.
  3. Facilitate change: here, the process consists in developing adaptive skills of people who will be impacted by the change. With both theory and practice, we can strengthen and sharpen specific aptitudes that constitute adaptability, such as curiosity, acceptance and hindsight, reflection, personal opinion.
    On of IME’s missions was to help educate student pilots from the French Air Force. Those have been trained to decrease their sensitivity to stress (stressability) with exercises increasing their ability to call upon the prefrontal cortex. As a result, trained pilots exhibited less anxiety, lower cardiac rhythm, and better decisions in the flight simulator, addressing complex situations with half errors and six times more innovative and adaptive strategies on average[5].
    This kind of exercise can complete a traditional change facilitation program which usually mainly consists in communication and operational learning. Whether through including it in the operational courses, or by setting a specific learning module. Participants will benefit of an increased capability to address complex and new situations, – and that will prove useful for the change to bear, but also for the daily work life.

This post was first published on the French IT news site 01net here. For other French posts published on 01Net, check here.


[1] Institute of Environmental Medicine and its partner the Institute of Neurocognitivism

[2] Reported in many scientific studies. One can read for example « The Brain Falters When Rules Change » on MedicalNewToday.com http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/releases/248455.php

[3] Fench: Le bon stress n’existe pas English translation by Google Good stress does not exist

[5] Fornette, M.-P., Bardel, M.-H., Lefrançois, C., Fradin, J., El Massioui, F. & Amalberti, R. (in press). Cognitive adaptation training for improving performance and stress management of airforce pilots. International Journal of Aviation Psychology.

OWS, Anonymous, Wikileaks – 3 insights enterprises may consider

July 10, 2012

Hacker – image (c) Throbedscribe, Flickr

Could corporate workers self-organize spontaneously, just like activist groups, to confront ethical breaches?

Occupy Wall Street, Anonymous, Wikileaks. The buzz around ‘wild’ initiatives of a new type is decreasing, while the crisis keeps getting bigger and bigger. Gloomy economic and politic al efforts to get out of a suffocating general mood are probably heavy enough to bear, until fall.

Why this post? Because corporations and leaders need to look beyond their direct environment to acquire a better understanding of the world, and take better decisions. The very first tool of any decision maker is to picture a representation of the macrocosm in which he operates, even including elements that seem unrelated or not directly impacting their area. Whether you call this systemics, scenario planning, butterfly effect, complexity, chaos theory, emergence, or new trends, it’s intellectual gym that fosters adaptability. And it is becoming increasingly essential.

I will be proposing here – with humility, debate is welcome – three ideas inspired to me by the cyberactivism. With the risk to offend some of my appreciated clients and colleagues, I have a soft spot for these movements, because from protestation they try to create a better world precisely where it seems impossible. Like sand in the gears. Like David fighting Goliath. Like many heroes from Jack Vance, for science-fiction amateurs.

1 – The silent majority raises a voice

OWS peacefully denounces capitalism abuses. Its members are just like you and me citizens who work, of all age and social groups, not only students, unemployed or troublemakers. Wikileaks, with the help from journalists and many volunteers, makes sensitive information public in the name of freedom of information and of the right to know. Wikileaks has numerous supporters who host mirror sites or archives, like Liberation newspaper in France. Anonymous supports OWS and Wikileaks causes by shutting down websites: among others, they attacked sites of eBay, Mastercard and Sony. The organization also supports other causes like the Arab Spring or fighting against child pornography by hacking websites; that’s where the name ‘hacktivism’ comes from (hacking+activism). They are backed by an emerging social movement, which is spontaneous and elusive, without hierarchy nor leaders nor spokesman.

Cyberactivism movements only recently spread to become a source of information for news businesses and not just a source of scoops. Their broad reach might be due to the fact that all three movements target concerns that most of us have in mind: is the world freewheeling, with politics, economical organizations and enterprises powerless or making it worse?

The silent majority now has one (or more) mouthpieces. What could happen similarly in the business world? Well, such initiatives could burst at a smaller scale and target ethical breaches, fairness issues or sustainable development contempt. Educating the Public Relations department on crisis management to be ready to talk to the media and stakeholders might not be enough. Even less as dissenting initiatives might grow internally only. How to prevent that? By working on root causes of potential problems, rather than strengthen defense mechanisms … And if this means challenging the primary activity for some enterprises, well, at least it deserve some thinking.

2 – Self-organization is not a myth

Self-organization is an emerging phenomenon, not a myth. We are discovering that it does not need a well-oiled complex process to exist, but much rather a sound motivation and collective communication tools. 50 years ago when the first research on systemics started and when socio-technical systems theories were drawn, we thought of a new era in organizational development. The idea was that each team, each worker in the team could engage more in broadening his tasks range and in self-managing. P&G was a pioneer in the 60s. Soon after two pitfalls appeared: first, every worker wasn’t ready for more responsible autonomy, even for a better wage and more sense in his work life. Second, managing teams were not all that ready to hand over their domination and control.

We still find here and there implementation of this model: Whole Foods, W.L. Gore or MorningStar, for example, or Argentina’s fábricas recuperadas movement (workers self-management) in response to the 2001 crisis. That can even make us think that the Enterprise 2.0 can exist without technology, like at Semco or Groupe Hervé.

In the cases of OWS and Anonymous, however, there is no strategy or process to self-organize, but rather spontaneity, balancing and repeated adjustments. That’s the case too for Wikileaks and the mirror sites. Cyberactivists have an intimate understanding of their common goal, this is what holds them together. They also have an emergency feeling which is their fuel. Internet is the flux and the action tool. Each and everyone find his own way to contribute. From that I submit a second proposal: self-organization in the enterprise could come to life without the involvement of executives and managers, if a common goal and urgency feeling appears. We should keep an eye on that.

3 – If the emergence of collectiveness slows things down it’s good!

The accepted theory is that collaboration and collective intelligence are there to boost the enterprise reactivity, make it more agile, quicker. But we are in a world that goes much faster than our ability to even think the transformations needed to adapt our society and organizations. A counter-power that takes time to think about complexity and find where it’s getting out of hands is a real boon. Because enterprises have neither time nor resources to do that. And a good counter-power has to be collective and untamable.

Internet and 2.0 technologies can accelerate communication but also, more broadly, generate a real collective consciousness and slow down wild horses. By wild horses, I mean ill-conceived projects, greedy rather than sustainable strategies, growth as a flagship where balance would be much smarter, reactiveness rather than proactiveness. I then contradict the fact that 2.0 technologies will deliver more swiftness: when they are correctly used, they should slow down decisions and innovations and make them better-advised.

Two years ago, I was often asked the following: “How will we gather all these alerts and good ideas that will be posted on the collaborative platforms and social networks? Should we create a cyber-intelligence department, focusing internally and externally? How to set up the process to redistribute asap all good ideas to the right people in the enterprise? Because they don’t have time to watch …”. I’m not asked this that often any more, which means we are learning: no need for a process as soon as the ‘right’ people, labs, etc. are themselves involved and engaged in the collective way of work . Whatever time they need to do so.

Voice of the silence, spontaneous self-organization, collectiveness that slows down things for a better result – are these three ideas I developed above ringing a bell?

This article was translated (forgive the hectic English) from its French version published on 01Net business here: OWS, Anonymous, Wikileaks – trois idées applicables par les entreprises. For other French posts published on 01Net, check here.

When E2.0 transforms the organization chart

May 30, 2012

This post was originally written for the French online news 01Net then published in the newspaper 01 Business & Technologies’ Opinions section, page 30.

image courtesy of Flickr user Stephenccwu

There used to be a time when people were appalled by the idea of flat organization charts and traditional enterprises morphing into startups. Then the concept of the ‘social’ organization was born, and because the term connotes politics in several countries, it elicited alarming reactions. Over time, we believed there would be no impact. This is proving wrong.

The org chart: a strategy tool for the Enterprise 2.0 too

Beyond depicting the original intent, drawing an org chart is practicing strategy. It can unveil qualities and spot defects inferred by the corporate culture or the strategic plan: such as shunted information or decision channels, bottlenecks, inherent silos, cross-functional departments hacked or diverted from their missions, unbalanced distribution of power and responsibilities, and so forth.

Taylorism recommended to dedicate structure to yield a strict and scientific system, and as a result rigidified the organization. Later, the matrix organization and its evolution, the multi-dimensional organization[1]. The Emergence and Evolution of the Multidimensional Organization. California Management Review., did bring flexibility, especially for the industry and service sectors. Yet even with a matrix or multi-dimensional organization, the modern corporation is far from being agile enough to adapt rapidly to market changes and accommodate abrupt changing market conditions.

Is it utopia to implement the Enterprise 2.0 without touching the org chart?

It is rational to consider the Enterprise 2.0 as more agile: free circulation of the information, more autonomy and initiative allowed and encouraged, and an increased action potential thanks to collaboration. Still, if the pre-2.0 organization mapping  remains, its synergies and predilections will remain too. As well as its antagonisms and unfit areas. It has become more agile, smarter, but it holds the same binding chains.

It is leaders and strategists’ duty to think up how to rework the structure to make the most of collaboration and collective intelligence. I recently facilitated a strategic planning exercise in a pharmaceutical multinational company. The objective was to increase the market reach with no or very little additional resources.   It was almost a survival assignment for a company growing at a double digit rate, yet having to take account of a crisis involving innovation hazards and a tough competitive environment. The plan under consideration was to create virtual communities to address niche markets internationally, or new geographical areas, without stripping too much the organization. A traditional organization, with dedicated teams and support functions, would have required too many people.

A proposal for the org chart 2.0: a virtual layer blanketing the traditional structure

A number of companies have tried this approach. Among them Cisco is a known case study. The communications device manufacturer carried out a thorough transformation in 2008 to be in a position to launch much more market-oriented initiatives. Budget and resources needed for large projects are distributed to working groups and boards, assembled in councils. The overall functioning has become entirely collaborative. The old organizational skeleton remains as a support canvass, but without the old model responsibilities and powers. Even though the company has re-enforced a hierarchical escalation process to address paralysis risks that come with rival resource requests, the working mode remains fundamentally collaborative.

The organization 2.0 might then be a reallocation of power and responsibilities to a virtual org chart that comprises agile components. It is tacked onto the matrix organization which serves as frame; virtual teams last only as long as their mission, and then are fragmented and their resources are distributed into new virtual teams.

How about you – how would you draw your corporation’s Org Chart of the Future?
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Many thanks to Susan Scrupski for proofreading this post, much appreciated


  • [1] Stoelhorst, J.W. & Strikwerda, H. (2009). The Emergence and Evolution of the Multidimensional Organization. California Management Review.
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