Many companies appear to have forgotten the very purpose of their existence. Most employees therefore answer the question about the purpose of their employer with the apparently correct answer: “To make profit”. But profit is never an end in itself; rather, it is like the air we breathe to survive and yet our lives thankfully do not consist only of breathing. Profit is therefore only a necessary condition for the survival of the organization and the yardstick for properly fulfilling an important purpose for the customer.
In the transition from the industrial age to the age of knowledge work, the relationship between employees and their organization changes fundamentally. Dependent workers increasingly become independent knowledge workers who carry their means of production in their heads. The organization is therefore more dependent on knowledge workers than vice versa. In this transition, the network replaces the hierarchy as the leading organizational principle. Leadership is therefore no longer based on subordination and obedience, but now aims at the self-leadership of the people entrusted to it.
There are all sorts of ideas. And those who have visions should consult a physician, as Helmut Schmidt once said. After all, the most important thing is that the business runs efficiently, and wild ideas only get in the way of that. If they nevertheless haunt your organization, here are three surefire ways to kill any innovation right from the start.
For Winston Churchill it was crystal clear that without courage all other virtues would become meaningless. It is not only in society and politics that we need courage more urgently today than we have in a long time; more would also benefit our companies and their employees. We need courage to make traditional organizations fit for the future. The current absolutist-hierarchical building principle has finally served its purpose. In the age of digitalization and knowledge work, our companies require a new enlightenment with a more consistent separation of powers. Immanuel Kant’s motto for the Enlightenment should therefore stand above every gate: “Dare to know! Have the courage to use your own intelligence!”
In 2008, a team at Google launched Project Oxygen. The aim of the project was to find out what defines good leadership and what behaviors characterize a good manager at Google. Being a data-driven company the team approached this question on the basis of data from employee surveys and the managers’ annual performance reviews. The original eight behaviors have recently been reworked and two new behaviors have been added. At first glance, they still seem quite trivial or, as the New York Times noted in its 2011 article, almost like a gag on the whiteboard in the television series “The Office”. But one must not be deceived by this simplicity. Google has seen positive effects in recent years in terms of employee satisfaction, turnover and performance through incorporating these finding into trainings and through the intense focus on leadership that accompanies the publication. This is reason enough for a second look.