As we build up to the start of our annual global Social Business Summit series, there have been two absolutely awesome posts recently from our global team, with the first by Dave Gray (XPLANE |  Dachis Group) and then a follow up post by Lee Bryant.

Dave muses on average life expectancy of a company, which he points out has dropped from 75 years in the 1930s to only 15 years today. He argues:

I believe that many of these companies are collapsing under their own weight. As companies grow they invariably increase in complexity, and as things get more complex they become more difficult to control.

So what happens if we rethink the modern company, if we stop thinking of it as a machine and start thinking of it as a complex, growing system? What happens if we think of it less like a machine and more like an organism? Or even better, what if we compared the company with other large, complex human systems, like, for example, the city?

Lee picks up this point in his post and explains:

The conditions that led to the rapid growth and development of large corporates are no longer pertinent today. Global communications, logistics and management no longer require the process-driven management and compartmentalised structure of the railroad builders.

Together, I’m reminded that the mechanistic view of organisations is a relatively new idea (as Lee has pointed out in the past, The Twentieth Century was Wrong). In Gareth Morgan’s classic Images of Organization we are presented with multiple ways of looking at and understanding how we organise – but as my colleagues’ posts highlight, we need more than concepts to enable us to apply non-mechanistic approaches to management at the scale of large organisations or value networks.

What is exciting is that for the first time, we now have the combination tools AND concepts that can free us from this mechanistic scale trap – to quote Lee again:

Design by connection. Ecosystems + passion/strong identity + active listening and adaptation.

BTW As well as the London summit later in March, Dave Gray is also presenting here at our summit Sydney next week.

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