I’m conducting an experiment. Every first Tuesday of a month, I’ll post something of note that we can all discuss together in the comments. Think of it as a digital roundtable seminar.
First, you’ll want to watch the video that follows. Then we can discuss the opening question, which appears below the video.
How to run a company with (almost) no rules (21 mins 46 secs) | Ricardo Semler
Here’s the opening question:
Semler talks about the age of wisdom:
We’ve come from an age of revolution, industrial revolution, an age of information, an age of knowledge, but we’re not any closer to the age of wisdom. How we design, how do we organize, for more wisdom?
How do we organize for more wisdom?
That was fantastic! I can’t say I have a solution to the issue, but I do believe asking “Why?” is a great start.
This was very inspiring. In terms of the opening question, I agree that asking Why (or three Whys as he suggested) is a good starting point. However, if we think about organizing for the age of wisdom, it seems to me we have to consider changing the limits of the known – of the systems we live in, rules we conform to etc. And it looks like Mr. Semler suggests the introduction of the unexpected – the two cleaning ladies on the Board, children with the power to make rules and decisions etc. It looks like the unexpected in this sense must come from a sense of discomfort in reference to what we are used to – going to the movies on Monday, discussing questions we know nothing about etc. So, in summary – I wonder what the relationship between the factor of the unexpected and wisdom is and whether it can help us organize for wisdom?
The introduction of the unexpected seems powerful but maybe also problematic. The new employees arriving at the democratic workplace are, I think, uncomfortable, asking where they should sit, how they should work, and where they will be in five years. Semler’s response to that swarm seems to view those questions (and the discomfort behind them?) as problematic: “We have to start much earlier.”
Why must we start earlier? What’s the problem? Is it because the discomfort stage is inevitable and ought to be worked through earlier? Or is that such discomfort/confusion (the questions of the new employees) is not good, but unavoidable due to conventional education and workplace expectations, so we ought to have an education system producing autonomous adults who wouldn’t be thrown off when joining a democratic workplace?
My understanding was that Semler suggested the second — something like, it’s a shame that these questions are being asked in the first place (perhaps because of what they reveal regarding the askers’ priorities). The theme of the education model seemed more about empowerment and freedom rather than embracing discomfort (at least from the student’s perspective).
That said, Bilsana seems spot on that discomfort is tied to organizing for wisdom in that asking Why, why, why? — and, ultimately, What for? — gets really uncomfortable really fast for many of us. Most immediately, my own What for? is directed at the bucket list. Why do I want to attempt anything in this class of adventurous, somewhat-expensive leisure activities? These things are certainly more fun than 60 hours/week of office work, but where do we go once we’ve grown up in the democratic school and worked in the liberated, Wednesdays-off office that has encouraged our dreams of Arctic dogsledding and deep sea diving? Are these bucket-list items valuable in their own right as ways to encounter the unexpected and possibly be better organized for wisdom? Or, do they need to be gotten out of the way — ideally sooner than in the final months before death — because only once we’ve arrived at Semler’s empty bucket list can we truly live our terminal days and push our What fors? to the limit?
The phrase ‘organise for wisdom’ seems somewhat paradoxical in the context in which Semler reveals his obeservations that wisdom emerges from disorder that arises when you break away from the path of the conventional and customary way of living. I came to understand from the video that the unexpected, disorder opens us up to the unknown. The bucket list, or breaking work place convention forces you to do things you would not otherwise do. In this freedom, as it were is where, lies many possibilities to question, create or discover as there are fewer boundaries. So when it comes to how to you put yourself or others on the way to wisdom…it seems the answer from Semler is -freedom is fundamental. Freedom to pursue new experiences, freedom to reinvent how you live or work, freedom to question how, why and for what you are living puts us in a better place to wisdom. That’s my take atleast and I’m yet to go to the movies on a Monday afternoon while at work!
Though I’m definitely on-board with Semler’s work to change how children are educated, I hope those of us who already have High School Diploma’s or more don’t have to be abandoned! I certainly struggle with finding the same sort of motivation for my own projects that I have for work projects. This is true even though I know the personal payoff for my own projects will be much higher.
Part of this reason is that I was educated that the way to succeed was to show up and do what I was told. And then going 10-20% above and beyond the expectations would really make me shine.
I have not, however, been well educated or coached in how to go about succeeding in less clearly defined areas. The world I’m experiencing as a professional is one where real success means creating new things that don’t have any rules or framework. And the guy who gets the job often seems to be the one who figures out offering more than what the job requirements ask for!
Furthermore — and probably more importantly — when it comes to my own hobbies and personal projects, they usually peter out before any real progress has been made.
I have been trying to take responsibility for my situation and expanding my own abilities and paradigm for success. So I’m hoping Semler’s talk can help me do this.
The “three why’s” is an interesting tool here. I agree that it can be helpful. But I actually think I get more held up on asking why than I do on not asking it! The process of asking why-why-why gets me to a place of anxiety and frustration. I feel like I need to get to a first principle for every little thing I do. And from that principle, to build up a perfect sort of logical structure for my life. It seems nearly self-evident as I write that out (I’m feeling almost embarrassed enough about this confession to just delete these lines) that doing so is silly. You may have perfect mathematical models for how the world functions but then when physicists apply it, they end up having to “round” to an order of magnitude or more*.
I doubt my logical structure of how to live will serve me much better!
I think my problem is not in what Semler means for me to do with the “three why’s”, but in the way in which I have been applying this tool. But I’m not sure what my take away should be from his talk.
Playing off Tophie & Alicia’s idea of freedom here, how do I free myself when I’ve been trained so well to be a drone?