UnManagement unleashes creativity
The Salt Lake Tribune
Updated: 09/21/2009 06:55:32 PM MDT
Charles "Kalev" Ehin, author and emeritus professor of management at Westminster College in Salt Lake City, says companies should look to a new business model he calls UnManagement. His latest books is "The Organizational Sweet Spot: Engaging the Innovative Dynamics of Your Social Networks."
Describe an organization's sweet spot.
The sweet spot represents the area where the formal and informal systems have reached "a meeting of the minds" over the fundamental goals, policies and processes of the organization. It is noteworthy that this agreement is not reached through any sort of formal negotiation. Rather, it's emergent. Research shows that the more people are given a voice and implicit control in the management realm, the more they will understand and respond positively to formal goals and initiatives. Under the right conditions, the informal components will begin to overlap more and more with the formal elements of an organization. Thus, the sweet spot, or overlap, is a desirable state for any enterprise. It's a natural outgrowth of day-to-day interactions, or "self-organization," by the people representing the Management and "UnManagement" realms of a venture.
What is an "UnManagement" leadership model?
It's the term for a new model of management I coined in 1995 while participating in a discussion group at a conference in San Jose, Calif. UnManagement refers to the informal side of every organization that can't be managed. UnManagement allows informal networks to flourish and work openly through self-managing processes, unlike traditional management in which "artificial" top-down methods restrain relationships and innovation. UnManagement is based on the concept that human productivity is at its peak in "naturally" occurring networks and relationships, as opposed to within formal systems where people are stifled by bureaucracy. Further, the model is founded on the latest research about human nature as opposed to running organizations based on an Industrial Age "machine metaphor." UnManagement ultimately helps an organization achieve maximum creativity, innovation and productivity.
Why is this sweet spot small in most businesses?
Many firms still adhere to tightly controlled management models that worked "relatively" well in the Industrial Age but stifle informal communications. That is a death knell in today's Knowledge Age, where we're so dependent on continuous sharing of ideas and information. Second, few managers pay attention to the activities of informal networks present in every organization. That's regrettable because most of the work and innovation is generated by these emergent systems.
How is this a wellspring for innovation?
At the sweet spot, most activities are based on reciprocal relationships, valued differences and respected individual identities. Emphasis is placed on constant examination and experimentation that may lead to more challenging and rewarding networking processes. Every opportunity is taken to strengthen the sense of community through mutually beneficial activities and interactions. The pursuit of creativity and innovation is enhanced through the persistent encouragement of constructive dissent in an atmosphere of mutual trust. One of the great attractions of working in a sweet spot is that everyone is actively engaged in assuring that all activities, resources and rewards are equitably managed.