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by SixFigureStart | October 07, 2009


Gary Hamel had something of a stark message for the leaders in the audience at the World Business Forum—that the way the majority of them lead today is out of date. Or, as Hamel—a man recently referred to as “the world’s leading expert on business strategy”—put it: “almost all organizations are still running off of 19th century management principles.”

While his hour-and-change presentation offered up plenty of food for thought for managers, his rapid-fire delivery means that most of that will need to take place over the coming days and weeks.

He covered a lot of material in a short space of time, all of it aimed at answering three key challenges that he believes are facing managers and leaders today:

  1. How to build a company that can change as fast as change itself

  2. How do you build a company where innovation is everyone’s job?

  3. How can we build organizations that inspire extraordinary contribution?

Hamel’s answers to each of those questions revolved around one simple premise: throwing out the belief that the way we’ve always done business will suffice going forward. He believes that “we are no longer in the knowledge economy. We are in the creative economy.” Because of that, unlocking the creativity and passion in every single employee is paramount, in Hamel’s view.

While he gave way too much information to be able to accurately recount it all here (just keeping up has been something of a struggle, let alone taking notes and trying to blog along with it*), he gave one example of a company that has been managing with a 21st century mentality for the past 50 years: WL Gore, inventors of Gore-Tex, and more than a 1,000 other products. At the firm, he says, people have no titles, so there is no hierarchy. Everyone has the opportunity to create and add value to the firm. His list of positive factors there is as follows:

  • A lattice, but no hierarchy

  • No titles, but plenty of leaders

  • All commitments are voluntary

  • 10% dabble time

  • No core business

Each of those has further explanation that I’ll hopefully be able to offer at a later date on the blog, but suffice it to say (for the moment) that they’re all related to Hamel’s key beliefs that modern-day managers must do three things.

  1. Challenge dogma

  2. Explore the fringe

  3. Experiment

As I said, plenty of food for thought there, for anyone at any level in a company, or considering a move up the ladder. How do you reconcile Hamel’s assessment with what you’re seeing/doing/hoping to do at your own company?

*NB; when we get time to process what we’ve heard in the next couple of days, we’ll give a much more detailed report on some of the ideas in his presentation.

--Posted by Phil Stott, Vault Staff Writer


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