Management is so outdated – it’s co-creation that workers demand – Philippine Canadian Inquirer

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Today’s workers reject managerial hierarchies and want more autonomy and teamwork. (Pexels)

It is time for business, political and organizational leaders to give up “management”.

Workers today do not want to be managed, even with kindness. They want to be co-creation partners, where all members are empowered to be fully involved in the organization, regardless of hierarchies.

Therefore, those who are uncomfortably perched at the top of organizational hierarchies are faced with a difficult choice: co-create or manage, because you cannot do both.

As businesses begin to envision a post-pandemic world, they face unprecedented challenges, such as the so-called Great resignation which involves millions of employees choosing to quit their unsatisfactory jobs and political pressure for “rebuild better. “As I say in my recent book, Connected capitalism, we need to move away from the emphasis on “management” and focus on co-creation.

Management is outdated. Co-creation will allow us to thrive by responding to the changing demands of key stakeholders such as employees, customers and governments.

Employee discomfort

Even before the pandemic, there was a worker dissatisfaction crisis, with millennials – the generation on the verge of making up the majority of our workforce – seeing business as out of step with its priorities.

Companies must commit to a broader social objective or dealing with disconnected and demotivated workers who are unlikely to stay in their jobs. Co-creation builds on that rare and precious sense of connection that emerges in the best kind of goal-driven cooperative partnerships.

The feeling of connection is so important, I believe we will start to normalize seeing friendship as an essential working resource, since we now know that cooperation does not arise from deep analytical calculations, but intuition and feelings.

Often times when management gurus talk about cooperation, what they really mean is leading subordinates into passivity.

Cooperation in this context is conditional on repression. It is not co-creation.

A man in a suit points to the camera.
Managing employees in passivity is increasingly a thing of the past. (Pexels)

Panicked responses

When I talk to executives, I often have a panic reaction: “What does this mean for my power to run the business ?! “

Certainly, the decision-making power remains in the C-suites. But an empowered team only increases the effectiveness of leadership. And while corporate giants like Google lead with this new action plan, a 20-year study of more than 300 companies have found human-centered approaches that empower employees and improve their performance in a wide variety of contexts.

And co-creation is not just about loosening the managerial reins of employees. Many companies find that they don’t get the best product by manager their suppliers with laundry lists of desired specifications.

Instead, optimal results are often achieved by proof co-creating suppliers, relinquishing control and letting them lead the way. This exercise in trust and vulnerability highlights the deepest level of relationship – when two organizations surprise each other by understanding each other so deeply that one offers what the other wants but hasn’t asked for.

Does the ultimate decision-making power still lie with the paying customer? Sure. Customers can ask their vendor’s development team to stick to product roadmaps and manage the process so that requested functionality is built.

Are there significant efficiency and reputation risks when managers take the freedoms offered by co-creation? Absoutely. But the best question to ask yourself is: is there a path to innovation that is not fraught with risk and inefficiency? I do not know any.

Generation change

Consider the current indicators that workers leave rather than giving up the possibility of working from home.

Michael Solomon, co-founder of 10x Management, explained to me that this is an expected characteristic of the “talent economy”. Everyone, up and down the hierarchy, is both empowered and willing to take responsibility for what they do.

Whether the results are good or bad, those who take risks bear the consequences. Are there risks in letting workers define their working conditions? Yes. And for some executives, workers who make such demands seem to have an unjustifiable sense of entitlement.

But feeling managed is the antithesis of productive work. Solomon explains this as a generational change and warns that the old style of management is fading away pretty quickly.

a young smiling woman sits at a table and looks at her laptop while two colleagues stand behind her and also look at her screen.
Young employees in particular want autonomy and feel empowered at work. (Piqsels)

Co-creation doesn’t mean we don’t need CEOs anymore. But it may be more helpful to think of leadership exclusively as a verb and not as a noun.

Company researchers are finally emphasizing the relational and dynamic aspects of power, how a leader’s relationships with stakeholders can be a source of support or resistance and how they must continually adapt to changes in social systems.

A human-centered professional future

Shifting from the suffocating, controlling and outdated dominance of management in favor of co-creation is an absolute must for these governing organizations – from private sector companies to governments and healthcare organizations – even if the prospect is some existing leaders uneasy.

Using co-creation tools where we once used management hierarchies means widening the rigid boundaries between social, professional and personal, which we have clung to for too long as a company.

Workers demand a more human-centered future, with a space of trust and vulnerability. There is no going back to the “world before”. Management is finished. The era of co-creation is on.

David Weitzner, Senior Lecturer, Administrative Studies, York University, Canada

This article is republished from The conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read it original article.

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