Holy smokes, Henry Mintzberg is at it again! The guy who predicted the economic collapse in 2006 (why is he not more famous, I don’t get it?) has an article in the July/August issue of the Harvard Business Review suggesting that the cultural framework of the corporation is completely broken.
And, according to Mintzberg, the way to fix it is not by thinking like a corporation, but instead by thinking like a community. From the article:
Beneath the current economic crisis lies another crisis of far greater proportions: the depreciation in companies of community– people’s sense of belonging to and caring for something larger than themselves. Decades of short-term management, in the United States especially, have inflated the importance of CEOs and reduced others in the corporation to fungible commodities…
And it’s is a two way street… When a corporation treats its employees like simple assets to be hired and fired as the share price rises or falls, the employees treat the corporation like… a corporation.
The end result? Disengaged employees who don’t care about the business, and the business (and the shareholders) suffer for it. So for heaven’s sake, Henry, tell us how to fix it!
The corporation must view as a priority the idea of building a vibrant community of employees where everyone feels like they are part of something bigger than themselves and everyone is passionate and energized. Mintzberg points out that young companies (probably in many cases started by people with a shared vision) usually have this community, but tend to lose it as they grow up.
Mintzberg coins a new term “communityship” which is kind of a mashup of leadership and shared vision. He says the ideal state is where there is “just enough” traditional leadership to set the direction, but once people get and internalize the vision, the great ideas to support it can come from anywhere in the company.
Hey, that sounds a bit like the way open source works. In fact, Mintzberg calls out “Linux, and other open source operations” as examples of where “communityship” is already happening today. Definitely… we’ve been in the community-building business at Red Hat for a long time, and we’ve built an internal culture based on similar ideas. What’s more, we’ve proven this practice doesn’t only just make happy, engaged employees. It can also be the core of a profitable, successful business model as well.
Oh, and there’s a lot more in the Mintzberg article, so rather than spoil it, I’d suggest that you support the great ideas in the Harvard Business Review by picking up a copy.
If so, you can find more tips about how to build your brand effectively in my book, The Ad-Free Brand (not an advertisement, mind you, just a friendly suggestion:).