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The next corporate revolution will be power to the peons

Lucas Mearian | June 5, 2013
'Bureaucracy has to die,' says business consultant at CITE Conference.

SAN FRANCISCO -- Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard, Dell and Intel have something in common: They all came late to the mobile revolution.

Why? Because they're companies where management is top-down and responsibility for innovation and change is concentrated among executives with strict bureaucratic control over workers.

That's got to change, Gary Hamel, a consultant and management educator at the London School of Business. Hamel, said at the CITE Conference and Exhibition here this week. And he was not alone in his belief that the next revolution in corporate America won't be technological, it'll be social.

Businesses are on the cusp of a leadership revolution because millennials moving into the workforce are "the most authority-phobic" generation in history, Hamel said.

"Now, we have a generation with a completely different set of expectations -- and probably the most core expectation they have is that if you're a leader, it's only because people are wiling to follow," he said. "The real problem we're up against is not technology, it's that management DNA in companies.... When you concentrate the responsibility for innovation at the top, you're holding your capacity to change hostage. It disempowers the little people."

Hamel pointed to the bring your own technology (BYOD) trend as the tip of a larger change coming, where employees can be more creative and have more decision-making power.

Not only should they be rewarded for being creative, they should be given the power to spend corporate money on research and development, he said. By doing that, companies will diversity their experimental capital.

"If you don't do that, you'll never change that innovation curve," Hamel said. "BYOD is a great start, but I think it's the beginning of something more radical. Bureaucracy has to die. There's no way around it."

While many companies already encourage employees to speak up when they see problems, they don't allow them to pick their own leaders and get rid of people who shouldn't be in leadership.

Kevin Jones, a consulting social & organizational strategist for NASA's Marshall and Goddard Space Flight Centers, agreed that traditional corporate culture needs a radical shakeup.

Jones, who spoke on a panel about gamification and the social enterprise, said that while companies tend to focus on how technology can pay off, business leaders should be pushing for a more innovative and collaborative workforce.

"The values of management today are different from the values of the social enterprise and different from the values of the consumerization of IT-- and they're not mixing very well," Jones said. "That's where we're having the battle."

The default in organizations today is control from the top, when it should be control from the bottom up.


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