This article is inspired by the TED talks “How too many rules at work keep you from getting things done”, by Yves Moriuex and “How to run a company with (almost) no rules”, by Ricardo Semler. Both videos made me reflect and observe organizations in the light of this brilliant provocation about wasting human intelligence.
In his book The Connected Company, Dave Gray explains that in the 18th century, Adam Smith proposed the division of work as a potential form of increasing productivity, in other words, we created a culture of specialists and dependencies. Each worker depends more on another in order to carry out his job. The larger the organization, the greater the number of dependencies, while the capacity for efficiently doing the work will decrease exponentially.
As the number of dependencies increases and efficiency decreases, the necessity for synchronization emerges, and this has been the job of managers. In order to increase productivity, they adopt measures and controls, but as complexity increases, the number of activities to be coordinated also increases. If the activities cannot be automated, the only way out for management is delimiting the variation. This makes the work more efficient, more consistent, more predictable and reliable: more idiot-proof.
“The more idiot-proof the system, the more people will act like idiots” – Dave Gray
Ricardo Semler recounts how nearly 30 years ago he created, through some radical thinking, an organization ”almost” without rules. Not very idiot-proof. With as little waste of human intelligence as possible. The provocations which most caught my attention in his talk were:
“How do you plan with a view to wisdom? We came from an era of industrial revolution, the information era, the era of knowledge, but we’re not even close to the era of wisdom. How can we plan and organize ourselves for more wisdom? ” – Ricardo Semler.
“If the rate of change on the outside exceeds the rate of change on the inside, the end is near.” ” – Jack Welch, ex-CEO of GE
So, how are we planning our growth? Idiot-proof or by valuing human intelligence?