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  • Writer's picturePeter Franklin

My Steam Engine is Broken

Have you ever been told that the raison d’être for an enterprise is to make money – to deliver a return to its owners.

Did that inspire you?

Well I have heard that many a time in my career and was uninspired by it over and over again.

It appears I am not alone and that indeed the majority of the upcoming managers and directors of our enterprises feel the same way. The cadre who are and will be running and working in the enterprises in this age of ideas want more.

Many years ago I read another book called the living organisation by Arie De Geus, a previous head of group planning at Shell. His research had shown that organisations that endured (lived more than a century) were those that fulfilled a useful role in society. If society changed they needed to adapt or go extinct. This theme was also taken up in the seminal study of evolution in the complex dynamic commercial world by Erik D Beinhocker in the Origin of Wealth. In essence all three books – and the new generations of workers and managers start from the premise that there needs to be a purpose driving the organisation they work for. This is both to ensure the survival of the enterprise and to inspire those that work within it. So from both an external perspective (meeting the needs of society) and an internal perspective (inspiring the workforce) – purpose is central.

Mark and Jonathan explain why the organisations we have today will in the main fail. This is because they are built around command and control – the paradigm of the industrial revolution in which humans are simply resources. They cogently argue that in the world of ideas – the current and future nature of business this paradigm is doomed. What is needed is a move to structures that enable humans to be inspired, to collaborate both inside and outside the boundaries of the organisation. In this way they can innovate and the organisation can create the products and services which continually adapt to ensure it serves its purpose in society.

If you want your organisation to avoid the fate of the dinosaurs read the book.

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