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Disrupting managerial practices

From managing innovation to innovating management

An organization’s capability to innovate is a key component of its strategy and, in some cases, essential for its survival. Innovation is driven by the seemingly unstoppable development of technology in particular in the information and communication areas and is changing many aspects of our lives. A plethora of courses, books and consultants offers ways to foster innovation and creativity in organizations.

Despite the fact that managers are urged to promote innovation, the way organisations are managed today is still largely based on the traditional, hierarchy ( or at best matrix ) based, “command and control” approach advocated by early management thinkers like Fayol (Fayol 1949) or Taylor (Taylor 1911). Peter Drucker predicted and recommended the advent of a simpler, flatter organization already in the 80’s (Drucker 1988). Studies show that indeed the corporate world has been de-layering its management systems over the last decades (Rajan and Wulf 2006). However it is safe to i

magine that a manager travelling in time from the first half of last century, while overwhelmed by the social and technological evolutions, encompassing  gender equality and information or travel technology, would find himself relatively at ease in a boardroom or at an executive meeting.

Recently some radical approaches that involve a disruptive change in the managerial process by abandoning the “command and control” and hierarchical structure in corporate management have been flourishing, with the adoption of such unconventional approaches by companies of hundreds of employees. These real life experiments have been welcomed with reactions ranging from born again enthusiasm to annoyed skepticism.

Relevant topics and approaches that may help understand this phenomenon  and forge an opinion on whether it consists of yet another managerial fad or it represents the inception of real disruptive change, include :

Review the key elements composing a management system and their historical evolution.

Place the design of innovative management systems in the context of current societal and technological trends  like

Millennials’ growing impact on the corporate world

Increased societal expectation concerning Ethics, Social Responsibility, and Sustainability

Digitisation of processes and functions  at all levels in organizations

Pervasive communications and the emergence of the networked society

Learn from the experience of pioneer adopters of disruptive managerial models:  from historical examples like Pirates of the Caribbeans (Leeson and Rogers 2012), to early adopters like Semco (Semler 1989), Favi, Burtzoog (Laloux 2014) and current adopters like Zappos or La française des jeux (Autissier and Guillain 2017).

Explore current approaches to disruptive managerial techniques like Teal Organizations,  Holacracy, Sociocracy, Scrum and possible managerial applications of Artificial Intelligence.

Identify the challenges faced by collaborators working in an organization adopting disruptive managerial models and define the ideal profile needed to feel at ease in such environments ( Current research project based on the Trima psychometric test,

Brainstorm and apply creative techniques like Mind Mapping and Design Thinking to explore alternative managerial practices that can be tested  in one's

current environment.


Autissier, David, and Jean-Yves Guillain. 2017. La Parole Libérée En Entreprise : Les Innovations Managériales Collaboratives de La FDJ Ed. 1. Eyrolles.

Drucker, Peter F. 1988. “The Coming of the New Organization.” Harvard Busi

ness Review, January 1, 1988.

Fayol, Henri. 1949. GENERAL AND INDUSTRIAL MANAGEMENT. London: Pitman Publishing Limited.

Laloux, F. 2014. Reinventing Organizations: A Guide to Creating Organizations Inspired by the next Stage in Human Consciousness.

Leeson, Peter T., and Douglas Bruce Rogers. 2012. “Organizing Crime.” Supreme Court Economic Review 20 (1). [University of Chicago, The University of Chicago Press]:89–123.

Rajan, Raghuram G., and Julie Wulf. 2006. “The Flattening Firm: Evidence from Panel Data on the Changing Nature of Corporate Hierarchies.” The Review of Economics and Statistics, 88(4) (November):759–73.

Semler, Ricardo. 1989. “Managing Without Managers.” Harvard Business Review, September 1, 1989.

Taylor, Frederick Winslow. 1911. The Principles of Scientific Management. New York: Harper.

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