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The Future of Organisation

The Future of Organisation

I'm trying to develop a framework of leadership and organisational design which integrates with contemporary socio-cultural life. The two theories of human society I work with are the hypermodern and the metamodern.

This article attempts to explain their relevance. I will appreciate any comments, whether supportive, critical, challenging or dismissive. 

The Hypermodern

Hypermodernity is a society characterized by movement, fluidity and flexibility.

Hypermodern society aims at expanding wealth, better living standards, medical advances, and life easing technologies. The driving motivation is to pull away from the natural limits that constrain human life.  It rejects history as a source of knowledge. The past teaches hypermoderns nothing. Everything changes too quickly to learn anything of worth from the past! 

Instead, there is an excessive faith in the ability of reason to solve the problems of humanity. The promise to improve individual choice and freedom. Money flows to companies and universities promising technological and rational solutions. Social projects are irrelevant and unfunded. 

Hyperconsumption encourages individuals to consume for their own personal pleasure.  

Consumption is not about enhancing social status. The individual cannot rise in social status through the accumulation of wealth.  The "American Dream" is over. Instead, we have a mindless work-to-play hand-to-mouth mentality.

The dream of success through hard work is replaced by the dream of striking it big through technology. Many contemporary organisations get funded on that hope. Technological advancement and disruption are the end-game. Their social impact an irrelevance.

The hypermodern individual, while oriented towards pleasure and hedonism, is also filled with the kind of tension and anxiety that comes from living in a world which has been stripped of tradition and which faces an uncertain future. Individuals are gnawed by anxiety; fear has superimposed itself on their pleasures, and anguish on their liberation. Everything worries and alarms them, and there are no longer any beliefs systems to which they can turn for assurance.

The tyranny of choice paralyses the hypermodern individual.  With so much to choose from, and choices changing so fast, there is nothing permanent to cling to.  This produces an existential crisis: "where is the meaning in this culture?"

As a result, hypermoderns get consumed by fear and anxiety.  They desperately attempt to revive outdated systems of meaning. We see the rebirth of religious ultra-conservatism, zealous old-school socialism or little-nation jingoism. 

Organisations abandon all pretence at having a meaningful culture. Instead, they work on a short-term contractual basis, rewarding immediate effort with increased wages. But with no long-term commitment. Zero-hour contracts and three-month deals. Then a quick handshake and search for a new role. 

The Metamodern

We must escape from the inertia resulting from a century of modernist ideological naivety and the cynical insincerity of its antonymous bastard child

Metamodernism rejects the faith in reason, durable structures and narratives of the moderns.  

It also rejects the ironic and cynical responses of postmodernism. Instead, it forces us to face what we have created. To see the absurdities in it. To reject the hypermodern. To generate a new enthusiasm aimed at building something better. To create genuine meaning in the metamodern socio-digital space. 

The postmodern culture of relativism, irony, and pastiche is over, having been replaced by a post-ideological condition that stresses engagement, affect, and storytelling.

Metamodernism can be seen in the current trends in leadership, management and organisation.  

The concept of organisational engagement is replacing that of organisational culture. This is unavoidable when people have lost faith in their national cultures. How can organisational culture add value if a national culture can't?

Affect is also becoming trendy. We are more and more concerned with emotional intelligence and learning to be happy at work. Perhaps because we aren't happy in our general lives?

Storytelling is the new black.  Companies obsess about developing and delivering content. But is it authentic? 

The trends are there. But whether companies have effectively embraced them? Perhaps that's another story. 

We must discover the mercurial condition between and beyond irony and sincerity, naivety and knowingness, relativism and truth, optimism and doubt, in pursuit of a plurality of disparate and elusive horizons.

We seem to be getting too close to the sincere, naive, optimistic poles. Metamodernism loses power if we forget that it is a critical response to the broken promises of the past.  It is not a simple doorway into a wonderful future.

We must not lose sight of the critical, ironic, doubting edge that informs it.  If we do, we risk undoing all its potential. The irony and doubt that protects us from folly is blown away in the wind. Hypermodernism wins. 

What Do You Think?

If it is not already clear, I find hypermodernism horrific.

It puts us onto a path of hedonistic self-interest.  We lose all socio-cultural meaning. We develop an unreasonable faith in reason and technology. We must face extreme reactions, returns to possibly violent religiosity, nationalism and political ideology.

Much of the above is already revealing itself in politics, economics and leadership.  It frightens me. It should frighten you too. Does it?

In contrast, I feel the millennial generation is the torchbearer for metamodernism. The drive for engagement, emotional meaning and authentic stories is strong in this demographic.

My concern how much millennials understand the importance of the past.  And why it must inform their new enthusiasms. They must develop irony and doubt and critically explore new possibilities of meaning.  Critically, not naively. Then the outlook might be more hopeful than bleak. Is this possible?

I can see the contours of all the above in the contemporary social and business world. I hope to implement forms of leadership and organisation that support metamodernism. And, in doing so, deflect the excesses of hypermodern society.

It's a big challenge. Is it achievable? 

Are Millennials Unmanageable?
Organisational Culture (and why it's dying)

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Richard has been helping businesses and people deal with leadership, management, communication, technology and change for over twenty years through his training, coaching, speaking and consulting services. 

His innovative research is highly regarded by world-leaders in management and leadership. 

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