The Ironic Manager Blog

An Ironic Perspective on the World of Work

HBR says, "You Can't Fix Culture!" Well, duh!

HBR says, "You Can't Fix Culture!" Well, duh!

The cover of HBR's April 2016 issue. Big, bold and bright orange. You Can't Fix Culture! An article explaining how culture emerges from good business practice. It's not something you can impose. Or design. Or change from the top. It just happens. 

This challenges conventional thinking about culture. And about time. But it doesn't go far enough. 

It only looks at how a few CEOs have launched new initiatives that are more strategically purposeful than the standard cultural model. A new culture will then supposedly emerge from the new purposeful direction. It's a shift. But not much of one. It's still about designing culture. Just from a different direction. 

It's not widely known, but there is a bunch of research that predicted what HBR is now saying.  Some of it written a quarter of a century ago. Shows how the culture model is decaying. Illustrates the environmental conditions of a failing culture. And the characters who live in it. 

But those that write for HBR rarely read this type of research. Because it isn't "serious" enough. Isn't manager-centric enough. Is too critical. Too challenging. 

But, hey, HBR has made a strong claim. So let's take this opportunity to talk about this research. On a public forum full of professional people. See if it strikes a chord. Because it's too important not to extend the argument. Make it deeper and richer. Try and put out there. 

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How Apple's Think Different Transformed The World

How Apple's Think Different Transformed The World

In 1997, Steve Jobs returned to Apple. And launched what became a world-famous advertising campaign. Think Different. Below are the original words:

The Original Think Different Text

Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes.

The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them.

About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They invent. They imagine. They heal. They explore. They create. They inspire. They push the human race forward.

Maybe they have to be crazy.

How else can you stare at an empty canvas and see a work of art? Or sit in silence and hear a song that’s never been written? Or gaze at a red planet and see a laboratory on wheels?

We make tools for these kinds of people.

While some see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.

- Apple, "Think Different" campaign, 1997-2001

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Designing the Millennial Workplace

Designing the Millennial Workplace

In the movie The Intern, a 70-year old Robert De Niro is hired to work in an online fashion start-up. Selling woman's clothes. With a highly personal touch. And great customer service. A bit like Zappos without any shoes.  

He's hired to work with the CEO. Who cycles around the office. Flits between meeting after meeting. Is late for everything. Has no time for anything. Yet somehow keeps the company going.

Bar her EA, everybody at the company seems to be having a ball. Totally relaxed dress code. Trendy industrial space. A good news bell. They cheer website clicks as they come in.  

The EA is highly qualified. But used as a dogsbody. Has to do everything. All the shit. And is woefully under-appreciated. Almost ignored. Until she has an emotional breakdown. 

At first, the CEO ignores De Niro. Gives him one five minute meeting. Then nothing. But he notices things. Does things off the bat. Remains professional. And becomes a silent mentor for her. Experience and old-style loyalty. Having her back. Helping her shape her day. Do her work. Respect her EA. Save her family. 

And then, because he's working in a Millennial environment, he stresses out. Grows a mohawk. And starts muttering to himself in the mirror. Or maybe I'm getting my films mixed up? Although the mohawk is important. 

Understanding the Millennial Workplace

Millennials have always lived in a fast-paced world. Instant information. Instant communications. Do it now, now, now. They don't work well with traditional control methodologies. Cope with technological pacing. Or bureaucratic formalization.  And definitely not cultural normalization. These things are not just passé to the Millennial. But evidence of managerial incompetence.  

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Creative Thinking & The Entrepreneurial Journey

Creative Thinking & The Entrepreneurial Journey

I became a management researcher to make a difference. To become deeply knowledgeable about the dominant institution of our time, the corporation/organisation. And help those that led or managed them to become better managers and leaders.

To do so, I wanted to learn how to think differently. To meld my creative, artistic background with academic rigour. To use the combination to create something beautiful, profound and practical. And create something that would make a difference to the world of work. 

I've hit every personal target I set myself. First in my master's. Check. Win international scholarship. Check. Meet the best academic minds of my generation. Check. Get the best of the best to evaluate my research. Check. Pass PhD with best possible marks. Check. 

Get a job in the field. Beep! Stop. Do not pass go. 

The irony of all ironies. I have yet to make anywhere near as much money per annum as I did before my research. When I only had a Fine Art degree to my name!

Finding people who want to employ me. Who can understand what I bring to the table. A wasteland of blowing sands and drifting tumbleweed. 

Figures right! The thing that most defines management research is how little management thinks it relates to them. But an artist teaching some creative thought and soft communications. Pow! Get him onboard!

Didn't know that when I set out on my research journey. Do now!

An Entrepreneurial Strategy

So, what to do? I'm not getting any younger. My research and knowledge can make a difference. A significant one. But it needs to have an avenue. Or it dies in a cul-de-sac of frustrated endeavour. So, how to turn creative thought into impactful practice? 

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Is This The World of Work We Created? What Did We Do It For?

Is This The World of Work We Created? What Did We Do It For?

The guard blew his whistle. "Stand clear of the doors." Just as one more person hurtled down the stairs to make his train. Squeezed in. Caused the doors to slide back open. The whistle and announcement again. And finally underway.

Another commute into the city. Over 30 degrees outside. Hotter in. The air conditioning wheezing out a trickle of cool relief.  Neon lights almost impotent against flickering smart screens. iPhones, iPads, Androids, Kindles. Some reading. Some watching. Some texting. The odd person slumped uncomfortably against the window, getting a few more minutes sleep. 

Schoolkids chattering. Random inanities mixed with fearful excitement about upcoming exams. One couple, wedged together in the aisle, arranging evening activities. Who's leaving work early to pick up the kids. Who's cooking. Who has to work until ten.

And so on. Day after day. Week after week. Month after month. Year after year. Every city in the developed world. 

What are we doing it for? Scurrying around like important ants late for a dropped sugar cube. Does it make us happy? Do we do worthwhile things? 

The State of Work

I'm regularly invited to lectures, seminars, presentations and meetings about the current state of work. Voraciously consumed media on the same. This is what I repeatedly hear:

  • 86% believe there is a leadership crisis
  • 75% of employees say their boss is the worst part of their job
  • 65% say they’d take a new boss over a pay rise
  • 70% of projects fail or come in significantly over budget
  • 90% of startups fail
  • 85% of employees are disengaged
  • 66% of change fails
  • 66% of millennials are looking for a new job
  • 50% employees want to change their job

So, it seems for 50-90% of us, work sucks.

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Can We Help You?

The Ironic Manager seriously rethinks how organisations work at the most fundamental level and offers a variety of solutions for businesses struggling to cope with the ambiguity and stresses inherent to contemporary organisational conditions of constant change.

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. 

Maybe Richard can help you?

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Over twenty years helping people managing change understand why resistance happens and develop quality vital communication skills that aid successful business transformation.


Research recognised as exceptional by world-leaders in the fields of power, leadership and organisational change, receiving considerable praise for its originality, depth and rigour.


Extensive training, coaching and mentoring experience in professional development in well-known organisations, governments and business schools across the world.


Consulting on change, transformation, culture, organisational narrative, innovation and creativity, and communications to private and public sector organizations and entities.

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