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« Ending the CEO’s Worst Nightmare: Disruptive Innovation: my article in Chief Executive Online | Main | HBR: It's official: fast forward to 1965! »

November 17, 2010


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Nice Summary Steve.

I especially like the fact that you didn't focus on the technological changes that many recent blog-posts have focused on.

Thanks for putting this together.

Stuart French.
Melbourne, Australia.


I like this post. I think that emphasis on Shift #4 is particularly important, especially since culturally, values are rapidly changing. I think in this day, with the schism between the worker and the manager, there's definitely an importance for human resources. It's something that outlined in Andria Corso's From Gatekeeper to Trusted Advisor which emphasizes on HR's importance.

Margo Raftopoulos

Steve, at first I was skeptical that you could synthesize these books into five key trends, but by the end of the post I'm impressed. Any organization that ignores these shifts will soon become irrelevant.

Excellent post.



This is very nice roundup of the five most important levels on which an organisation should focus on. I like the way you wrote this with a great deal of objectiveness towards the different books and points of view you try to summarize.
This will prove a very difficult challenge for most companies, but a challenge they all face.

Thanks for you post

Leanne Staples

Viva la revolution! Intuitively, I have always know that there was something wrong with every company that I ever worked for no matter how good their product, service or public image. You have perfectly described the company that I would like to work for. Where do I send my resumé? . I would also like to see the government run in this fashion. After all, shouldn't that be the purpose of government? I really liked Radical Management and I can't wait to read this book as well. One note, you write Li & Phung and Li & Fung.

Leanne Staples


Delighted to see someone else noticing these trends! Although you speak here mainly about the transition from an Analytic mindset to a Synergistic one there are others). Please see The Marshall Model of Organisational Evolution for more details, definitions.

- Bob aka @FlowchainSensei


Good compilation of thoughts.

In the content of values, you might want to consider Trusteeship

Also i had a question regarding Diversity and specifically women in leadership roles in companies and their boards. Would you be writing about it?

Rosabeth Kantar has written on this previously and infact while you have written about Vineet Nayar's book, he has in recent times also talked about the need for companies to improve their record on Diversity.

anne miller

I particularly agree with the shift in communication from command to conversation and the people-centered focus for future success. I would add, as the author of "Metaphorically Selling,"that managers need to shift from the language of left-brain telling to the language of right brain metaphor and analogy if they want to more effectively and quickly influence, persuade, or motivate others. Metaphor is the language of instant understanding, perception change, and common ground. Communicating without metaphor in high stakes situations is like driving a Ferrari without gas. You might look good, but you won't get very far.

Paul Hobcraft

Strange, you seem to ignore the workings of Gary Hamel- any reason?


Try the works of Robert W Keidel for insights on organizational types and

Cooperation and Punishment in Public Goods Experiments

Steve Denning

Hi Paul,

Actually I do quote Gary Hamel in the article. I think his Moon Shots for Management in HBR 2009 is a landmark article in the history of management: I gave it great prominence in my book and I cite it frequently. So I don't think it's fair to say that I ignore Gary Hamel's writing. The focus of the piece is on "recent books". Gary's The Future of Management was published in 2007, and so is not exactly recent, but even so, it deserves inclusion. Thanks for the suggestion.


Steve Denning

Hi Syamant,

Thanks for the suggestions. I have written about women earlier:

And diversity is a significant part of the thinking in my book, among several of the others.

It is important enough to be included here. Thanks for the suggestion.




On design a google on "Banach design army" will bring up a lot. eg The Art of Design: A Design Methodology Colonel Stefan J. Banach

The US marines have similar.

The pattern is going ecological, like asians. Toyota. A google on [ "manage by means" johnson] will bring up his work (widely ignored but change stuff).

Kyle DeLoach


Well written; concise. Like the way you organized around SHIFTS.

Add an article I found very intriguing and thought-provoking: Shoshana Zuboff's "Creating Value and the Age of Distributed Capitalism". I found it in Sept. issue of McKinsey Quarterly.

All comments here are great reflections on what you have put together in a first draft. Would like you to think on creating the next article on the Individual as these shifts occur. That's the gold that must be mined wherever these new organizations are going to be developed.

Randall McCallum


Your excellent article is like heaven sent for anyone looking for valuable references to help in bringing about collaboration of groups of people who feel radical change is necessary in how communities are managed. Towns and villages considering management consolidation to save on costs and overlap are currently managed by the old boy network and they have one major flaw that is a huge barrier. BIG EGOS

I will be quoting you and your works in my letter to the local editor as the City I live is more than ready for radical change in management. It is time for new ideas and your articles are always a wealth of insight into what is needed to bring about positive long term change.

Thanks for the radical ideas. The old boy network will be cringing as the read the letter to the editor. Elections are less than two years away and we are ready for change.

Randall McCallum

Note: spotted a typo in this paragraph. Marketaplce

Shift #1: New goal: From inside-out to outside in
Among the most important changes in the marketaplce is the shift in the balance of power from seller to buyer.

Conrad Von Supertramp

This is definetely a shift that needs to happen on a large scale. Not just in business but in government, religion, social media etc. This idea of throwing everything at the problem at once to solve our major challenges is what we focus on here at this is a great way to define the shift in my book thanks for your efforts to create and collaborate.

Andrew Melville

You hit the nail on the head, the word manage itself is starting to be synonymous with simply 'just getting by.' Communication has always been at its most powerful orally and in exchange, it is time for that. It is time too to increasingly trust the intangible, and energy of human connections. Thanks for this, definitely stimulated the synapses.


Enjoyed your article as I nearly always do Steve. Always frustrates me a little as I'm entrenched in a family business which is the epitome of the old fashioned firm you describe! As the new generation, I am completely outnumbered by the long term staff and current leaders, and I find it overwhelming to think about where to start making long overdue changes.

Bill Moffett

Steve - nice job, comfortable to read and most informative. Especially liked new definition of the leader/manager role wherein the roles cannot be separated. Your synthesis may encourage me to read your source material, but you know, I think your words are all I really need in my consulting/coaching work. Thanks.

I like it Steve. For me your summary presents a powerful picture.

I would add that fundamentally the change happens between individuals, in the detail of the way we conduct our interrelationships and our experience of them. That's why Shift 4 is so important.

That’s why I would modify the first sentence of your closing paragraph to read: "In the end, the gains are accomplished by a transition from a focus on things to a focus on what happens between people."

Steve Barnett

The above post "I like it Steve. For me your summary presents a powerful picture" is mine. Don't know what happened to that google sign in


Hi Steve

This is an excellent and valuable synthesis. Thank you.
I think there is one area that might be worthy of further consideration. You already highlight the dissolving of the separation of leadership and management, and the move from command to conversation, but I think there is room to focus on how managers / leaders are selected and appointed.
Firstly, in his excellent book "Selected", Peter van Vugt focuses on the fact that in our around 2 million years of walking the planet, we have only had systems where leaders were appointed, rather than selected, for around 13,000 years (less than a second if we take our hominid existence as 24 hours), and this has been largely due to the logistics of communication.
Secondly, we have a natural limit on the number of connections we can make (the Dunbar number) where close, value bound relationships can exist at close level (whether Dunbar's figure of 150 remains strictly true in the age of the web may be open to question, but it seems improbable it will be significantly larger - we can make contact, but not perhaps not increase our "empathy bandwidth")
Perhaps disengagement starts the moment we have to follow somebody, rather than want to. Technology now means we can find, identify, contact and collaborate with those who share our values, aspirations, and passions. When total connectedness bumps into serendipity, products, services and concepts get born that change the game.
Our nature is such that we cling to the familiar, and in many respects I think many of us are clinging to the driftwood of 20th century organisation as we watch the vessel sink beneath the waves.
Your take on radical management is timely and valuable, but I think it's just the start. What you, and the books you review (and I have read them all) highlight are tthe initial tremors. The upheaval they portend, handled well and confidently, have the potential to address the ridiculous assymettry of current wealth distribution. The rich will not starve, the poor might stop, and when we know that the source of happiness in not money, but sufficiency of a far wider palette, we could find our metrics of autonomy, meaning and purpose moving upward again. How good would that be?

Steve Denning


These are wonderful points and coincide very much with my thinking. They do however represent a whole new dimension of issues and insights. They may warrant the writing of a future book. Why not? Many thanks.


Ingi Runar Edvardsson

Dear Steve. I love your knowledge sharing commitment. I really like your synthesis. I think you should add Michael Maccoby's book, The leaders we need and what makes us follow. His argument on changes in the social character is quite convincing. Young people hate bureaucracies as they have been independent, problem solvers, all their lives.

Jan  Peijen

Dear Steve,

I grestly appreciate your article and the paradigm shift you describe requires courage and daring. You're so right to point out that integral change is necessary rather than taking 'bits' from this new paradigm, which will result in appyling tools that would stifle change and human creativity. Interestingly John Seddon in his book Systems Thinking in the Public Sector - the failure of the reform regime...and a manifesto for a better way urgently advocates a Systems Thinking approach where individuals come first, waste is reduced and responsibility replaces blame. Command and control paradigms are a thing of the past. Keep up the good work Steve and change will manifest itself .

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