Centralised, hierarchical systems made sense in a world in which information and knowledge were relatively scarce commodities and could be tightly controlled, but the decentralisation of knowledge, brought about by the inexorable rise of the internet – combined with a collapse of trust in traditional sources of authority and expertise – legitimises the creation of flatter, decentralised operational models. Rapidly changing customer expectations powered by social media are forcing institutions to become more open, transparent and responsive and to operate in close to real time, as opposed to the painfully slow pace of institutional time.
Tight ways of thinking and working, while being superficially attractive and comforting, don't work. They have been built on the illusion of control. This illusion – propagated by legions of consultants, economists, market researchers and other purveyors of empirical snake oil – has actually made businesses less capable of embracing the complex realities of the modern world.
Agility, flexibility, a willingness to exercise judgement and an ability to improvise will become the defining characteristics of successful institutions in the next decades. This means fighting the instinct to solve every problem through rules and regulations and recognising the limitations of long-term planning and the painfully slow nature of most internal decision-making processes.
It means accepting the need to operate in real time and making the organisational and cultural changes necessary to achieve it. And most importantly, it means building a strong, self-sustaining, trusting organisational culture rather than in investing in yet more process and bureaucracy.
The future is loose, messy and chaotic: now is the time to embrace it.
Loose: the Future of Business is Letting Go