Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Gary Hamel Learning Points

I attended an excellent seminar by Gary Hamel who is considered to be one of the top business thinkers in the world and currently visiting professor of strategic and international management at London Business School. He is also in the process of establishing the management innovation lab where he is aiming to create tomorrow’s best practices – see

So what did I learn from Prof Hamel?

Some key pointers:

1. In order to create an organisation that can out-innovate anyone else, we need to re-look our current management structures and create management for the new century.

Can we even imagine the different forms of management that we are familiar with right now? Can we picture for example an organisation where we invite outsiders to co-develop strategies? Can we imagine an organisation where there are no titles or rank? Where we give employees the right to say ‘no’ to any order or request?

Well, these types of companies are starting to emerge. Have a look at HCL Technologies as an example of a world-class company where command and control as a model no longer exists; where bonuses are paid at the beginning of the year on a trust basis and where customers are told employees come first.

2. Why has management stayed the same for so long? If you brought managers back form 100 years ago, they would find many things that are almost the same. They would find things to be just as hierarchical and as many big leaders who appoint little leaders.

There is no question that these management practices ensured strong economic progress and organised people in an efficient way. But are we now prisoners of a paradigm trap where the management practices of old gurus are still embedded in organisations right now?

In order to be truly competitive we will need to radically re-invent management practices. We will need to re-visit the way we manage, the way we adopt business models and the way on which we provide service. Look at companies such Ryanair, Facebook, IKEA, I-tunes for examples of how innovative practices have led to great success.

We are now facing challenges as organisations that we have never had to face in the past. The pace of change has gone crazy and for the first time ever, each generation that is born is born into a whole new world. Industry has changed in the last 10 years more than it has in the last 100 years. An organisation like Coca Cola where the brand was thought to protect the organisation – now finds itself behind the ball when it comes to changes in the beverages industry.

Everything is moving at such an exponential rate with changes in social networking, communications bandwidth, pressures for ‘green’ and the amount of information in the world and how we access it. The companies who are resilient survive and those who are built to accommodate that kind of change are ahead of the pack.

We often seem to change only when there is a crisis. Oh – suddenly we wake up and put in new leadership to turn things around. But surely there must be a better way? Surely, we don’t have to wait until we reach the bottom of the trough to work out how to be a better organisation.

3. What can we do?

3.1. Don’t try to dismiss the evidence. Look at those who thought MP3 files would never be as good as CD’s. Don’t rationalise your way around the facts and the stats. Don’t think you know everything – have some humility. Don’t simply listen to people with a fixed mental model – get out and listen to those you don’t normally hear from. Don’t be afraid to do your own research. When Nokia decided to take on Motorola the top team went to the Rapangi district in Tokyo to see what was happening out there. They learnt to play by different rules. What wave can you surf when your competitors are not even paying attention?

3.2. Start with lots of ideas and experiment to find the real winners. You don’t get straight to a winner. The next big opportunity does not look like that at the start. If you visited Ebay’s offices 10 years ago, you would not have said that it would have the 30 billion dollar market value it has today.

3.3. Fully engage the talents of everyone – ensure that everyone brings their full potential to work. Sounds straightforward – and it is! You can buy global commodoties anywhere but you can’t buy the best people unless you have created the right environment.

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