Change Agents DIY

In the 90’s, everyone wanted to be a DJ. I shared a room with one at University and, inevitably, became one too. When I moved to London the running joke was: “You’re never more than 6ft away from a DJ


These days, the same might be said of “future of work” experts. More and more people are getting involved. But there’s something about the monetisation of this area which feels a little awkward to me.

Perhaps this is the reason why…

One of the changes foreseen in ‘the future of work’ by The Responsive Organisation is a shift from extrinsic rewards to intrinsic motivation. That sentiment was evident when so many people gave up their Saturday last week to attend the London event, unpaid. Gifting your spare time, ideas and energy to the community is, after all, how networks outperform closed systems. That works great when we’re all in it together. But in a market environment where others are seen as competitors and competitive advantage is perceived to be vested in ideas, identity, time and resources, does the spirit of sharing and helping others in the network break down? How can we remove some of those obstacles and promote the Gift Economy principles which underpin working as a community?

One avenue could be committing to give away our spare capacity. In the legal profession, barristers and solicitors regularly give up their time to represent others and provide training, and the same thing happens in many other areas of work. I wonder whether there would be appetite for “change agents” to offer their full commitment, for a part of their time, on a voluntary or pro bono basis, to help organisations do it themselves?

Back in the day, there wasn’t really much money to be made out of DJing, other than for the ‘elite’. But that wasn’t the point. It was a passion. What became obvious though, was that DJing isn’t that mysterious. Like many things, belief and commitment will take you a long way. I remember hearing stories about a guy who passed himself off as one of the high paid superstars and got booked to do gigs up and down the country. The irony being that he was, by all accounts, pretty good and the people who heard him weren’t at all disappointed. With a bit of guts, I thought, anyone could do it themselves.

To support the shifts happening in work, I’m committing 10% of my time, as a gift. I’m not a superstar, but I do have a passion for change. If you would like me to come to where you are to discuss organisational development, let me know.



The Human Organisation

Odd, I thought,  seeing a dog with a box tied to his collar. The owners explained that it was an “anti-barking collar”, which sprays a blast of citronella into the dog’s face every time it barks. After a while it stops barking. The owners were very happy about this, but it made me wonder, is a dog complete without a bark?


Thinking about this coming weekend’s “Responsive Organisation” event I began to ask myself whether, instead of becoming more responsive, our challenge is really to become more vocal, more human, more “complete”.

With 73% of employees “disengaged”, it seems that the most important issues many workers face are escaping drudgery, transforming relationships at work, reconnecting with each other, being more creative, playful and feeling good about what we do. Evidence shows that if we can shift towards a better quality of working life then the chances are we will become more responsive, but as a side effect rather than the main event.

In many ways, “responsive” seems pretty similar to “efficient”. Rising to the challenge of competing organisations and customers means that we would need to become more responsive and efficient. The fundamental driver (born in the tech industry) seems to be “how can we move even faster to keep up with our customers and out run our competitors?”. This approach assumes that the problem we need to solve is one of not being fast enough.

Another way to look at it is that the problem we need to solve is our acceptance of demands for more and faster. It begs the question, where does it end? What do we do when even networked organisations are just not fast enough?

Our primary goal should be to improve our quality of life generally, not just for customers and shareholders but for everyone involved in the process. The networked movement presents an invitation to be more vocal, connected, creative and free. These things are in themselves a fantastic gift and something we should embrace.

But I think the reason why it’s important to make the distinction between agility and quality as the headline goal is because there is a risk we could lose sight of what really matters in our quest to move ever faster.

Here’s a blast from the past. Can you believe that it’s almost 10 years since this TED talk?:

So I wonder, does there come a point when we would reject, or even reduce, efforts to create a happier workplace if there were no related increase in responsiveness? Or is it enough to improve the quality of our relationships and life without an improvement in responsiveness? Could we work as a network and embrace a slower pace?

Perhaps what we need to do is re-find our voices and push back a little.