The Living Organization

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The Living Organization™
Norman Wolfe
There is a change rippling through the ranks of corporate leadership, a generational shift in the ranks of CEOs and other corporate executives. It is a shift from those who were raised during World War II and moved into leadership roles during the 70s and 80s, to those who were raised in the post-Vietnam era and assumed their leadership roles in the 90s and turn of the century. Where previous generations relied on the traditional military, hierarchical, command and control form of leadership, the new generation focuses on the power of teams, global collaboration and empowerment of employees. These new leaders are experiencing the limitations of existing business models and are sense the need for something more. It is not that the old models are wrong, in fact many of the elements of those models are still necessary today, but are proving insufficient to meet the needs of today’s leaders, navigating the business environment of the 21st century. If the current economic crisis has taught us anything, it is that the future will not look like the past. In fact this economic crisis partially resulted from decision making that relies on a business model that does not provide our leaders with enough detail and insight into the impacts of their decisions. This paper is for those new leaders who are seeking to better understand and navigate the complex dynamics impacting their organizations. It presents the foundation of a new business model, keeping what is valid from its predecessor models, adding new concepts to create a consolidated framework that brings it all together. This whitepaper provides today’s leaders a new, more detailed map to navigate the complex business world of this century. It is the precursor to the book of the same title that will more fully describe the application of The Living Organization™ model to leading organizations in the 21st century.

The Need for a New Map
A detailed map helps us understand where we are in relationship to where we want to go. A good map also explains the terrain between those two points so we can effectively choose the path that will best serve us. It is no different in business. Like any map, the one we use to navigate our business lives - or for that matter, all aspects of our lives is based on our underlying beliefs about how the world works. These core beliefs set the framework that allows us to make choices among the myriad of options available.

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These beliefs are formed from our personal experiences and what we learn and adopt from the experiences of others, which in turn determines our understanding of how the world works. Over time, these beliefs and experiences evolve into rules and then into the frameworks, the maps, we use to provide direction and define the options we can choose from. Over time we depend on these maps to be complete and accurate navigational tools. They generally provide order and guidance which allow us to navigate our daily life choices. But the very attributes that make them effective, ordering and simplifying our world, cause them to act as filters. We become so reliant on these filters that we literally cannot recognize anything that is outside the boundaries.

As the diagram above illustrates, for any given challenge there are a range of possible solutions. Our internal frameworks, however, filter the options actually available to us. Any solution outside our existing framework literally does not exist to us. Even more dangerous, if there is an underlying causal issue that must be addressed first; we will never see it or factor it into our solution. For example, one of the core beliefs held about business is that they are primarily machines of production. Within this framework, we view all things from the perspective of enhancing the machine’s performance and apply metrics as if we were simply fine-tuning the machine. In this worldview, people are components of...
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