(Fr)Agile Organisations

There is no particular theme to this post  other than the ever present wonder at the pace of change and how we really need to re-invent organisations to enable them to become massively more agile. Anyway, this was prompted by a great chat with the ferociously smart Jon Watts of MTM this morning who recounted 2 stories as follow.

Welcome to Manchester

Firstly – and it pains me to recount this as a Man Utd fan (sorry – but I grew there honest!) – do you remember the recent advertising campaign when Carlos Tevez moved from Man Utd to Man City?


Apparently, it was just one billboard in the city centre for one week! It cost peanuts and yet it got huge amounts of media attention and Jon tells me somebody estimated it was in the region of £30m media value primarily through viral means and of course by the mainstream press picking up on it too. I know advertising business models are undergoing massive change but this really brings it home.

Black-swan proofing

I read Taleb's Black Swan last year but missed a follow up article in the FT in April called 10 principals for a Black Swan-proof world. Most of the 10 refer directly to the financial crisis but three jump out at me as relevant whatever field you are in.

  1. What is fragile should break early while it is still small. Nothing should ever become too big to fail. Evolution in economic life helps those with the maximum amount of hidden risks – and hence the most fragile – become the biggest.
  2. Counter-balance complexity with simplicity. Complexity from globalisation and highly networked economic life needs to be countered by simplicity in financial products. The complex economy is already a form of leverage: the leverage of efficiency. Such systems survive thanks to slack and redundancy; adding debt produces wild and dangerous gyrations and leaves no room for error. Capitalism cannot avoid fads and bubbles: equity bubbles (as in 2000) have proved to be mild; debt bubbles are vicious.
  3. Make an omelette with the broken eggs. Finally, this crisis cannot be fixed with makeshift repairs, no more than a boat with a rotten hull can be fixed with ad-hoc patches. We need to rebuild the hull with new (stronger) materials; we will have to remake the system before it does so itself. Let us move voluntarily into Capitalism 2.0 by helping what needs to be broken break on its own, converting debt into equity, marginalising the economics and business school establishments, shutting down the “Nobel” in economics, banning leveraged buyouts, putting bankers where they belong, clawing back the bonuses of those who got us here, and teaching people to navigate a world with fewer certainties.

(Fr)Agile Organisations

Wise words indeed. We talk a lot about agile or innovative organisations but no amount of tweaks to the existing approach is going to be able to respond the change we are facing. The banks and the media might be feeling the pains now but I can't really see a hiding place for any sector or industry. It requires nothing less than a reimagining and recreating of what we think of as organiations in an ever increasingly networked world. I for one am in awe of the challenge but hugely excited by the opportunity.


  1. Great post Roland. I agree that economics and consumerism has greatly shifted and continues to shift, and that businesses need to overhaul the way they’ve been operating for decades. The music industry found this out the hard way, as did the real estate industry here in the U.S.. Too many companies have grown fat and bloated, and we’re seeing a ringing out of things now, which is going to continue as the global economic downturn continues. I hope that the lessons learned today by those that survive and succeed are not tossed aside when things do improve. I hope that the mindshift occurring now is permanent.

  2. Thanks Robert. I can’t see how it can’t be permanent as we can’t unlock the connectivity that now binds us even if we tried, short of some kind of horrible event. And yes, the music industry is close to my heart and seems to be the reluctant pioneer in this space.

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