Getting from a bossy to a bossless organisation in 3 painful steps

Since I came to Enspiral and Loomio and began to swim in waters like those of Ouishare and the P2PFoundation, I’ve seen a noticeable divide between people who are working on brave new things and those (like me) who are sometimes still struggling with the messy old ones. For many millennials there’s an understandable sense that the economic and political system is so dysfunctional that it’s best to start with something new.

Ironically, just as millennials are looking to leapfrog the dysfunction of the present into something new, boomers like me in established organisations are worrying about the loss of hard-won past experience. As the boomer generation retires, there’s a growing concern about handing over what has become their precious knowledge to what they are seeing as a ‘know-nothing’ Gen Y steeped in managerialism and the suffocating formulae of neo-liberalism.

However, what I’m now glimpsing is the prospect of a new intergenerational alliance between boomers and millennials (that could even act as a pincer movement on reactionary Gen Ys). This prospect rests on three understandings, whose recognition may be painful for leadership traditionalists:

It’s not a one-way knowledge transfer, but a shared practice of renewal. The illustration above comes from an organisation that describes its knowledge inheritance as a ‘chalice’. The chalice is full of deep insights from many years of real-world practice, and testifies to the survival of a strong professional ethos despite many years of ideological battering in a complex and many-layered working environment.

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