New species of organizations are popping up that challenge how creative work is understood and how groups of people coordinate to accomplish tasks. We think this a wonderful thing as the dominant design of organizations may not appropriate for the incredible challenges we face – political, social, ecological, technological or otherwise. Mono-cultures are profitable but risky. A diverse creative ecology is a resilient one. However, our concern is that most or all of these new species will fail to thrive as the conditions are not being created for them to succeed. The Silicon Valley approaches, despite the enthusiastic rhetoric, are too often iterations on an old model. Truly new ways of organizing are hard to spot, and even harder to protect.
The MDA model is pulled from the world of video games and has proven an incredibly useful frame by which to design spaces for social interaction. The methodology focuses attention on the experience of the participants in the process and the dynamic behaviour of the system being constructed. The core assumption is that positive interactions with other participants and learning objects (such as generated hypotheses) encourage better outcomes.
To create is human. Our understanding of organizational life has marginalized the creative energy of far too many by investing the right to create in the hands of a narrow cadre of senior leaders and eccentric ideators. Soichiro Honda had no formal education and moved away from home at the age of 15 to begin an apprenticeship in Tokyo. When asked later in life about why he founded his motorcycle company, Honda said that he happened on the idea of fitting an engine to a bicycle because he had become fed up with riding on crowded trains and buses.
The creative sector has long worried at how to justify its existence in a language of utility that existing power structures might understand. What work does art do? Some have deployed an economic argument, as attested by the numerous reports that delineate the financial impact of the arts. Others beat a path with the social nonprofits, using complex formulas of impact to rationalize another year of funding. Regardless of the preferred approach, the narrative is still constrained by a logic of work. The arts and creativity serve.
Much of the world of management is built around drawing maps. And maps are wonderful things if the things that the map represents are manageable. All too often we confuse the map with the terrain, though, and we imagine that while many leaders would like the map, many of those in the water would prefer the canoe.
The stories we construct about organizations and businesses fall victim to a similar tendency to summarize and filter information to suit a particular narrative. Too much leadership and innovation literature offers easy answers to extremely complicated problems. We all want to be the heroes of Gladwell's stories and 'blink' to know what to do. Thousands flock to hear Jim Collins speak about some theoretical bulls-eye that marries passion, economics, and mastery. The idea of the hedgehog concept is a particularly pernicious cognitive shorthand that has found homes in far too many boardrooms and consultancy reception areas.