Thursday, February 9, 2012

Worldblu: Democracy at Work

I’ve worked with some dreadful managers in my time – control freaks, narcissists, abusers, etc. - and so it’s easy for me to be cynical and dismissive about people who think we can be free and happy at work.  What a radical idea!

Watching morning commuters doesn’t give you the feeling that many of them are looking forward to their work day.  Cynicism seems the rational response when we’re so jaded and distrusting of our companies and managers.  Many of us have grown up in hierarchical organizations where fear and control are “just the way things are,” and so it's we find it hard to imagine any other type of workplace. For many, work is a necessary evil rather than a creative and fulfilling experience.

Recently, I wrote about the Management Innovation Exchange (MIX), and today I’m going to introduce you to Worldblu.

Worldblu was founded by Traci Fenton in 1997 with the purpose of seeing how democracy can be applied in the workplace in a way that benefits the people, the bottom-line and the world. I genuinely want to see workplaces transformed into places where people can be passionate about what they do, and feel good about themselves. Certainly increased democracy can be a means to that end. This will be a scary thought for many business owners and managers because it means loosening the stranglehold hold of the powerful (even if delusional) command and control mindset. Mindsets like machines lose their usefulness.

In helping organizations become more democratic, Traci Fenton has developed a Design Framework of 10 principles:
  • Purpose and vision
  • Transparency
  • Dialogue and listening
  • Accountability
  • Choice
  • Individual and collective
  • Fairness and dignity
  • Integrity
  • Decentralization
  • Reflection and evaluation

Collaboration is not mentioned here, specifically, but it’s impossible to think of a democratic workplace without a very high level of collaboration.

There is still a debate about how to balance or integrate freedom and hierarchy, and that I’m sure will be an ongoing one. For more on this you could watch Andrew McAfee’s video on the MIX site:

If you visit the Worldblu site you can watch a video of Traci Fenton explaining what her organization is all about. I also recommend that you watch a video of her with Harry Stewart co-founder of Happy Ltd. a UK training firm that has been recognized by the Financial Times as one of the best places to work in the UK

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