We've shifted to a business world where collaboration and connection are replacing hierarchy and bureaucracy. The outdated "alpha" notion of aggressive management has given way to the modern era of cooperative "beta" leadership.
We're already seeing this take place as some companies take the lead in thinking about how, by giving up top-down control, they can actually get more work done. Here are some examples of what the future has in store for these beta organizations:
The changes wrought by the Digital Age will continue to radically reshape our notion of what the workplace is and how we even go about working. Technology will break down geographic and personal barriers in amazing new ways. The traditional office could become obsolete, while home-based video connections become the new norm, and new virtual worlds offer innovative opportunities for collaboration without the limitations of the physical world.
As work is assigned at more individualized levels, our notion of a company will also begin to change. What today's companies provide—salaries, benefits, education, and security—will change. In tomorrow's beta companies, salaries will function more like incentives while benefits will be more like menus where not everyone will have access to the same options. Education will really be a function of apprenticeship and mentor programs. Because beta organizations will be flatter, every individual regardless of their age will have opportunities to influence change and the direction of the organization. Beta companies will become more like holding companies where people will move in and out, or choose to stay on for a longer period.
Even how companies behave will change dramatically. Beta organizations will take strategic positions or strike partnerships with other organizations that create mutually beneficial relationships. Alpha companies used to acquire companies and try to assimilate their culture into their own—not realizing that they would erase the "special sauce" that other company had in the process. The new beta way of operating is exemplified by an organization like Yahoo, which bought Tumblr with the intent of letting it be run independently and preserving its culture.
The beta approach will lead to the creation of entire ecosystems where partners, customers, and even competitors will find themselves working side-by-side to solve problems and open up new opportunities for growth. The new beta leaders will be leading or following depending on the role they play. The diversity of these teams will also be crucial in that they will be representative of their customers in terms of age, gender, ethnicity, and nationality.
—Dana Ardi, Ph.D. is the founder of Corporate Anthropology Advisors and the author of The Fall of the Alphas: The New Beta Way to Connect, Collaborate, Influence – And Lead. Dr. Ardi has served as a Partner/Managing Director at CCMP Capital and JPMorgan Partners, and was a Partner at Flatiron Partners.
[Image: Flickr user Christian Schnettelker]