Cooperation and swarm intelligence in the world of work: the perfect company


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There is no top and bottom in networks. And certainly no conspicuous hierarchies. The culture of sharing common there hardly allows delimitation. "Mine" and "yours" move closer together and mix.

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Anne M. Schüller's Profile anne-m-schueller_portrait-mit-hutAnne M. Schüller is a management thinker, keynote speaker, business coach and multiple award-winning bestselling author. She has repeatedly been named Top Voice by the business network LinkedIn.

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Networks: Incubator for creativity

Networks are decentrally organized, they are fast, adaptable and flexible. And they are an incubator for creativity. In corporate life, however, structures in which everything is left to itself can sink into the creative chaos.

In such cases, management systems create order and ensure operational viability. Just think of the fire department. When it's burning, everything must listen to commands and work accurately according to a given plan.

As much swarm intelligence as possible

When the mission is over, the boss should explore with his team how to further optimize the whole thing next time.

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So much swarm intelligence as possible and just as much hierarchy as absolutely necessary, that seems to me to be a workable model. Hybrid are called such organizations. They combine the best of both worlds.

Google as a success story?

A successful example of a hybrid system that links collaboration, ie the “wisdom of the many”, with hierarchical structures? This is Google, founded in 1998, 2013, after Apple, the second most valuable brand in the world.

Google has a minimal hierarchy, a broad network of small, self-employed, lateral (development) high-performance teams, a playful work environment, and a philosophy that requires employees to always think about the user first.

hybrid Company

However, not only the company itself, but also its search engine concept is hybrid. If you enter whatever term into the search line, Google asks the entire World Wide Web to decide which information is the most useful.

These then end up in the top of the hit list in about 0,2 seconds. But not every voice counts, so every link, from third websites alike.

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This is how you start making changes - with a picture!

Pages that are meaningful, that is, “Website Authority”, have greater weight and thus help to make other pages meaningful.

If they want to make the change, then my appeal: You need a picture! No written mission statement, no, this is communication prose for the company's web site, especially since the credibility of credentials has mostly been broken down a long time ago.

The real, visual image

You need a real, visual image of how you want to set up your organization in the future - far from top-down structures. Only when people have a picture in mind, they can also make an idea - and then act accordingly.

After consensus on how valuable swarm intelligence is, the new organization chart can then be the starting point for building a touchpoint company. How this image can look in detail? For example:

5 questions for change management

Since the above picture shows the sample image of an organization chart, in which each network-like and open collaborates with each other to serve the interests of the customer. The small circles in the large ones stand for the self-determined coworkers, the circles in the outer circle for cooperating external collaborators.

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No matter what your own picture may look like in the end, such an approach will hopefully start asking the right questions:

  1. What does all this mean for us?
  2. What do we want and need to change organizationally, hierarchically, humanely, so that this image can be filled with life?
  3. How can we organize ourselves across departments and hierarchies in swarms that quickly and agilely recognize flashing market opportunities and exploit them profitably?
  4. What new kind of leadership is needed?
  5. And we should call our teams even as swarms that - like flocks of birds - safely and efficiently reach their destinations?

What you can learn from bird-flying formations

Of bird flight formations one can learn a lot. At least this time: Let your people fly, so that they can unfold.

Because a little authority is necessary and sensible here and there, I do not draw organizational charts in a circle but oval. Each oval provides the leader with the ability to integrate into the leveling circle of a network, yet still occupy a prominent place - on the broad, not on the high side.

Incidentally, this constellation is also very suitable for the conference room and meeting room. And just like in the organization chart, you give the customers (symbolically) a place in the middle. How that works? Place laptops with customer portraits in full screen mode. Or ask your people. Someone always has an idea.

Good feelings come first

In the organization chart as well as in the boardroom, the boss gives those who are particularly important to him the position to the right and left of himself. In contrast to today's practice, these should clearly be the marketing, sales and HR managers.

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Because they take care of the most valuable asset of a company: highly committed employees and highly loyal customers. In this way, everything is done that can be done to increase added value. If, on the other hand, finance and controlling have the say, everything that can be omitted with the aim of saving costs is omitted. And lifeless numbers gain power. But controlling people by numbers is always the second best choice. Good feelings come first.


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