Management is so passé: Workers demanding ‘co-creation’


By David Weitzner / York University, Canada

It’s time for business, political and organizational leaders to give up on “management.”

Workers today don’t want to be managed, even benevolently. They want to be partners in co-creation, where all members are empowered to bring their whole selves to the organization regardless of hierarchies. Consequently, those uncomfortably perched atop organizational hierarchies are faced with a stark choice: Co-create or manage, because you cannot do both.

As businesses start to envision a post-pandemic world, they are faced with unprecedented challenges, like the so-called Great Resignation that involves millions of employees opting to quit their unfulfilling jobs, and political pressures to “build back better.” As I argue in my recent book, Connected Capitalism, we need to move away from an emphasis on “management” and towards a focus on co-creation.

Management is passé. Co-creation will allow us to thrive in meeting the changing demands of key stakeholders like employees, customers and governments.

Employee malaise

Even before the pandemic, there was a crisis of worker dissatisfaction, with millennials—the generation poised to make up the majority of our work force—viewing business as out of step with their priorities.

Corporations must commit to a broader social purpose or face disconnected and unmotivated workers unlikely to stay in their jobs. Co-creation builds on that rare and valuable sense of connection emerging in the very best type of purpose-driven co-operative partnerships.

The feeling of connection is so important, I believe we will start to normalize viewing friendship as an essential work resource, since we now know that cooperation is not born of deep analytical calculations, but intuition and feelings.

Often, when management gurus talk about cooperation, what they really mean is managing subordinates into passivity. Cooperation in this context is contingent on repression. That’s not co-creation.

Panicked responses

When I speak to executives, I often get a panicked reaction: “What does this mean for my power to run the business?!?”

Assuredly, decision-making power stays in the C-suites. But an empowered team only increases the effectiveness of leadership. And while corporate behemoths like Google are leading with this new course of action, a 20-year study of more than 300 companies found human-centric approaches that empowered employees improved performance in a wide variety of settings.

Besides, co-creation is not only about loosening the managerial reins on employees. Many businesses have come to realize that they don’t get the best product by closely managing their suppliers with laundry lists of desired specifications.  Instead, optimal outcomes are often attained by supporting suppliers in co-creation, giving up control and letting them lead the way.

Human-centric work future

The shift away from the stifling, controlling and outdated dominance of management in favor of co-creation is an absolute must for those helming organizations—from private sector businesses to governments and health-care organizations—even if the prospect makes some existing leaders uncomfortable.

Using the tools of co-creation where we once used management hierarchies means expanding the rigid boundaries between the social, professional and personal, which we have been clinging to incorporate settings for too long.

Workers are demanding a more human-centric future, with space for trust and vulnerability. There is no going back to the “before world.” Management is over. The era of co-creation is under way. The Conversation

Image courtesy of Tiger Lily from Pexels

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