Why 21st Century Management must go beyond Disciplinary Silos

Umesh Mukhi

Old Fashioned Management techniques?

Management owes its origins to the industrial revolution of 19th century and therefore it is at the root and heart of each and every organization from the social, business or government sector. However we witness that as we have transcended into a new century, our techniques have hardly changed. Yet despite the recognition of this need, organizational approaches have hardly changed because of our resistance to new ideas. Specifically in these times of crises and complexity; organizations are grappling with multiple issues internally as well as externally, this might range from HR problems as well as strategic issues.

Management in the 21st century can no longer be limited to disciplinary silos but rather it should open its doors towards other disciplines. This leaves us at the juncture, where one has to ponder, how organizations and managers (OM from now onwards) should take inspiration from other disciplines, in order to stimulate creativity and innovation (IC now onwards). The challenge we face altogether is how contemporary social, economic and environmental issues test our capacity as humans to think outside of the box, to change our conventional thinking to be more creative and imaginative to resolve these issues.

We ought to be reflexive while being deeply rooted with our purpose

The chaos also presents a unique chance for OM to be innovative and creative. In terms of product of product development, there is no doubt that mankind is in need of innovative products which are sustainable in nature. It is necessary to understand why OM is in the dire need of IC despite consultants and free advices from management articles. First of all  the recent example of crisis is a good example of how financial and technological innovation can be dangerous; the repercussions of damage can be long lasting, which we are witnessing now from the failure of economic models to global warming.

In terms of process innovation, it presents a unique opportunity to change the process of our value chain, for example supply chain. Most importantly today, the reputation of an organization is consistently gauged by its internal and external stakeholders, thus OM need to be reflexive, to adapt innovative ways and to respond to their changing demands.  Apple is a prime example.  It has been accused of using environmentally hazardous materials manufacturing the iPhone. It has also been alleged that its suppliers were not complying with labor standards. Naturally this situation demands that Apple should find innovative ways to manufacture environmentally friendly products and to green supply chain as well reassess internal factors such as HR policies, brand strategy to keep on improvising their performance and retain brand identity.

Take the example of Nokia and Blackberry, success illusion along with failure to identify market forces and consumer trends finally led to loss of market share which has now been taken over by Android and Apple. Finally, Governments from both emerged and emerging economies are consistently dealing with new challenges at the political, economic and social levels. This demands them to consistently revise their policies to resolve these issues. Israel is one the examples of a nation who amidst such problems has emerged as a leader in technological innovation by capitalizing not only through new policies but also by relying on traits of traditional Jewish culture.

Israel allocates to research and development the highest budgets out of any other developed country, except for Sweden. For example, the relative number of the labor force engaged in research and development in Israel  – world leader: 140 for every 10,000 residents, as against 85 in the USA. It is the purpose which drives innovation and therefore the key for any OM to consistently innovate is to understand is the core purpose while being reflexive to external and internal forces.

Need to develop a Sustainable Mindset

In this dire hour it is time to reflect what our mindset is, how do we stimulate our creativity and innovation and what is our purpose. At the end it is humans which deal with organizations, because creativity and innovation are the attributes of human mind. We should understand that in search of creative and innovative solutions we are either obliged to follow trends or pursue it out of our motivation. It is the mindset of an artist which allows him to transform his imagination into an artwork, and it is the mindset of scientists which allows them to convert their abstraction to real prototype.

However, the same human mind is also resistant to change and prefers functioning in monotonous ways. Take the example of entrepreneurs; they see problems as an opportunity to innovate and of course we are seeing that social problems are being combined with business models to create the notion of social entrepreneurship. What sets them apart? It is the mindset to explore the boundaries of imagination, breaking and creating new rules of the game. Mindset is a psychological tool, which needs consistent mastery by OM.

Thus at root, it is the mindset of individual at personal level and then at collective level i.e. organizational level which needs a stimulant to explore the world of unexplored possibilities. If you ever think about leaders like Mandela, Lincoln, Gandhi, Einstein you will notice that they possessed a unique mindset and kept chiseling at their problems until they reached their purpose.