Does management emanate from nature?

Photo by Ben Sutherland


Finally, I have finished reading Daniel Pink’s new book Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us. I don’t think the book needs another review (for a much better review than any I can write, see here). However, in the next few days I want to elaborate on and/or argue with some of the concepts in the book.

I want to start with this quote (an idea Dan mentions in his TED talk as well):

We forget sometimes that “management” does not emanate from nature. It’s not like a tree or a river. It’s like a television or a bicycle. It’s something that humans invented. As the strategy guru Gary Hamel has observed, management is a technology. And like motivation 2.0, it’s a technology that has grown creaky. While some companies have oiled the gears a bit, and plenty more have paid lip service to the same, at its core management hasn’t changed much in a hundred years. Its central ethics remains control; its chief tools remain extrinsic motivators…

While I agree that management hasn’t changed a lot over the last 100 years and that it is still built around misguided Taylorism based conventional wisdoms that is about time we break, I find it hard to agree with the main claim. Management does emanate from nature. In fact, the problem with management today as I see it is that we stopped doing what is natural and human and started using artificial methods to deal with people.

Being empathic, creating connections and socializing, talking and listening and even respecting our fellow human beings are not unnatural things.

When you start treating management as a race for productivity you get an unnatural phenomenon. When you start using carrots and sticks like people are jackasses you get an unnatural phenomenon. When you rely only on measurement of only the things you can measure to fuel management you get an unnatural phenomenon.

Pink claims that we should throw the word “management “onto the linguistic ash heap alongside words like “icebox” and “horseless carriage”. He claims that today we see many companies getting rid of “middle management” which leaves fewer managers with more people to manage. I think exactly the opposite.

I think what this world need is more managers. More discussions of the word and what it means to be a real manager of real people. Not more of the word that goes with every other role in every other company, but the word that describes the true role of a manager – people. more discussion about a manger who brings the best out of people. About a manager who listens to people and helps them excel. About the manager who takes out the linchpin and the artist in people. About a manager that brings out the natural human being in people.

I don’t think there is anything more natural than management. We just need to wake up, understand that we have been talking about the wrong thing and making the wrong assumptions and start being actual human beings again.


One Response to “Does management emanate from nature?”

  1. Are you a happiness machine? « The Comparative Advantage Says:

    […] about noticing people around you and doing something about it. One of the side effects of the prevalent system of Carrot and Sticks, is that people almost don’t expect anything surprising anymore. It is so easy to surprise them. […]

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