Democracy at work: Culture 2.0?

It is no secret that during the current economic climate, many employees have lost trust in management. Often the squeeze on budgets creates a pressure that many leaders will respond with words like, downsizing, redundancy, and structural change. These reactions may seem like the only reasonable option left – but this is certainly not the case. There are companies that choose to use words like creativity, retention and engagement in response to a less than perfect external situation.

Albert Einstein once wrote ‘All that is truly great and inspiring is created by the individual who can labour in freedom.’

The problem is most of us don’t labour in freedom every day – we labour in fear. One difference between redundancy and retention in a Global Financial Crisis is a system of organisation that is based on this notion of freedom. It is known as Organisational Democracy and is a way of designing organisations to amplify the possibilities of human potential — and as a result, the organisation as a whole. It’s the foundation upon which thriving, world-class businesses collaborate, innovate, celebrate and prosper. And it creates the kinds of workplaces that attract and retain top talent.

In 2008, UK-based Future Considerations began their transformation to a freedom-centred workplace. Although, at the time, their client work remained on-purpose, fulfilling and well-received, their was a sense of internal misalignment around values and their true purpose for being in business. They needed to clean out the toxicity in their own system, and build a culture, which was more accountable, transparent and focused on what really mattered.

Three years later, and the company continues to annually elect their complete Leadership Team, including their Managing Director, as a way to hold directors to account for past, present and future actions. By doing so, Future Considerations has managed to repay just over £300,000 worth of historical debt (approx 20% of annual turnover), while continuing to turn a profit.

Don’t think for one moment that these principles only apply to small business. HCL Technologies, a practicing freedom-centric company headquartered in Noida, India, have been completely transparent with employees about the context of the company throughout the financial crisis – CEO, Vineet Nayar, told employees that HCL had to save $100 million. HCL employees responded with 76 money saving ideas that totalled $260 million in savings. By being transparent HCL has been able to leverage the innovative ideas of its employees to turn the recession into an opportunity and as a result, no employees were laid off and HCL’s revenues have grown.

The above examples are not just ‘one-hit wonders’. In fact, many organisations including the likes of WD40, Groupon and Zappos operate in this manner. They value people as much as profits and are mobilising towards a new corporate democracy that drives results by attracting top talent and harnessing the collective intelligence, full self-expression, personal power and creativity of all who champion freedom and democracy in the workplace.

WorldBlu highlights the work of democratic workplaces in an effort to spark a movement to see one billion people working in freedom. The WorldBlu Principles of Organisational Democracy provide a blueprint for organisational design. All ten principles must be in operation and at an individual, leadership and systems and processes level and WorldBlu uses a scorecard to measure effectiveness.

If you would like to know about how this type of thinking could create far-reaching change in your business, then please contact –
USA: Cari Caldwell
UK: Tim Stanyon

For other stories of freedom-centred workplaces, see the 2012 WorldBlu List here.

Connect with Future Considerations here:

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