Darwin in the workplace?

I listened to an interesting radio program about what can be learned from successes in natural selection in today’s society. One suggestion was that distributed systems has a higher survivability than centralized ones (this is no surprise to the Internet Generation). The implementation of the Department of Homeland Security after 911 was held forward as an example of failed centralization when it came to handle ‘Hurricane Catrina’ as all decision making had to pass trough it before being acted on, thus slowing down the relief work. The Immune system with distributed white blood cells (with strict orders) acting directly on local situations was held as a successful system to be emulated in today’s security systems.

Darwinistic successful strategies also seems to have bearing on the organisation of the workplaces of today. Moving decision making and acting, out to the people meeting new situations is what Jan Carlzon did with SAS in the 80s.

“An individual without information can’t take responsibility. An individual with information can’t help but take responsibility.”

is a quote from him I really like and believe in. This has been in my own thoughts lately when it comes to organize the R&D department where I work. It is the part about the instruction frame work (strict orders for white blood cells) that still is a bit misty. We have an ISO 9001 certified process that is okay, but I feel we still lack somethings that speaks to the Heart and Souls of everyone involved.

At the moment I am a centralized system, thus Darwinistic unsound. To become a successful force I need to create a framework where everyone is empowered with the necessary information and decision making while maintaining overall coercion and objectives for the company’s progress and well being. (1) This is something I have done before partly by using a method where everyone participate in creating overall objectives, thus getting the Hearts and Souls involved. (2) Regular meetings where all relevant strategic information (this includes priorities made by owners/ceo/market) is presented and discussed is another method I am using. (3) Forming competence/knowledge groups and having them take control over environmental scanning and training is another method I am in the process of implementing.

Trivia: This year (2009) it is 200 years since Charles Darwinwas born and 150 years since ‘On the Origin of Spieces’ was published.