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The old view of the organization is something close to the old concept of a medieval city, where citizenship was defined by inhabiting and dwelling within an area defined by the walls of the castle. The new view of the organization is similar to the concept of a modern city, where citizenship is defined by moving around a network of communications (in multiple directions with multiple connections) with very permeable borders, if any. Nodes in this network are both destination and point of departure at the same time.

The ideogram of the old city is the enclosure; the ideogram of the old organization is the organization chart.  The ideogram of the new city is the underground map, the rail network or the highway chart; the ideogram of the new organization is the network.

The citizen of the old organization lives in a box on the organization chart, only occasionally getting out of the box to talk to another resident in a bigger box called ‘team’.  The citizen of the new organization is a rider of the network, moving around and talking to other loose connections, some of them with stronger ties than others. Three ‘B’s reign in the old organization: boss, boundaries and bonuses. Three ‘Is’ reign in the new organization: influence, inter-dependence and innovation.

Having acknowledged that the hierarchical organization with its functional silos (which can be visible in companies of 5,000, 500 or 50 employees) had a bit of a problem in cross-communication, but not willing to kill the power silos altogether, the invention of the matrix as a cross-functional way of working was inevitable. It became a language key (we have a matrix system) and a clever hierarchical plot (I have two bosses: one local the other global). And the matrix became a very, very large petri dish for team meetings.

It was invented as a way to force people out of their dwellings to work together with other people (who were also forced out of their own dwellings). It sometimes seemed that the conversation between them was just temporary and just long enough for somebody to look at his watch and exclaim: “Oh, my God, so late already! I need to get back, bye!” And back to their boxes they went…

Let me make a blunt statement. We don’t need more team-players. We need riders and navigators. Big time!  Riders of the network navigate through connections inside and outside the organization. They lead from their own connectivity and ability to imagine their world as a vast space, mostly un-discovered. They are relationship builders, not team builders. They may not have a problem with teams and may even belong to some. But they tend to regard teams as the new silos.

Riders have meetings as well: 365/24/7 meetings. They are ‘meeting up’ all the time. It is their very ‘raison d’être’. Riders want networkracy, not teamocracy. These new leaders will take the organization to territories where ‘the answers’ might be found and will do so via relationships, not through processes and systems. They are social-intelligent: a rare characteristic, often invisible in many layers of management or even in top leadership.

This is how you advertise for Riders:

We’ve done the team stuff. We have lots of them and they operate quite acceptably, thank you.

Before we implemented the matrix, we had seven divisions and seven silos. After implementing the matrix and creating the multidisciplinary team structure, we have seven non-silo divisions and 35 new team silos. We never solve the problems here; we just trade off between them.

We are looking for (social-intelligent) people able to establish a web of both internal and external relationships. Management has promised to keep a relatively low profile and let them roam relatively freely.

We acknowledge that, from time to time, we will have the temptation to declare some of them ‘a team’, but we promise we will refrain.

We are looking for people who can demonstrate they can build relationships.

We have a special interest in people who founded a club at 11, created a football team at 17 and put together a bunch of friends to explore the Amazons at 21. Or something like that.

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  1. Scott Fahlman

    Leandro, your comments about the value of network-savvy, socially intelligent “riders” struck a chord with me.

    I’ve noticed that there are two very different ways in which people can contribute value to an organization — especially in organizations that are engaged in research, design, or other creative work. Some people are “adders” and others are “multipliers”. (No, I’m not talking about poisonous snakes, although some organizations have plenty of those as well.)

    The adders add value to the organization in some clearly identifiable way. They make discoveries, publish papers that get a lot of attention (and that sometimes change the world), develop brands and ad campaigns, propose initiatives, and generally are the ones who pull the wagon. If they do their job well, they generally are recognized and rewarded. Some become legends or rock stars within their profession. Some work alone, some develop one or two long-term collaborations, and some work as members of a team — though usually with a clear role or project for which they can get individual credit.

    The multipliers are those people who make everyone around them better and more effective. They are rare, but a few of these people can be far more valuable to the organization than a few more adders. You only need a few multipliers, but they are important.

    The multipliers do their magic in many ways, often behind the scenes. They have excellent, intuitive people-skills. They are friends with everyone, and most people are happy to see them coming. They talk to people. They are the sounding boards for new (often crazy) ideas. They ask lots of good questions and, in so doing, they help the adders to understand and focus their own work. They suggest new applications, new audiences, and new strategies for their colleagues’ work. They are matchmakers and pot-stirrers, encouraging the solitary geniuses to talk with, and maybe collaborate with, others who have complementary skills.

    The multipliers help to make all the others feel that they are working in a great, exciting creative environment. The adders may not understand the reason, but they feel that they are more productive, more creative, and are having more fun than they had in other organizations. So the multipliers help with recruiting and retaining the best people.

    The skill-sets for the two roles are different. Adders need to be VERY good at what they do, but in technical fields they don’t necessarily need much social intelligence. Some are very strange human beings, and some are actively obnoxious. They may collaborate, but some prefer to work alone.

    The multipliers must have a solid competence in whatever the field may be — otherwise, they won’t be able to ask those good questions or hang out with the big dogs — but they don’t need to be the creative geniuses. Multipliers do need to have a lot of empathy and excellent communication skills, and they can’t be people who let quirks and arguments get under their skin. They must be absolutely trustworthy, and they can’t worry too much about who gets credit for what. Nobody is going to discuss their latest ideas with a multiplier-colleague if they are worried about the idea or the credit being stolen.

    All of this means that the multipliers are often not noticed, and that they don’t get the credit they deserve. Their colleagues may or may not understand and appreciate what they do; those outside of their circle may not notice them at all. In some organizations this can be a big problem. For example, in a university, it is very hard for a pure multiplier to survive. When the time comes for a promotion or tenure decision, the tradition is to look for a strong record of INDIVIDUAL accomplishment: What great things has this person accomplished? What impact has he or he had on the field? (Sadly, that is often measured primarily by publication and citation counts.) By these measures, the pure multiplier won’t look very good, even if they deserve partial credit for dozens of accomplishments that are credited to other individuals. So organizations that are totally focused on individual credit will not be able to attract and retain excellent multipliers. Their star individual contributors will be less effective, less happy, and nobody will know why.

    Occasionally you will find someone who is both an excellent adder and an excellent multiplier. These people are doubly rare, but they do exist, and are extremely valuable — in part because their famous individual accomplishments can open the doors, and then they can do their magic with added respect and security. The best academic department heads and deans are of this kind.

    In addition to adders and multipliers, there are also “dividers” — the people who make everyone around them worse and less happy, in all sorts of ways. But that’s a topic for another day.

    I’m not sure if these “multipliers” are the same as Leandro’s “riders” — I think it’s a related concept, but not quite the same.

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