Turning Ego Systems Into Ecosystems

There’s nothing like traveling for a conference to put you behind in your work. Sorting through all my notes from attending Inman Connect earlier this month, I realized I heard from a whole bunch of really smart authors in New York. It seems unfair to hog all this juicy knowledge to myself, so I’m starting the share-fest off with Dana Ardi, the author of The Fall of the Alphas: The New Beta Way to Connect, Collaborate, Influence—and Lead.

Credit: en-shahdi

Ardi is a corporate anthropologist, meaning she looks at corporations in a similar way to that which Margaret Mead approached the Samoan people or Franz Boas looked at Native Americans.

“I look at all the social mores,” she said during an interview at the general session. Ardi examines a company’s physical space, as well as their values, sense of humor, diversity, and more. She’s looked at everything from big multinational corporations to the military. When she examines large organizations, she often finds “layers of management that prevented people from spreading their wings.”

“People kept coming into my office for consultation and they were really unhappy,” she said. “They just didn’t like the politics… or they felt like they were silenced.”

Sound familiar? If so, you should tune in. Her new book sets out to show how these corporate environments can be changed. I haven’t read her book yet, but at Inman Ardi cited examples from Zappo’s holacracy, where they’ve gotten rid of job titles, to how West Point is trying to see itself as an orchestra, where everyone has a vital role to play. She also told the audience that the one question everyone always asks her is “That all sounds good, but can you teach old dogs new tricks?”

Well, things are changing, but of course, it’s easier said than done. Ardi remembered one head of a Fortune 100 company telling her that he was ready to act on her recommendations by putting out a memo and telling people that’s the direction the company was going to go. She said that story illustrated the problem with the classic top-down CEO approach to change.

“The CEO is a classic reactor,” she said. Instead, if managers and executives want to make changes, they should start with their own conception of the place from which company-wide change should emanate. “It has to do with a lot of retraining yourself to be a better listener…You have to replace ego systems with ecosystems.”

While this type of change can make for a more collaborative, productive, and creative environment for everyone, one main benefit that accrues to a business that embraces this philosophy is attracting younger people to the fold.

“The next generation knows no other way,” Ardi says. “They’re used to collaborating… that’s their social system.”

Anyway, I hope to check out Ardi’s book for myself soon, but I thought I should get this out there so you could pick it up for yourself if you’re so inclined. Also, you can read my technology coverage from Inman here and here, and read what I learned about global real estate while I was there. And stay tuned for more of my notes from Inman right here on the Book Scan Blog.

Meg White

Meg White is the managing editor for REALTOR® Magazine and administrator of the magazine's Weekly Book Scan blog. Contact her at mwhite[at]realtors.org.

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  1. Sounds like a great book. I will be checking it out for sure. I can definitely see the differences in the approaches different generations take to collaboration.