Editorial

Failure of the Elites, Rise of Collaboration

3 minute read
Gerry McGovern avatar

The only thing the elites have done well in the last 40 years is make themselves immensely rich. A reckoning is arriving.

Conservative thinker, William F. Buckley, once stated: “I'd rather entrust the government of the United States to the first 400 people listed in the Boston telephone directory than to the faculty of Harvard University.”

The Chilcot report on the UK’s role in the 2003 Iraq war found that the then Prime Minister Tony Blair, and the intelligence and military chiefs got it disastrously wrong. They decided to go to war essentially on gut instinct. Many UK soldiers died as a result of poor equipment, for example. The management of the aftermath of the war was absolutely terrible.

“I will be with you, whatever,” Blair told George Bush, and when a buddy gives a buddy his word, well he just has to follow through. This buddy-to-buddy commitment was not communicated to any member of the UK cabinet because visionary, decisive leaders don’t do that sort of thing.

The UK intelligence community proved not to be very intelligent. Thinking in non-intelligent groupthink mode, and desperate to please their masters, they never even thought about the possibility that Saddam Hussein might not in fact possess weapons of mass destruction.

We desperately need new models because our so-called leaders and experts are ruining our world. The only thing our macho-macho, buddy-buddy, guy-guy managers and leaders are good at is giving themselves huge bonuses and ridiculous salaries.

Learning Opportunities

There are indeed new models emerging and they will severely challenge most traditional organizations. Lean design, minimally viable products, customer experience, usability, continuous improvement, evidence-based decision making, collective intelligence, wisdom of the crowds: these are all examples of new ways of thinking about and dealing with the world we live in.

They reflect an acceptance that we can’t actually predict the future but we can adapt to it. They accept that nobody is really that smart. That we must all be continuously learning and adapting based on constant feedback from our environment. They champion collective intelligence and mass collaboration, and are constant seekers of evidence of what is actually happening.

Digital and the internet are the huge enablers of these new models. Digital is tearing down the old hierarchies and elite facades. Digital transformation is really about a transformation of culture and thinking. The great tragedy is that for most organizations, digital transformation is just one more IT project. Such organizations will in time be swept away by the tides of history. Unfortunately, in the short and the medium term they will try to ruin the world for the rest of us.

It’s not too late, by any means. Every time we bring the actual experience of our customers inside the organization, we move it in the right direction. Every time we make decisions based on evidence of what our customers are doing, we move towards the future. Every time we create things that give control to our customers, rather than creating things that try to control them, we step into a new world.

About the author

Gerry McGovern

Gerry McGovern is the founder and CEO of Customer Carewords. He is widely regarded as the worldwide authority on increasing web satisfaction by managing customer tasks.

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