Polly LaBarre: The Future of Business is Mavericks, Heretics, and Activists

Polly LabarrePolly LaBarre, cofounder of the Management Innovation Exchange (MiX), and former CNN business correspondent and senior editor of Fast Company magazine,  talks to Loomio about collaboration, democracy, technology, and the need for a new paradigm based on trust and freedom. 

Inspiring Disruptors  is a series of interviews with people at the vanguard of a new way of doing things that maximises autonomy and collaboration. 


The entire interview is well worth watching. We’ve pulled out some choice quotes below.

What does “collaboration” really mean?

The foundation of all successful collaboration is something very human – trust.  More and more organisations are waking up to the power of openness and transparency. The ideology of control – controlling people, controlling information, controlling deviations from the norm – all of that stops collaboration in its tracks.

What is the relationship between organisational change and technology?

Making organisations truly resilient, truly innovative, truly inspiring – fit for the future and fit for human beings – requires a great unraveling of the way they have worked for more than 100 years, since the invention of hierarchy and bureaucracy.  We’re on the verge of a management revolution.

What inspires us are forms of organisation that are driven by web-based principles: all ideas compete on equal footing, your contribution matters more than your credentials, the wisdom of the many trumps the authority of the few, power comes from sharing not hoarding. This requires rethinking and disrupting every single management process, from how you create a budget to how you make decisions to how you set strategy.

What is the role of democracy in business?

Not just business, but all kinds of organisations have been ruled by this ideology of control. It’s not productive when you want imagination and initiative and passion, and you want to tackle complex global problems . We need a different form, based on principles of trust and freedom.

What have been your biggest learnings from the MiX?

The most high-impact case studies we’ve found have all been based in this practice of experimentation, failing fast, learning, and iterating – agile and lean from the software world meets design-led thinking. I think we’ve learned a lot about how great experiments unfold. We need activists in organisations, the merry troublemakers, the mavericks, the heretics. We need institutions that respect what we have to learn from the fringe, where the future starts to unfold.

The most successful leaders are those that create a haven for heretics, that don’t just tolerate them but invite in the contrarian and unorthodox points of view. I’m excited by how many people are actually open to that idea. We’re living more and more in an age of mavericks, heretics, and activists. They’re not trying to burn the house down, they’re trying to find a better way. That’s really inspiring to me.

Find out more at the Management Innovation Exchange.

Author: Alanna

Co-founder of Loomio and a director of Enspiral. Developing cultural and digital technology for collaboration.

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