My Unusual Suspects

Being truly into future proof organizations, I am always looking to get inspired by organizations that have to some extend successfully transitioned to more soulful workplaces. However often similar examples pop up in presentations or discussion to learn from. Be it Buurtzorg, Favi, Morning star or GE. Nothing wrong about that, they are great organizations but lately I have been searching for my unusual suspects that would also illustrate key principles of future proof organizations (like self-organization) off the beaten tracks. Let’s me share with you my top 4 and I am looking forward to hear yours.

Professional Sport

Professional sport is an environment where excellence and performance are paramount. And it is also an environment associated with strict hierarchy where the sense of power from the top is very present. Especially when one thinks of coaching, one imagines the omnipotent guide that leads the team into games with order and discipline. Often true but not always. The French handball national team has won the Olympic gold medal in 2012 in London and in 2008 in Beijing. The team was world champion in 2011 and 2009, and European champion in 2014. So from a performance stand point, it has been the most successful handball team worldwide for the past 10 years and the most successful in French collective sport history (better than football and basketball).  Heading this team is very special man: Claude Onesta. Trusting his players, he often lets them decide at key moments and has built an environment balancing performance and autonomy. Watch this video in French (subtitle in English) of Claude Onesta explaining his management strategy while heading the French handball national team.

I do not make my players play, my players are the ones who play”, Claude Onesta

Performing Orchestra

The topic of future proof organizations is universal and I often share my passion for it with friends. One of them, Mark, happens to work in the culture/music sector. When hearing about the main drivers for changing how organizations operate, he mentioned to me right away an interesting self-organized orchestra, meaning without conductor. So here comes the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra. Founded in 1972, it is conductor less. A management book has even been written on it which highlights some key principles at Orpheus:


  • Put power in the hands of people doing the work
  • Encourage individual responsibility
  • Share and rotate leadership
  • Foster horizontal teamwork
  • Learn to Listen

Sounds really familiar to me and much can be learnt from the decades of experience of the Orpheus Orchestra and its conductor less mode of operation.

Insect World

Ant colonies or bee hives can tell us a lot about how to organize large scale organization while performing (e.g., producing honey for bees) and surviving over time.  Let’s take bee hives and the lessons frpicture3om the book of Michael O’Malley “the wisdom of the bees”. Bee hives teach us to “promote community and sanction self-interest”, “distribute authorities” or “make good enough decision.”. Sounds about the type of organizations we need for the future to face complexity. Bee hives like business organizations face dilemma between short term (get nectar and pollen) and long term objectives (hive survival), or between stability (keeping the hive structure) and flexibility (especially with changes from the environment or new input for pollen field or opportunity to merge hives).  Nature has a long experience in organizing lasting structures so for sure we can learn from that.

Top Cuisine

Being a French man, I had to find an unusual suspect related to cooking or at least to food. Strangely enough, this one took me the longest but eventually I found several chefs who innovate management practices in the kitchen. Let me introduce you to Massimo Bottura (yes I know Italian not French but oh well…).

osteria-francescana-world-2016-dish-2His restaurant Osteria Francescana (three Michelin stars) has been one of the top restaurants in the world in 2016. Featured in a HBR serie few months back, Massimo nurtures the rebel side of his employees for them to reveal the best of their talents. It resonates very much with the phenomenon of corporate hacking seen in large organizations. Corporate hackers or rebels pushes the boundaries of their organizations to explore unchartered territories and create new opportunities.

In these four environment (sport, culture, nature, cuisine), these organization stories have been truly inspiring for me to push the boundaries of what is possible when it comes to innovative management practices. At the end of the day, it reminds me this quote from the movie “Ratatouille”, where Chef Gusteau’s moto is “anyone can cook”. It is the same for creating future proof or reinventing organizations. The topic is so universal and present in our daily life that anyone can come up with inspiration.

And what about you? Who are your unusual suspects?

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