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In his new book, The Future of Management, Gary Hamel says that one of the biggest and most deeply entrenched impediments to innovation in any corporation is management dogma, the unwritten beliefs and rules for “how we do business around here.” He outlines a number of key questions that you can use to begin to uncover deeply held beliefs about management, so they can be discussed openly and alternatives considered.

In his new book, The Future of Management, Gary Hamel says that one of the biggest and most deeply entrenched impediments to innovation in any corporation is management dogma – the unwritten beliefs and rules for “how we do business around here.”

In this excellent book, Hamel uncovers a number of examples of companies that have successfully innovated their management processes – Google, Whole Foods and W.L. Gore – and explains what can be learned from their examples. In the process, he outlines a number of key questions that you can use to begin to uncover deeply held beliefs about management, so they can be discussed openly and alternatives considered. These questions include:

  • Is this a belief worth challenging? Is it debilitating? Does it get in the way of an important organizational attribute (like strategic adaptability) that we would like to strengthen?
  • Is this belief universally valid? Are there counterexamples? If so, what can we learn from these cases?
  • How does this belief serve the interests of its adherents? Are there people who draw reassurance or comfort from this belief?
  • Have our choices and assumptions conspired to make this belief self-fulfilling? Is this belief true simply because we have made it true – and, if so, can we imagine alternatives?

Hamel explains that many leaders and managers resist innovation, because they fear that it will be destabilizing to the organization, may result in anarchy or may adversely affect bottom-line results. Often, these are expressed as a set of mutually exclusive conditions, as if/then statements like this one: “If we allow people the freedom to innovate, discipline will take a beating.” It’s a zero-sum game; more of one means less than another in this traditional way of thinking.

Like peeling the layers of an onion, Hamel advocates asking “Why?” repeatedly, until you get to the root cause of how the organization came to rely upon these beliefs.

He also recommends patience as you excavate these long-held beliefs. Remember, you may be surfacing beliefs that haven’t been examined in decades or generations – beliefs that no one else is questioning, or dares to question. This can make people very uncomfortable, but can also open the door to bigger opportunities for radical innovation.

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