Will SuperCooperation Beat Command-and-Control in the Network Age?

Within the last couple of days I read two articles, a book review and a printed blog. Both were published at completely different places but reading them in a timely context made me see some interesting connection between the two.

Martin nowak

Martin Novak (Image via Wikipedia)

The book review was about  “SuperCooperators: Altruism, Evolution, and Why We Need Each Other to Succeed. By Martin Nowak and Roger Highfield” (the link is to the Amazon page of the book with a content summary and reviews). The book marks a breakaway from the traditional picture of the “survival of the fittest” in today’s biology which often is wrongly interpreted to be the survival of the strongest individual (rather than species). Instead it explains the important role of cooperation in evolution. Here a quote from the book’s preface:

“Many problems that challenge us today can be traced back to a profound tension between what is good and desirable for society as a whole and what is good and desirable for an individual. That conflict can be found in global problems such as climate change, pollution, resource depletion, poverty, hunger, and overpopulation. The biggest issues of all – saving the planet and maximizing the collective lifetime of the species Homo sapiens – cannot be solved by technology alone. They require novel ways for us to work in harmony. If we are to continue to thrive, we have but one option. We now have to manage the planet as a whole. If we are to win the struggle for existence, and avoid a precipitous fall, there’s no choice but to harness this extraordinary creative force. We now have to refine and to extend our ability to cooperate. We must become familiar with the science of cooperation. Now, more than ever, the world needs SuperCooperators.” 

It seems that the “survival of the fittest” has to include super-cooperation, networking, reading between the lines. But our management organizations still follow almost exclusively the rule-and-control style, missing the important cooperation aspect.

Prof. Gunter Dueck

Prof. Gunter Dueck (from omnisophie.com)

The other article was by Prof. Gunter Dueck on the subject “Cooperation, Women, and the F-Quote” in the August issue of “Informatik Spektrum” discussing the current objectives to set a minimum quota for women in enterprises. His article describes that it is actually not the male vs. female paradigm that is important in this context but the Myers-Briggs categorization into T-types and F-types. T-types are the thinkers and command-and-control hierarchical types, while the F-types follow a “Feeling Style” in interacting with their environment. He notes that unfortunately when women are added to management very often T-style women are selected bringing no change to the management style of these companies which then remains a pure-bred T-domaine.

But today a good part of our endeavors are being dealt with in projects and very often these projects fail. They fail, he reasons, due to

  • Poor communication between actors
  • Hectic project start–poor planning
  • Underestimation of working in complex human networks
  • Underestimation of complexity due to different organizational cultures
  • Bemoaning the disturbing humane factor
  • Attempt to solve complex late projects with more overwhelmed people

In short: projects fail because issues on the human-to-human interaction are constantly ignored and countered with a “structured” approach. The reoccurring bemoaning of poor execution is pointing to exactly this situation.


Dilbert.com Strip of 2006-06-16 (c) dilbert.com

What we need, he argues, is more F-quota in management not T-type females. What we need is F-type females and males in management.

Reading these two articles in close proximity had me pondering on the issue. In our networked world where large organizations are being decomposed into small units which are sent out to provide services on the open market, where all kind of services can easily be bought over the net, the hierarchical command style management may be unfit to take on these challenges and that a more F-type approach to management will be needed.

This poses a major new challenge how we will have to manage businesses in the future.

What is your take on this?

About Hellmuth Broda

Independent Information and Communications Technology Strategist with an interest in the construction sites between business, society and technology. http://www.hellmuthbroda.com
This entry was posted in Management, New and Noteworthy and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Will SuperCooperation Beat Command-and-Control in the Network Age?

  1. Patrick Furrer says:

    Thanks for this quite interesting light shed on an important issue, gender is not a relevant dimension in hiring managers. I share with you that in a world becoming flatter every second, management should develop more empathy-driven and based on super-cooperation skills to cope with the societal challenges of our today’s society. This requires a rebalancing of T- versus F-type profiles at all levels of the management.

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