Agile Organizations Let Ideas Shape their Structure, not the Other Way Around

“We have a sort of mantra when it comes to adapting to the new situation and it is the idea that we come from a world where structures were used to create ideas but have now moved on to a world where ideas are creating structures.

Therefore, we no longer live in a world that is organised and orderly, where people’s careers more or less had a beginning and an end and you knew what you had to do to progress.

We now live in a world where we no longer know this, a world where every new idea calls for different collaborators, different settings and so on. Let’s say that a certain amount of independence, individuality and initiative in finding a way on your own is essential in the times we live in.

[…] Structures should not be allowed to dictate like they did before, because the environment is no longer characterized by order, and so if we are to adapt to the new situation, we must have initiative and enterprise.”

Toni Segarra speaking about the concept behind SCPF Academy, an experiment (not the first one) in taking education away from the traditional educational institutions and bringing it into the world of the enterprise as a paid apprenticeship. [full video]

Culture can’t be taught. One of the arguments I liked the most is the one about how do you go about teaching something as intangible as culture. College classrooms are neutral sterile environments. A mere container that serves as a meeting place. How are you going to teach a certain culture here using only words, blackboards and presentations? You basically can’t. Culture can’t be taught. It has be to be learned by experience. Culture is a complex and ambiguous combination of rituals, beliefs and values that manifests itself in behaviors, artifacts, environments. That’s not something that can be taught for a couple of hours a week in a culturally mute environment. If you want to train people with a point of view and with a specific perspective you need to immerse them for extended periods in an environment that breathes and sweats such culture.

In defense of apprenticeships. If we assume the pace of change accelerates, then the whole idea of learning within a purpose-built institution removed one step from reality makes less and less sense. Why limit yourself to spend four years learning an abstraction of the real world through a professor’s mind when you would probably be better off spending quality time close to real world professionals in real world situations solving real world problems? When change happens so fast, you need to be as close to reality as possible so you save yourself one adjusting step, contrasting the mental model you have been taught in your mind about your practice with how things actually are in reality.

Organizational structures as consequence rather than cause. A static world is a perfect place for static structures, solid ideas, pristine order and vivid certainty. The way to act in this context is clear: thoughtful reflection, careful planning and diligent specialization. A dynamic world can’t wait for all these things. It demands messy collaboration, skills diversity, fast reaction times, thinking agility and constantly ad-hoc structures that mutate and evolve nonstop to respond to the shifting demands of the moment.

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