You Need a New Operating System to Succeed in Business Today

Instead of an upfront predicted and controlled plan, we are present, conscious and aware, and in flow responding to reality in our whole system.

Do you want to succeed in business? Would you like to be able to respond quickly to issues within your organization? Well, what if we told you it’s as simple as downloading a new operating system and taking a ride on a bicycle? Y

ou may think we are crazy, but read on! In a lesson featured on Big Think Edge, Brian Robertson, an organizational pioneer and co-founder of HolacracyOne, describes how the unpredictable nature of riding a bicycle is not unlike today’s business environment.

Robertson begins with a metaphor describing how business was done in early half of last century: “Imagine we rode a bicycle like we manage a modern company,” he tells us, “In contrast, how we actually ride a bicycle is much different.” This lesson is featured on Big Think Edge, an online learning platform designed to help employees help their companies cultivate the new skills and knowledge necessary to invent new products, new markets, new business models and new industries.

Robertson highlights key components of how business was conducted in the last century, and how the world has shifted dramatically, therefore requiring businesses to adjust their practices in order to become more successful. In other words, in order to be successful, a new operating system is needed.

He describes the predict and control method of doing business and if you tried this method while riding a bicycle, it simply would not work. “We’d have our committee meetings where we would all stand around for a long time planning how to ride the bicycle.  We’d analyze the path ahead.  We’d look at everything that might go wrong and then we’d try to put in place controls to make sure everything went according to plan, lock it down rigidly from top down.” He continues, “Finally with plan in hand we’d get on the bicycle.  We’d hold the handlebars rigidly at the angle we calculated was the right angle.  We’d close our eyes and we’d pedal and if that bicycle fell over somewhere along the way we’d get up and we’d say we know what went wrong and why didn’t we get this right the first time and probably who’s to blame so we can fire them and get them out of the picture and you know we’d know what to do differently next time.”

Instead he recommends the sense and respond method in both business and riding a bicycle:

  • Stay present in the moment


  • Eyes open

  • Take in data continually

  • Steering every moment of the journey, not just once upfront.

    Instead of an upfront predicted and controlled plan, we are present, conscious and aware, and in flow responding to reality in our whole system.” Robertson explains, “We make minor course corrections constantly, with every muscle in our body.  It’s a very different response.”

    Not unlike riding a bicycle, steering a business in the 21st century is less about predict and control of a situation, but more about sense and respond.  According to Robertson, predict and control worked well in the last century because there was less uncertainty and less complexity in the world. However a shift has occurred, in today’s world there is now greater uncertainty and interconnectedness, requiring the need for a more sense and respond approach to business.  

    “If we want to be able to dynamically steer our organizations, we are going to need to take advantage of everything that they [anyone in an organization] can sense, so we can respond…”

    To “dynamically steer” Robertson says we need:

  • Systems

  • Structures

  • Processes

    Robertson explains, “We need meeting practices, decision making methods, and a new way of controlling and governing the organization.  A way that gives us a lot more real control, not just the illusion of control, which is typically what happens when we try a predict and control approach.” Lastly, Robertson likens this change to an operating system, that of a computer.  He says, “Overall, you can say it takes a whole new operating system.  In the same way your computer has an operating system. If we want to upgrade our organizations we need a new operating system.”

    So, while you’re on your next scenic bicycle-ride, consider Robertson’s advice: be sure to dynamically steer and sense and respond, in business as well as in life.

    ​There are two kinds of failure – but only one is honorable

    Malcolm Gladwell teaches "Get over yourself and get to work" for Big Think Edge.

    Big Think Edge
    • Learn to recognize failure and know the big difference between panicking and choking.
    • At Big Think Edge, Malcolm Gladwell teaches how to check your inner critic and get clear on what failure is.
    • Subscribe to Big Think Edge before we launch on March 30 to get 20% off monthly and annual memberships.
    Keep reading Show less

    Why are so many objects in space shaped like discs?

    It's one of the most consistent patterns in the unviverse. What causes it?

    Videos
    • Spinning discs are everywhere – just look at our solar system, the rings of Saturn, and all the spiral galaxies in the universe.
    • Spinning discs are the result of two things: The force of gravity and a phenomenon in physics called the conservation of angular momentum.
    • Gravity brings matter together; the closer the matter gets, the more it accelerates – much like an ice skater who spins faster and faster the closer their arms get to their body. Then, this spinning cloud collapses due to up and down and diagonal collisions that cancel each other out until the only motion they have in common is the spin – and voila: A flat disc.

    This is the best (and simplest) world map of religions

    Both panoramic and detailed, this infographic manages to show both the size and distribution of world religions.

    (c) CLO / Carrie Osgood
    Strange Maps
    • At a glance, this map shows both the size and distribution of world religions.
    • See how religions mix at both national and regional level.
    • There's one country in the Americas without a Christian majority – which?
    Keep reading Show less
    Photo by Alina Grubnyak on Unsplash
    Mind & Brain

    Do human beings have a magnetic sense? Biologists know other animals do. They think it helps creatures including bees, turtles and birds navigate through the world.

    Keep reading Show less