Welcome to the Participation Age

Nov 13, 2014

We’ve always believed strongly that people are the competitive advantage of organizations today. Not just bodies through the doors though, but rather people who believe in the work they are doing and find meaning in it; people who are enabled to learn and grow both professionally and personally; people who feel like they have a voice at their organization and control over their work.

Businessmen running on machine cogs

That’s why when I read Chuck Blakeman’s article Embracing the Participation Age, it immediately felt right as the new way for doing business.

Unlike the Industrial Age model most organizations are still operating under (despite the vastly different environment we are now in) whereby employees are still viewed as mere extensions of machines needing constant supervision and management, Blackman says the Participation Age seeks to rehumanize the workplace and give it a soul again.

These companies focus on participation and sharing. They don’t view their employees as people merely paid to show up. They don’t actually view them as employees at all, but stakeholders in the company who are invested in its success.

They understand the people who work for the company are self-motivated adults who can be trusted to make decisions for themselves, collaborate in teams, and decide how best to accomplish the work that needs to be done. And everyone shares in the rewards.

What does a Participation Age company look like then?

Blakeman writes, “Imagine a company with no departments, no corporate ladder or promotions, no HR department, and no written policies – just a few beliefs. And with no managers, just a very few leaders, who lead because people are following them, not because they have a title on their door.”

He continues, “Could you imagine a company with no office hours, even in manufacturing, with self-managed work teams who own the decisions they will have to carry out? Unlimited vacation, and profit sharing for everyone?”

They may seem unbelievable, but these companies are popping up everywhere, in every size and in every industry. Other organizations are quickly seeing the benefits and rushing to transition. Because, benefit they will. 

Participation Age companies thrive. Blakeman says they outperform the overwhelming majority of companies still operating under an Industrial Age management. They grow faster, are more stable, have higher profits and productivity and far less employee turnover.

As we’ve always believed, people genuinely want to do good work and feel good about what they are doing. Participation Age companies get out of the way and let them do it. And it works.

To hear more about Participation Age companies and what they are doing differently, watch Blakeman’s TEDx Talk, “The Emerging Work World in the Participation Age.” You won’t regret it.