Everything you know about organisations is (probably) wrong.

Remember the film “The Matrix?”

The character Neo is locked in a dead-end job, with no friends to speak of and a generally sucky, reclusive lifestyle schackled to his desk. That’s until he stumbles across something mysterious on his computer, called “The Matrix”.

After tracking down some people who know what “The Matrix” is all about, he eventually ends up with a choice of two pills, one red and one blue.


The blue pill allows him to continue on with his normal life, none the wiser, having forgotten everything. Same stress, same frustrations, no change.

The red pill however, will allow him to escape the matrix and enter into the ‘real’ world outside, to become part of a apocalyptic war between man and machine.

If you think in his shoes, you would have chosen the blue pill. You probably don’t want to read the rest of this post, or indeed this blog.

Oh and by the way, so you know, once you take the red pill, you can never go back. Ever. Ok?

To start, just for a moment, take a leap of faith, and let’s play the what if game.

What if :

  • everything that school taught you was wrong.
  • every job you ever worked in, was based on this incorrect assumption learned from school.
  • Newspapers, books, television, radio, websites, politicians, businessmen and even super stars, repeated over and over again this incorrect assumption, until it was so ingrained into your psyche that you didn’t even realise it could be different.
  • your boss, your friends, your colleagues even your family, all believed this assumption.
  • It would be pretty hard to believe that it was wrong? Right?

    Yet over the course of Human history, these events have occurred repeatedly. We even have a name for them, they are called “Galileo Events”. Their name comes from the famous Astronomer Galileo who supposed that rather than the earth being the center of the universe, the earth orbited the sun, a belief at the time so blasphemous that he was sentenced to prison for his whole remaining life.

    Something we now take for granted as being correct, was once utterly incorrect, yet, universally accepted, taught and actively reinforced. And it wasn’t a one off.

    So then I should not be surprised, when I find myself on the abyss of my own Galileo moment concluding:

    Everything you know about organisation structure, is (probably) wrong.

    Having read W. Edwards Deming’s – Out of the crisis, Dee Hocks books on visa, and Peter Senge’s work on the fifth Discipline, I finally have reached the same conclusion:

    We are in a period of massive institutional failure.

    Of which we can’t see because the failed system is drilled into us like propaganda from an early age, from when we have implicit trust and no frame of reference, the place where we spend our most formative years. School. Is the first such institution that fails us and try’s to convince us to believe that learning is centralised, finite and the goal of learning it to get the answer ‘right’. This is the modern day equivalent of saying the world is flat, yet all traditional thinking about organisations (and leadership) is based upon it.

    Think about it. Hard.

    We live in a society where :

    • Schools can’t teach children.
    • Health-care systems can’t care for your health
    • Housing systems don’t house people.
    • Agriculture irreversibly destroys the land it uses
    • Food that has no nutritional value
    • Transport systems that can’t get you where you need to go
    • Corporations don’t co-operate
    • Police can’t enforce the law.
    • Armies can’t win wars.
    • Justice systems are no-longer just
    • Government’s can’t govern.
    • Economics that can’t economize.

    And yet, everyones first instinct is to assume the people who work in the organisation are to blame – because there’s no other option. The institution is sacred and always right…

    Isn’t it?