From hierarchies (back) to communities

For people who want to develop their understanding of themselves as humans and of society, there is probably no single, better source in the western world right now than The RSA. And I’m not exaggurating. The produce videos and podcasts of presentations and discussions with the most interesting people, often academics/writers but also politicians and business people. Think TED, but three times deeper and wider and without the flashiness.

At the RSA website there is a link to Matthew Taylor’s blog , Taylor is the Chief Excecutive of the RSA and sharp as a knife. He often comments and reflects on past presentations, and combines the insights in interesting ways. In his most recent blog he writes about how the society and its actors need to move – and is moving – towards a more networked, relational way of working, away from the hierarchical tradition:

Professor Keith Grint has explored the approach needed to address these wicked issues and speaks of the need for leadership which is ‘about questions not answers, ‘about reflection not reaction’ and ‘about relationships not structures’. To that I would add the thought (derived from this book) that leadership in less complex, more deferential times was about push (driving out instructions, messages and products) while now it is about ‘pull’ (finding ways of engaging people, fostering collaboration and attracting talent).

In an earlier post named University challenged he comments on the state of universities and states:

The ‘kind of university the 21st century needs’ could be hypothesised as follows:

Hierarchical authority  – ‘post bureaucratic and ‘normative’ i.e. based on creating a strong and inclusive conversation across the university about role, mission and distinctive character. Rather than acting as a transmission belt for governmental and commercial pressures mediating those pressures in pursuit of a shared vision. (As Keith Grint advocates; questions not answers, reflection not reaction, relationships not structures)

Solidarity – rekindled through the development of a new public value model for universities emphasising the unique contribution they can make as integrated institutions cultivating ‘new enlightenment’ values (both within and without the institution).

Individualism – ‘entrepreneurial’ (universities as experimental places not just places which conduct experiments), and ‘humanist’ (exemplifying a post materialist ideal of individual development and fulfilment (e.g. resolving the incompatibility of ‘deferential’ learner and ‘sovereign’ consumer through the development of the ideal of student as citizen).

It would be really nice to live long enough to see a clear movement in this direction, and, if possible, be part of it.

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