Letting Gen Y Lead a Management Makeover

As Generation Y enters the workforce, its members are undoubtedly having an effect on organizations and management. I often wonder what would happen if we were to give Gen Y the license to reinvent companies completely.

I have a lot of faith in the Millennials' imagination, based partly on my experience at HCL, in the area of technology innovation. I also know that many senior executives feel threatened by their behavior. As I mentioned in an earlier post, their tendency to question how things are done, rather than following instructions, can be unsettling.

But keep in mind how alien most organizational environments must seem to them. Used to the web's meritocracy, they face rigid hierarchies. Comfortable with the transparency of social networking sites, they bump up against information silos and knowledge hoarding.

My confidence in Gen Y — as well as my faith in bottom-up innovation — has been reinforced over the past month as I perused the entries submitted to the HCL MBA M-Prize. Organized in conjunction with Gary Hamel's Management Innovation eXchange (MIX) — a collaborative platform dedicated to the reinvention of management — the contest offers B-school students a chance to come up with proposals that point toward the organization of the future.

Some of the most interesting themes emerging from the entries so far:

Increasing democratic influence on the appointment of leaders. ("The Organization Structure as Free Market").

Giving people the chance to shape their work and organizations ("Ideas.com"; "The Management Tree"; "Internal bidding for task assignment").

Creating ways to bypass the filters that impede direct communications ("Can your organization handle the truth?" ; "Live Stream Coffee Chat"; "Who's the Boss?").

Correcting the in-built bias towards incrementalism ("Stop incremental change and foster 'Bold Moves'"; "What if customer delight was our only measurement?").

As diverse in scope and ambition as these ideas are, they share a central theme: They describe the business world as the Millennials think it should be. This new generation is driven by the unwillingness to inherit some of the negative features of traditional management; indeed, by a sense of indignation that corporate citizens haven't already demanded better for themselves.

These ideas are interesting, but I know there are more out there. There is a little more than a month left (the deadline is March 20, 2011) to submit your ideas for redistributing power, unleashing human capability, and fostering renewal in organizations. In support of this creative revolution, HCL is offering a $50,000 budget to the winning student or team to test the idea in our company, which has a largely 20-something workforce.

I am looking forward to seeing more great "hacks" from what Gary Hamel has called Generation F, or the Facebook generation — quite possibly the best hope for driving a new era of experimentation in management practice.

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