Philip Whiteley's Blog

November 6, 2014

What kind of revolution do we want?

Filed under: Uncategorized — felipewh @ 9:19 am

Yesterday evening, I was honoured to be an invited guest at an over-subscribed meeting in the Grand Committee Room of the House of Commons. It was 5th November, and the atmosphere could not have been more electrifying. Anti-capitalist protesters from the Anonymous group outside were chanting and setting off fireworks. They were clearly audible inside the hall as we listened to the hosts, Rehman Chishti the Conservative MP for Gillingham and Rainham, and Professor Vlatka Hlupic, whose ideas I wrote about earlier this week.

Vlatka referred to the recent financial crisis, and pointed out that the collapse of major institutions such as Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers and Northern Rock were not accidents, but the results of deeply flawed approaches to governance and management: too much greed, short-termism, neglect of people and an autocratic management style. There is a proven alternative, based on engagement of workers and respect for society, and she presented her formidable evidence base to back this up. A questioner said that this knowledge is not new – and asked her what can change to make it mainstream. She struck an optimistic and personal note:

This is my life’s work; I have connected with like-minded thinkers: the shift has occurred at many organizations. We use slightly different language but we’re all working towards the same goal. We are confident we are approaching a tipping point. It’s a matter of education; raising awareness. If you talk to CEOs and show them the figures; show them the research, it just makes sense.

Back outside, amid the protestors with their Guido Fawkes masks (some capitalists in the injection-moulding plastics business are doing well out of the crisis) I was struck by the naive simplicity of their current slogan: “One solution: revolution.” It’s a strikingly unambitious vision – revolutions tend to be the start of complex, messy processes, not the culmination. It’s also ironically similar to the naive simplicity of the business process re-engineering brigade, who often claim that this or that IT system or restructure is a ‘solution’. As Vlatka understands, if you neglect people you never get a good result.

So I think the truly radical message was heard inside the Palace of Westminster, not outside. But the protestors outside lend a certain urgency, and pose a question: What kind of revolution do we want? A revolution in mindset, away from exploitation, neglect of people, greed, excessive debt and rampant ecological destruction towards better governance and responsible management in corporations and the public sector? Or the more violent, unpredictable revolution that increasingly threatens from the margins?

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5 Comments »

  1. After leaving Vlatka’s groundbreaking talk at the House of Commons last night a couple of us walked through the group of protesters who were chanting for the release of Julian Assange and it made me wonder about the differences between those who focus on negative “tear-it-down” revolutions and those who focus on positive “change-it-for-the-better-and-here’s-how-we-can-do-it” revolutions.

    Both inevitably get “arrows in their hats” but the “tear-it-down” ones get them from the front and tend to get stopped in their tracks and the positive revolutionaries get arrows from the back, but fewer and fewer as they accelerate away to the West to be followed later by the risk-averse who oh-so-slowly have to catch up.

    Philip Whiteley’s intelligent perspective I think might point to the question – Is there a line to be drawn between revolutionaries and pioneers? And if the latter, who would like to join us on Vlatka’s waggon train?

    Comment by Phil Shepherd — November 6, 2014 @ 11:06 am | Reply

  2. Thanks Phil. Lovely metaphor. Vlatka and I do intend to construct a ‘waggon’ heading in a positive direction. Let us know if you want to be involved. The next event is evening of 20 November – let us know if you can attend.

    Comment by felipewh — November 6, 2014 @ 11:21 am | Reply

  3. I wish I’d been there to hear it. From what I already know of Vlatka’s work, I think the revolution that both Philips speak of is coming, but sporadically. As with so many intelligent re-shapings of the ‘norm’, it requires similar intelligence in the audience – which sadly excludes many of our current leaders and authority figures, who have been so well-served by the ‘old way’. They have a phalanx of lackeys ready to fire the arrows and shield them from any backlash. How do we get at them to start the shift in mindset? Can we?

    Comment by Nigel Girling — November 6, 2014 @ 11:59 am | Reply

  4. Thanks so much for your contribution Nigel. What we’re talking about as a follow-up is some kind of think-tank, movement. We can potentially get some big names involved. Next step is the meeting on 20th. I will ensure that this is formally followed up.

    Comment by felipewh — November 6, 2014 @ 12:06 pm | Reply

  5. Thank you all for great comments! I will be talking about The Management Shift at the Croatian Embassy in London on 25.11, 18:00-19:00. There are places available if anyone wants to find out more about TMS.

    Comment by Vlatka Hlupic — November 18, 2014 @ 8:38 pm | Reply


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