Extinction Rebellion are a scourge for business, aren’t they? Blocking up the capital, disrupting people’s lives, causing business unnecessary delays and costs. What possible good can come from them?
Well, for those businesses that know they need to change but aren’t sure how, Extinction Rebellion could just provide the answer. In fact, if they stopped moaning and got out of their offices, they’d find a living case study of the future of organisations is literally on their doorstep. Right in front of their eyes. In plain sight.
If you are surprised at the idea of Extinction Rebellion representing anything that business would be interested in, I invite you to ignore the crude mis-characterisations and lazy journalistic cliches used by the papers and look more closely at how ER embodies the characteristics of a cutting-edge organisation.
Firstly, it is clearly purpose-led and that purpose is to save the planet from climate destruction. Purpose doesn’t come much more purposeful than that.
Secondly, it is self-organising. There’s no hierarchy, no command and control structure, no leadership. It actually uses Holocracy, a governance system for self-managing that has been adopted by a number of organisations including Zappos, a division of Amazon.
And Thirdly, it encourages people to bring their whole self to the organisation and use all their talents. There’s no ‘corporate uniform’, no ‘work mask’, no norms or pretence of any sort.
These are the three characteristics the new TEAL type of organisation that Frederick Laloux identifies in his seminal book “Reinventing Organisations”.
It’s not just the theory though. No-one can deny that Extinction Rebellion is highly agile, adaptive and responsive in a highly dynamic situation. Isn’t that how business needs to be to survive today?
Innovative? Definitely. And extremely creative, using all sorts of surprising and often amusing actions to get their points across. One of my favourites was a pink octopus that had to be surrounded by police and marched down Whitehall (accusations that this was an over-reaction by the police were countered by the observation that the subject was ‘heavily-armed’).
It’s highly collaborative, as the independent parts of Extinction Rebellion worked together to multiply their impact and amplify their message. There’s none of the ego-driven, territory-defending behaviour you see in many organisations, none of the politics, blame-game or poncing about you normally get. This is very much where business is going today as it move away from all-out competition.
And they have killer branding. The Extinction Rebellion logo is instantly recognisable and almost overnight has achieved levels of recognition most businesses can only dream of.
People are flocking to be part of Extinction Rebellion, too. They have no shortage of recruits and people willing to give their talents for the good of the cause. These aren’t the ‘anarchists, professional demonstrators and layabouts’ as the tabloids like to trot out, but highly skilled professionals, talented artists, committed campaigners and people from all walks of life and age groups. An exceptional pool of talent and effort at their disposal for almost no effort.
“Ok, Colin” I hear you say, “apart from the agility, responsiveness, innovation, creativity, collaboration, killer branding, effortless talent acquisition and cutting edge organisation structure, what on earth can businesses learn from Extinction Rebellion?”
Well, they are having a massive impact, shifting perceptions, setting the agenda and actually changing the world.
You’re probably right, though. After all, they’re just a bunch of hemp-smelling crusties, what can they teach us?