The Mindful Org

Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.
– Viktor E. Frankl

One of the first questions we often get when introducing The Responsive Organization is the difference between reaction and response. The Responsive Organization is not a reactive organization. In organizations, like in people, reactions are driven by primitive signals and base instincts. Fight, flight, or freeze are reactions we see in both people and organizations. In short, reaction is action without meditation (cognition and awareness).

In fact, the Responsive Organization shares a lot in common with a mindfulness based stress reduction practice in human beings. Mindfulness attempts to make oneself aware of both internal and external conditions and one’s own reactions (or judgements) to those conditions in order to live more fully from moment to moment. MBSR was originally developed to help those living with chronic pain and has been the subject of hundreds of research studies since the late 1970′s when it was developed.

Like a mindful person, a Responsive Organization is constantly sensing its environment and itself, yet relying on awareness of both to form a response rather than mindlessly react. In an organization, this is a process that involves both systems thinking and sensemaking – to understand the organization’s environment, to understand the forces behind those conditions, and to estimate the outcome of a response.

If you’re interested in MBSR, I highly encourage you to start by watching this video of Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, founder of the practice, giving a talk at Google.

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Dis-Organizational Design


Microsoft employees vent on anonymous network, Secret.

Venture capitalists used to define a ‘startup’ as a company still seeking product/market fit. Once that was solved, a company was sure to scale for the foreseeable future. Today, the future is far less foreseeable, the pace of change being exponential, and product/market fit has become a continual struggle for every company, not just startups.

The re-org is a tool of a bygone era, where product/market fit could be won and done. The 21st century organization tests and adapts product/market fit in real-time, and it re-orgs in real-time, too. But most companies today don’t re-org in real-time. Instead of small, continuous refinements in structure and practice (driven by the teams that do the work), legacy organizations undergo sever pain and re-alignment every 18 months, driven by leadership whims and financial emergencies.

The result is the image above – downtrodden employees with pessimism for the future.

Read our post, The Last Re-Org You’ll Ever Do.

How We Transformed Marketing at Electrolux

Recognizing the need for integration, Electrolux’s digital, trade, brand and product marketers worked together to create a cohesive experience from pre-purchase, to the purchase itself, to post-purchase service and beyond. To this end we eliminated silos between functions including marketing, sales, IT, consumer insight, and innovation and established “consumer experience teams” in each business and region. These teams include consumer insight, brand, product, retail, digital, social, and consumer care specialists who now closely work together to create integrated consumer experiences and launch plans. We also moved responsibility for the post-purchase experience into marketing — all of the services, onboarding, registration, and add-on purchases and support that people receive after they buy.

This is smart. Copy this.

Mobile Money For Everyone

Safaricom’s M-Pesa just made a rare ROS platform decision. They are dropping the exclusivity restrictions that bound their mobile money agents to Safaricom services only. This means their vast network of agents can provide services for rival mobile money networks, and it prepares the way for users to seamlessly send money to people on different networks (the equivalent of an AT&T customer freely sending mobile money to a Verizon customer). This is a huge step towards making mobile money systems in Africa interoperable.

Responsive organizations create platforms for the world to build upon. Safaricom is starting to embrace an M-Pesa that’s bigger than themselves.

The Internet’s Middleman Fairytale

The Internet, at its core, is a marketplace that, over time, removes the need for the middleman.

I usually agree with almost everything Fred Wilson says, this assumption in particular however, I do not.

The Internet is like any other ecosystem (or complex adaptive system) in that it is constantly creating new niches, and players (organisms or firms) can adapt to fill those niches. As a complex adaptive system, the web will create new opportunities for niches and new opportunities for power struggles. But it will not actively destroy old opportunities in order to equalize power. The creation of a new niche can easily make the role of a broker, someone who can navigate a more complex landscape, even more valuable.

Furthermore, every dominant player on the web IS a middleman because of the complexity in the world and our inability to grapple with its sheer scale. Facebook is a middleman to your friends, Google is a middleman to the web, LinkedIn is a middleman to HR departments around the world, Amazon is a middleman to just about every business selling a physical good. The Internet is a market (as Wilson points out), and markets have ALWAYS rewarded middlemen, not the other way around. That’s why every market needs some measure of oversight and protection from monopolies. Markets don’t destroy them on their own, they eventually emerge because of market forces themselves.

Seeking a Part-Time Research Assistant in Los Angeles

Come support Undercurrent and

As a Research Assistant for Undercurrent Los Angeles, you’ll be actively researching categories and concepts for new business pitches as well as client work. This is a part-time position of 20 hours a week. Duties will undoubtedly include:

  • Developing a research process and management system for UC:LA
  • Conducting in-depth analysis on business categories
  • Authoring reports containing actionable recommendations
  • Researching and building communication databases (conferences, decision makers, media)

Send your details to