Workplace democracy

Would you be willing to have your colleagues decide on how much you make and what value you bring to the organization?

This type of radical transparency is bound to make a lot of people uncomfortable but it’s exactly the type of visibility that employees at Semco, a Brazilian industrial manufacturing company, have into the operations of the company.

Employees set their own wages, productivity targets, schedules and even choose their managers. Moreover, for important strategic decisions Semco each of the company’s 3000 employees votes – whether it’s about a merger, an acquisition, or plant relocations. For other less strategic discussions employees have two open seats on the Board of Directors that anybody can occupy on a first-come first serve basis. And finally in order to stimulate new ideas, the company holds a monthly “idea meeting” to put creative employees in touch with those with budgetary control – an internal VC club.

Key to enabling this culture Read the rest of this entry »


The reputation economy and government

We’re all familiar with the concrept of reputation and how in a world of social networks, voting and rank, it’s becoming increasingly important.

That’s not, however, to say that it’s a new concept. Information asymmetry in commerce is a centuries old problem. Solving it through reputation is equally ancient. We may associate eBay with our modern definition of online reputation but the concept is perhaps earliest associated by archival records of trading between Maghribi merchants in the 11the century. Research on these early economic transactions show that the key to curtailing “opportunistic behaviour and promoting trust between agents” in an environment of high information asymmetry was a system of reputations that was developed and shared between the agents within a trading coalition or network.

Like on eBay, success for the seller rested upon the fear of exclusion from the trading network – thus promoting honest behaviour and fair trading amongst Maghribi merchants.

Fast forward to today and we’re all aware of the use of rankings and feedbacks to vet the quality of a buyer or seller on eBay, or rank the quality of submissions from participants in communities like Wikipedia, Sermo or World of Warcraft.

But can we take this concept of applying cheap and available reputation information to offset quality and reliability problems in Government? Read the rest of this entry »

The Net Gen meets a recession

“The swooning economy has also poured a cold shower on many Generation Yers, who grew up coddled, courted and figuring they’d have an easy career ride.”

There’s no doubt that the short-term job market prospects for anyone looking for a career change have been disrupted by the last six months of economic upheaval. We’ve gone from touting the war for talent to focusing on the impacts of delayed retirement and decimated pension funds on the workplace.

As a recent McKinsey report notes, “Eighty-five percent of the boomers we surveyed said that it was at least somewhat likely that they would continue to work beyond the traditional retirement age. Nearly 40 percent said that it was extremely likely, and of those, two-thirds emphasized financial reasons.”

Read the rest of this entry »