Nicholson, N., London Business School, United Kingdom
As we embark on a new millennium much is being written about how our lives, institutions and society are being transformed by forces for change, led by the exponential development of science and technology. One set of outcomes is called the new economy - transformations to nature of jobs, organizations and ways of doing business. Evolutionary psychology reminds us that in the midst of these revolutions one element is not changing - human nature. In my book Managing the Human Animal (in the USA, Executive Instinct) I analyse the implications of the new Darwinism for management and business. In this presentation I to consider how we can use these ideas to make the new economy work for us, looking at four areas of my research interest: Leadership, culture, decision-making, and interpersonal skills. (1)Leadership: There is growing anxiety about an insufficient supply of leadership talent, plus disillusionment with many of the people that lead us now. I shall discuss how prevailing features of organizational design and career development often screen out leadership talent. New organizational forms offer opportunities for different styles and approaches to be developed and fostered. (2)Culture: Employees are also often cynical and mistrustful in their attitude to their organizations. This is because relationships are often fragmented, short- lived, and low trust. Family firms, one of the most enduring and important organizational forms, provide a model for understanding key elements in the best and worst of organizational culture. (3)Decision-making: Technological fixes cannot eliminate the role of biases in human judgement. Drawing on my work in financial services I shall discuss how we can develop strategies and processes to help surface, counter, and control the sources of cognitive errors and accidents. (4)Interpersonal skills: Our natural modes of interaction, and individual differences in interpersonal styles are often a source of difficulties in business contexts. I shall introduce a model I currently use in executive training to counter these and discuss how we can support more open and effective ways of relating. We need to be the masters not the victims of our creations. Regulating technology and economy will not be enough. Institution builders, leaders, and politicians will need to be led by awareness of the essentials of human nature in their attempts to set frameworks to govern our working lives and business conduct.