Building A Sustainable Hierarchy In A World of Uncertainty

There is always a hierarchy. Everything has a hierarchical structure. It happens when we place more value over another thing.

This is from your thoughts structure, the way your works, your neighbourhood, your group of friends, your business, society in general, politics. You name it, it has a hierarchal structure.

And hierarchies change. They are dynamic, moving structures. They define themselves around a common identity or purpose. They build up and fall down. They change, they adjust and they move.

And there are only three hierarchies we see:

The first is dogmatic, centralised, authoritarian one. It has a very narrow base with a firm, fixed ideology or identity holding it together. It’s defined by a very structured centralisation policy. Think about the old business model, China, Lenin, Hitler. Julius. They are good for certain things and terrible for others. Their limits are the lack of new ideas and new thinking. Think of this as a centralisation strategy.

The second is a very flat, flexible one. It’s a decentralised hierarchy. It has no centre and vacillates from one side to the other (sometimes extremely). There is no fundamental purpose that is holding it together. There is a free flow of information, but it never gets used within a feedback loop. There are no limits and is chaos. Think fake news, weak leadership, no strategy.

Then there is a distributed hierarchy. It has a very clear purpose at the centre. Yet there is no dogmatic way of doing things. There is a feedback loop where the purpose unfolds based on the flow of information. It grows, changes and adapts and is sustainable. It plays the long game. Not too much, not too little. This is the open source community. This is what the blockchain promises.

The most powerful of the three is the decentralised hierarchy. Yet it’s the one we least try and build. There’s your opportunity.

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Michael Cowen

Michael Cowen

Michael Cowen is the CEO of WTF and co-host on the ThinkWTF Podcast. I focus on helping business build systems to respond to exponential change and thrive. You can book my keynotes on WTF Keynotes

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