Saturday, January 2, 2016

Manifesto - 2016

“More powerful than the might of all the armies on Earth
is an idea whose time has come."
- Victor Hugo (1802–1885)


I’ve always enjoyed new, exciting ideas and innovations - and sharing them with others. And I tend to feel like the Pied Piper in this way.

When I was very young, my mother took me to the circus - under the big top. I was thrilled beyond words and fell in love with every part of it - especially the clowns. When we got home, I wanted to recreate that joyous feeling. So I draped a large blanket over our swing set in the backyard, invited a number of friends from our block, and we had a ball playing “Circus.”

I can now see this early experience as part of a pattern continuing through my life. And, in that light, I’m sharing something with you that I find extremely exciting - something with the potential to bring authentic joy to nearly everyone who works in an organization - a new way of operating that has stood the test of time across many industries and sectors - where people feel whole, energized, and inspired at work. Where collaboration and teamwork aren’t just buzzwords.  

Consider this: For over a century, we’ve been running organizations pretty much the same way - with decisions driven from the top down, and with a focus on the bottom line to the exclusion of everything else. Much of this model has been derived from the military and from the early industrial factories. And for a long time, it’s pretty much all we’ve known.

I expect nearly all of us have had the experience of working for a micro-managing boss. It reminds me of the game we played as kids, “Mother May I?” And have you ever had an idea for doing things more effectively, only to have someone higher up say, “That can’t be done because of X, Y, Z”? I certainly have, multiple times.

Once, I was part of an ad hoc group formed to brainstorm how we could improve our software product. Our meetings were full of high-spirits and optimism, but they were deemed too unstructured and freewheeling by management - and that was the end of that.

The result of this kind of top-down control is that an enormous amount of creativity goes out the window - and with it, motivation, enthusiasm, and dedication to doing one’s best. 
Changing the way organizations work in such a fundamental way may sound like the stuff of fantasy. But now we’re finding firms out there that have discovered how to operate in a truly humane way – and in the process they have reached a new level of effectiveness in realizing their mission.

One of the main themes - strange as it may sound - is that people are given the autonomy to manage themselves, and there is an array of practices to support this. In each of these places, people are empowered to make decisions pertaining to their work, there is no reporting hierarchy, and conflicts are resolved and meetings are run in new ways.

Learning about these organizations has been deeply inspiring for me.

These places haven’t received mainstream attention - largely because people haven’t known what to make of them - this operating mode seems to contradict everything we take for granted about how the world works.

Among many activities, these organizations have developed new, innovative ways of approaching the following:

  • Job titles and descriptions
  • Onboarding and training
  • Resolving conflicts
  • Decision making
  • Planning, budgeting, and controlling
  • Purchasing
  • Performance appraisals
  • Compensation
  • Dismissals

Now, some books have been written, documenting this phenomenon, notably Reinventing Organizations: A Guide to Creating Organizations Inspired by the Next Stage in Human Consciousness, by Frederic Laloux. Laloux describes in detail the various principles and methods employed by a dozen organizations - from a tomato processing company and an outdoor apparel maker in the US to a home care nursing firm in The Netherlands. One of these organizations, The Morning Star Company, has even created a Self-Management Institute

With my background as an MBA working in many organizations (large and small, corporations and nonprofits), I aim to apply my talents as an innovative educator, coach, relationship-builder, and inveterate networker to help more and more organizations move in this enlightened direction. As challenging as it may be, the benefits across the board will be remarkable. People who have experienced working in this way swear they will never go back.

Call to Action: How You Can Help

I’m seeking to connect with others who share this passion for improving our organizations. If you’re one of them - or if I’ve simply piqued your curiosity - please let me know. And if you know someone who should be aware of this, would you please point me in their direction? In this way, you can contribute to this grand awakening!

Feel free to contact me at or

About Robb:

My career has woven the triple threads of education, technology, and relationship-building. My affinity for one-to-one conversations has led me into coaching, where I’m able to listen deeply, ask effective questions, and help others clarify their goals and take intentional steps in their chosen direction.

I’ve done many things, including:

  • Designed applications to help people learn and share knowledge
  • Taught classes in technology as well as soft skills
  • Preserved land for open space in New Jersey
  • Promoted greenway development to enable safe walking and biking between and through communities
  • Consulted with religious leaders to strengthen Reform Jewish congregations

Throughout my career, I’ve developed skills working with others in a collaborative mode. I’m always learning - in many areas - and I’m adept at connecting the dots to grasp the larger picture. In recent years, my affinity with the natural environment has deepened, and I realize more and more how we need to connect with each other and also with the Earth in moving toward a sustainable future.

I’ve been practicing mindfulness for 10 years, which has helped me understand better how to increase compassion for myself and others - and deeply appreciate this one wild and precious life.

I believe the future is bright for us, if we can truly wake up to all the blessings we have and learn how to work together toward common goals.


John Patrick Foster said...

Robb, I'm trying to post again. I so agree with your ideas here. It could make such a positive change to "free market" economies and working conditions to adopt such ideas. It would be a boon for workers' rights and for human rights overall.

Robb Kushner said...

Thanks so much, John!
You make me smile!

Unknown said...

Thank you Robb. Just found your blog and realise it is 1 year old but still very pertinent. I am on the same page and have been trying to influence my organisation in this way with some success but lits of frustration. I have now taken early retirement to set up my Coaching Practice. Thank you.

Viv Hamilton said...

Sorry Robb its Viv Hamilton