Gilles Lipovetsky – Enterprise cannot accept this dichotomy

In fact this is a paradoxical model. Because the more collaboration and activity from workers is needed, the more, in a certain way, many of them feel deprived of important decisions, because those are made by the Management Board, because they need cutbacks, because decision making is dictated by quarterly performance… So on one side there is more and more intimacy or request for intimacy, and on another side, we may see more and more distance from important decisions, so today even managers, we see that in many surveys, show this detachment from enterprise. So we see both, on one side there is this need, for activity, for participation, for collaboration, and so on, which is necessary to enterprise, but probably to others to, because workers are better trained, they need to be more active, to harness their intelligence, and on the other side they feel that important decisions are eluding them. If you relocate your company, if you decide on laying off, this is not the collaborative model. So you need not to take this model as an absolute, and to see that both coexist, and sometime even coexist in a strong antagonism, and here undoubtedly lies one of the challenges for the XXIst century enterprise.

Because enterprise asks more and more for collaboration, asks more and more for employees’ mobilization, for employees’ empowerment, but at the same time, managers see pretty well. They see. They say: “OK, aren’t we adjustment variables? How will one deal with us if the wind begins to blow?” The model that I think is developing is, on one side workers, managers at least, are more and more wishful of being more committed to work smarter, and at this level there is nothing to be feared of, but at the same time there is a detachment from companies as a collective. So it is the genius of enterprise that has to re-mobilize their managers and employees. Companies cannot content themselves, cannot accept this dichotomy.

Interview conducted by Frédéric Gilbert.

Gilles Lipovetsky – Collaboration is an answer to businesses’ needs, not people’s needs

I believe that the collaborative enterprise fulfills more the needs of companies than those of people, of employees. Employees, they need, I would like to say, you know, in surveys and studies, one of the biggest employees’ expectations is a better mood at the workplace. The workplace’s mood, it isn’t the collaborative enterprise, it is the office, it is the hierarchy, the way they are evaluated, objectives they are given, it is the real work. Don’t forget this. The real expectation of workers is the real work. They way they work in real life.

On the other hand, the company needs this collaborative model. Why? Because it is a way to develop corporate collective intelligence. We need information, we need to create communication, but why, because ideas may spark. What is successful here, why couldn’t I adapt it myself? I see in the collaborative enterprise rather something which answer businesses’ needs for innovation and productivity than something which would answer, let’s say, people’s needs for affectivity and communication.

Because for people it exists in the reality. The atmosphere of the workplace, the relationships with the hierarchy, the refusal of stress as a management model, that is what is real for people. But not for businesses. Businesses need, in a high context of competitiveness and competition , to leverage talents, to harness people’s creativity.

Interview conducted by Frédéric Gilbert.

Gilles Lipovetsky – Class solidarities have been dismantled

Consumption, in previous models, was deeply linked to class consumption. You consumed according to your social group. Today, all of this is blown out. It is a… what I have called a variable geometry turbo-consumer, well, who consumes low cost products with luxury goods. There is no constraint anymore, if you want, un a conformist model of consumption, it is completely blown out. Inside companies, it is somehow the same. Because, before, there was… you had relationships according to the group you belonged to. Today, people’s relationships are at the same time inside the company and outside of it, and maybe class solidarities have been dismantled, maybe the collaborative enterprise comes and fills the void of the breakup of class solidarities which existed in former times. Does it succeed? This is another story, but there is probably an overall need for exchange, for link, for contact. I don’t know if networks, intranets, enterprise social networks are able to succeed in this, I don’t know and it depends. Probably not. In the same manner that Facebook doesn’t succeed in replacing your real friends.

Interview conducted by Frédéric Gilbert.

Gilles Lipovetsky – Quest for well being has become fundamental

I think that competition is necessary between companies, and the question I am asking to myself is: shouldn’t competition exist at the heart of companies, to be able to mobilize people? This also reminds me a bit the previous question, and we must also be careful here. Because on one side we find the collaborative model, but on the other side we find the necessary productivity and profitability, and there, it doesn’t create the collaborative model. It creates stress-based management. As you know it, in companies, there are more and more mental diseases, nervous breakdowns, all these things which are very expensive for the country as well as for the company. As you see, extreme models come together.

On one side we promote this kind of generalized communication, of participation, of interactivity, and so on, and in fact, in many companies, we find a stress-based model – not in every company – but which really exists. Both models, according to me, are… Even if formally there are intranets, web 2.0, blogs, whatever you want, enterprise social networks, this is contradictory. This is what leads some analysts on saying: “wait a minute, the collaborative model in itself is a gadget”. Because in fact, there is competition, there is stress. Stress-based management wins.

I think that not every company is similar, it depends how it is done, but that mustn’t be forgotten. Pushed to its limits, this management model leads to an organizational model that isn’t sustainable. It isn’t sustainable, so why? Because today, in our society of individualism and hyper-consumerism, the quest for happiness, for well-being has become something fundamental. And I don’t think that a company can sustainably and efficiently go against men and women primary aspirations.

Interview conducted by Frédéric Gilbert.

Gilles Lipovetsky – The Taylorist model doesn’t fit anymore

This global phenomenon, it is the end of the mechanistic, Taylorist, Fordist model of work. This model of extreme bureaucratization of work implied the fact that thought was concentrated in a very small number of people, and crowd was excluded. So, this model is born as you know at the beginning of the twentieth century, and it developed particularly during the three post-war decades. The, conditions of competition made that this model is no more what we are waiting for. Because for a long time we had mass-produced goods, which were of the repetitive kind.

Nowadays, things are changing, we have much more personalized orders, diversified markets, small series, which also have to adapt to consumers who request more personalization, more diversification. So, in this context of a changing market, the mechanistic, Taylorist, technocratic model doesn’t fit any more because people need to be empowered. People must bring in by themselves this part of creativity which Taylorism in fact eliminated.

So I believe that the collaborative model is developing on this ground. It comes as an answer to bigger requests for innovation, for productivity, for performance, and people have understood that, for this, enterprise needed everyone’s talent, not only talent from the more conceptually armed, from engineers, from managers, and so on. A kind of decentralization, of off-centering, is needed in order to allow all stakeholders to bring their ideas. So I believe that the collaborative model lies within this ground. We still need to understand how it concretely comes true, and I think it is very different from one company to another. Maybe for some it is still some kind of gadget, for other ones it is a real commitment which deeply changes practices.

Interview conducted by Frédéric Gilbert.