Go big or go lazy (or both)

I wrote about Ricardo Semler earlier, mentioning his tendency towards laziness. That is to say, I interpret his habit of trying to figure out each morning which of the things on his to-do list he can delegate or simply not do without getting into too much trouble. I call it ‘being lazy’, a trend-sensitive management adept would probably call it ‘being lean‘. Of course, I am exaggerating. Semler can’t be as lazy as he lets on. No successful business builds itself – it takes blood, sweat and tears. But apparently, some people are conservative in their bodily-fluid shedding. Let’s go for the hyperbole and call it laziness.

Then, the other day, I stumbled across this article about a Japanese philosophy student called Netaro whose lifestyle is just about the opposite of Semler’s. Netaro apparently lives in a shed he built himself or in a tiny trailer hooked up to a travels the country (or perhaps the world, by now?) on a moped on which he travels the country. His personal belongings consist of a solar-powered laptop, a mobile phone, a sleeping bag and apparently not much more than that. Continue reading

Can we have a Semco for the poor and lazy, please?

Crises make people think. On the whole, we are a rather lazy species and we prefer to only change if we really have to. And so, the current financial crisis makes us think just a bit more deeply about how we organize our working lives. A topic right up the ally of the makers of the Dutch TV program ‘Tegenlicht’, which revolves around in-depth investigative journalism of societal issues. They produced a collection of inspiring documentaries, one of which featuring the promising miracle of social innovation called Semco, headed by the charismatic visionary Ricardo Semler. You can view it here (it’s in Dutch though).

What I picked up from the documentary is this: Semco is great (hallelujah) because it (allegedly) completely breaks with the classic way of organizing labor. That is, instead of having a boss that tells people what to do and how to do it, Semler expects his people to find out for themselves what they like to do best. He also expects them to form a sort of micro-society that caters to a wide range of needs not directly related to Semco’s operations, including recreation and education. Semco employees – or perhaps ’employees’ is too narrow a term, let’s call these people ‘Semconians’ – are even allowed and encouraged to recruit their peers. Continue reading