Chuck Blakeman

Why does the world need a work revolution? (In other words: the way we’re working isn’t working. Why not?)
Because the Industrial Age management practices we inherited from the 19th century factory system just aren’t working for us in today’s world. We may not have assembly lines and smoke stacks anymore, but just about everything else we do in the front office looks just like it did in 1890; system designed by geniuses to be run by idiots, with guys in ties making all the decisions. We’ll know we have it right when Dilbert is no longer funny.

How are you or your organization reinventing work in some way (big or small)?
We’re working with Results Leaders around the world to actively transform the way businesses are run. We’re working with hundreds of companies to pull them out of the Industrial Age management practices into the Participation Age, and we’re practicing what we preach. As a Participation Age company, we have no managers who solve and decide (no one reports to anyone else), just Leaders who train others to solve and decide, and then who get out of the way. And we have no employees who have to be herded into an Office Day Care Center to be supervised and told what to do; but Stakeholders, who are self-motvated, self-managed adults who own their work and don’t need to be managed. We also have no promotions; people figure out how to make a bigger impact and they get paid more. And no work hours or vacation time. The result is a highly organized, very well oiled machine where everyone has clarity on their roles and responsibilities, much moreso than if we had managers trying to tell people what to do.

This isn’t a fringe idea, but the office of the present future. There are already dozens of giant corporations, hundreds of big companies and tens of thousands of small ones functioning this way. Right now it may sound a bit unique, but in a few years, companies that have rejected Industrial Age management practices will be a big duh.

Why do you do what you do?
Because I can Make Meaning at work, not just money. Our company vision is To Live Well By Doing Good. We work that out by playing a part in transforming businesses and business leader’s lives around the world. And I personally am driven by filling gaps. I’ve always been motivated by this question I heard in my twenties, “Why do what others can and will do, when there’s so much to be done that others can’t, or won’t do?”

What kind of art (any kind) do you like and why? Any recommendations we should know about?
Collin Schaafsma builds custom bicycles that are works of art. The designs are amazingly elegant and incorporate innovations that nobody else is doing. Everyone should take a look at and appreciate his artwork. For those who don’t see bikes or other “mundane” things as possible art, I would suggest a broader view of what we think of as art. I help run an annual art and beauty conference every year, and we invite artists who paint, sculpt, make tea, write books and poetry, build houses, make movies, design gardens, create new products, own a b&b, and yes, even make cool bikes. Anyone being creative in any way should see themselves as an artist.

What is one specific thing your company does that makes your culture unique and/or different?
We hire people for culture first, then for innate talents, never for skills or experience. You can teach skills and experience, but talent and culture can’t be taught. We have a ten-step hiring process, and we don’t even ask for resumes until we’re near the end and down to just a couple candidates, and even then, we just glance at them. As a result, we hire great people who are a perfect culture match, and who we hope will stay a lifetime.

What is one discipline/industry totally different from your own that has inspired you? How does it impact your work?
Solving poverty. I’ve done a lot of work studying how to get the done, and the conclusion is that non-profits make it worse. They’re great at solving a lot of things, but not poverty. The only way to solve poverty is to build economies on the backs of lots of small businesses. Capitalism will actually solve poverty, and China is proof. 700 million people came out of utter destitution in just 20 years (1981-2001) in China, and not a single non-profit was involved. Instead, the government gave ownership of the land and the small shops back to the people, and they made it happen through capitalism.

There are about that many people living in extreme poverty in Africa right now. The nonprofits need to get out of the way and business owners like myself need to start small and local businesses over there and train people to run them., then own them. Ownership is the most powerful motivator in business, which is why this worked in China — they got their ownership back. How does this impact our work? Everyone at Crankset Group owns their job, processes, teamwork and results, As owners, we all get more done.

What’s one tangible and concrete technique other organizations should use if they want to create a more human and/or meaningful place to work?
Stop managing and start leading. The art of leadership is to know how few decisions the leader needs to make. Ricardo Semler owns an $800 million company and just celebrated his 10th anniversary of not making a decision. That’s tremendous leadership. Whenever possible, decisions should be made by those who will have to carry them out, not by people “above” them. That creates ownership and adult Stakeholders, and frees the leader to stop deciding, and focus on asking questions. Every business leader should strive to have a minimum of 50% of their time unscheduled so they can be strategic and focus on asking questions instead of making decisions.

What is one surprising thing we should know about you?
I was trained as a classical musician (clarinetist) and played in symphonies early in my career. And it took me nineteen years to get a college degree (I only did it to make my mom happy). I don’t see any correlation between education and success, but between learning and success; vastly different things.

What do you do for fun?
I ride bicycles; road biking long distances, and a “fat bike” (extremely big tires) in mud and snow.

What is “required reading” or “required viewing” for people who want to understand what makes you tick? (3 articles/videos/links)
I’m a columnist for Inc. Magazine – you can read my stuff here. I also did a TEDx talk, so you can get my whole biz philosophy in 14 minutes right here.

Where in the world are you?
Greenwood Village, CO

How can people connect with you?

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