Sometimes we can miss change that happens right before our eyes. That might be what's going on in our country now, as cooperatively owned businesses are finding footholds in the US and creating a new model of how businesses can run effectively. Gar Alpervotiz wrote an inspiring article about the growth of cooperative workplaces that may be paving the way toward dynamic democratization of business in America. You can read his article, Worker-Owners of America, Unite, in the New York Times online.
He emphasizes that it might be easy to over-estimate the possibilities of a new system. However, when you see the trend toward collaborative alliances popping up in many different forms and many different places, it does seem to signal that something new and good is happening. Just as the importance of lean manufacturing is far greater than the improved bottom line from the companies that practice lean, the importance of cooperative workplaces is greater than the incidences. They show that the alternative to the kind of capitalism that has developed isn't just a socialistic model. We're seeing living examples of how business systems that collaborate without compromise are truly viable alternatives.
Change happens when: the pain gets bad enough, the vision of possibilities is inspiring enough, and the steps are clear. We're feeling the pain in the US, and both lean companies, and worker-owned companies, are showing us visions of new models. Their experience can help us see the steps to the change, with added benefit from forward thinkers like Rod Collins, author of Leadership in a Wiki World, Mike Rother, author of Toyota Kata, and Tom Wujik, champion of The Marshmallow Challlenge, who teach the iterative approach to change, learning with each step. As Alpervotiz notes, the pain of our broken system just might be bad enough that we're ready for the options.