Idea Meritocracy
    Category: Column By : Andrew Tani Read : 220 Date : Thursday, January 04, 2018 - 14:46:53

    When a discussion takes place in your company, which idea wins? Overall, there are three default mechanisms to settle debates. First, idea autocracy, best described by a poster that you may have seen: “Rule #1: The boss is right. Rule #2: If the boss is wrong, see Rule #1.” Second, idea democracy, where the majority determines which idea is “right.” Tough luck for the champion of an unpopular, but correct, idea. Third, idea meritocracy, when the right answer is the true “boss,” and it doesn’t matter where it comes from, or its popularity.

    For this column, I did a quick survey of almost a hundred CEOs and executives up to two levels below BOD. On a scale of 10 (lowest) to 100 (highest), I asked them: “What in your view is the: A. current state; B. desirability; C. ability to adapt; D. willingness to adapt, of the Indonesian psyche for working relationships based on idea meritocracy?” Note down your answers before reading further, to compare.

    On average, the current state and desirability of idea meritocracy is 47 and 74, respectively. That’s a 64% realization of the desired state. The ability and the willingness to close that gap both registered at 60. My survey showed a wide spread: 20 for the current state of idea meritocracy, 16 for desirability, 19 for ability and 18 for willingness to adapt it at work.

    Only less than 10% of respondents view idea meritocracy as desirable. They assess the current state to be at the lowest levels, and perceive at low to medium levels the ability and willingness of Indonesians to adapt. An overwhelming 90% find it desirable, with a solid fifth of them weighting it at 90 or 100. One in every four rate on equal terms across the spectrum the ability and the willingness of Indonesians to use it at work. Almost half think people are more willing than able to practice it. The rest believe that the average Indonesian is not willing to face the challenges of change.

    For over three decades, I have been preaching the value of a risk-free climate that manager-leaders should nurture—a no-rank working climate for winning teams that gives all team members the right and duty to speak up. Does it make business sense? Recent Google research found that psychological safety is one of the five key ingredients to help teams perform consistently well over time. In our practice, we have proved that even a reluctant movement towards idea meritocracy can improve results.

    At Bridgewater, the world’s biggest hedge fund—$160 billion in 2016—founder Ray Dalio fosters a corporate culture that allowed the firm to avoid the 2008 meltdown and consistently outperform the industry. “Idea meritocracy demands radical honesty and radical transparency between people who are doing meaningful work and are engaged in meaningful relationships,” he has said. Is it for you?

    One of three newhires leave the company within two years of joining Bridgewater. Living in a utopian world of radical truth is not for everyone.