hunters in the jungle

The challenge for workers in what is becoming a freelance & gig economy is to survive in the global jungle. Work is moving toward temporary, negotiated hierarchies. The challenge for the modern organization is to have a flexible enough structure to let people move in and out of the jungle. Workers can also find short-term informal communities which can function like game preserves to develop skills necessary for the jungle, but in a safer environment.  Staying too long in an organization (a zoo) destroys their jungle instincts and disconnects them from the world of their clients. Read more at life in the jungle.

Gianpiero Petriglieri examined 55 managers for a year and discerned two distinctly different types: hunters and explorers. Hunters seem to be best adapted to a life of constantly moving between jungles and zoos.

“The pursuit of portability (cloaked as leadership) took two different forms. Some people, whom we colloquially called ‘hunters,’ had a clear view of whom they aspired to become but saw themselves as lacking the competence and connections that would get them there … The hunters regarded others as role models and sources of feedback, and the institution as a training ground … Hunters focused on cultivating flexibility — the ability to get along with different groups and adapt to the demands of many organizations. —HBR: The Portable Leader

Hunters see their work as life in perpetual beta. Working for an organization gives them practical experience but it is from their extended social networks in the jungle that they understand their environment. Staying connected to the jungle ensures their knowledge and skills are current. A challenge for today’s organizations, as described in Petriglieri’s article, is “fostering [career] portability without devaluing loyalty”.

Organizations today should be designed less like attractive prisons and more like pop-up zoos. Networks are in a state of perpetual beta. Organizations in the network era should be designed for continuous reorganization. The current organizational tyranny was a response to a linear, print-based world. The current organizational model, as attractive prison, is an artifact of a time when information was scarce and hard to share, and when external connections were difficult to make. The current model is based on command and control. In the network era, connections are easy. Enabling hunters will ensure organizations remain relevant in a changing environment.

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