Gary Hamel: How to Fix the Bureaucratic Mindset – A Move to Innovation

Humanocracy: Creating Organizations as Amazing as the People Inside Them 


  • How would you feel if …
  • You had the right to design your own job?
  • Your team was free to set its own goals and define its own methods?
  • You were encouraged to grow your skills and take on new challenges?
  • Your workmates felt more like family than colleagues?
  • You never felt encumbered by pointless rules and red tape?
  • You felt trusted in every situation to use your best judgment?
  • You were accountable to your colleagues rather than a boss?
  • You didn’t have to waste time sucking up or playing political games?
  • You had the chance to help shape the strategy and direction of your organization?
  • Your influence and compensation depended on your abilities and not your rank?

How amazing would it be if all these things were true where you work?


Welcome to an Innovation channel podcast on TotalPicture Media with your host Peter Clayton. I met Gary Hamel a couple of years ago in Las Vegas at UNLEASH where he was a keynote speaker. I’ll put a link to that interview in the show notes. Gary is on the faculty of the London Business School and is a co-founder of Management Lab, an organization that builds technology and tools to support breakthrough management innovation. Professor Hamel has been hailed by the Wall Street Journal as the world’s most influential business thinker, and his landmark books have been translated into more than 25 languages. His latest book, Humanocracy Creating Organizations as Amazing as the People Inside Them was published this August by the Harvard Business Review Press. The utopian wish list I started my intro with came from the preface of Humanocracy.


  • Gary thank you very much for taking time to connect with me here on zoom. Let’s start with the obvious: Has covid-19 altered your thinking? If you were sitting down to write Humanocracy today, what would you change, if anything?
  • One of the more interesting aspects of the pandemic has been the work from home imperative. For years most companies have insisted that employees must show up at their offices to be able to do their work in an efficient and productive way. Well, guess what? Turns out that’s complete BS. Am I right?
  • What other bureaucratic rituals have the pandemic debunked?
  • Quoting from Humanocracy again, “At present, the average CEO compensation in America’s 350 largest companies is $17.2 million a year or 278 times the pay of a typical frontline employee.  And I think it’s important to stress that this income disparity is unique here in the United States. So what is the motivation for getting rid of bureaucracy if you’re in the top 1%?
  • That said Gary, it seems to me that COVID-19 is going to fundamentally change many aspects of business activity. I’d love to get your insights on how business will change over the next three to five years.
  • Back to your book. Quoting again. “In 2018, there were 146 million employees in the US workforce (excluding farm and household workers and the self-employed). Of these, 20.5 million were managers and supervisors. In addition, there were 6.4 million individuals working in administrative support functions including human resources, finance, accounting, and compliance (but excluding IT). In total then the bureaucratic class comprised 26.9 million individuals, or 18.4% of the US workforce. This group claimed more than 3.2 trillion in compensation, or nearly 1/3 of America’s total wage bill. It seems to me this is about to change.
  • There are numerous examples in your book of companies that are transitioning to a humanocracy mindset. Companies like Nucor a steel manufacturer in the US , companies in China in Sweden, France and elsewhere. I’m curious. Have you tracked the performance of any of your model companies since the pandemic?  How are they doing?
  • You’ve devoted an entire chapter to the power of community. What are some strategies for maintaining community, when community today means Zoom calls? Virtual conferences? Hardly any physical, human contact. Bumping elbows is not giving someone a hug or handshake.
  • What advice are you giving leaders today?
  • What tools and techniques are most effective to motivate and inspire?


Gary Hamel UNLEASH interview:

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