CM 064: Catherine Turco on Leadership in a Digital Age

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blog-post-turcoIs it possible to lead with full transparency? Can openness be the cornerstone of a large, fast-growing tech organization?

These are just some of the questions that Catherine Turco answered when she spent 10 months observing all aspects of a fast-growing, high-tech company determined to build a new form of management. The result was something she calls The Conversational Firm. While she points out that it is not an easy or predictable path for leaders to choose, it is one with powerful benefits for the organization and its employees.

Catherine Turco is the author of the book, The Conversational Firm: Rethinking Bureaucracy in the Age of Social Media, and an Associate Professor of Organization Studies at MIT. An ethnographer and economic sociologist, her work has appeared in the American Sociological Review and the American Journal of Sociology.

In this interview, we discuss:

  • What happens when openness in products gets applied to organizational culture
  • What it means to apply principles of holacracy to an organization
  • What an ethnographer learned after spending 10 months immersed in a tech company
  • What it means to be a conversational firm
  • How open communication and hierarchical decision making can exist side by side
  • How leaders sharing company information can rally employees to offer solutions
  • The power of collective problem solving through radical information sharing
  • Why trust makes all the difference for leaders and employees
  • The important role design plays in crafting a healthy corporate culture
  • How an open culture is self-reinforcing
  • How openness encourages employees to see themselves as problem solvers
  • How openness increases employee engagement
  • Why new approaches to company culture require new images of leadership
  • Building a different kind of organization requires intention and focus
  • Making the shift from punitive to educative approaches to management and leadership
  • How the public nature of social media is helping companies get past thoughtless policies
  • How the pros can outweigh the cons of an open work space
  • Why the influx of tech in any org makes it easier to rethink traditional hierarchies
  • Why harnessing the collective wisdom of employees ups meaning and engagement
  • Why we need new models of leadership where leaders want to listen
  • The important role thoughtful organizational culture plays for everyone

Selected Links to Topics Mentioned

Catherine Turco



Silo Effect by Gillian Tett


Adria Richards





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