Summary: Imagine an organization that aligns the goals of talented people with the performance requirements of a successful firm and funnels the input of thousands of minds into quick, decisive action. Imagine an enterprise rooted in strong values yet open to change; able to think globally yet committed to act locally; renowned for encouraging individual ideas yet dedicated to ensuring widespread learning. Although these qualities sound like a wish list for the organization o ...show moref the future, they actually describe an entity from deep in the past: the city-state of ancient Athens. In this provocative book, organizational expert Brook Manville and Princeton classics professor Josiah Ober argue that ancient Athenian democracy provides an ingenious solution to the paradox facing every modern leader: how to ratchet up overall performance while nurturing the individuals whose knowledge and expertise fuel the firm.
Manville and Ober show that the Athenian approach to organizing people -- as self-governing, knowledge-sharing citizens -- was driven by three core elements: democratic values, governance structures, and participatory practices. This dynamic system served as the architecture that supported Athens' two-hundred-year reign of innovation and excellence -- and the authors say it also holds the key to building a long-lasting, modern-day "company of citizens." This intriguing and insightful case study reveals how the first company of citizens worked in practice: how tens of thousands of individuals were motivated to work together for both noble purposes and hard-edged performance, and how, in the face of major wars and constitutional crises, passionate citizens bounced back, banded together, and spawned an unparalleled era of innovation in art, literature, drama, science, philosophy, and military strategy. Throughout, Manville and Ober distill relevant lessons for modern leaders on organizing, managing, and guiding powerful, people-centered organizations. A unique and compelling think piece, A Company of Citizens provides a time-tested model for realizing the true potential of the knowledge revolution. ...show less