Book title:  Humanocracy: creating organizations as amazing as the people inside them

Author:      Gary Hamel and Michele Zanini

Rating:        *****                                                                               Category:   Easy to read

What’s it about?

Humanocracy: creating organizations as amazing as the people inside them explores the constraints of traditional bureaucratic organisations and proposes a shift towards a more human-centric model. Based on the idea that bureaucracies stifle innovation and alienate employees, it argues for a system that unleashes human potential and creativity.

The detail

The book explores how organisations can – and should – ditch bureaucratic ideas about the importance of employee obedience and efficiency in favour of human-focused ideals that foster employee inspiration and innovation.

Drawing on a decade of research it lays out a detailed blueprint for creating organisations that are as inspired and creative as the people inside them – even going as far as providing an index survey in its appendix to self-assess how bureaucratic your own organisation is currently.

Through practical examples Hamel and Zanini talk about the restraints and obstacles that bureaucracy creates. From putting too much decision-making authority in too few hands (and with it an expectation that senior leaders must have all the answers), driving the building of team/department silos, discouraging risk taking, undermining accountability, and devaluing originality, bureaucracy has stifled the potential of too many companies and its people who are flagging in soul-sucking jobs.

It presents two case examples (Nucor and Haier) who are positive ‘deviants’ from bureaucracy as valuable role models in showcasing the real possibility that ‘humanocracy’ can and does work. By giving people more freedom, more autonomy, more information and more resources, these companies have created higher levels of engagement, pride of ownership and better results. After presenting these examples, the book gives us a clear description of the necessary principles of ‘humanocracy’ – ownership, market economies, meritocracy (not exaggerated and overweighted competence), community, openness, experimentation and the power of paradox. The authors are honest in admitting that even Nucor and Haier didn’t get it all right first time but the aim of achieving an organisation that is as capable as the people inside will be through a series of experiments.


Thought-provoking and inspiring, Humanocracy: creating organizations as amazing as the people inside them provides very compelling and data-driven arguments for challenging and changing existing bureaucratic structures and replacing them with something better – more human.

Who would benefit from reading this book?

This book provides a refreshing and welcome guide to challenging current bureaucracies and building workplaces that liberate the everyday genius of the people inside them, making work more inspiring, affirming, rewarding and effective. We highly recommend this book for any leaders driving workplace change (in HR or otherwise) and look forward to any impact it can make for changing the way we work.

What we liked about the book

The guiding principles of creating a human centric organisation of ownership, markets, meritocracy, community, openness, experimentation and paradox whilst first appearing quite ‘radical’ make incredible sense. Challenging the current bureaucratic model from maximising compliance to maximising employee contribution is equally a no-brainer as employee engagement reaches an all-time low, but the journey to changing this perspective requires bravery and entrepreneurial leadership.

What we didn’t like

Genuinely we loved it but if one was to be nick-picky we’d say the book spends a lot of time proving why bureaucracy doesn’t work and stifles innovation, but less on what organisations need to do to change. Granted it’s probably because there aren’t enough ‘case examples’ of organisations that have become more human-centric but we would have preferred more of the book focussed on the ‘how’ to change.

More about the authors 

Gary Hamel is on the faculty of the London Business School and is a cofounder of the Management Lab, an organisation 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 twenty-five languages. They include The Future of Management and What Matters Now.

Michele Zanini is a cofounder of the Management Lab, where he helps large organisations become more adaptable, innovative and engaging places to work. Zanini is an alumnus of McKinsey & Company and the RAND Corporation and holds degrees from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and the Pardee RAND Graduate School.

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