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But I don’t want to be empowered!

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Some years ago, I was talking about corporate transformation and the move from command-control to coach-counsel organisations. Command-control are businesses that run in a military style. You do what I tell you to do and obey the rules. Coach-counsel was far more developmental. How can I help you achieve your dreams. Some described the former as paternal and the latter as maternal but, in these days, we can just say they are different.

The reason I raise this is that we are talking a lot today about decentralised versus centralised systems. Decentralised is the view that you, or should I say, I, should be in control of everything. The latter is that there should be a controller or, as same call it, a nanny state. I hate that phrase – the nanny state – but it does describe things well.

Nanny state is a term of British origin that conveys a view that a government or its policies are overprotective or interfering unduly with personal choice. The term likens such a government to the role that a nanny has in child rearing.

Source: Wikipedia

We are raised with order and control. We reach adulthood and are out on our own or, in some cases, out of control. There is a balance between control and order, and freedom and anarchy. Where is that line? More importantly, how do we walk this line?

If you throw litter on the ground, are you a deviant? If you throw your garbage into your neighbour’s garden, are you the problem? If you randomly walk up to someone and punch them, should you be jailed?

It’s all about law and order.

We grow up knowing that there are things we should and shouldn’t do. The Ten Commandments, the Aseret HaDibrot, the Five Pillars, the Sins, the Five Precepts and more. We like law and order. It is how we created what we call Civilisation.

Civilisation exists as a balance between individual freedoms and centralised controls. It is how humanity works.

This is why the discussion of decentralised versus centralised is a fundamental challenge to how humanity works. Yes, we can give you control of some things but no, we cannot let you run away and do whatever you want. Life doesn’t work that way. Nor does religion, government or anything else in society.

A good reflection of this debate is when we talked about command-control versus coach-counsel, as the former military way of running a company is very much geared towards centralisation – we are watching over what you do – versus decentralisation – we want to help you to do whatever you want to do.

I always come back to these thoughts in discussions of cryptocurrencies versus central bank digital currencies; the internet today versus the internet of tomorrow; the friction of libertarian versus statist views. And, in this context, always come back to a comment someone made to me during a corporate transformation process.

The company announced a massive transformation to offer empowerment to everyone. Empowerment, like decentralisation, offered everyone the opportunity to direct their own future in the company. As we rolled out the programme, a staff member came up to me and said I don’t want to be empowered; I want to be told what to do.

That made me realise that we, in the management, might feel we are helping people to develop and control their own lives by decentralising structures, but how many people want to control their own lives? In particular, how many people feel they can control their own lives and how many want someone to just manage them for them?

Chris Skinner Author Avatar

Chris M Skinner

Chris Skinner is best known as an independent commentator on the financial markets through his blog,, as author of the bestselling book Digital Bank, and Chair of the European networking forum the Financial Services Club. He has been voted one of the most influential people in banking by The Financial Brand (as well as one of the best blogs), a FinTech Titan (Next Bank), one of the Fintech Leaders you need to follow (City AM, Deluxe and Jax Finance), as well as one of the Top 40 most influential people in financial technology by the Wall Street Journal's Financial News. To learn more click here...

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