Tomorrow’s enterprise as a galley ?

I won’t teach anything to anyone by saying that, to make someone understand a concept that’s very new to him, an analogy with something known is often the best way to deliver the message. Note that this means is often an easy way for the “pupil” to help a too passionate teacher to keep his feet on the ground. Of course, we need an analogy that “talks” to the person either because he or she knows the subject well or because that’s about something that’s common to everybody.

The other day I happened to have a discussion with a couple of person and a new angle appeared in the discussion on “social” and things like that. It’s only worth what it’s worth but, after all, it’s summer, holidays so we can take the liberty of giving free reins to our imagination.

Let’s take the example of a galley. You know, a boat with people rowing, other shouting at them and one who rule. Let’s try to imagine what a galley 2.0 would look like.

• Galley 1.0 :galley slaves are help up by shackles and being given few food.

• Galley 2.0 : galley slaves are free to move around the boat and are fed according to their needs. It favors “engagement”.


• Galley 1.0 : the “galley manager” has a whip and a megaphone

• Galley 2.0 : the manager speaks gently, listens, compliments people and shares candies.


• Galley 1.0 : slaves are told to row and shut up.

• Galley 2.0 : people can have conversations on the best way to row and implement it easily


• Galley 1.0 : in a fleet of galleys, those who move faster arrive the first

• Galley 2.0 : in a fleet, those who find the best way to row faster share the information because what matters is to arrive together.


• Galley 1.0 : galley slaves are measured on the number of strokes they do in a minute and the time spent rowing.

• Galley 2.0 : galley slaves are measured on the distance covered


• Galley 1.0 : the galley manager has only one goal : delivering the freight and unloading it on the wharf.

• Galley 2.0 : the galley manager talks about the freight with the customer to make its characteristics evolve. So he’ll make other trips to deliver other products that meet the customer’s need and, who knows, will conceive a lighter product that will need less effort to deliver so the delivery time will be shorter.


• Galley 1.0 : the customers is waiting for the delivery

• Galley 2.0 : the customers comes half way to get the freight.


• Galley 1.0 : anything that comes too close of the galley is dangerous. Boats and fishes are requested to stay away.

• Galley 2.0 : anything that comes close to the boat is part of a community. They’ll told to precede the galley to announce its close arrival. Those who stay around encourage the rowers to support their effort. At diner time, it’s possible to ear the rowers singing “pirates and sharks are our friends”.


• Galley 1.0 : the boss is the boss and the rowers galley slaves

• Galley 2.0 : the boss is a community manager and rowers and all boats and living species around are community members.


• Galley 1.0 : galley slaves row because they’re told to row and don’t care whether the boat is moving fast or not as long as they do their job.

• Galley 2.0 : rowers row to make the boat move forward. It’s a shared goal that brings them together and transcend them.


• Galley 1.0 : main principle of galley management : row more

• Galley 2.0 : main principe of galley management : row better


• Galley 1.0 : people become rowers because it was the only job they could find or the only one their had the required competence for

• Galley 2.0 : people become galley rowers because they’re passionate about rowing, are excited to wake up to go to contribute to the collective propulsion effort, on a boat they’re proud of, with a community of rowers they love !


• Galley 1.0 : the boat follows a defined route without changing anything. In case of storm, they may be delayed or be wrecked

• Galley 2.0 : the team can change the route according to the context. In case of storm they arrive safe and on time.


• Galley 1.0 : failure (delay, wrong route, damaged freight etc..) has a price.

• Galley 2.0 :failure is not a problem because it allowed Christopher Colombus to discover America while he was trying to do discover the Indies…what is, by the way, an awesome example of high ROI through serendipity. Without such values, few chances to invent the steam boat.


As a matter of fact, Galley 2.0 is much more appealing for both its owners and employees. Yes but…

The way things work can be changed, nobody will complain (except, maybe, the galley manager who needs to learn to motivate instead of using his whip).

But if, for the owner of the galley, there’s not more sales, more revenue or if he doesn not need less resources to do the same job, the more obvious solution will be to bring whips and shackles back.

That’s the difference between a galley and “The Love Boat”.


Head of People and Business Delivery @Emakina / Former consulting director / Crossroads of people, business and technology / Speaker / Compulsive traveler
Head of People and Business Delivery @Emakina / Former consulting director / Crossroads of people, business and technology / Speaker / Compulsive traveler

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