(Photo: Courtesy Michael Lokner)Denver businessman Chuck Blakeman values his workers. But he hates thinking of them as employees.
In his new book "Why Employees are Always a Bad Idea," Blakeman believes that for companies to succeed they need to scrap the old model of a top-down hierarchy where workers, he says, are managed like children. He says it’s a relic of the Industrial Age, where workers punched a clock and left their creativity at home.
According to Blakeman, many businesses are built around the assumption that workers are slackers constantly in need of supervision.
“It’s a system designed by geniuses to be run by idiots,” Blakeman says. “That’s the factory system.”
Blakeman started 10 companies, including his latest, the Crankset Group, which helps businesses transition to what he dubs the “Participation Age."
“In a Participation Age company, you don’t need managers because people aren’t stupid and lazy, they actually want to be productive and to contribute to something bigger than themselves," he says.
Blakeman, who sold one of his companies for $10 million, says he believes that in the future only companies that embrace this model will succeed.
His goal is to see workplaces that have no managers and no set hours -- not even requirements to be at an office. He acknowledges it might sound like chaos, but there are plenty of examples of companies that have thrived in this model.
He points to Semco, a Brazilian company that makes washing machines. All of the people who work at the company have a financial stake in it and share decision making. Blakeman says the revenues at the company grew 600 percent during the last 10 years — at a time when Brazil was going through an economic downturn.
The model is based on the idea that workers are more productive when they have more freedom from the traditional constraints of the workplace.
“If you get me a result, I don’t care where you are, and I don’t care when you are,” Blakeman says. “And if you want to leave at 10 in the morning to go watch your kids play soccer and come back later, if you want to work in the middle of the night… just get me this result.”
Blakeman is also the author of “Making Money is Killing Your Business: How to Build a Business You’ll Love and Have a Life Too."