FORBES - "The hybrid company is not afraid to mix everything up!"
INTERVIEW FORBES MAGAZINE - "Let's hybridize retirement homes, coworking services, artist residences, startup incubators, sports halls, museums, schools and vegetable gardens!"
What do you mean by “hybridization of society”?
Gabrielle Halpern : I define the hybrid as that which is multiple, mixed, combined motley, a little contradictory. The hybrid is everything that doesn’t fit our boxes. The world has always had characters, situations, things that are unbreakable or with mixed identities, but today we are witnessing a phenomenon of accelerated hybridization of the world. Objects, businesses, places, public institutions, cities, politics: nothing escapes them! The hybrid is a real chance, because it shatters our categories and forces us to question ourselves. But for some people, hybridity represents a threat and this leads them to a form of radicalization, of the drive for homogeneity, of the religion of identity; this is where the fractures in our society come from. Everyone claims their identity, without realizing that they are locking themselves in and immobilizing themselves there. A company cannot be a collection of identities. The hybridization of society that I welcome is not the fusion of individuals. It is not a question of erasing individual differences, but of combining them and projecting them into a project, an action, an ideal.
You explain that hybridization is everywhere, but it is poorly judged in the Western world ...
GH : Western thinking has a long history. To sum up, it all started with logos in ancient Greece and then continued with the development of "rationality" in Europe. "What is true is what is clear and distinct", Descartes told us! Our good old rationality was very helpful in explaining the world around us. It is thanks to her that we have been able to build the sciences gradually. But she has a major problem: to understand the world, she puts it in boxes, in categories. The reasoning, the logic are very practical to define, identify, classify, abstract, generalize… But that does not work when we are faced with a situation, an object, an environment, a person, hybrid. So of two things one: either reason cuts the thing into different pieces to better classify them, or it acts as if the hybrid does not exist. Either way, it misses the hybrid, which is an important part of reality.
How is hybridization an issue for companies?
GH : The hybrid is completely reshuffling the cards. Consumer behavior is changing, yesterday's competitors are becoming allies, today's allies will be competitors ... The service society has succeeded the industrial society, we have known it for some time, but today, we are entering a society where the border between product and service is blurring in favor of the uses that hybridize them. We are now in the society of uses, of relation... Of hybridization! Anyone who used to say “but that's not my job!” will be swept away by the unpredictable (which can take the form of a virus!), which forces us to be able to exercise them all. Those who yesterday only sold products will have to imagine associated services, just as those who only marketed services will have to reinvent them so that they can be applied to new uses.
Have companies not been hybrids for a very long time, with these conglomerates which combine several activities?
GH : Many companies are adding silos, rather than really mixing things up. Trades, products or services are too often thought of independently of each other, again, under the pretext of “identity”: do those who exercise them, those who design them, those who produce them, those who market them really meet each other ? Around the meeting tables, everyone talks about where they are, in their temporality, their language, their objectives, their culture, their representations, their prejudices, without the possibility of stepping aside, however necessary for the meeting and therefore to hybridization with others.
We also have the feeling that the success of start-ups today depends more on niche positioning, hyper-targeted and restricted, far from hybridization.
GH : You are right about start-ups. Many are positioning themselves in niches. This targeted and restricted economic model then generates a very solid and homogeneous identity and corporate culture. You may be successful today, but I have no doubts that this is a bubble and that victory will be very short-term. faced with the unforeseeable - in the form of Covid-19 or otherwise - these start-ups will be swept away, because they are unable to think of the world as it is changing, to adapt their economic model, to change their identity and to transform their corporate culture.
For you, hybridization is embodied by the mythological figure of the centaur: what do you think a centaur-firm would be?
GH : The centaur-firm is one that understands how sterile and crippling identity alone is. It translates into different things. First of all, this company is not afraid to recruit, without seeking to transform, format or break its employees. Moreover, innovation should not be confined to one corner of the company (a "lab", a department, a direction), but be found everywhere, at all levels of the company. Innovation should not be the monopoly of a few employees, but the way of thinking of all. Finally, “identity” economic models, rigid, clear and distinct, the fruit of “planning commissioners”, but not true strategists, make them blind and deaf to the needs of customers and especially future customers and prevent imagining a thousand others. use cases of what we offer them. The centaur-firm is not afraid to mix it up! Let's mix retirement homes, coworking services and start-up incubators! Let’s hybridize shopping malls, gyms, craft workshops and computer language classes! Let's mix train stations, museums, artist residences, youth hostels and vegetable gardens! It is only if research laboratories, companies, public institutions hybridize, by recombining places, materials, equipment and proposing different uses, that there can be a real social mixity, a real intergenerational solidarity, sustainable economic developments, and of course, more environmentally friendly operations.