Leadership and Management

Using “Voice”, and Using “Exit” to change a system

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At work, and in society, we use “Voice”, and “Exit” to create change.

“Voice” is when you try to change a system from within, “Exit” is when you try to change a system by creating a new system that replaces the old system.

People mass-leaving companies, or countries, or currencies, taking their business elsewhere, deleting their Facebook accounts, shifting to other search engines than google, are examples of “Exit”.

People demonstrating through walk-outs, changing how they cast their vote, and complaining to the company they are buying products off or working at, are examples of “Voice”.

Both ways are important. Both play a part. They can work together–Exit can amplify Voice. And Voice can lead to change that prevents Exit.

At companies, we often try to make Exits more difficult, and we try to silence Voices, but we ought to be doing the other way if we want to evolve systems. Since a low barrier to Exit amplifies both weak and strong signals making them impossible to ignore. This ultimately changes a system from Power over, to Power With.

Balaji Srinivasan talks about this in this talk, I highly recommend it.

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