Tag Archives: organizational development

Realism Unwired

Ralph Stacey Complexity and Creativity in Organizations – Amazon

bonus: Bill McKelvey, Transcendental Foresight: Using Complexity Science to Foster Distributed Seeing (pdf)

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Fun By Design

free play with friends

I started playing Free Play Softball in Cleveland Heights in 2002. It brought me back to left field for the first time in eighteen years. (I had spent the interim playing the only team sport I was ever really good at, volleyball and grass doubles volleyball.) Taking up softball again brought back memories of having previously formulated two-thirds of a lockdown outfield with Bob Buckeye as member of the Abernathy Special Collections Library ‘challenge’ team at Middlebury Collegebetween 1976-1984.

What changed for me between the ages of thirty and forty-eight? Slower. The hand-eye coordination always was my ace capability, but you have to get to the ball first. I never was a terrific hitter, although the scratch stats I’ve been keeping ever since the Hawken School intramural league (in 1971-1972,) indicate, at least, consistency. Yet, last year I figured out a missing piece of the craft of hitting and reeled off the hottest eight weeks of singles hitting ever, at the age of 58!

Today, opening day, I mention these personal tidbits because in ensuing recaps, as is usually the case, I will focus on being one of the key organizational developers of the weekly game. This is the oblique way of putting the following: I carry the equipment in my trunk, I store it over the winter, and, since 2004 I have been making out the line-ups with an eye on creating the conditions for equitable play. With all those tasks comes awesome obligations and presumptions of ritual and instrumental power. These features have long gone to my head, and to, especially my big now old Scots’ heart.

Everybody wins is my goal.

the odds

Learning to Play, Playing to Learn
A Case Study of a Ludic Learning Space

Alice and David A. Kolb
In this paper we propose an experiential learning framework for understanding how play can potentially create a unique ludic learning space conducive to deep learning. (full paper pdf)

excerpt:

History of the [Free Play Softball] league
In the mid 1970’s, Case Western Reserve University organized an intramural softball league from different departments and fraternity groups which have been competing ever since on a regular basis. The Organizational Behavior Department organized its own team made up of faculty, staff, students and family members. Overtime, the games became increasingly competitive and aggressive, and the OB team, which was much more inclusive when it came to its member composition (composed of men, women, and physically disabled individuals with varying skill levels) found itself at disadvantage playing against highly skilled, competitive, intramural teams.

Born out of this experience was the desire to create a league independent from the competitive intramural league, where anyone would come together to play just for the fun of the game. David, one of the founders of the game, remembers his motivation to start a different kind of league because “softball was too much fun to be left only to those who could play well.” In essence, those words summarized the vision for the pick up softball game and so the league was born in 1991. The league met every Sunday morning from 10:00 am to 12:00 pm at the baseball field of the University campus. The season began on the first Sunday after tax day in April and ended at the first snow in November. David provided the softball equipment and took it on himself to haul the balls, bats, gloves and bases and set up the field every Sunday morning. In the early years the term “league” may have been a bit grandiose for the game. The participation was random and sparse, not enough to make up two teams. Regardless of who or how many showed up, members played catch, hit balls, practiced fielding. Those for whom softball was a new experience learned the rules of the game as they played along. There was no designated coach or manager, or team captain for that matter; those who knew how to play helped those who were new to the game. As membership grew, and the converts regularly showed up, two teams were made up, sometimes five on each side, other times seven. Only after several years was the full complement of ten players on a side reached, and then only occasionally in the middle of the summer.

In 1995, the game was moved to a new softball field within a neighborhood park close to the University campus. Following the move to the new field membership began to grow not only in its size, but also in its diversity by gender, age, ethnicity, socio- economical background, and softball skill level. What had started out as a fairly homogeneous population of OB faculty, students, families and friends, began increasingly attracting local residents who found out about the game from different people and sources. Over time, new players joined from other counties, some of them taking a forty five minute bus ride to the ball field. Guided by the league’s founding vision, “fun softball for all,” everyone was welcome. In the fifteenth year of its existence, the league adopted “Free Play Softball League” as its official name, celebrating the special occasion with anniversary shirts and hats.

The Free Play ball field was in a grass park next to the city baseball fields. Unlike the impeccably manicured city league fields, the Free Play field was poorly maintained with no score board, lights or dugouts. The home plate area was particularly a mess, with weeds growing behind the base and the deep indentations in the batter’s box. The backstop was old and torn at the bottom. It was almost as if the Free Play league existed in the shadow of the city league, unnoticed by the city, or by the neighborhood community. The “league up on the hill,” as the Free Play members used to call the city league, was a highly competitive softball league, with die hard aggressive players pushing each other to their limits to win the game. As Lebron would say, pointing to the city fields, “over there, you get out there every single time to kick ass and beat the other team. It is not like our league.” In the Free Play league, we played a different kind of game.

Old-School-free-play

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Two Sided Coin

Then what are the most essential learnings from your 20 years of dealing with and researching change?

Michael Jarrett:Good question. Let me try to highlight them. First, external factors are often the driver for change, but how organizations respond is the critical factor. Then, too, the managerial capabilities of companies help determine organizational responses; so, the change leadership at the top, middle and bottom is something to be audited and bolstered.

I’d also note that organizations with greater levels of internal dynamic capabilities have a source of competitive advantage as they can adapt more easily. Again, the more locked into the status quo, the more cumbersome any company becomes when it tries to convert a desire to change into real action.

But I should add a caveat or two. Radical change is not the answer for everyone. It’s important to gauge how much change is needed. Incremental and process changes work in relatively stable environments. The invention of the transistor shook the entire electronics industry. The kind of change your own company is facing may not be that profound, and so you must not overreact to change. High-change organizations do better in volatile environments than their lower-change counterparts. In stable environments, the differences are not as significant. Over 20 years, I have seen some organizations face change and succeed; and I have seen some organizations confront change and remain inert. Those who banked on inertia to propel themselves into the future are no longer around. [src pdf]

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Four Square Matrix – Metaverse Four Square

Metaverse Unfolds

The explanation for this Four Square Matrix is below.

(I’ve been exploring the format of the Four Square Matrix for over five years on the squareONE Explorations blog: Revisiting the Matrix Part 1 / Class of ’72 / Periodic Table of Visualization, And More / More Matrices / The Acid Test / Matrices – Stacked / Slowing Down to Better Problem Solve)

(SOURCE) To construct our scenario set we selected two key continua that are likely to influence the ways in which the Metaverse unfolds: the spectrum of technologies and applications ranging from augmentation to simulation; and the spectrum ranging from intimate (identity-focused) to external (world-focused).

• Augmentation refers to technologies that add new capabilities to existing real systems; in the Metaverse context, this means technologies that layer new control systems and information onto our perception of the physical environment.

• Simulation refers to technologies that model reality (or parallel realities), offering wholly new environments; in the Metaverse context, this means technologies that provide simulated worlds as the locus for interaction.

• Intimate technologies are focused inwardly, on the identity and actions of the individual or object; in the Metaverse context, this means technologies where the user (or semi-intelligent object) has agency in the environment, either through the use of an avatar/digital profile or through direct appearance as an actor in the system.

• External technologies are focused outwardly, towards the world at large; in the Metaverse context, this means technologies that provide information about and control of the world around the user.

These continua are “critical uncertainties”—critical because they are fundamental aspects of the coming Metaverse, and uncertainties because how they will emerge, their relative and absolute development in various contexts, is yet to be seen.

Combining the two critical uncertainties gives four key components of the Metaverse future:

Virtual Worlds

Mirror Worlds

Augmented Reality

Lifelogging

These four scenarios emphasize different functions, types, or sets of Metaverse technologies. All four are already well into early emergence, yet the conditions under which each will fully develop, in particular contexts, are far from clear.

The source document at Metaverseroadmap.org provides the context and additional provocation. This would be most compelling for students of the history of technology, and socio-anthropologists interested in modernity and post-modernity. Download the PDF available there for the full view of the working group.

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Between Anarchy, Hierarchy, Bureacracy; and, the Minimus Link

Free Play Players

I spoke to the gang about arriving at the field on time. Offering how it would be neat to commence play close to the traditional ten o’clock time.

How about arriving in a timely fashion, or, agreeing to complete seven innings and go past the traditional noon ending time?

Could we collectively reclaim the principle of playing a full game? Is this year’s collective attenuation of the traditional ten-to-noon time slot a problem?

The Freeplay Sunday Softball league remains an experimental design in practice. The Drs. Kolb have theorized the game mightily, while I have only partially theorized it. And, different than the Kolb’s emphasis on the game-as-learning-space, I’ve had to approach it in terms of its explicit pragmatics, and approach it also as the alignment of these (to a degree) within the concrete action space–out of which game play is evoked every Sunday. It would be accurate also then to state I’ve had to approach it as a once-a-week problem of repeatable organizational development.

My conscious role is to capture the projective identification collectively commensurate with having the minimum authority to assist the initiation of the game. This is an obtuse way to describe the flow of leadership features being pushed upon me and pulled away from me, ending up predictably as enough of a leader to help instantiate the game. This role is connected to predicates, and the most substantial four are: the equipment is stored in the trunk of may car; I make out the line-ups and have done so for nine years; I voice the necessary commands to shift the players to the next step of the initiation of the game; and, I am a willing and sticky enough egoic character with respect to those aforementioned projections.

I was away from the game for four weeks and the requisite authorities were recreated and put upon replacement characters, and this was accomplished without fuss.

After I communicated my entreaty about arriving on time or playing seven innings, a miniature discussion ensued. Several persons stated the noon ending time would remain their ruling assumption; one person stated there wasn’t a problem anyway; two people reminded that we often play six or seven innings in less than ninety minutes. I ended by reminding the entire group that “I could do in the future the experiment of starting on time with whomever was here.”

Whatever.

One player came up to me and suggested, “You’re the boss so you can do what you want.”

Well, yes to a degree, and, ‘no’ to a much greater degree.

I understand my temporary authority has to most rigorously attend to the minimal set of verities. I am one of the principal stewards of those verities. They are marvelously concrete too. The essential one reflects the truth of: commencing the first pitch, batter, play of the game!

After the first pitch, under normal circumstances, my authority fades away, having fulfilled the slim portfolio of duties.

Interestingly, this is given by my privileged perspective–after all, I am one of only a tiny group of participants who have implemented an intentional [1] third order [2] viewpoint; am one of the few who reflect on the game and step back from it and theoreticize about it.

I’m not the boss. Theoretically, my role can be described as mediating the practical Object Relations within the holding field of the game’s ritual space. This way of putting it captures theoretical concerns. What then could be told of the practical way projection works in the matter of holding group concerns together so that group objectives may be predictably achieved every Sunday? It’s OD.

The actual phenomena is much more complicated. None of our group wants me to disrupt the internalized flow of predictable anticipation to bring to their attention a problem of so-called organizational development. The status quo is partly primitive. Don’t bother ‘it!’

Oh, what’s he on [us] about now?

Actually, I go into this, knowing I am in a better position, as against the group, to voice my individual concerns. Nobody had come up to me to ask me to advocate for more group sensitivity to the game’s temporal parameters. My prior experience has been that we may complete seven, eight, nine or more innings of free play softball should we commence the game around ten o’clock. My own view is that more play is better than less play.

However, here is the gist of our case of organizational development: whatever I deem optimal for myself is just so, for myself. Although I could approach this soft need as a group problem–and I did so–what I found out was that it wasn’t a group problem at all. I didn’t smoke out any alignment [3] with my concern at all.


[1] implication of intentional is a determined, directed, effort, rather than the more informal ‘folk-psychological’ and tacit efforts presumptively deployed by players in directing their own efforts to make operative sense of the softball activity when experienced as a meeting of different other minds, so-to-speak

[2] selecting apt analytic/interpretive frames (3rd order) having reflective experience of (2nd order) direct experience (1st order)

[3] a minimus link: given by supposing any need to use organizational development for the sake of obtaining new optimal goals do require maximal linkages.

Learning to Play, Playing to Learn: A Case Study of a Ludic Learning Space, Alice and David Kolb, The Journal of Organizational Change Management (2010)[pdf]

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Revisiting the 2×2 Matrix – Part 1.

Never Wrong Matrix

What I term a ‘four square,’ or matrix, derives in modern times from The Boston Consulting Group’s Growth-Share Matrix. I devise my own four squares and collect any others I encounter. At times the 2×2 Matrix in either its ‘cross’ or ‘four squares’ versions have done duty in my work to help depict human situations. For example, I have employed the following one and used it as the basis for a learner to reflect upon the challenge of having it both ways.

Dr Puck' s problem matrix

MDFI Matrix aka Dr. Puck’s Problem Solver

Such visual devices have come to be known as 2×2 Matrix. The essential book on the use of the 2×2 Matrix in business, The Power of the 2×2 Matrix, presents authors Alex Lowy and Phil Hood’s understanding of the tool’s value as an aid to decision making. The Power of the 2x2 Matrix They write:

2 × 2 Thinking is inherently and profoundly transcendent in nature. Two people face an identical problem differently: one sees an insurmountable problem, while the other perceives options and opportunities. Systems thinker Jamshid Gharajedaghi calls these two approaches either-or versus both-and. Confronted by tough choices, the either-or reaction is to feel trapped and obliged to pick one or the other. The both-and response draws us automatically to a new and different perspective, where it is possible to search for ways to reframe the problem or use conflicting factors in the solution.

2x2 Matrix

The Institute for Manufacturing at The University of Cambridge describes the matrix yet misses two central capabilities, the use of the 2×2 Matrix to plot values, and, the implicit relational dynamic given in the identification of what in this description is termed characteristics.

A two by two matrix is a useful tool for initial sorting of qualitative data.

The axes should be chosen so that, e.g., the data with the most desirable characteristics will fall into the upper left quadrant and the least desirable in the lower right quadrant. While groups may be unable or unwilling to assign absolute values to qualitative data, they usually find it relatively easy to come to a consensus as to which quadrant something belongs in.

Generally, the two by two matrix is a useful tool for categorising things that can be reduced to two simple variables, particularly when quantitative information is unavailable and qualitative judgements must be made.

It enables a rapid clustering (or separating) of information into four categories, which can be defined to suit the purpose of the exercise. It is particularly useful with groups as a way of visibly plotting out a common understanding or agreement of a subject.

2×2 Matrices I’ve found, from the growing collection:

Robotics Matrix

Inscrutible Robotics Matrix

Social Media and Business Qualification Matrix

Management Matrix

Unsatisfying to me, “Management Matrix”

I devised the following to depict the tension of oppositions betwixt four entangled philosophical themes.

Unity Matrix

The 2×2 Matrix is a very Batesonian device too. I haven’t beta tested a workshop during which learners build a view of their self (or what-have-you,) using the format, yet, it seems a good idea!

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Question the Mission

book cover

It took a while at the Business Book Title generator to come up with something worthwhile. I was able to end my mission with this one. I did augment the austere stock presentation by adding a graphic.

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The 10% Problem

The Pareto Principle, commonly known as the 80-20 rule, first figured into my own thinking several years before someone hipped me to the origins of a conception I was using. In truth, I had developed its bastard child, also a regulation of the vital few, I called–at the time–the 10% problem. The context was artist development in the music industry and the application was as a device to thoughtfully put reverse pressure on a musician’s tendency to spend time convincing naysayers. What I saw was artists spending more time trying to market to naysayers than they spent either pullng fence sitters in, or turning their believers into evangelists. Also, it seemed at the time what promoted this was their sense everybody was supposed to be a fan and that those who weren’t yet fans were thought to be ripe targets. But, the naysayers were hardly low hanging fruit and so I offered the suggestion that they should be ignored.

Several years later a colleague on the only management team I’ve ever been a member of hipped me to The Pareto Rule in the aftermath of my attempt to apply the 10% problem to the company’s marketing philosophy. In this instance, I was advocating more product testing because it seemed to me the company was wasting resources based in the assumption that 90% of the new products would always appeal to 100% of their customers.

Since then I’ve employed variations of the 80-20 (or 90-10) principle to all sorts of situations. My innovation is with respect to transformative learning: roughly, spend a figurative 10% of your time doing wild experiments, and doing so irrespective of so-called conventional wisdom. Here, in a sense, one pays attention to the outlying possibilities.

This has led me to reflect upon how the concept of the vital few may be consequential for perspectives about systems. This follows from a hypothesis about systems, (or about how in effect the world works,) that goes like this, what aspects of the system are hidden when it is presumed seeing the entire system in fact sees only 90%?
(90%, or, whatever is the presumptive portion said perspective views.

This comes back to the genesis of the 10% Problem because often the conventional wisdom, or habitual perspective, holds its conclusions about the system to be the inevitable product of seeing/understanding the system in the purportedly correct, (read into this also: normative, ‘as commonly understood,’) way. Whereas, my supposition holds that any incomplete perspective allows for, at least, inclusion of what’s absent, and, audaciously, allows for novelty–especially novel ways for viewing and analyzing the system at hand.

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TO SET IN STONE

Carried over from the Hoon Loops.

Planning concerns man’s efforts to make the future in his own image. If he loses control of his own destiny, he fears being cast into the abyss. Alone and afraid, man is at the mercy of strange and unpredictable forces, so he takes whatever comfort he can by challenging the fates. He shouts his plans into the storms of life. Even if all he hears is his own voice, he is no longer alone. To abandon his faith in planning would unleash the terror locked in him.

A. Wildavsky
If Planning Is Everything, Maybe It¹s Nothing
Policy Science No. 4, 1973

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NOVEL FLUX

Another carry over.

This Dionysian quality of spirit confronts and questions all human certainties. Human reality instead becomes a flux of images and constructions that need continuous reappraisal. His inherent qualities of good and bad, of creativity and destruction, of life and death challenge the edge of alertness in order to pursue life in its full dimension.

Mia Nijsmans
A Dionysian Way to Organizational Effectiveness, in Psyche At Work;
Chiron 1994

If an organization is narrow in the images that it directs toward its own actions, then when it examines what it has said, it will see only bland displays. This means in turn that the organization won’t be able to make much interesting sense of what’s going on or of its place in it. That’s not a trivial outcome, because the kind of sense that an organization makes of its thoughts and of itself has an effect on its ability to deal with change. An organization that continually sees itself in novel images, images that are permeated with diverse skills and sensitivities, thereby is equipped to deal with altered surroundings when they appear.

Karl Weick
The Social Psychology of Organizing, 2nd ed.,
McGraw-Hill 1979

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PINPOINT

An organization is a collection of choices looking for problems, issues and feelings looking for decision situations in which they might be aired, solutions looking for issues to which they might be the answer, and decision makers looking for work. [sic] Organizations keep people busy, occasionally entertain them, give them a variety of experiences, keep them off the streets, provide pretexts for story-telling, and allow socializing. They haven’t anything else to give.

Karl Weick, The Social Psychology of Organizing

(“subversief denken!” Hat tip to Thomas Wirtemberg)

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GETTING TO KNOW YOU

C. Otto Scharmer speaks here of Theory U. It’s a terrific book even if it contains too many non-nutritional exhortations. Coming out of the various vectors of constructivism, integralism, and, modern adult learning theory, both Theory U. and the earlier Presence (Senge, Scharmer, et al.,) both demand and deserve attention and study.

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LEARN TO RELEASE

This is one of my favorite idea bites. I’ve truncated a long section of McSwain’s work to make it bite-sized. The paper it was taken from, A Transformational Theory of Organizations, is one of my all-time favorites. It actually served to put me on the hunt for new paradigms in organizational theorizing.

The baseline goal that that the organization or any human system must pursue is the development of the person within it; other matters, other goals, must come after.

…the primary axiological commitment of transformational theory is not dominantly rational or utilitarian in motivation or behavior.

… indeed it is not an exaggeration to say that the technology of the field of organization development is at bottom a set of techniques for managing the resolution of individual and group projections, thereby releasing the energy that is bound up by them.

Cynthia McSwain/
A Transformational Theory of Organizations
American Review of Public Administration 23:2.1993

(more…)

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GETTING GOOD AT DUCKING

In fact, the real cause of this so-called turbulence may be planning itself, which by imposing formalized procedures on organizations has desensitized them and made them vulnerable to unexpected changes. — Put it more boldly, if your organization has formal plans but no vision, and if you then try to control your future so rigidly that you cannot adapt en route, then every unpredicted change you will encounter will make you feel as if the sky is falling.

Henry Mintzberg
That’s Not Turbulence, Chicken Little, It’s Really Opportunity
Planning Review; Nov-Dec.1994

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DARING RICHNESS IN ORGANIZATIONS

Specifically, I would suggest that the effective organization is garrulous, clumsy, superstitious, hypocritical, monstrous, octopoid, wandering, and grouchy.

Karl Weick
On Re-Punctuating the Problem
in New Perspectives on Organizational Effectiveness; Jossey-Bass 1977

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PROFIT(S)

Love and power are not opponents; it is our ideas that have constructed them so. — The resolution of this tiresome conflict between power and love requires but one simple test, a move from the singular to the plural. Just add an s. The world is not one world, power is not a single idea, and love, which comes in thousands of varieties and even more disguises, is a generic commodity, unable to be owned by any single definition. So, too, business; just add an “s” to profit; profit not only for partners and shareholders. The monotheism of the profit motive can be loosened so that it makes places for other kinds of profitability; profitable for the long-term continuity of life and future generations, profitable to the pleasure and beauty of the common good, profitable to the spirit. The double bottom line of social and ecological responsibility extends profitability only part way. The idea of profitability itself needs pluralizing.

James Hillman
Kinds of Power,
Doubleday, 1995

Hard-headed realists take pride in asserting that organizations are concerned with real things like profit and loss. To label profit a thing is to miss much of what is interesting about it. Profit is one way of labeling and making sense of the world; it is variable in a cause map, it can be an enacted environment, and it can be a symbol. It is one form of sensibleness that can be imposed on an organization¹s stream of experience but it is only one form of sensibleness, and it is an arbitrary one at that.

Karl Weick
The Social Psychology of Organizing,
McGraw-Hill, 1979

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NEVER ASKING, NEVER KNOWING

Workers must no longer be considered as cost factors to be “compressed” or “rationalized” but as allies to be won. — …managers must forfeit their long-cherished and, at times abusive, privileges to move toward a new form of organization centered on the human being as well as on a flexible and creative approach. — This is the practical and ideological price to be paid if we are to halt and reverse the process of industrial decline that has plagued large North American corporations over the last decade.

Omar Aktouf
Management and Theories of Organizations in the 1990s: Toward a Critical Radical Humanism?
Academy of Management Review; 17:3.1993

comment-One place to start is to review managerial capability in terms of (what are) managerial folk psychological assumptions. However, the conventional starting points almost always are anchored to normative ways of assessing managers. A pernicious quality of those norms is that they contribute to the very problem of dehumanization. It basically never happens that a manager is asked, for example, “What do you think a human being is?”

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SHARING

The stereotypes are of “real masculinity” being equated with domination, conquest, and control -and thus also with “heroic” male violence. And such sterotypes are essential for the maintenance of a top-down model of social organization.— She [Sally Helgesen] shows how the workplaces run by these women tend to be more like “webs of inclusion” rather than hierarchies of exclusion; communities where sharing information is key.

Riane Eisler
From Domination to Partnership: the Hidden Subtext for Organizational Change
Training and Development; February 1995

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NOVEL IMAGES

If an organization is narrow in the images that it directs toward its own actions, then when it examines what it has said, it will see only bland displays. This means in turn that the organization won’t be able to make much interesting sense of what’s going on or of its place in it. That’s not a trivial outcome, because the kind of sense that an organization makes of its thoughts and of itself has an effect on its ability to deal with change. An organization that continually sees itself in novel images, images that are permeated with diverse skills and sensitivities, thereby is equipped to deal with altered surroundings when they appear.

Karl Weick
The Social Psychology of Organizing, 2nd ed.,
McGraw-Hill 1979

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HIRE A FREAK

Though staff may indeed be as valuable as bosses make out, corporate structures and attitudes are seldom sufficiently flexible to accommodate and profit from individuality. — It is no longer possible either to create or continue to sustain a monolithic culture in any large organization. Nor is it better to succumb to the tyranny of the minority. The lessons of evolution are as relevant to organizations as to life — nurture your variations, enlarge your gene pool. You never know which will be the fittest next.

Paul Thorne
People Power: Managing Diversity in Mature Corporate Organizations²
International Management; Dec. 1991

comment-In rough  terms, my experience is that the  number one sign of variations being squished is compliance to the organizational ‘chain of being;’ through which creativity, smart analysis, and novelty is prevented from moving upward. In other words to nurture variation is to also allow ‘its’ vitality to flow where it can literally alter the course of organizational evolution. I wish I had a nickle for every boss who wielded the fallacious Appeal to Authority as support of their being ‘the smartest person in the room,’ when in fact real intelligence was something they were mortally fearful of.

This said, as an employee I developed the ability to be extremely compliant for the sake of sustaining my employment! I don’t enjoy working in those environments but I appreciated learning how to be complaint!

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