Thursday, January 10, 2013

10 of 95: Context is both king and revolutionary

10. As a result, markets are getting smarter, more informed, more organized. Participation in a networked market changes people fundamentally.

[Part 9]

I feel as if it is time to do something I don't do that very often. That is, talk about what I do when I'm not a blogger, tweeter or a general web presence in some other form.

I sleep.

But other than that, I make it easy for myself. I go to organizations and pretty much apply the advice given in the 95 theses (and in the probably less read but more wordy part of the Manifesto). Often, this is radical and/or different enough to blast many institutional (inertial) practices that just seems to hang around because that's what's always been done.

(Here I could say "hire me", but - that's not why were here. Though I suppose you could draw some conclusions about the whole marketing angle from this - I'll just leave this part in as an illustrative yet incoherent and parenthetical example.)

Anywho, institutional change. As you can see from the thesis up above, it's yet again one of these referrals back to the earlier numbers. Both to #8 and #9, as it were, and this is important. Because much of what I do consists of taking this thesis and applying it onto the actually existing framework of the institution in question. Mostly to see where these effects of more smart, more informed and more organized don't happen.

That's where the change is needed. Most of the times.

If you've read ahead in the theses (or the very helpful cheat sheet over at Wikipedia), you've kinda noticed that the authors place a strong emphasis on the relationship between internets and intranets. Or, rather, the tendency of organizations to think that it is enough to communicate amongst themselves in order to get things done.

As I've argued before, this is enough if all you want to do is transform raw material into money. If the one and only thing you have to do is make a profit at the end of the month, you can pretty much ignore all the communication with the outside world that is not the delivery of contractually agreed results. Money talks, as it were.

This has been the default mode for corporations for the last couple of hundred years or so, give or take with any given definition of capitalism. And there's a lot of institutional inertia going on, to be sure - discourses layered in and on discourses and so forth.

Things are changing, though, and this is where the "smarter, more informed and more organized" part comes in.

If you're working at a workplace where the only lines of communication are internal ones, you're most likely experiencing two things. One is that the communications along these lines tend to take on a certain characteristic of their own after a while, and the other is that this characteristic more often than not tend to get strange features that cannot be removed no matter how much better things would get if they did.

Cue sexism.

It also tends to happen that [other] blind spots appear. Some things don't get done, some things are ignored, some things are constantly left to the interns - some things are left in the eternal category of "we'll do that later".

The traditional (yet domestic) example of this is the meat loaf that gets its two ends cut off.  A family makes meatloaves on a regular basis, and always cuts off the ends before serving. Not because of any particular reason, but because its always been done that way. One day, one of the younger kids bring a friend from school over, who asks about this particular meat loaf style. Not knowing why, they decide to ask old grandma what the deal is. Who says: why, it's because when we lived in that small place oh so long ago, the oven was only yea big, and we couldn't fit a bigger meat loaf in it!

These things tend to outlive both their usefulness and their employees. The bigger and older the institution in question, the more of these things there tend to be. And the more they tend to be like the infamous TPS reports: much fuss about not that much at all.

The general cure for these things is to open up new channels of communications. Not just for one person knowing about different ways of doing things, but for the workplace as a whole. Opening up the black box, as it were, and letting the content take part of a lighter setting. Or letting those friends from school in and encourage them to ask questions.

Not just as a onetime thing, but continually. Enough to change the dynamic of discourse in a direction where the old "just because we've always dunnem" just won't cut it anymore. Because it won't. But we will return to that as we proceed.

This may or may not be what the authors meant by their theses. It's what I make them mean when I go about and do things in the world, though, and since I'm kind of important in this context, this is relevant to our purposes.

Though I'd love to hear your thoughts on the matter.

I'll see you again tomorrow for part eleven.

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