Colonial Ghosts →

Nora Bateson:

We live in a world that celebrates “takers.” We call it ambition, leadership, victory. The gentle and the careful get trampled, while the aggressive rise to the top. Takers take. Now, exploitation in all its forms is on trial. The entire ecology, including all but a few wealthy humans, is disenfranchised. Our bodies have been taken without our permission. I would argue that the survival of our species and 1000’s of others is hinged to a violence that stems from the same blind spot as rape and abuse.

Written in the wake of #metoo, this is a powerful piece. It’s raw, personal, and vulnerable.

It highlights an important, mostly overlooked point: that the roots of our current ecological crisis, and many other social problems, are firmly located in relations of hierarchy and domination between people.

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Group Productivity Killers →

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Joseph Grenny, writing for HBR:

These are only a few of a much longer list of group productivity killers. Regardless of what’s happening in your specific meeting, the principal cause of most conflicts is a struggle for validation. This means that most conflict is not intractable because the root cause is not irreconcilable differences, but a basic unmet need.

There’s some useful suggestions here about how to deal with conflict in meetings. It’s nothing ground breaking, but a good reminder that the solution is often simply to offer a process that allows all people to be heard.

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The Paradox of Listening to Your Staff in a Fast & Slow World →

Aiden Choles:

Finally, modernity has given birth to a new era of participation, shifting our positions as characters in the unfolding story of organisations. Employees are no longer simply just recipients of decisions, but expect to be involved and participate as co-creators in the development, sensemaking, implementation and adaptation thereof. The days of the compliant, acquiescent employee are numbered. The dynamic between manager and employee is now a conversation. In fact, the organisation is a conversation! An annual staff survey is as far away from conversation as you can get. Slow paradigm stuff, really.

Great read. I couldn’t agree more, and love Aiden’s idea of appointing a dedicated Chief Listening Officer.

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The Tyranny of the Tangible →

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Alison Reynolds and David Lewis, writing for the Harvard Business Review:

The fear of creating this very situation, executives explained to us, is why so many of them focus on the tangible instead of the human. Having an open dialogue around important strategic issues simply feels too risky. “We feel like we would lose control,” they told us. “Resistance to our plans would surface.” In fact, psychology and experience tells us, the reverse is true: A lack of genuine, reciprocal interaction and the feeling of imposed change increases employees’ anxiety and resistance.

This article absolutely nails it. I might sound like a broken old record, but this is one of the maxims I live by in my work: “People own what they help create.” Instead of paying lip-service, what if we took a truly participative approach to change?

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Perspectives on New Work →

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Harold Jarche provides an excellent synopsis of Esko Kilpi’s Perspectives on new work: Exploring emerging conceptualizations.1

It is a long read (132 pages), so I have taken the opportunity to capture some of it, for my own memory, and perhaps to save other readers some time.

I’m adding this to my rather large reading pile. Based on Harold’s synopsis, it looks like a compelling read.

Here’s just a few of the nuggets that he highlights:

  • Human life is non-deterministic, full of uncertainty, unknowns and surprises. Creative learning is the fundamental process of socialization and being human. For a human being, the number of choices or moves in the game of life, in any situation, is unlimited.
  • In creative work, we are fellow-improvisers in corporate ensembles constantly constructing the future and our part in what is happening. The idea of improvisation is often associated with notions of unrehearsed, unintentional action. However, the more skilled the players are, the better they can improvise.
  • There can be no change without changes in patterns of communication. Organizations of any kind, no matter how large or how small they are, are continuously reproduced and transformed in ongoing communicative interaction. The patterns of interaction in an organization are highly correlated with its performance. Thus, we should pay much more attention to the strength and number of relationships and the breadth and depth of networked thinking.
  • The future of work has to be based on willing participation by all parties, and the ability of all parties to protect their interests by contractual means.

  1. Esko Kilpi, Perspectives on new work: Exploring emerging conceptualizations (Helsinki:Sitra 2016). 

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