The Tyranny of the Tangible →


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 →


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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Talking About Stories


It was great to watch Cynthia Kurtz talk with Lex Hoogduin at GloComNet about stories, complexity, and Participatory Narrative Inquiry (PNI). It’s been a while since I’ve been involved in a narrative project, but Cynthia echos my own experience working with stories. Asking people about their personal experiences, as opposed to their opinions, makes a huge difference to the outcome.…  
Continue reading →

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The Generalised Specialist →


On the Farnam Street blog:

While it’s not very glamorous to take career advice from a raccoon or a panda, we can learn something from them about the dilemmas we face. Do we want to be like a raccoon, able to survive anywhere, although never maximizing our potential in a single area? Or like a panda, unstoppable in the right context, but struggling in an inappropriate one?

A well researched and thoughtful piece about the generalist v specialist dilemma. Confession: I’m still yet to find a reasonable answer to the question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” However, I worry about it less and less. I figure that not knowing is a part of the voyage of intellectual and emotional discovery.

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Complexity Is Uncomfortable to Any Organisation →


Dave Snowden, writes:

Now complexity is uncomfortable to any organisation (which in fact means more or less all organisations) as it challenges several key assumptions. In particular the assumption that you get set clear objectives for a desired future state, that things that work once will repeat as is, that cases from the past provide recipes for future action and so on. In a complex system we:

1 - start journeys with a general sense of direction but without precise targets.
2 - have to be comfortable with what is inherent and unavoidable uncertainty
3 - need real time feedback, with the flexibility to respond and change quickly
4 - can’t avoid some understanding of theory, which has to act as a enabling constraint on action
5 - are ethically responsible for the unintended consequence of any intervention

Some interesting thoughts from Dave, and a nice reminder of some of the key principles for working in complexity.

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