Reflections 27th June

On my mind this week.

As we go through this transition phase, out of a lockdown mentality to whatever we are moving into, I’m sensing a pattern. Over this last year, technology has moved centre stage in how we work, not just what we do. Platforms such as Zoom and Slack have made remote working not just feasible but productive. At the same time, I’m probably not the only one to find that the relative simplicity of Zoom is easier to live with than the comprehensive complexity of Teams. I heard on the news this morning that Prince Charles has become an advocate of digital diplomacy via Zoom, saying it has opened up new, productive ways of meeting with other heads of state that does not involve the environmental costs of travelling. 

So why I wonder, is there still such an automatic rush to re-centralise when we have learned that decentralisation works at many levels in many areas? People work better, travel less, re-discover family, and are not bound to an industrial era “clocking on” culture.

Perhaps it is something to do with Jon Schwarz, described as the Iron Law of Institutions (see Otti Vogt post in articles below), where individuals care more about their power within an institution than the power of the institution itself. That short term and selfish attitude certainly resonates with what we see in many CEO assertions and politicians clinging on in the face of what is clear to everybody else.

It raises another, more significant question that has been on my mind. If we can decentralise, where does that leave our obsession with scale? So I have been experimenting with Mighty Networks to create small, private, autonomous conversation groups with “conversations without agenda” on subjects that matter to them and link them as an ecosystem without all the noise, advertising, and intrusion that happens on scaled social media. It chimes well with Ori Brafman’s “Starfish Organisations” (link below) as a way of going around the inevitable sclerotic bureaucracy of large organisations and avoiding the soulless assumptions and direction of algorithmic “aids’ to efficiency. But, whilst these have their place, we don’t need them getting in the way of original thinking and the dialogue it catalyses.

I wrote a few weeks ago about a sense of “Quickening”, and that remains with me. However, something is moving, and I believe that whilst the “Iron Law” will resist, it will bend and eventually break. 

As individuals and small flexible organisations, the real power of technology to change the way we work is only just beginning, and we would do well to harness it. For those who know what they want to do and who have a sense of craft and purpose – those I think of as Modern Artisans – Life will present opportunities way beyond the power of the corner office to strangle them.

Books I’ve been reflecting on

The Starfish and the Spider. Ori Brafman. I’ve mentioned this book several times, and it remains at the top of my “go-to” list as a source of provocation on thinking about leaderless organisations.

Ethereum Explained. This is a departure for me into an area I know little about. Still, as I’ve been learning more about blockchain’s ability to organise work, I want to understand. Thanks to Knut Arild Hanstad for introducing me to this.

Small is Beautiful. E.F. Schumacher. Another book I’ve mentioned often, and one I think is more important than ever right now.

Articles I’ve Appreciated.

Cancel Culture and Capitalism. The Atlantic. Thanks to Otti Vogt and his post for bringing this to my attention. One of those moments of serendipity that puts articles by thoughtful people in front of us at the right time.

Why Trees don’t Ungrow. A Physicists take on biology. At a time when we need to challenge the thinking that has got us to now, a good provocation.

Developing a growth mindset during uncertainty. Psyche Magazine. A helpful reflection at this time. We create our own stories and then live in them. We can choose different stories.

A Quotation

“There is no power for change greater than a community discovering what it cares about”

Meg Wheatley. “Turning to one another”

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