This is a synopsis of my latest book ‘Paradigms Lost’:
This book describes how the way that we think of work is is wrong. We think of it as something that is fundamental to who we are yet it is a recent invention. We think about civilisation in terms of what we were taught at school. This is the context in which we think about humanity.
How organizations work has fascinated me right throughout my career. I have always been amazed at how many organizations lack purpose or an understanding of what they are in business to do. The book discusses how the way that organisations are structured gets in the way of operational and creative abilities, while offering ways to improve the situation.
Why do we work
In this chapter, the book demonstrates that our attitudes to work and indeed society have changed over time. They have changed from an historical, political as well organizational context and they will continue to do so. What we see as normality now will change and we may well look back on this as a golden period.
What we have come to know as work, paid work, has delivered so much for modern humanity yet has not, so far, found solutions for the wider global aims. Control, ownership and greed are still the driving forces behind much of what we do and a different kind of approach is needed, one in which all of our talents are used and the majority of our species gets to enjoy the benefits more fully.
- Paid work is a fairly recent invention and Is not the natural order of things.
- Our attitudes to work have changed over time.
- There has been a general drift, over time towards greater rights and freedoms for working people.
- This drift is reflected in the political changes seen over the same period.
- Work and politics are inherently linked and drive public opinion.
- Changes in attitude and freedoms have not always been won easily.
- organizations are formed for specific purposes and these too change over time.
- Change will continue.
Freedom from location
Throughout this chapter it is demonstrated that the buildings we occupy are not the purpose of why we came together in the first place, with the odd exception. However, as businesses mature, the corporate eye can be taken off its purposes and this allows the buildings to take on a life of their own and become an integral part of the organization’s culture, sometimes for the better but more likely for the worse.
- With a very few exceptions, the buildings we occupy are not what we do.
- Businesses are much more than the buildings they occupy.
- The buildings should, therefore, be defined by the desired objectives and outcomes.
- If allowed, buildings become artefacts that support the negative cultural aspects of the organization.
- They become used to define territory and privilege, coming between the different functions of the business.
- Good design can have the opposite effect.
- Modern offices in particular should be designed to encourage greater collaboration and social aspects of worker interaction.
Freedom from hierarchy
This chapter looks at while organization started out as a way to improve the output of businesses and other groups it soon became a way of self-aggrandisement, with those who were skilled organisers creating a niche position for themselves towards the top of the firm. organization and being organised has become such an accepted part of the way in which we interact at work that we are incapable of recognising it for what it is. We accept that to be organised in such a way is a natural part of who we are as a species and I argue that this is simply not true.
- organization in itself is not innate, in a work context is a human construct though there are clearly individuals who are better at it than others.
- organization was used to improve productivity and maximise return on labour but has become used for other purposes.
- It is everywhere that we look, so much so that we have become blind to it.
- Its main purpose has become that of control over individuals, creating a greasy pole up which all of us in working life must grapple.
- For future organizations to succeed better this approach needs to be put behind us and organization used, as originally intended, to better the outputs and outcomes required.
- Self-organising systems do exist and offer an alternative and more appropriate approach.
Freedom from dogma
This chapter shows that rules, icons, rituals and artefacts grow to try and protect the status quo, especially of those who can exert some degree of authority and control. This is how dogma develops and eventually enslaves us to the organizations in which we work, if we are not careful.
- Change depends upon where you stand and there are many different points of view as to its merits.
- Dogma emerges from the culture of an organization as a way of attempting to make sense of how things work.
- In the end though dogma drives the culture. It takes over as if it has a mind of its own.
- It is easy not to see the dogma around you as it is everywhere and part of what you know.
- Only we can fight it by recognising it and attempting to dismantle its more noxious outcomes.
- To do this we need to offer up better perspectives and alternative realities that people can understand and believe in.
We need a new contract
This chapter offers a way forward. It describes how our future direction lies in greater collaboration and co-creation of products, services and ideas.
- The general direction of humanity in both political and economic terms has been one of greater freedom.
- To achieve even greater outcomes for the population then this trend needs to continue and greater freedoms need to be secured.
- To achieve this, attempts to control people should be seen as anachronistic.
- Assets should be controlled, such as money, buildings and stock but not people.
- Diversity of thought and practice should be encouraged to liberate all of human creativity rather than adherence to a narrow band of acceptability.
- We should define a new contract in which all of us benefit from the future strides forward in industry and commerce.
This chapter offers a manifesto that calls upon all workers, employers, directors and anyone else in a position of influence anywhere across the globe to consider their role in helping to create a modern and progressive approach to work and the working environment.