carrots and sticks
February 10, 2011, 6:17 pm
Filed under: brave new world, the sweet life | Tags: , , , , ,

First days are full of hope and premonition.  I mean specifically first days in new work places, which has turned from being a once in a lifetime event – for our grandparents and some of our parents – to an increasingly frequent rite of passage, dependent on loyalty and itchy feet quotients among other things.

I walked into my last first day of a new job brimming with characteristic curiosity and apprehension.  Looking back on it now, the seemingly innocuous day had enough signs and flags to help make sense of the next year in that place.  Here are two:  no interview with the managers (I didn’t even meet the project managers until a week after I started the gig, and neither of them ever looked at my cv); and no clear experience relevant scope of work (just do this for now and we’ll eventually get you situated in something more appropriate, I was told on day one).

Needless to say, I wasn’t later properly situated; I’m assuming it was a common unhappy experience for colleagues.  The place felt like a mill; people didn’t matter so much as a magic ratio that had to be kept high:  the number of hours billed correlated with an appropriately high quantity of work.

Breathtaking how much is left out of this formula.  Personality and the ancient idea of giftedness – the idea that what I bring to the table is unique to me and therefore valuable – is a blank.  So is the idea of purpose or common goal.  Ignoring these basic realities of life and personality and work couldn’t be a good business strategy, could it?

No they couldn’t, says Dan Pink in his talk excerpted following:

there are three factors that science shows lead to better performance, not to mention personal satisfaction: autonomy, mastery, and purpose.

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strange place

From the Economist, 2003:

The usefulness of dividing the broad subject of “values” in this way can be seen by plotting countries on a chart whose axes are the two spectrums. The chart alongside (click to enlarge it) shows how the countries group: as you would expect, poor countries, with low self-expression and high levels of traditionalism, are at the bottom left, richer Europeans to the top right.

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yams and pigs

Even on the farm, even in so-called primitive contexts, people need to escape the bonds of family and blood and initiate relations with other people.  And this is just as true when it comes to trade and commerce as with other forms of social human interaction, says Mark Anspach in an interview excerpted below.

Some Americans – New Yorkers for instance – resist the idea of the big box retailer, and Walmart and other stores find not enough love to convince the five boroughs to let them in.  Residents don’t want the fine balance of trade, which includes mom and pops and boutiques and large retailers, being wildly disrupted by a mega retailer.  And they have the money and power to keep them out.

Other Americans are proud of big box retailers like Walmart; they like the car convenient ritual, the low prices and the enormous choice.  They identify big boxes with being American.  Often these Americans don’t have the power and money to influence how their markets function anyway.

Big is anonymous and the bulk of the money and policy that swirls around big boxes in America sets the primal impulse to trade on it’s end.  The base human economic transaction between a buyer and a seller is changed completely because the seller isn’t really in the room, nor really in the town or city, and maybe not even in the state.  Same with the goods, they are mostly in transit in the hold of an airplane or ship somewhere in the middle of a large ocean.  Same with the crafts person who makes the goods, who sits in a fluorescent lit room, one in a long row, somewhere thousands of miles across oceans and sand.

Anspach explains how economists see human trade quite differently than anthropologists.  The economic view is narrow and instrumentalist.  Buyer, seller, pig, yam.  I have pig, you have yam, we print money, we buy each others pigs and yams.

The anthropologist has a much richer view and sees trade as a critical tool for tying together members of a community and avoiding privatism and forming essential bonds with neighbors.  In this view, trade is less about getting the best deal on a farm animal, than establishing a lifelong bond by offering, in trust, your product to your neighbor as a form of gift.

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peces voladores
February 1, 2011, 4:06 pm
Filed under: unseen world | Tags: ,

Gueorgiu Pinkhassov

how can we make it easier to ask, is it right?

Some big breaking news here.  It’s time, now the 21st century is upon us, to storm the walls of our most sacred institutions, especially biggies like individualism, progress and will.  How we have defined them is not working for us and this author – Matthew Taylor – shows how delinking one from another — individualism from narcissism, happiness from progress, for instance — can help to make our most revered ideas purposeful again.

First up, the unassailability of individualism is — assailed.  The author doesn’t dismiss it outright; he sets it straight:  our drives no longer rule us, rather we capture them to serve us.  Our political boundaries are broadened past self and kin, and difference and the other brought in and considered true and valid.

Next, happiness is delinked from progress.  The grand old institutions of progress – science, markets and bureaucracy – come up wanting: science and markets fail to address the general good of society and bureaucracy’s rules don’t care about results.  He recommends humanism and its concern for ethics be brought back in to soften and enrich how we define progress.

And finally, says this author, mere will isn’t enough.  He names three pillars of our triumphalist culture:  freedom, justice and progress, which have hardened into platitudes and abstractions around which a priesthood of flunkies has formed and nearly everyone else a blissfully ignorant adherent.

Who are we, who do we need and want to be?  Summon a new energy, spirit, leaders, thinkers to define a new paradigm for life in the new century.

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