Friday, November 27, 2015

Big On Humanising (with David)

Trev:
Some things are done better at scale. Often + Same Way + Fixed Costs => Bigger is Better. The Industrial Revolution has been smashing poverty. Internal relative poverty in America gets a lot of coverage, but in Global terms, and with respect to absolute poverty, we are making huge strides. A consequence of bigger is that empathy gets stretched. The big boss can no longer have lunch with, and get to know, each new employee. Individual circumstance and fuzziness get replaced with precedent policy. We spend so much time at work, humanising the time we spend in big organisations is an ongoing challenge.

Dave:
For all the strides we can make in combating inequality, for the foreseeable future the biggest determinant of quality of life for most people will still be where they are born and who their parents are. It is more complicated and no more complicated than that. Putting people into organisations that are machines will continue to produce the same results. As the machines we have used over the past years follow the easiest path to money, not the potential of the individual. We need organisations that make people count, not count people as units. We are still some way off.

Trev:
The Labour movement has traditionally been a way of coming together to balance the negotiating power of owners with the solidarity of workers. I suspect the whole way we look at the organisations that decide how people 'count' is about to be turned on its head. Like the music industry. Like media. We need support for individuals outside of companies. Companies are legal 'persons', but they are groups of individuals. Through industrialisation, people may have disappeared inside companies. Perhaps companies are going to be the ones that disappear inside society as the web extends beyond data and into relationships?

Dave:
There is an argument that can be made that the rise of the self employed is a rise in independence. There is also an argument that it is representative of greater influence of organisations as they shift to more flexible resource bases, less willing to provide individuals with long term job security. It is clear that there is a shift towards greater social consciousness, but how this translates into economic reality is the great unknown of the next few years. It is a sharing economy that currently seems to be still pooling money rather than distributing it. For better or worse.

Trev:
It is an interesting transition where we get to redefine the rules. We need to learn from other 'free agents' - musicians, sports stars, actors etc. where they work from project to project. It becomes a case of you hiring your boss and your coach. Instead of recruitment agents being a once off deal, a whole new industry of service providers for flexible employees will need to spring up. I think it is empowering. I think it levels the playing field between the employer and the employee. But the number one rule for a strong negotiating position is not to be desperate, and that is were those with a buffer of capital will always have an advantage. Unless we help provide those buffers for each other.

Dave:
Maybe we won't have a big boss getting around every new starter for lunch, but creating organisations that care about people is still possible. It's no naïve ambition to hope that the contribution organisation make can be richer than just profit or wealth creation - what about community building and social improvement? Start with an assumption of solving for potential mutual benefit for the employees and the organisation, then there are opportunities to reframe profit vs people as a false choice. Indeed profit vs people can be seen as a shallow and unhelpful choice. Profit through and for people is possible.

Trev:
I think we are on the cusp of a redefinition of what a company is. Traditionally we have worked in a company as a means to an end. If you are really lucky, you get the right mix of doing what you love, what you are good at, and what is well remunerated. I think most people end up doing whatever they can. It would be interesting if some companies started springing up where the primary goal is the top bit of Maslow's hierarchy. There are definitely companies that are great at both profit and people. But what happens when people start life hacking as groups? When they get together to work towards non-financial goals as the main thing they do. The world beyond work. Perhaps it isn't that the boss won't have time for lunch. Perhaps it is just that there won't be a boss?

Dave:
Ah, the end of the boss. It's a lovely notion that speaks to our need for autonomy, but there's a reason the Lord of the Flies still has resonance after all this time. We want structure, support and direction as well as space, empowerment and freedom of choice. We want the security of Megacorp with the excitement of Entrepreneur.com. Most organisations exist to work towards financial goals or are heavily focused on them - they serve consumer need, an end intertwined with the worker's intent. Money talks or sleeps - it still dictates purchasing power and our choices. That ain't changing soon.


Trev:
All advice is autobiographical I guess. And I don't like the idea of a boss or of anything being dictated! The rules until you have enough are also different from when enough is a safety net from which you explore. Enough is less than we think. Money talks in a world of material scarcity. Money is worthless in a world of abundance. Until you have the ability to walk away, you have to put up with certain things. I like the idea of a world in which structure, support, direction, space, empowerment, and choice all come from us working together rather than below or above each other. Scale is awesome at solving huge vanilla problems. The flavour comes in the tiny morsels that connect people.

Dave:
There's an important distinction - whether organisations need to lose 'bosses' or need a new generation of bosses who aren't there to dictate, but to support. There is little doubt that at least some of the frustration from people around the '1%' is that they simply aren't in it. Just enough is less than we think, but that still doesn't stop people seeking more. Society may improve if we sought more health, enrichment and happiness - but as long as we see money as a measure of success, the structures that circulate and attract it are worthwhile places to improve conditions.


--- David's first guest post was 'Buffet, Batman & Scorecards' ---
Follow David on Twitter @DDS180
Post a Comment