The Ironic Manager Blog

An Ironic Perspective on the World of Work

Richard's research introduces and supports a “complex view” of irony, treating irony as a multi-faceted and multi-levelled outlook (perspective), rhetoric (performance) or character (personality). It particularly addresses the space between engagement and resistance in culture change, examining the psychological, cognitive and performative reactions of employees who better cope with the ambiguity of fast-paced business transformation and disruption. He explores how greater openness, reflexivity and irony assists individuals and organisations to cope creatively with the dilemmas and pressures of life in complex and dynamic environments.

Love & Children: Situational Irony at Work

Love & Children: Situational Irony at Work

I wanted to write this post from home. Instead, I am huddled up in the corner of a cafe, seeking protection against the insistent rain and hoping the internet connection doesn't give out on me. The reason. My 18-month year old daughter's love. I'll explain.

My daughter seems to very much be a daddy's girl. Whenever I'm home, she wants to be with me. We play ball, go for walks, have a swim, sit and read, wander off to a local playgroup, and generally have a wonderful time. Her strategy for achieving these goals is to bring me stuff she wants to do; the ball, my shoes, a book. She supplements this by hugging my legs, climbing on the bed, sitting on my lap, babbling away contentedly and beaming at me at every opportunity. It's obviously great to see your child showing you so much love and I fully appreciate it. Her strategy works too. We spend a lot of time together, have a lot of fun and are bonding wonderfully as a result.

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Irony and Sarcasm at Work Going Mainstream?

Almost 18 months since I graduated and it seems as if my research interest might be going mainstream. 

There's certainly been much evidence and discussion on irony being the highest form of cognitive thought and communicative sophistication over the milennia, from Socrates, Cicero, Erasmus, Swift and Kierkegaard (to name but a few). Although I'd only regard sarcasm as a relatively minor form of performative irony (a way of expressing the insight rather than generating the insight itself), it is gratifying to see that Behavioural Scientists at Harvard and INSEAD are beginning to take notice of ironic phenomena in the workplace. It is always great when subsequent empirical data supports your theoretical prediction. 

Click on the blue box above the text or this link to read the full Harvard article. 

 

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Disruption: Irony that Dares Speak its Name

Disruption: Irony that Dares Speak its Name

In my last post, I chatted about the charming energy and naive enthusiasm of a passionate disruptor in the wearable technology space. I suggested that she was an example of a restless decadent rejecting the decaying structures and failing values of contemporary organisational thought and life, striking out on her own towards novel and exciting pastures. I'd like to extend that observation here by discussing the relationship between disruption and irony.

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Irony | Christopher Hitchens

Irony | Christopher Hitchens

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Is your Organisation Decadent?

Is your Organisation Decadent?

I recently went out for drinks with a lovely young lady involved in the early stages of a new wearable technology start up. She was all the things a great start up leader should be; charming, passionate, articulate, energised and energising, and very knowledgable. As the evening progressed, I was increasingly struck by her enthusiasm towards new ways of living and working and her naivety that she could avoid power relations and the vagaries of the market.

Reflecting on the meeting a few days later, I realised I had had a direct encounter with a restless decadent. More common parlance would call her a "disruptor", which is certainly what she calls herself. However, as I tend to look at the development of trendy organisational terms through an environmental or sociological lens, I am more focused on the organisational and social conditions that might have informed her personal journey. Which, for me, means a quick trip into the concept of organisational decadence. 

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Irony | Garland Greene

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Ironies of the Change Management Industry

Ironies of the Change Management Industry

I have a PhD in irony. No, really I do. The use of ironist in my profile description isn't a funky joke. I spent years researching the relationship between organisations, leadership, change and irony. It's something I take very seriously. Which is perhaps ironic in itself. 

It seems to me that there are a number of ironies embedded in the current trends in organisational change and leadership that very few people are addressing. In trying to explain why I perceive them as ironies, I'll first outline the experience and lack thereof that informs my perspective on organisations, leadership and change. I am fully prepared for somebody to tell me that my perspective is worthless and I am a navel-gazing fool coming at things from totally the wrong direction. 

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Irony | Robert Orben

Irony | Robert Orben

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Handling Organisational Ambiguity and Fluidity

Handling Organisational Ambiguity and Fluidity

That ambiguous and fluid organisational environments are commonplace and challenging is no secret. It's pretty much expected that, to be successful, employees must illustrate how well they can cope with and thrive in such conditions. There is, however, something somewhat paradoxical about how employees are expected to cope. Much current thinking suggests that the successful organisational member should have some core, internal, stable self to draw upon so that the constant external ambiguity doesn't induce harm. Flexibility and agility, despite being metaphors of the human body, are seen as organisational factors, not personal ones. The human at work needs to be consistent, reliable, static, unchanging. Indeed, we seem to have gone so far that we seem to expect that only experienced industry specialists who've spent countless years perfecting a single skillset could be capable of thriving in such fluid conditions. Is this really the case?

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Irony | Ed Bryne

Still the best five and a half minute definition of irony on the web. 

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How to Spot (and Utilise) the Critically Engaged Employee

How to Spot (and Utilise) the Critically Engaged Employee

Research into change in ambiguous and fluid organisational environments tends to categorise employees' reactions in three-fold tables. To borrow a nicely alliterative framework, they are Bewitched, Bothered or Bewildered. The bewitched are engrossed with the change, throwing themselves into new practice and processes with zeal. The bothered resist the change, cynically disrupting the new in an often forlorn attempt to cling onto the old. The bewildered are portrayed as not really understanding the change, lost in a confusing mist between two worlds and needing a guiding hand to help them step blinking into the shining light of the new way. The response of the average change manager? Embrace the first, lose the second, train the third. Hence, the enduring relationship between change programs and professional development. 

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Irony | Douglas Coupland

Irony | Douglas Coupland

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Irony | Randolph Bourne

Irony | Randolph Bourne

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Resilience and Self-Awareness during Culture Change: The Socratic Example

Resilience and Self-Awareness during Culture Change: The Socratic Example

You are reading the blog of the ironic manager website and are hopefully somewhat interested in the relationship between irony and organisational change. Now, it seems to me that you can't talk about irony without mentioning Socrates. I could talk about Socratic irony for hours but (a) you'd stop reading after the first paragraph and (b) it would take me equally as long again to explain the theoretical resonance between irony and organisational change. In short, it would be a waste of time for us both. What I'm going to do instead is use Socrates as an exemplar of two de rigueur psychological qualities of great transformational leaders in uncertain, ambiguous and changing environments; resilience and self-awareness.

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Changing the Model for Playing Tennis in Australia

Changing the Model for Playing Tennis in Australia

Having read this very interesting post about declining participation in tennis in the UK and been part of similar conversations in Australia, I thought I'd leave behind my usual academic geekiness and give my two cents worth on why tennis in both countries is struggling. Although I will generally refer to the Australian system, I believe much of what I say still pertains to the UK. 

I was one of the lucky few invited to participate in the Tennis Australia Places to Play conference in 2012, from which I took away a lot of inspiration and excellent information. I also met lots of people extremely passionate about tennis in Australia. The conference was fundamental towards my building a working relationship with Paul Hoysted, once a board member of Tennis NSW and, in my opinion, one of the best and most innovative tennis coaches in the country.

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A Fit Organisation? Really?

A Fit Organisation? Really?

The clue is in the word. Organisation. From organ. Meaning an arrangement of specialist parts (i.e. heart, liver, kidney) that interact to keep a larger body (you) alive, well and productive. Yes, the etymology of organisation is from the human body, just one example of the many metaphors organisational and management research has borrowed from the natural sciences and technological innovation to try and conceptually explain how organisations work. 

Looking at the trends in current organisational design, it seems we have not moved too far from the original body metaphor. Organisations must be lean, agile and flexible. They must carry no flab, being an optimised combination of bone, sinew and muscle capable at making the organisation look hot (hey, great bod!), quick and strong. They must be able to nimbly leap from one opportunity to the other, never missing a step or stumbling, landing with such ease that their complicating maneuvering looks stunning simple to the outside observer. They must be able to quickly twist themselves into all manner of shapes to adapt to the task at hand. We're talking peak-era, Thelma and Louise shirt-off Brad Pitt merged with Nadia Comaneci, topped off with a little Zlata.  

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Irony | Carlos Ruiz Zafón

Irony | Carlos Ruiz Zafón

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Can We Help You?

The Ironic Manager seriously rethinks how organisations work at the most fundamental level and offers a variety of solutions for businesses struggling to cope with the ambiguity and stresses inherent to contemporary organisational conditions of constant change.

Richard has been helping businesses and people deal with leadership, management, communication, technology and change for over twenty years through his training, coaching, speaking and consulting services. 

His innovative research is highly regarded by world-leaders in management and leadership. 

Maybe Richard can help you?

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Over twenty years helping people managing change understand why resistance happens and develop quality vital communication skills that aid successful business transformation.

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Research recognised as exceptional by world-leaders in the fields of power, leadership and organisational change, receiving considerable praise for its originality, depth and rigour.

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Extensive training, coaching and mentoring experience in professional development in well-known organisations, governments and business schools across the world.

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Consulting on change, transformation, culture, organisational narrative, innovation and creativity, and communications to private and public sector organizations and entities.

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