The Ironic Manager Blog

An Ironic Perspective on the World of Work

Donald Trump: The Post-Ironic Leader

Donald Trump: The Post-Ironic Leader
In recent months, we have seen Donald Trump hit front pages at an increasingly regular rate. Trump has talked about walling up Mexicans (and getting them to pay for the privilege), banning Muslims from entering the US, the no-go areas of Islamic extremism making the police afraid for their lives in London, his excellent health, menstruation causing...
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Irony | Haruki Murakami

Irony | Haruki Murakami

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Irony | Voltaire

Irony | Voltaire

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On the Difference between Irony and Sarcasm

On the Difference between Irony and Sarcasm

There's been a fair bit of chatter on this research about how sarcasm makes you "smarter" and more creative (e.g. here). I've read the original article and the core problem is the confusion between sarcasm and irony.

Irony is the ability to see the gap between aspirations and achievements. Sarcasm is a performative form of irony. You can be ironic without being sarcastic, but you cannot be sarcastic without being ironic. An ironic statement intends to reveal the absurdity to the audience, an indirect way of getting them to see what is really going on. If you use the sarcastic form, you want the audience to see whose fault it was (i.e. who is the idiot behind this mess). That's where the "tearing of the flesh" comes in.

If you use another performative form of irony that isn't intended to harm the target, then the creative thinking and "smartness" is kickstarted, as people are having to decode the indirect prompts and work out for themselves what is actually going on.

Unfortunately, the authors of the article didn't take the time to examine the relationship fully, which obscures the message. Ironic?

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Why Change Fails: 3 Things to Think About

Why Change Fails: 3 Things to Think About

Jon Kotter, Ken Blanchard and McKinsey & Company say 70% of change or transformational programmes fail. IBM are more optimistic, suggesting about 60% fail. Harvard Business Review notes that this rate of failure has been consistent for 45 years. Reviewing this, they note:

The content of change management is reasonably correct, but the managerial capacity to implement it has been woefully underdeveloped.

This, of course, places the blame squarely on the leaders, managers and organizations that fail to change. The change agent gets off scott free, having delivered a working model and only been let down by entrenched and resistant attitudes. Is this a fair summary? Let's hope so. What would be terrible would be an industry worth billions of dollars per annum promising one thing (evidence-based, professionally managed successful change) and delivering something else (chaotic, ambiguous uncertainty that requires mental fortitude, wittily innovative thinking and, possibly, blind luck to struggle through).

They say it is a sign of insanity to continue doing the same thing and expecting different results. Is the change management industry insane or is it right to criticise poor leadership and management for its continuous failure to successfully deliver change?

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Top-Shelf Irony

Top-Shelf Irony
Oh, the irony...
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Aesthetic Irony

Aesthetic Irony
Oh, the irony
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Refugee Irony

Refugee Irony
Oh, the irony
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Everything You Know About Change Is Wrong

Everything You Know About Change Is Wrong

Everything you know about change is wrong. And I mean everything. A recently published essay written by Todd Bridgman, Stephen Cummings and Kenneth Brown uncovers the following. 

  1. There is no theory underpinning the foundational model of change management
  2. Further elaborations of the theory by academics and consultancy firms, therefore, have no underlying foundation on which to rest
  3. Contemporary conditions of constant change make this non-existent foundational theory obsolete, but it’s still pretty much all we’ve got.
  4. Given the above, it’s not very surprising that research into the successful implementation of change suggests two-thirds of change initiatives fail. As change models are built on smoke and mirrors, perhaps we should be applauding the great success rate!

Now, if I were a leader who’d just sanctioned another $100 million change program and just discovered this, I’d be angry. Very angry. Livid even.

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Irony | W. Somerset Maugham

Irony | W. Somerset Maugham
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Offended Irony

Offended Irony
Oh, the irony
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The Handyman's Bomb | Irony at Work

The Handyman's Bomb | Irony at Work

A lot of people ask me "why irony? What has it got to do with management and organizations?" While I'm always up for a theoretical discussion, it is often better to provide some stories that illustrate the point. In this instance, the story is from some empirical research in the UK.

The Theory

Situational irony occurs when the characters involved in a situation do not realise that their actions are undermining their intended goals. It classic literature, the victims of this irony are usually leaders, kings, princes (or generally important people). They see themselves as clever but are actually acting in a dumb way. That they are destroying their hopes and dreams by their actions is revealed by a supposedly inferior character, who is perceived as being dumb but is actually revealed as being the clever one all along and of central importance to the plot.

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My Internal Hypocrisy | Taking Irony Seriously

My Internal Hypocrisy | Taking Irony Seriously

At dinner on Friday, to celebrate the launch of Kim Chandler MacDonald's wonderful new book, Flat World Navigation, after opining vehemently about something or other that seemed important at the time, a charming young lady repeatedly asked me the following question:

What's your internal hypocrisy?

My answer | Irony is about finding the absurdity in everything, in not taking anything seriously. Yet I take irony very seriously. 

I'm now going to spend a year reflecting on that!

 

 

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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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Irony | Robert Orben

Irony | Robert Orben

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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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