Zombies & Dragons

Zombies & Dragons

I'd like to take you back to the early Eighties. Specifically, Eighties TV. The stories of the rich and powerful. Dallas and Dynasty. The Ewings and the Carringtons. JR and Bobby. Blake and Alexis. The luxury. The trappings of power. The money. The women. The affairs. The decadence. 

Why are long-dead Eighties TV shows relevant to LinkedIn and the themes I blog about? The death of organisational culture? The decline of management thought?Failed change? The decadence of organisational life? And the irony, cynicism and sarcasm of the workplace?

Because, at the same time these shows were being made, management thought was experiencing a frenzy of newfound enthusiasm. The birth of the strong culture movement. A massive outpouring of promises made in the name of the high-tech way of life. A new era, new work organizations, a new man and woman. Huge profits, futuristic innovation, humane working environments, and happy, productive workers. 

We were shown images of utopia. Given promises of an organisational society without discontents. Shown a "you can have it all" world that fulfils dreams. And releases us from limited opportunity. All captured by TV through big hair, large shoulder pads, glittery dresses and Stetson hats. 

"So what", you might ask. I know we are all used to the seriousness of management and organisation being transmitted with numbers. Via statistics. Charts. Tables. Cognitive science. Organisational psychology. And other such serious scientific disciplines. What have Dallas and Dynasty got to do with all of this? 

We forget that organisations are collections of humans interacting with each other. And that human action and interaction have been captured by other disciplines during the centuries. Art, literature, drama, music. And TV shows. That reveal underlying, subconscious themes that concern us all.  

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The Sophistication of American Irony

The Sophistication of American Irony

The clichéd critique of Americans is that they “don’t do irony” and are thus somehow lacking in sophistication, intelligence, or both. My last post, The Difference between Irony and Sarcasm, prompted Giles Watson to ask me the following question:

Is there any validity to the arrogant assumption that English have a superior instinct for irony?

Short answer. No! The longer answer actually turns the question on its head and suggests Americans, not the British, are the current kings of all things ironic. Why may, or may not, be a good thing!

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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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