A Story of a Post-Truth Civilization

A Story of a Post-Truth Civilization

Imagine a country. For over fifty years, it was the dominant economic and military force in the world. Its people were prosperous. Its way of living admired. It led the world in science and art. Its culture admired the world over. It produced a wealth of fabulous artists, writers and thinkers. 

It then got involved with a costly overseas war. That lasted for decades. That it couldn't win. That bankrupt it. The faith of its people in the leaders was tested. They had believed that the country was invincible. Its religion mighty and true. Its army undefeatable. 

The result? Its political class split.

One group believed that the country needed to return to traditional roots. That the new ways of thinking had undermined the country's strength. That a return to the old ways would reinvigorate it. The old faith had to re-emerge. Stronger and more vital than before. 

Another group blamed the establishment. The politicians and the aristocracy. They wanted to suspend democracy. Impose an oligarchy of hard-edged money-makers who would return the country to prosperity. Permanently shut up those that thought and acted differently. Making sure they couldn't stay in the country. Or something worse. 

Continue reading
95 Hits
0 Comments

You work with Irony in Management! WTF?

You work with Irony in Management! WTF?

The headline is something I hear a lot. An awful lot. How are you going to make any money out of that? Also a lot. And, to be fair, that's a pertinent question. 

I like to think my thinking is very insightful. Extremely novel. I've been told by people I trust it's potentially a game-changer. And, thanks to all the help I've had from you wonderful LinkedInners, I believe my writing is becoming pretty engaging. 

But one questions above continue to itch and wriggle. How can I use it to make the significant difference I was aiming for? Move it out of the margins and into the mainstream. For, make no mistake, that is my passion. And my goal. 

Taking research out of the academic realm and into the real world is complex and difficult. It requires a lot of extra thought. A lot of hard work. Reworking my writing style. Finding a new voice. And then making an impact. It's required posts about zombies, Apple and Steve Jobs, the death of organisational culture, tennis clubs, rock stars, my own life experiences and fears of a dystopian future. 

But I  finally feel confident I can answer the question. Irony in management? WTF?

Continue reading
584 Hits

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!

Continue reading
559 Hits

The Difference between Irony and Sarcasm

The Difference between Irony and Sarcasm

One of the great ironies of irony is when people think they are being sarcastic they are being ironic. Given the amount of irony and sarcasm generated in modern culture and its institutions, it is vitally important to understand the difference between the two. One can really help leaders and managers develop novel solutions to complex problems. The other just makes people look like idiots. 

Irony

What irony means has been debated for millennia and is hotly contested. Let's ignore all the confusing complexities and look at it via three categorisations:

  • The ironic perspective: perceiving the gap between expectations and reality
  • The ironic performance: transmitting that perception by saying one thing and meaning another
  • The ironic personality: being comfortable living with such gaps
Continue reading
547 Hits

Are You an Ironic Manager?

Are You an Ironic Manager?

Management and leadership are traditionally seen as a deadly serious things, full of efficiency, decisiveness, effectiveness, clarity of vision and focused strategies. Drawing from en vogue ideas on purposefulness, mindfulness, authenticity and emotional intelligence, the current popular trend of management thinking illustrates how serious leaders can mould their organisation into an excellent shape, ensuring it is populated by hard-working, committed and enthusiastic employees who embrace the organisational vision, mission and strategy. Sounds good, eh?

plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose

There has never been a school of management thought that hasn't promised to deliver hard-working, committted and enthusiastic employees who embrace the organisational vision, mission and strategy. All previous theories informing these schools have fallen by the wayside, victims of internal contradictions and an enthusiastic myopia that ensured they imploded from within. Will that always be the case? Are we so lucky to be the humans living at the exact moment of the birth of the perfect form of management? Probably not. Some flaw will appear and undermine all the good work being put in. So, what do we do? 

Continue reading
640 Hits

8 Steps to an Authentic Organisation

8 Steps to an Authentic Organisation
“We have to dare to be ourselves, however frightening or strange that self may prove to be.” 
― May Sarton

The above quote, on authenticity, is one of my favourites. Before reading on, I'd like you to consider the following: Is it the same level of daring if you are in a position of power to when you are in a position of no power? If not, why not? Keep it in mind, because it will help prepare you for the latter steps in the article.

Continue reading
516 Hits

Sarcastic Employees & Cynical Managers | Is This Your Life?

Sarcastic Employees & Cynical Managers | Is This Your Life?

Just before Christmas, I was contacted by an academic in Austria who had seen me present in Vienna on irony and ambivalence in organisations. She was coming to Australia and wanted to chat to me about her recently published paper on "anti-essentialist" management, which had further piqued her interest in irony. Her research findings are excellent, need to be read by senior managers and almost certainly never will be. Here's what she wrote about and why it won't mean a damn!

Employee Sarcasm and Management Cynicism

Before reading on, the following Dilbert cartoon will perhaps help anticipate the content.

Continue reading
806 Hits

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?

Tags:
Continue reading
621 Hits
0 Comments

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. 

 

Tags:
Continue reading
405 Hits
0 Comments

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.

Continue reading
1705 Hits
0 Comments

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. 

Continue reading
628 Hits
0 Comments

© 2017 The Ironic Manager. All Rights Reserved.

The Ironic Manager website is owned and managed by Richard Claydon and Richard Badham.