Organizations can’t be designed, they need to be created, out of a new thinking, a different need and transformational insights.
There has always been a class of worker that is paid for their labor, not for their expertise. There is a reason they were called “laborers”. The IT professional used to be part of the workforce where they were highly skilled and earned a premium for their experience. Now employers, often while employing contract IT labor through agencies, look for a few base criteria, and then differentiate only on price. The IT professional might not be digging ditches, but they are now a “laborer”.
Dave Coplin, Chief Envisioning Officer at Microsoft, imagines what might be possible if more organisations embraced the full, empowering potential of technology & encouraged an open, collaborative & flexible working culture.
Another interesting hour from To The Best of Our Knowledge.
American companies generate a lot of wealth. But Americans aren’t seeing much of it. Media theorist Douglas Rushkoff says that’s because today’s corporations are obsessed with one thing — growth. We’ll find out why our economy’s operating system is broken and how we can fix it, as we rethink work. Also, we’ll explore the six-hour work day and the case for a universal basic income.
I have been thinking lately about Universal Basic Income, and the interview here with Rutger Bregman has some useful insights. (Which means I’ll need to read his Utopia for Realists: The Case for a Universal Basic Income, Open Borders, and a 15-Hour Workweek soon, too.)
The phrase that really jumped out at me, and which will likely become the title of a future blog post, was that “UBI is the dividend of progress”. Ties in nicely with my musings a few years back on the idea, If the government were run like a business…
I had been reading up on Ubuntu (the operating system) when I came across ubuntu!: An Inspiring Story About an African Tradition of Teamwork and Collaboration (the book) at the library. It was obvious from the subtitle that this was not a book about the OS, but the title pulled me in to at least take a look.
At first I thought it was a true story, perhaps an extended case study, since it was in the new non-fiction section. It turns out, though, that it is actually a work of didactic fiction, a story created by the authors to make a point. That point being that at work we all seem to forget that our co-workers are human, that they aren’t just there as “cogs in the machine”, and that we all need to start respecting our fellow workers as people, even if the work they perform isn’t (yet) worthy of our respect.
Or as those two great philosophers Bill Preston and Ted Logan once said, “Be excellent to each other.”
This point is made through the application of the African tradition known as ubuntu, brought to (stereo)typical big box corporate America by a young South African man working at the company while an MBA student at a local university. The short definition of ubuntu is
a philosophy that considers the success of the group above that of the individual
Here is a more detailed description, as given by Simon (the young South African student) early on to John, his overly stressed and on the verge of failing manager:
Ubuntu…is about teamwork and brotherhood. It is finding that part of you that connects with other people and bringing it to life…. When you struggle, the Ubuntu in me reaches out to give you a hand. If you wander into my village with nothing to eat, our villagers will provide you with food. Why? Because at the deepest level we are all brothers and sisters…. If one of us hurts, we all hurt.
The rest of the story revolves around John’s learning journey, his epiphany, and the sharing of this new knowledge with the rest of the company.
If you are looking for engaging characters, a suspenseful plot, and a twist at the end, this is not the book for you. As William Gibson said recently, didactic fiction rarely results in deep characters or plot. And that’s fine, because the point of this story is to make a point.
For someone open to the idea of an engaging workplace, where each person is respected as a human first, and only then viewed as an employee, the story told in Ubuntu! will provide some insight into the possibilities. Ironically, these are the people who least need to read this book, because they probably already feel this way.
On the other hand, the people who could most benefit from this book – the managers who treat their employees like, well, employees – will most likely read this book and dismiss it as “touchy feely crap”.
The power of Ubuntu is, I’m afraid, one of those things that you have to experience to truly appreciate.