Gettin out the way.

Any society functions due to culture, assumptions, norms and habits. Within our society, the cultural norms  of work and ‘professionalism’ include: being docile, agreeable even if requiring dishonesty, and avoiding confrontation and discomfort at any cost. As a result, we have entrenched individuals and interests, where fear of change either in reform or revolution is distanced. The cultural values upheld … result in a stagnant, anti-innovation organizational culture which festers into social values. Jane Jacobs writes about the effects of similar values creep in Dark Age Ahead – a more recent book capturing how the rise of corruption and disregard for the public good has led to broken social systems, a defunct education system and desensitized people.

Increasingly, I attribute many of these dynamics to the capitalist work ethic: of putting in far more than 40 hours a week, continuing to work in spite of ineffectiveness or lower quality and therefore efficacy. The capitalist work ethic blindly assumes that more is better. Another instance where quantity is better than quality, where we place dollars over human beings, where money and the power derived from it dictates the systemic order. Even those of us with a severe critique of capitalism – in theory and in practice of globalized neoliberalism (which in some ways is rabidly anti-capitalist) – suffer from it. Look at rates of burnout amongst our elders and our young people.

Though the Gen X, Y and Millennials have a coherent analysis and critique of the values permeating the jobs, homes and consumption levels of our Baby Boomer elders, we have few viable alternatives of how to live, how to work and how to responsibly use our money as a tool.

Money (or income) can be a tool for sustainability, justice and democracy just as easily as it can be used for consumption, self-medication or excess. The purchase of vegetables through a family farm’s vegetable coop cannot be more different than getting celery, tomatoes and potatoes at Safeway or Wal-Mart. It all depends in how we view greenbacks, and therefore the relationship that we have with our money. It is our relationship to money that construct our own concepts of privilege, power and wealth.

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The danger and power of language is how certain words creep into our everyday language, informing not only how we label, define and understand the world, but also what we communicate to our peers and validate or reaffirm by repeating without question – think of the explicit differences between terrorist and freedom fighter, as well as the images that ‘The War on Drugs’ conjures up instead of rehab. How often do you uphold someone who works 50 hours a week as being a harder worker than someone working 35? How often do you assume that someone working 40 or less has a cush job rather than considering that they know how to limit how much of their week and life their job consumes?

By assuming sole responsibility for our work load, we validate organizational habits that over-burden people with unrealistic expectations dooming us to inadequacy if not failure. If we are to increasingly be change agents and realize more of our dreams as well as fulfill our ambition and workplans, we have to better manage: time management, and people management by delegating work. These are Organization Development issues. Getting better at these lofty notions of management, leadership and vision require three things:

  1. knowing what we know,
  2. figuring out what we do not know and therefore who we should ask,
  3. posing questions to those people that will reveal answers that we do not even know exist.

The ultimate in DKDK: don’t know what I don’t know.

Rather than judge ourselves as inadequate, misinformed or lacking, we need to shift away from the ego-driven paradigm of knowing everything or pretending to know everything. It is much easier to i) figure out what I know, and ii) admit all of what I don’t. And then go figure out who to ask.

We need more GTD and 43folders, and less founder’s syndrome.

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