Wise Organizations? Continued…

Preparing the Way for Wisdom in Organizations – Part 2c

We have been talking about language-action and the constitution of organizations. To see the earlier parts of this long posting which reflects on the conditions and situations in which wisdom can be cultivated and exercised in organizational settings, click on the links below. To get back to this page, click on the title of the blog in the upper left.

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5

Next we turn to the implications of language-action for the design of systems. In their book Understanding Computers and Cognition, Fernando Flores and Terry Winograd outlined a three point theory of management and conversation in their that shows well many of the features of how software designs could embody the insights we are exploring here:

  1. “Organizations exist as networks of directives and commissives.” Directives include orders, requests, consultations, and offers; commissives include promises, acceptances, and rejections. (These names for performative verbs are from a different taxonomy than I use and present here, but the reader will see the relationships.)
  2. “Breakdowns will inevitably occur, and the organization needs to be prepared. In coping with breakdowns, further networks of directives and commissives are generated.”
  3. “People in an organization (including, but not limited to managers) issue utterances, by speaking or writing, to develop the conversations required in the organizational network. They participate in the creation and maintenance of a process of communication. At the core of this process is the performance of linguistic acts that bring forth different kinds of commitments.” (Understanding Computers and Cognition: A New Foundation for Design. p. 157.)

Flores and Winograd claim (and I am convinced that their claim is a good one) that the classical idea of decision-making is not well supported phenomenologically. (In ordinary language, this fancy expression means “bad theory” or “the evidence doesn’t fit the claims,” or, “that dog won’t hunt.” The problem is that when people are talking about decision making it appears to all concerned that they know what they are talking about, and, in fact, normally they do not.) Flores and Winograd recommended substituting the notion of ‘dealing with irresolution’ and supporting people in coming to resolution. (Ibid, p 144ff.)

Stay tuned. More to come.

© Copyright Chauncey Bell, 2003-4. All rights reserved worldwide.
Copyright © 2005, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc. is prohibited.

2 thoughts on “Wise Organizations? Continued…

  1. Camila

    Hello Chauncey: I am a Chilean student of psychology, my name is camila, and have to do a design of investigation (research) it brings over of some relevant topic that contributes the society. I want to work with the theoretical models of Fernando Flores. For it I need to know if at present this model is in force or is being applied in Chile, What you know in the matter?
    Good-bye, would be grateful for your response.

  2. I guess that you must know more than I. Fernando is a sitting Senator, and has more years to serve. He is a living exemplar of many features of his theories. “Model” is never a very good word for understanding what a philosopher thinks or does, and Flores is a philosopher. In force? He is, I think, continuously doing things in Chile to make the country healthier, more awake, more able to participate in the world community, a better force in the world. I suggest you check in with Mario Valdivia, who has a good blog, and see what he is saying. Ask other questions if you want.
    All the best,

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