Fernando Flores new offerings

Many of my readers know that I worked with Fernando Flores for over 20 years in a variety of companies and roles. I am his student, admiring colleague, and friend.

Now that he has completed his term in the Chilean Senate, Fernando has begun to roll out new educational offerings. He has started to deliver the new program he has been thinking about for some time now, with a center of operations in the US. His central premise (my summary) is that there is nowhere available today an educational program that addresses the challenges of the most serious problems facing us in the world today — working across enormous cultural and geographical distances, and building programs (and people) with the kind of  ‘staying power’ to keep thinking about and developing approaches to problems that will not be swayed or stopped because some groups have found compelling sound-bytes and mastered techniques of speaking ‘loudly’ in whatever media.

To address this need, he has built a short workshop that introduces the program, a four-month long course about working effectively in small groups, and is at this moment piloting the second of what he expects could eventually be a set of four or five courses.

I am currently participating in the first of the four month long courses. I’m convinced that his diagnosis about the dimensions of education and preparation for working in the 21st Century that he is thinking are on the mark. And, I have been very impressed by the accelerated learning that takes place in the environment that Fernando and his colleagues have designed. The combination of a rich philosophical context, guided play and discussion, and the use of a virtual reality environment for interaction gives a place for learning that is both full of challenges and at the same time allows students to take risks and develop new practices fast without risking their identities in their normal workspace. Most participants report important results developed very quickly.

If you have followed Fernando’s ideas and writings over the years at all, and found or suspected that important benefits were possible there, I strongly recommend that you contact Gloria Flores at <gfloresletelier@gmail.com> and discuss with her how to participate in the emerging new work.

The following are introductory comments from Pluralistic Networks’ introduction to their offerings. Pluralistic Networks’ website can be found at http://www.pluralisticnetworks.com. The name comes from the observation that important work all over the world must come from teams of people assembled from deeply varied communities, backgrounds, and training, and those people must learn how to come together and work effectively with each other very quickly. There is no way for us to all ‘grow up in the same village together’ in order to learn to work effectively together.

Our Introductory Session is currently called Building and Thriving in Pluralistic Networks — A New Approach for Learning Critical 21st Century Skills.  It will take place in SF on Feb. 23rd – 25th.

This session is an intensive three day conference led by Dr. Fernando Flores.  During the three days, participants will experience a new way of learning that combines Virtual Reality Games, Guided Reflection and Discussion, and grounded theoretical work to constitute a Virtual Reality Learning Laboratory that enable our students to rapidly develop new skills and sensibilities that are critical for our world today.  During the three days, participants explore:

-the skills and sensibilities we must cultivate to build stronger relationships and act effectively with others in a global, complex and constantly changing world.
-the use use new networked technologies as learning environments for developing new skills and sensibilities.
-their own abilities to work effectively with others, including the behaviors that may get in the way. Throughout the course, participants engage in hands-on group exercises using a virtual reality game environment, and emerge not only with a new awareness of themselves and the skills they need to cultivate, but also with a sense of ambition as they begin to articulate a personal roadmap for learning to navigate in the world of pluralistic networks.

The WEST program (Working Effectively in Small Teams) is our Four Month Learning Laboratory focused on working in teams.  This program is not what you might expect from a “team building” type of course; but rather, our focus is on developing an awareness of how we invent our identity with others, and on learning new skills and sensibilities that enable us to not only coordinate more effectively with other people, but also to build trusting relationships and to be more sensitive to each others’ moods and emotions.  Our students work as teams, and in the process of engaging with each other, they discover what works and what does not work in the way they build their relationship with their team mates (and in real life) for the sake of completing their missions.  The program includes exercises that allow our students to begin to develop the ability to observe themselves in action, not get triggered by negative emotional reactions, and begin the process of cultivating emotional fortitude — the ability to cope with adversity, change and uncertainty as a routine part of life.

When he finished his term as a Senator, the Chilean Government asked Fernando to do several interesting things that I am sure he will share with students and in his blogging when the time is right.

ACM Publishes CB’s Paper on Design

A version of my essay on difficulties with design was published last week by the Association for Computing Machinery in their journal, Ubiquity. Ubiquity, in the words of the ACM, ‘is a Web-based publication of the Association for Computing Machinery, dedicated to fostering critical analysis and in-depth commentary on issues relating to the nature, constitution, structure, science, engineering, cognition, technology, practices and paradigms of the computing profession. Ubiquity is concerned with helping us see what we do not see. Ubiquity looks for novel perspectives on what is going on in the core of our field. Ubiquity looks also to the edges of our field and beyond, seeking the perspectives of those in other fields who are impacted by computing. We need to know about what they think.’

I am honored and pleased to see this essay published by the ACM, and invite your reading and comments.

You can see the ACM’s announcement of the essay here, and the essay itself is published here.

Thanks to Peter Denning for making this possible.

Preparing the Way for Wisdom in Organizations – Part 5

Continuing the set of six tiny essays inviting reflection about the construction of the conditions and situations in which wisdom can be cultivated and exercised in organizational settings.

“Inventing” Waste

Historic inventions are often built from historic difficulties, and they always involve the invention of new distinctions. We have posted about the “Five Great Wastes” before, here.

Let us give two examples in which critical new distinctions of historic inventions have to do with what people at the time thought of as “wastes.”

Henry Ford, Mass Production, and the Model T

At the turn of the 20th century automobiles were expensive toys available only to the very rich. Henry Ford invented practices that we summarize as “mass production” and the “Model T.” He succeeded thereby in making automobiles less expensive and more accessible to the average American worker. At the same time, he produced a way of doubling the income of American Workers, thereby giving them the income to purchase the Model T. Ford’s new system produced cars quickly and so efficiently that it considerably lowered the cost of assembling the cars. He decided to pass this savings along to his customers, and in 1915 dropped the price of the Model T from $850 to $290. That year, he sold 1 million cars. (Parts of the story from http://www.ideafinder.com/history/inventors/ford.htm.)

Taiichi Ohno and the Toyota Production System

At the end of the Second World War, the people of Japan were in terrible trouble, their morale, productive capacity, and international relations demolished. An engineer named Taiichi Ohno, in the enterprise today known as Toyota, began the task of building a new capacity for Japanese production on top of Henry Ford’s designs, with some important additions. For example, Ford incorporated everything into one plant; Ohno designed for operation in a network. The operational heart of Ford’s designs was the way the engineers designed the coordination of the work on the assembly line (the employees found the repetition boring and only stayed because of what Ford called the ‘wage motive.’) Ohno centered his design in processes that built the capacity of each person on the production floor to take responsibility for the quality and coordination of their work. His invention became the foundation of the quality movement that swept the world starting in the 1970s and 80s.

Continue reading

Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places

I offer homage to Waylon Jennings, for his song which echoes in my head as I think about what I want to say here, to Joe Alberti, the acting and drama coach whose comment I have been interacting with, and which inspired this posting, to Fernando Flores, teacher and mentor, and to Greg and Margaret and Shirah, faithful partners for reflection.

This posting has a moral: Be bloody careful about the language in which you make important interpretations, or your language will “invent you” as something you may not be happy with. Winston Churchill, in a speech in the House of Commons on October 28, 1944, said, “We shape our dwellings, and afterwards our dwellings shape us.” (http://drmardy.com tells us that Churchill made the speech during the rebuilding of the House of Commons, after it sustained heavy bombing damage during the Battle of Britain.)

  • Paraphrasing his words and idea, we say,

    We shape our language (our interpretations of the world, and the moods and distinctions in which we listen and speak), and afterwards our language shapes us.

    Continue reading

  • Wise Organizations? Continued …

    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, Part 6

    We are continuing the set of six tiny essays inviting reflection about the construction of the conditions and situations in which wisdom can be cultivated and exercised in organizational settings.

    Preparing for Ethical Action

    The concern for action is central to the question of wisdom, and there is a direct relationship between the exercise of wisdom and ethics. Let’s take these one at a time. Wisdom has more to do with action and less to do with dry abstraction than a casual look at many traditions would have us believe. Even the extraordinarily rigorous contemplative activities frequently found in the practices of some wisdom traditions, when carefully examined, will be found to have to do with getting prepared for taking or being involved in action. We meditate, contemplate, and the like in order to be prepared to take action, or to support others taking action when the moment for action arrives.

    Continue reading

    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.

    The Challenge of Changing Behaviors

    [We revised this posting on Wednesday 26 March.]

    This posting is inspired by the questions Joe Alberti asked here. Joe teaches theatre and acting, and is working on a PhD. Some time ago he began studying wierd stuff – the writings of Fernando Flores and Humberto Maturana in particular. I like the heart of Joe’s question: the central challenge he faces is changing the orientations, ways of thinking and acting – the behaviors – of the people with whom he works. That is the central challenge that a lot of us face.

    Frequently people speak of “those not under our control” as emblematic of this challenge. The way we talk about work in modern organizations produces the illusion that we have some people under our control, and others not. This is an illusion. We don’t control cats, we don’t control goats, we don’t control dogs, we don’t control horses, and we don’t control human beings. We dance with them in consensual spaces. (Yes, I agree that there are places and situations in the world where, effectively, people move with guns held at their heads. That is not the common situation in the developed world today.)

    The overall challenge is to design reliable structures in which the right kinds of actions can happen when people are working together.

    Continue reading

    Wise Organizations?, continued …

    With the permission of the publishers of the book, Idea Group, Inc., I’m sharing this chapter in a series of postings, to see what kind of conversation it generates. Idea Group’s copyright prohibits copying the text in any written or electronic form. Please help me protect this copyright by referring people to the blog, but don’t copy the text that is here.

    Preparing the Way for Wisdom in Organizations – Part 2b

    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. To get back to this page, refresh the blog.


    Part 1

    Part 2
    Part 3
    Part 4

    Each language action has standard elements which, when recognized, can help guide designers as they specify elements of an organization: strategies, configurations, practices, systems, etc. The standard elements of a language action? Speakers, listeners, conditions of satisfaction, time of speaking, time of expected response, time of committed action, and so forth.

    John Austin discovered performative verbs (language-actions) some 60 years ago. The implications of his discovery are vast and still mostly unrecognized. Dr. Fernando Flores Labra, currently a Senator in the Chilean government, was the first to point out the importance of performatives for understanding and guiding the behaviors of people in modern organizations, and as a potential underpinning for design in organizations. (Flores brought together many of the thinkers and the traditions of thinking on which I rely in this paper.)

    Ask yourself the question, ‘What makes something be an organization?’ Within every culture there are a variety of standard modes of business operation that can be observed (sales, manufacturing, invoicing, shipping, and so forth.) Underneath all of the variety is a more fundamental set of practices. Whether a business is as simple as an individual sitting on the ground with a pile of fruit for sale or a multinational conglomerate, and whether it produces tangible goods in factories, provides janitorial services, or operates entirely “on paper,” as in the case of many financial businesses, …


    A business is created when a person or group of people declares that they will recurrently make certain classes of offers to some population of customers, and that they will satisfy the conditions of those offers (deliver what they promised) in exchange for some offer the customer makes in return, or the fulfillment of some request they make to the customer.

    Continue reading

    Wise Organizations? Continued …

    With the permission of the publishers of the book, Idea Group, Inc., I’m sharing this chapter in a series of postings, to see what kind of conversation it generates. Idea Group’s copyright prohibits copying the text in any written or electronic form. Please help me protect this copyright by referring people to the blog, but don’t copy the text that is here.

    Preparing the Way for Wisdom in Organizations – Part 2a

    This is the second in a set of six essays inviting reflection about the construction of the conditions and situations in which wisdom can be cultivated and exercised in organizational settings.
    Language-Action and the Constitution of Organizations

    For the vast majority of the moments of our lives (including much of our sleep, in dreams remembered and not), we are doing things in language, and language is doing things to us. The opportunity of this topic is that “language-action” offers a radically improved path to observing what we are doing as we are speaking (and listening). When we speak we create new interpretations, moods, possibilities, and futures in the bodies and minds of those with whom we are speaking (and for ourselves). Therefore, one of the distinctions that will be essential for us is language-action: observing language as communicative acts.

    The English philosopher John L. Austin (1911-1960) was the first to carefully distinguish a class of verbs that he called performatives – verbs that, rather than describing actions, perform actions. (John L. Austin, (1975). How to Do Things With Words, Second Edition. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, p. 148.)

    When someone says ‘I promise to …,’ he is performing the action of promising, not reporting that he will, did, or might promise. It turns out that all human languages contain performatives. For the purpose of designing work in organizations, I distinguish six classes of performatives:

    * declarations
    * offers
    * requests
    * promises
    * assessments
    * assertions

    The most important, and most interesting thing about these verbs is that, when we look carefully, we can see that it is with these acts that we human beings invent our futures. Very often we don’t actually use the words; people make promises all the time without saying “I promise,” and make requests even more often without saying “I request” (for example, “The soup needs salt” and “Don’t you think that it is cold in here?”)

    How do these language-actions show up as we are inventing our futures?
    Continue reading

    Wise Organizations?, Continued …


    With the permission of the publishers of the book, Idea Group, Inc., I’m sharing this chapter in a series of postings, to see what kind of conversation it generates. Idea Group’s copyright prohibits copying the text in any written or electronic form. Please help me protect this copyright by referring people to the blog, but don’t copy the text that is here.

    Preparing the Way for Wisdom in Organizations

    Anthony Kenny, Oxford Professor of Philosophy, tells us that the questions I have been asking about wisdom and its origins ‘belong to philosophy’:

    “The ambition of philosophy is to achieve truth of a kind which transcends what is merely local and temporal; but not even the greatest of philosophers have come near to achieving that goal in any comprehensive manner. There is a constant temptation to minimize the difficulty of philosophy by redefining the subject in such a way that its goal seems more attainable. …even the greatest philosophers of the past propounded doctrines which we can see – through hindsight of the other great philosophers who stand between them and ourselves – to be profoundly mistaken. This should be taken not as reflecting on the genius of our great predecessors, but as an indication of the extreme difficulty of the discipline. … But we philosophers must resist [the] temptation [to understate the difficulty]; we should combine unashamed pride in the loftiness of our goal with undeluded modesty about the poverty of our achievement.” (Anthony Kenny, 1997, in The Oxford Illustrated History of Western Philosophy, Oxford: Oxford University Press, p 368. I reordered his sentences.)

    In the following, I offer a set of six small texts about cultivating and exercising wisdom in organizational settings:

    * Taking Language and Listening Seriously
    * Language-Action and the Constitution of Organizations
    * Preparing for Ethical Action
    * Learning and Competence
    * “Inventing” Waste
    * Pain-Free Wisdom?

    Continue reading

    Wise Organizations?, Continued …

    by Chauncey Bell

    With the permission of the publishers of the book, Idea Group, Inc., I’m sharing this chapter in a series of postings, to see what kind of conversation it generates. Idea Group’s copyright prohibits copying the text in any written or electronic form. Please help me protect this copyright by referring people to the blog, but don’t copy the text that is here.

    Part 2. What about Wisdom in an Organization?

    Now let us turn our attention to wisdom in organizations per se. The first thing that we will do is to introduce several questions and foundations that we will employ for thinking with you about wisdom, mostly without resolving them.

    Do you admire the way that your bank handles your questions, your supermarket manages your experience, your auto dealer handles the maintenance of your car, or the way that manufacturers of things you buy handle your questions and suggestions? We may admire the wisdom of someone in dealing with his children, spouse, or even colleagues or employees in his company, but a wise organization? Can you remember a real, sustained experience with an organization that learns from its mistakes, as Churchman dreamed? (The book in which this chapter was published is dedicated to the memory of Professor C. West Churchman of the University of California at Berkeley.)

    Even those small community and fraternal organizations over which we might think we have the greatest control are often sources of epic frustration. I listen to my neighbor: “You will not believe what just happened at the neighborhood association meeting.” (Yes, I will.) Does anyone admire the way our governments interact with us? Take a deep breath and prepare yourself to stand patiently in line and wait. When, as does occasionally happen, we have the experience of someone in an organization listening carefully and acting with alacrity in response to our request, this is an occasion for a celebration. “A miracle happened!” my wife will begin a report of that rare event: an organization acting wisely.

    Some institutions produce disproportionately large numbers of people adjudged “wise” in their communities. Consider, for example, the histories of the great religious institutions of the East and West, the institution of science itself, and the institution of medicine down through the ages. These are not the only examples by any means. Can you think of other examples of your own? Why does this happen? And why are these histories so uneven? Why great wisdom at some moments and behaviors that we would call stupid, self-serving, or even criminal at others?
    Continue reading

    Wise Action in Organizations

    Three years ago Jim Courtney, Professor of Management Information Systems at the University of Central Florida in Orlando, asked me to write a chapter on the subject of “wisdom in organizations” for a book he was preparing. The book was published in 2005 as Inquiring Organizations: Moving From Knowledge Management To Wisdom, a book dedicated to the memory of Professor C. West Churchman of the University of California at Berkeley, edited by Jim, John Haynes, and David Paradice. It included my chapter, entitled, “Wise Organizations?”

    With the permission of the publishers of the book, Idea Group, Inc., I’m going to share the chapter here, in a series of postings (it is quite long), to see what kind of conversation it generates. Idea Group’s copyright prohibits copying the text in any written or electronic form. Please help me protect this copyright by referring people to the blog, but don’t copy the text that is here.

    Wise Organizations?
    Chauncey Bell

    In seeking wisdom, the first step is silence; the second, listening; the third, remembering; the fourth, practicing; the fifth teaching others.
    Solomon Ibn Gabirol, Jewish Poet and Philosopher (c. 1021-1058)

    “There is no use trying,” said Alice; “one can’t believe impossible things.” “I dare say you haven’t had much practice,” said the Queen. “When I was your age, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”
    Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

    Introduction

    In this chapter, I want to help put a richer background in place to support the work of IT designers. I hope that an examination of wisdom may inform those who have the ambition to, or are charged with designing and building software systems and networks, and lead to the development of systems that do a better job of supporting people in the wise exercise of their responsibilities in all kinds of organizations. The subject is too big for a chapter in a book, but perhaps with the following I can inspire, suggest some foundations, suggest directions for exploration, and at the same time point out some goofy interpretations that may be adjusted or altered.

    In his exploration of the idea of ‘designing inquiring systems,’ C. West Churchman challenged himself to invent a basis for building systems that support human action more effectively:

    “Instead of just asking the traditional questions of how human minds come to learn from experience, [I] asked how one could design a system that would learn from its experience in some ‘optimal’ fashion. My plan was to translate some of the historical texts in the theory of knowledge into modern systems terminology, by assuming that the authors were discussing the components of a system design. … I was struck again [while studying Leibniz] by the fact that in his approach to the inquiring system he was insisting that a concept of the whole system was essential in understanding how each ‘part’ worked. … Now in these days of rather intense study of systems and their management, few seem in the least concerned about … the characteristics of the whole system in any but a very narrow sense. If Leibniz was right, then modern theories of system design and managerial control are sadly lacking in their reasoning.” (C. West Churchman, (1968). Challenge to Reason, New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, p. v.-vi.)

    I am a designer of business habits. I design ways that human beings – in explicit or tacit collaboration with others – do things to shape their futures by adjusting or changing their habits. Mostly I work in large institutions. In the process of building new working habits in a number of industries over the years, I have designed and led the development of several complex software systems.

    We human beings are creatures of habit, and habits are deeply relevant to the question of wisdom.
    Continue reading

    Five Great Wastes

    Following a conversation with my friend Jim Selman, I decided to dust off my story about the kinds of things that I think are going to be the most important “wastes” of the time that is coming. Taiichi Ohno of Toyota fame was my original inspiration for this line of thinking.

    Historic inventions are often built from historic difficulties, and they are always accompanied by new distinctions. At the end of the Second World War, the people of Japan were in terrible trouble, their morale, productive capacity, and international relations demolished. An engineer named Taiichi Ohno, in the enterprise today known as Toyota, began the task of building a new capacity for Japanese production, on top of Henry Ford’s designs, with some important additions. Ford incorporated everything into one plant; Ohno designed for operation in a network. Ford went all out for volume, and minimized variety, in the interpretation that this was the most efficient way to support the US market, and make the money that he needed to support enormous investments and pay his workers enough to buy his cars (roughly doubling the historic pay for that kind of employment). Ohno built a production system that would optimize scarce capital and raw materials, allowing efficient operation with small production runs. The operational heart of Ford’s designs were the way the engineers designed the coordination of the work; Ohno’s design was centered in processes that built the capacity of each person on the production floor to take responsibility for the quality and coordination of their work. Ohno’s inventions became the foundation of the quality movement that swept the world starting in the 1970s and 80s. Continue reading

    Interview with Fernando Flores on Blogging

    Conducted earlier this year by Rosario Lizana, the full text of the interview can be found here.

    The site is set up so that I could not cut and paste from it, so you will have to go there to see what he said. The interview is less than a page in length. In it, Flores talks about his blogging, what he doing with it, about language and what it is to give an opinion, and about bullshitting. The interviewer interpreted that he was talking about Harry Frankfurt’s book, but as one person commenting pointed out, Fernando Flores was talking about bullshitting decades before Frankfurt published his book.

    A New Conversation: Service Design Series of Papers

    Over the last year I have begun the construction of a series of short papers bearing on the question of how we invent futures and enterprises in language, and conduct and manage our business in networks of commitments. My idea is that the papers will serve as provocations, inspirations, and foundations for a literature useful to practitioners seeking to build more resilient, adaptable, responsive enterprises. The plan is to publish them as part of a Wiki. There, people with experience in thinking about the design of enterprises as something centered in language will be able to adjust, add, repair, and contribute to the development of a useful literature. This literature, I hope, will be something taht we construct together, in the style of “open source” programming.

    So here we announce and preview this series of papers, publishing a few initial chicken scratches to invite conversation and consideration of the idea. The initial set of papers I have drafted cover topics relevant to the questions, how do we bring action in enterprises, and what is language action? I have, in addition, sketched papers on topics such as listening, coming to resolution, preparing and leading meetings, speculating and innovating, and others. Without further ado,

    Introduction to the Service Design Series
    Chauncey Bell 20070418

    This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License.

    In seeking wisdom, the first step is silence; the second, listening;
    the third, remembering; the fourth, practicing; the fifth teaching others.

    Solomon Ibn Gabirol, Jewish Poet and Philosopher (c. 1021-1058)

    In this series of short papers we begin to lay stepping-stones for a new interpretation of the way that organizations deliver services that will let us vastly improve how services are designed and delivered. We are doing this in “wiki” format, which will allow people who have studied what we are discussing, and who have experience in applying it, to add to it, and to incorporate it (with attribution) in their own work, as long as they share back what they have contributed.

    Our intention is to begin to build a rich, shared literature about a new way of observing and talking about the design of services.
    Continue reading

    Nicolas asks, “What about Wal-Mart….?”

    Nicolas asks:

    How do you see business enterprises that have historically done much harm to people and the environment as fitting into your claims about enterprises? For example, sugar and cotton production on the backs of African slaves in the New World, or the fossil fuel industry and its accompanying environmental degradation and military interventions in the Mid-East, or Wal-Mart-style corporations and the extinction of small businesses, or sweatshop commodity production? Are these enterprises just incredibly misguided?

    Thank you for the great question(s)! Let’s explore:

    1. All of the examples fit. Each of the institutions you mention was constituted as a collection of historical communities to take care of particular concerns, constituted itself in networks of commitments, and accumulated capital (power is a good synonym) of various sorts – financial, pragmatic, symbolic or political. Continue reading

    Questions about Human Practices

    Ever since I began to wonder about what my father was talking about when he spoke of why he was going to work, I have found myself asking about practices – the things we do over and over again. Over time, we forget how our practices began. They become habits, obligations, things we have to do. After a while, the inspirations, intentions, and commitments in which they were born are forgotten. Why do we have this meeting or that report? Where did this activity that we keep doing come from? Often, we suffer with the “mindless” repetitions of our activities. TGIF?

    Continue reading