I’ve begun following the thoughts of Nilofer Merchant. I like her thinking.
And I’ve been thinking on her comment yesterday about ideas coming in around the edges, . . . I like it. A strong conceptual metaphor! Got me thinking about her Who You Are Is What You Make interview, considering those ‘Gaps’ between the boxes in the organizational structure. Which got me thinking about structural scale.
Our world view enables us to think of “organizational gaps” as metaphor for the corporate space, a way of describing the dynamic relationships between people and their influence or responsibilities. From a management perspective this may be the only way to wrap our minds around the concept of the interactions between people and their relationships within an enterprise; A hierarchical organization on a page. Cartesian space characterized by containers with connecting orthographic lines, . . . Otherwise, it just gets too messy.
Visual thinking attempts to dig a bit deeper into an enterprise, perhaps a more dynamic view. Venn bubbles, lines with arrows, even squiggly lines and the complexity of fluid intersections, alignment and vectors describing relationships and structure. Still very 2-dimensional. Still within Cartesian space, and all very difficult for management to influence, . . . So, the result is PowerPointy boxes, complete with gaps on a chart with edges into the void that invite us to fall. All very Newtonian, and Microsoft has made it easy to express, as long as you use their menus. A view that influences our thinking and our perceptions. And maybe it is time to move beyond it. Turn the page.
Consider the transition into thinking in terms of observed interactions, unseen forces and vast distances that inspired Einstein to imagine a more cosmic world view. Organization as a landscape within an environment. Conceptually, the metaphors become very interesting. The influences that are acting on business today may be considered as the curvature of space-time influenced by mass-density providing a localized warping of those neat boxes and the grids of spreadsheets. The mental model quickly goes 3-dimensional, with altitude, wave-forms and some very real geometry.
The Newtonian view works as far as your arm’s reach. Add a little distance, and introduce the dynamics of 7-billion people and space-time warps a bit. But we’re still not looking at the entire picture. Consider operating with definite Finite Limits. Confined to the Earth’s over-developed surface, our need for the dwindling resources available within a closed system creates additional levels of stress. A chaotic model doesn’t begin to do it justice.
Confining our perceptions, our sphere of influence and the collective impact of our actions to arm’s reach needs revision. The mental model begs adjustment.
Alan Chochinov is exploring those gaps and those edges in 1000 Words, The Critical Dichotomies of Design.
If we can consider the possibilities, the future becomes quite interesting. We just need some new pictures for a world-view quite different from the current one.