Our Human Fear

The order which cannot be put into books.

Quote of the Moment

No organization in the political and commercial sense of the word is organic. Organizations, in this sense, are based on the following of linear rules and laws imposed from above – that is, of strung-out, serial, one-thing-at-a-time sequences of words and signs which can never grasp the complexity of nature, although nature is only “complex” in relation to the impossible task of translating it into these linear signs. Outside the human world, the order of nature goes along without consulting books, but our human fear is that the Tao which cannot be described, the order which cannot be put into books, is chaos.

| Alan Watts, Tao: The Watercourse Way



Yet another business essay -- this one by Adam Bryant -- that implicitly segregates 'leaders' from everyone else in the organization.

The crises of the last 18 months have led to profound shifts in our perception of the role of organizations in society, the nature of work itself (how and where it gets done), and the qualities that matter most in leaders now. This period of disruption has also led many people to reconsider what they want to do and where they want to live. And so, with all these fundamental career questions being put on the table, I would argue that we should add one more: do people really want the promotions that everyone assumes they want?

Yes, I get that it might seem like trying to fight gravity. The reward systems we have in place are structured to create a powerful upward pull. But once the thrill of the new title and pay bump wears off, a lot of people find themselves in roles that they may not like or be suited for. It’s a fact of life that many people think they want a particular job until they actually get that job.


The “up or out” culture that started in many fields such as law and academia—the pressure to achieve a certain rank within a certain period of time or else—has become a bedrock notion of many companies. But some CEOs I’ve interviewed over the years have applied fresh thinking to compensation and hierarchies so that talented individual contributors feel rewarded without the usual pressure to move into bigger management jobs.

Let’s examine the piled-on premises that Bryant expects us to agree with, implicitly:

  • The hierarchical power structure is a given, even though the pandemic has 'led to profound shifts in our perception of the role of organizations in society', and 'the nature of work itself (how and where it gets done)'. But apparently not shifts big enough to question bronze-age organizational structure.

  • The 'powerful upward pull' of 'reward structures' seems disembodied, but it's not a law of the universe. It's a system designed to pull in individuals with certain skills and personality attributes and to make them part of management.

  • While enlightened CEOs may be capable of rejecting -- or at least questioning -- an 'up or out' trajectory, apparently they aren't able to question the central duality of corporate life: there are nobles (officers, managers) who are in charge, and commoners (rank-and-file, subordinates) who do what they are told.

  • The corporate system is based on managers advancing through recognition and promotion by those 'higher' in management. What about a system where members of the organization increase in authority and influence because of what all others think of them?


Nicole Kobie, in Let’s celebrate the death of hustle, wonders if the magic spell of ‘hustle culture’ has worn off:

So it’s with great joy that I’ve seen so many essays and articles declaring the death of hustle. Forget tech CEOs proclaiming the only way to success is to get up at 5am to meditate before answering Slack messages while downing a cold-pressed juice, or advice from “girlbosses” on how to turn your hobbies into a side-gig. The new trend is work-life balance, and no wonder after 18 months of working at home – where naps are possible – through a pandemic that made opening a news app or glancing at social media a constant memento mori of the brutal shortness of our lives.

Instead, we now ponder whether having a career is worth the effort, look for advice on avoiding toxic productivity, and consider whether we should all stop listening to hustle proponent and frequent keynote speaker Gary Vaynerchuck. Laziness has been declared fine. My personal favourites are the Nap Ministry, which declares that “rest is resistance”, and “tang ping”, an idea from China where younger people counteract a culture that values overwork by “lying flat” – not actually planking, but dropping modern pressures and expectations in favour of simpler life with less stress.

I sure hope so. Long live minimum viable work!

How to Stay Optimistic (When Everything Is Awful) by the great Bill Taylor is subtitled Insist on crisp execution, but make room for “organizational barlishness.” Barlishness means slightly wild.

In times as demanding as these, it’s impossible to succeed without embracing the grind — the day-to-day struggle to meet the needs of anxious customers, collaborate with stressed-out colleagues, balance work and family.

But this organizational attention to detail can’t come at the expense of imagination and brainstorming — what celebrated Stanford Business School professor James G. March calls “organizational barlishness.” In his seminal paper, “Footnotes to Organizational Change,” March describes how the best leaders balance “explicitly sensible processes of change,” such as careful planning and sound project management, with slack time, experiments, blue-sky thinking — “certain elements of barlishness” that can be “difficult to justify” but are “important to the broader system” of innovation.

The section on 'three feet of influence' is good too:

Don’t just champion new ideas; strengthen personal relationships.

In times of unprecedented turmoil, there is an understandable temptation for leaders to bet the future on game-changing ideas: digital disruption, product reinvention, organizational transformation. All too often, though, leaders who champion futuristic ideas overlook the human and emotional connections that keep colleagues upbeat today.

Sharon Salzberg, a central figure in the field of meditation, works with caregivers, educators, and social-change activists — well-meaning people with aspirations to make a big difference. She urges these leaders to tend first to their “three feet of influence” — the clients, patients, people and teams closest to them. “Few people are powerful enough, persuasive, persistent, and charismatic enough to change the world all at once,” she argues. “The world we can most try to affect is the one immediately around us.”

Share work futures


In Thought Leadership is a position that is earned, not self proclaimed, Andrew Gill who for years branded himself a 'thought leader' now says people shouldn't dub themselves like that. So now he humbly positions himself as 'The Actionable Futurist™' -- trademarked, note! -- and 'Trusted Board-level Advisor' and 'International Keynote Speaker'.

Sead Fadilpašić notes that Facebook ends 'WFH forever' rule after mega outage:

The era of hybrid working may be at an end for Facebook employees after the company announced a full return to the office.

Having previously offered a "WFH forever" approach, the social media giant has now told employees they have three months to get back to the office, according to a Daily Mail report. The news comes days after Facebook suffered a major outage, which the company apparently believes would have been a lot less devastating had people been in its American headquarters.

Helen Rosner interviews the antitrust researcher Moe Tkacik who discusses New York’s new laws and the future of DoorDash, Grubhub, and Uber Eats.

If DoorDash is charging people five extra dollars for a meal, or ten extra dollars, and you start factoring in inflated prices, and the litany of fees—I think that people will make this calculation and decide “It’s not worth it. I’ll just go pick it up myself.” That’s better for restaurants.

One extra:

How Google's hot air balloon surprised its creators: Autonomous balloon invents 'tacking' to improve travel into the wind.