Thursday, November 6, 2014

Corporate Grind

#QTWTAIN @lucykellaway asks if those workers who stay for years with the same companies (are) unambitious and mediocre, or does the corporate grind make them so?

Her article addresses the perception that people seemed to get dimmer the higher they went in the organization. If this perception is correct then there are several possible explanations
  • increased quality of intake
  • higher turnover of more talented and ambitious people (who may expect to get better opportunities elsewhere)
  • dulling effect of corporate life
If it is true that organizations systematically lose the best people and/or turn good people into mediocrities, then according to Stafford Beer's POSIWID principle, this is effect reveals the defacto purpose of the organization.

But perhaps the perception that people get dimmer as they get more experienced is wrong. Perhaps they simply display different forms of intelligence that are associated with collective excellence rather than individual brilliance. Clearly it would be natural for organizations to promote those kinds of intelligence that produce good corporate outcomes. However, it is likely that not everyone (especially fresh graduates) would see or appreciate these forms of intelligence.

According to the conventional metaphor, the corporate grind turns people into round pegs. When I was young, I used to think there was some kind of virtue in being a square peg: now I'm not so sure. However, there is undoubtedly a problem for any organization that cannot accommodate a few brilliant square pegs.

Lucy Kellaway, Why firms don't want you to be brilliant at your job (BBC Magazine 20 October 2014)

Twitter Update from @lucykellaway Today was my pearl anniversary at FT. Is 30 years' service a triumph or disgrace? (16 Apr 2015). My answer: Obviously a triumph for the FT to keep such a journalistic pearl.

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