recentpopularlog in

robertogreco : management   755

« earlier  
On Bullsh*t Jobs | David Graeber | RSA Replay - YouTube
"In 2013 David Graeber, professor of anthropology at LSE, wrote an excoriating essay on modern work for Strike! magazine. “On the Phenomenon of Bullshit Jobs” was read over a million times and the essay translated in seventeen different languages within weeks. Graeber visits the RSA to expand on this phenomenon, and will explore how the proliferation of meaningless jobs - more associated with the 20th-century Soviet Union than latter-day capitalism - has impacted modern society. In doing so, he looks at how we value work, and how, rather than being productive, work has become an end in itself; the way such work maintains the current broken system of finance capital; and, finally, how we can get out of it."
davidgraeber  bullshitjobs  employment  jobs  work  2018  economics  neoliberalism  capitalism  latecapitalism  sovietunion  bureaucracy  productivity  finance  policy  politics  unschooling  deschooling  labor  society  purpose  schooliness  debt  poverty  inequality  rules  anticapitalism  morality  wealth  power  control  technology  progress  consumerism  suffering  morals  psychology  specialization  complexity  systemsthinking  digitization  automation  middlemanagement  academia  highered  highereducation  management  administration  adminstrativebloat  minutia  universalbasicincome  ubi  supplysideeconomics  creativity  elitism  thecultofwork  anarchism  anarchy  zero-basedaccounting  leisure  taylorism  ethics  happiness  production  care  maintenance  marxism  caregiving  serviceindustry  gender  value  values  gdp  socialvalue  education  teaching  freedom  play  feminism  mentalhealth  measurement  fulfillment  supervision  autonomy  humans  humnnature  misery  canon  agency  identity  self-image  self-worth  depression  stress  anxiety  solidarity  camaraderie  respect  community 
january 2019 by robertogreco
Stanford professor: "The workplace is killing people and nobody cares"
"From the disappearance of good health insurance to the psychological effects of long hours, the modern workplace is taking its toll on all of us."
work  labor  health  2018  workplace  culture  capitalism  management  administration  psychology  stress  childcare  jeffreypfeffer  socialpollution  society  nuriachinchilla  isolation  fatigue  time  attention 
december 2018 by robertogreco
How Slavery Inspired Modern Business Management | Boston Review
"The most striking parallel between slavery and scientific management can be found in the “task idea,” which Taylor described as “the most prominent single element in modern scientific management.” The task system is closely identified with Henry Laurence Gantt, who is well known today for the Gantt chart, a scheduling tool, which still bears his name. During the heyday of scientific management, Gantt developed a “task and bonus system,” which paired a flat task and a time wage with bonuses for overwork. Workers would be paid a base wage plus an additional piece rate for production above a certain minimum. By combining an achievable (rather than a maximal) task with bonuses, workers would enjoy the security of a minimum payment but also be encouraged to strive beyond it."

"Writing in 1918, historian Ulrich Bonnell Phillips acknowledged the parallels between scientific management and slavery. As Daniel Joseph Singal notes, when Phillips described the sophistication of southern management strategies, he liked to reference a series of articles in the Southern Planter by H. W. Vick, whose “analysis of stance and movement” resembled some of the most advanced industrial studies of his own time. Perhaps Phillips’s own rosy views of slavery enabled him to see these connections. One of the most influential historians of slavery, his work was infused with racial bias. He famously characterized slavery as a kind of “school” for the enslaved, and his descriptions of the interactions between planters and their slaves bear striking similarities to the ways Taylor described the ideal interactions between managers and workers. In 1911, during the many months of congressional hearings on scientific management, Taylor attempted to distance his system from that of slavery by describing it as a school for workers who did not know how to work: this “is not nigger driving; this is kindness; this is teaching; this is doing what I would like mighty well to have done to me if I were a boy trying to learn how to do something. This is not a case of cracking a whip over a man and saying, ‘Damn you, get there.’”

Half a century after Phillips, Keith Aufhauser again described the extent to which the theory and practice of the slaveholders conformed to Taylor’s system of scientific management. During a decade of heated debate over the nature of southern slavery, Aufhauser argued that there were deep parallels not just between planters’ tools and those advocated by scientific managers, but also about the power relations they reflected. He wrote, “As far as discipline at the workplace goes, . . . the master-slave relationship is quite similar to the capitalist-wage-laborer relationship in scientifically managed enterprises.” Two decades after Aufhauser, historian Mark Smith would again describe aspects of plantation management that looked strikingly like scientific management. Smith focused on the role of time discipline on the plantation, pointing to the widespread use of clocks to assess how much labor the enslaved could perform.

Despite this research and more, the parallels between present-day business management practices and slavery have been persistently neglected in mainstream discussions about the history of U.S. enterprise. So much so that in 2003 management professor Bill Cooke argued that the failure of management scholars to account for this history amounted to “denial.” Cooke wrote that information about slaveholding business practices was widely available in published sources and thus had been willfully overlooked.

In some cases, the evidence for slavery can be literally read between the lines. Take the example of Gantt, whose task and bonus system so closely paralleled the one used by some slaveholders. Gantt is still sometimes profiled in modern management textbooks and web guides. In a phrase copied between them so frequently that it is hard to be sure of its original author, Gantt is said to have been born to a family of prosperous farmers in Maryland, but that “his early years were marked by some deprivation as the Civil War brought about changes to the family fortunes.” Those “changes,” so easily elided, were wrought by the more than sixty enslaved people who escaped from the plantation and took their freedom. The legacy of slavery is simultaneously acknowledged and erased.

To move beyond denial requires not only an acknowledgment that slaveholders practiced a kind of scientific management but also a broader rethinking of deep-seated assumptions about the relationship between capitalism and control. Though there are many exceptions, histories of business practices—at least those that reach a general audience—tend to be both individual and social success stories. They tell stories that are win-win, with businesspeople earning profits and customers, laborers, and communities benefiting along the way. This can, of course, be true. The shift from seeing trade as zero-sum to positive-sum was one of the most important transitions underpinning the rise of capitalism. But capitalism does not make this win-win inevitable.

Growing the pie brings no guarantee about how it will be divided. The sharing of rewards depends on how the rules are written or, differently put, on how markets are regulated. Slavery shows how one particular set of rules enabled precise management but paired its efficiencies with horrifying costs. Slavery also illustrates how certain kinds of market expansion—allowing lives to be bonded in labor and sold—can produce radical inequality. Economic growth can accompany the expansion of freedom and opportunity. But, as in the case of slavery, the expansion of market freedoms for a few can depend on the limitation of all kinds of freedoms for others. Growth can accompany choice, but it can also build on violence and injustice.

Certain kinds of management flourish when managers enjoy a very high level of control over their workers. The rise of scientific management in the late nineteenth century should be seen both as a moment of innovation and as the reemergence of old technologies of control. With the closing of the frontier, workers had fewer opportunities to leave the factory to return to the land. With immigration and rising inequality, manufacturers enjoyed access to a plentiful labor supply. The age of trust and monopoly limited outside options, and collusion meant that even when workers could legally go elsewhere, the circumstances were not necessarily better. Only in circumstances such as these did it make sense for managers such as Taylor to attempt to calculate “what fraction of a horse power a man power is,” with the expectation that this maximum rate of work could be acquired for an hourly wage, or perhaps a wage and a “bonus.”

Modern narratives of capitalist development often emphasize the positive-sum outcomes of many individual choices. They suggest that free, even selfish, decisions go hand in hand with growth and innovation. They often assume that vast wealth accumulated by a few accompanies improved circumstances for many. The history of slavery’s capitalism warns against all these expectations. My new book, Accounting for Slavery, as well as work by historians such as Daina Ramey Berry and Calvin Schermerhorn, shows that slavery in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries was highly adaptable to the pursuit of profit. Free markets for slaveholders flourished, and their control over men, women, and children expedited production, both by pushing up the pace of labor and by transporting it to new, more fertile soils. Slaveholders’ manipulation of human capital compounded it into massive fortunes—both through financial maneuvering and through human reproduction.

When Harvard Business Review marked its ninetieth anniversary in 2012, Taylor made it into all three featured essays, offering an inspirational point of reference for the ability of managers to transform the broader economy. The business history of plantation slavery offers a very different point of reference—a cautionary tale that warns us what profit-seeking can look like when everything, including lives, is up for sale. The heritage of U.S. business includes both stories of innovation and those of extreme violence. Often the two are deeply intertwined. This was true in specific ways for scientific management, and it was undeniable for plantation slavery. Reckoning with these uncomfortable histories can help us to see the deep connections between capitalism and control and, perhaps, even to find a more humane way forward."
taylorism  management  slavery  unschooling  deschooling  schooliness  schooling  2018  caitlinrosenthal  economics  injustice  socialjustice  scientificmanagement  henrylaurencegantt  scheduling  motivation  keithaufhauser  ulrichbonnellphillips  danieljosephsingal  control  hierarchy  tasks  capitalism  dainarameyberry  calvinschermerhorn  markets  growth  frederickwinslowtaylor 
september 2018 by robertogreco
DAVID GRAEBER / The Revolt of the Caring Classes / 2018 - YouTube
"The financialisation of major economies since the '80s has radically changed the terms for social movements everywhere. How does one organise workplaces, for example, in societies where up to 40% of the workforce believe their jobs should not exist? David Graeber makes the case that, slowly but surely, a new form of class politics is emerging, based around recognising the centrality of meaningful 'caring labour' in creating social value. He identifies a slowly emerging rebellion of the caring classes which potentially represents just as much of a threat to financial capitalism as earlier forms of proletarian struggle did to industrial capitalism.

David Graeber is Professor of Anthropology, London School of Economics and previously Assistant Professor and Associate Professor of Anthropology at Yale and Reader in Social Anthropology at Goldsmiths, University of London. His books include The Utopia of Rules: On Technology, Stupidity, and the Secret Joys of Bureaucracy (2015) Debt: The First 5000 Years (2011) and Fragments of an Anarchist Anthropology (2004). His activism includes protests against the 3rd Summit of the Americas in Quebec City in 2001, and the 2002 World Economic Forum in New York City. Graeber was a leading figure in the Occupy Wall Street movement, and is sometimes credited with having coined the slogan, 'We are the 99 percent'.

This lecture was given at the Collège de France on the 22nd March 2018."
davidgraeber  care  caring  teaching  nursing  economics  capitalism  labor  work  employment  compensation  resentment  bullshitjobs  finance  politics  policy  us  uk  workingclass  intellectuals  intellectualism  society  manufacturing  management  jobs  liberalism  values  benefits  nobility  truth  beauty  charity  nonprofit  highered  highereducation  activism  humanrights  os  occupywallstreet  opportunity  revolution  revolt  hollywood  military  misery  productivity  creation  creativity  maintenance  gender  production  reproduction  socialsciences  proletariat  wagelabor  wage  salaries  religion  belief  discipline  maintstreamleft  hospitals  freedom  play  teachers  parenting  mothers  education  learning  unions  consumption  anarchism  spontaneity  universalbasicincome  nonprofits  ubi 
may 2018 by robertogreco
Cobot - managing coworking spaces
"Cobot is the leading management software for coworking spaces, office hubs, and flexible workspaces around the world."

[See also: ]

[via: ]
coworking  lcproject  openstudioproject  management  office  service  software  via:morgansully 
may 2018 by robertogreco
Isis Lecture (Lecture given at the Oxford Literary festival in 2003 ) - Philip Pullman
[from this page:

"This was the first extended piece I wrote about education. I wanted to say what I thought had gone wrong with it, and suggest some better ways of doing things. The lecture was given during the Oxford Literary Festival in 2003."]

"I’m going to talk about culture this afternoon, in the widest sense; about education and the arts, especially literature. It’s my contention that something has gone bad, something has gone wrong in the state of education, and that we can see this very clearly in the way schools deal with books, and reading, and writing – with everything that has to do with literature, and the making of it. When more and more good teachers are leaving the profession in disillusion and disappointment; when the most able undergraduates are taking one look at a career in teaching, and deciding that it offers no scope for their talents, and turning away to do something else; when school headships are proving harder and harder to fill – then we’re doing something wrong.

I think it boils down to this: that education now is suffused with the wrong emotion. Somehow, over the past quarter of a century, ever since James Callaghan’s famous Great Debate speech, we have seen confidence leaking away, and something else slowly seeping in to take its place. What that something else is, I shall come to near the end. No doubt some of the confidence was misplaced; no doubt we needed a Great Debate. But I think the benefits that came from it have long since been exhausted. It’s time for another way of doing things.

So first of all, I’m going to look at what’s happening now, and I’m going right in to the glowing, radioactive core at the heart of the engine that drives the whole thing: the National Curriculum and the SATs. I won’t spend too long on these things, but we do need to look at the actual stuff to get a flavour of the thought behind it, and this is what the Qualifications Curriculum Authority says about the Reading part of the English tests at Key Stage 2 – that means, in human language, at age 11.

They think that reading consists of using a range of strategies to decode, selecting, retrieving, deducing, inferring, interpreting, identifying and commenting on the structure and organisation of texts, identifying and commenting on the writer’s purposes and viewpoints, relating texts to the social, cultural and historical contexts.

That’s it. That’s all. Nothing else. That’s what they want children of 11 to do when they read. They don’t seem to know that reading can also be enjoyed, because enjoyment just doesn’t feature in the list of things you have to do.

Mind you, it’s just as well that they don’t have to enjoy it, because they’re not likely to have a copy of the books anyway. In another unit of work – 46 pages, to get through in a fortnight – they are to study Narrative Structure. The work’s built around two short stories and part of a novel. It’s not expected – this is interesting – that the children will have their own copies of the complete texts, though some pages may be extracted and photocopied.

But the whole book doesn’t matter very much either, because books exist in order to be taken apart and laid out in pieces like Lego. One of the things the children have to do in this unit of work is to make a class list of “the features of a good story opening.” This is where it stops being merely tedious, and starts being mendacious as well. The teacher is asked to model the writing of an alternative first paragraph for one of the stories. The instructions say “Read through the finished writing together. Check this against the criteria for a good opening – does it fulfil all of these?”

I can’t say it clearly enough: this is not how it works. Writing doesn’t happen like this. What does happen like this is those Hollywood story-structure courses, where there are seven rules for this, and five principles of that, and eight bullet-points to check when constructing the second-act climax. You cannot write a good story by building up a list of effective openings. It is telling children a lie to say that this is the way you write stories. Apart from anything else, it’s profoundly vulgar.

Then there is the Reading Journal, which children have to keep. Among other things, they have to:

List the words and phrases used to create an atmosphere

Write a fifty word summary of a whole plot

Pick a descriptive word from the text and, using a thesaurus, write down five synonyms and antonyms for that word

And so on. What concerns me here is the relationship this sets up between child and book, between children and stories. Stories are written to beguile, to entertain, to amuse, to move, to enchant, to horrify, to delight, to anger, to make us wonder. They are not written so that we can make a fifty word summary of the whole plot, or find five synonyms for the descriptive words. That sort of thing would make you hate reading, and turn away from such a futile activity with disgust. In the words of Ruskin, it’s “slaves’ work, unredeemed.”

Those who design this sort of thing seem to have completely forgotten the true purpose of literature, the everyday, humble, generous intention that lies behind every book, every story, every poem: to delight or to console, to help us enjoy life or endure it. That’s the true reason we should be giving books to children. The false reason is to make them analyse, review, comment and so on.

But they have to do it – day in, day out, hour after hour, this wretched system nags and pesters and buzzes at them, like a great bluebottle laden with pestilence. And then all the children have to do a test; and that’s when things get worse."

"So said Ruskin in 1853. Again, we didn’t listen. Ruskin went on to point out that when you do trust people to act for themselves, they are free to make mistakes, to blunder and fail; but there is the possibility of majesty too. Do we want human beings teaching our children, with all their faults and follies and limitations, but with all their depth and grandeur as well? Or do we want managers, who are glib and fluent in the language of audits and targets and performance indicators and mission statements, but who are baffled by true originality, who flinch and draw back from it as if it were deadly poison?

The extraordinary thing is that they are the same people. They could all be free, if they chose. Some of the young people who come into teaching may be timid and narrow-minded, but don’t think for a moment that I think that they’re not capable of courage and curiosity. They’ve never had a chance to show it; their teachers are afraid themselves. Marilyn Mottram of the University of Central England in Birmingham, who has been studying the way the National Curriculum and the Literacy Strategy work in schools, wrote to me last month: “When I work with teachers on developing ways of using texts I’m frequently asked ‘… but are we allowed to do that?’ This sort of continuing anxiety about literacy teaching,” she goes on, “suggests that a culture of conformity has been quite securely established among our primary teachers and, like many others, I find this deeply disturbing.”

These young people are tigers born in cages, and kept caged until they think that being caged is a natural condition; and they look down at themselves, and they see their magnificent stripes, and the only way they can understand them is to think that they themselves must be made of bars: they are their own cage; they dare not move outside the little space they occupy. But they are tigers still, if only they knew."

"So here are five steps we should take, starting right now.

Do away with these incessant tests; they only tell you things you don’t need to know, and make the children do things they don’t need to do.

Abolish the league tables, which are an abomination.

Cut class sizes in every school in the country. No child should ever be in a class bigger than twenty.

Make teaching a profession that the most gifted, the most imaginative, the most well-informed people will clamour to join; and make the job so rewarding that none of them will
want to stop teaching until they drop.

Make this the golden rule, the equivalent of the Hippocratic oath: Everything we ask a child to do should be something intrinsically worth doing.

If we do those five things, we will not bring about a golden age, or an earthly paradise; there are more things wrong with the world than we can cure by changing a system of schooling. But if we get education right, it would show that we were being serious about living and thinking and understanding ourselves; it would show that we were paying our children the compliment of assuming that they were serious too; and it would acknowledge that the path to true learning begins nowhere else but in delight, and the words on the signpost say: “Once upon a time …”"
philippullman  education  canon  teaching  writing  howwelearn  howweread  howweteach  howwewrite  reading  literature  management  unschooling  deschooling  schooliness  schooling  policy  curriculum  culture  society  meaning  johnruskin  learning  schools  pedagogy  literacy  purpose  life  living  pleasure  via:derek  storytelling  stories  fear  intrinsicmotivation  children  self-esteem  self-confidence  language  communication  time  slow  results  accountability  measurement  testing  standardizedtesting  standardization  2003 
april 2018 by robertogreco
9 tools to navigate an 'uncertain future,' from new book, Whiplash - TechRepublic
[See also:

"Joi Ito’s 9 Principles of the Media Lab"

"Joi Ito Co-Author of Whiplash: How To Survive Our Faster Future" ]

""Humans are perpetually failing to grasp the significance of their own creations," write Joi Ito and Jeff Howe in Whiplash: How to Survive Our Faster Future. In the new title, released today, Ito, director of the MIT Media Lab, and Howe, a journalism professor at Northeastern University and Wired contributor, make the case that technology moves faster than our ability to understand it.

As technology quickly advances, it's important to separate inventions from use: Thomas Edison invented the phonograph, but it was Eldridge Reeves Johnson who brought it into homes and laid the groundwork for the modern recording industry. In the same way, we often don't know how modern technology—from the iPhone to the Oculus Rift—will truly be used after it is created. "What technology actually does, the real impact it will have on society, is often that which we least expect," write the authors.

Drawing from a series of case studies and research, the authors offer nine guidelines for living in our new, fast-paced world. The principles, writes Joi Ito, are often displayed on a screen at the MIT Media Lab's main meeting room.

1. Emergence over authority
According to the authors, the Internet is transforming our "basic attitude toward information," moving away from the opinions of the few and instead giving voice to the many. Emergence, they argue, is a principle that captures the power of a collective intelligence. Another piece here, the authors say, is reflected in the availability of free online education, with platforms such as edX, and communities like hackerspace that pave the way for skill-building and innovation.

2. Pull over push
Safecast, an open environmental data platform which emerged from Kickstarter funding, a strong network of donors, and citizen scientists, was an important public project that helped residents of Fukushima learn how radiation was spreading. The collaborative effort here, known as a "pull strategy," the authors argue, shows a new way of compiling resources for real-time events. "'Pull' draws resources from participants' networks as they need them, rather than stockpiling materials and information," write the authors. In terms of management, it can be a way to reduce spending and increase flexibility, they write. For the entrepreneur, it is "the difference between success and failure. As with emergence over authority, pull strategies exploit the reduced cost of innovation that new methods of communication, prototyping, fundraising and learning have made available."

3. Compasses over maps
This principle has "the greatest potential for misunderstanding," the authors write. But here's the idea: "A map implies detailed knowledge of the terrain, and the existence of an optimum route; the compass is a far more flexible tool and requires the user to employ creativity and autonomy in discovering his or her own path." This approach, the authors say, can offer a mental framework that allows for new discoveries. It's a bit like the "accidental invention" method Pagan Kennedy noticed when researching for her New York Times magazine column, "Who Made This?"

4. Risk over safety
As traditional means of manufacturing and communicating have slowed due to tech like 3D printing and the internet, "enabling more people to take risks on creating new products and businesses, the center of innovation shifts to the edges," write the authors. They spent time trying to find the reasons for the success of the Chinese city Shenzhen, one of the world's major manufacturing hubs for electronics. Its power, they found, lies in its "ecosystem," the authors write, which includes "experimentation, and a willingness to fail and start again from scratch."

5. Disobedience over compliance
Disobedience is, in part, woven into the DNA of the MIT Media Lab. Great inventions, the authors write, don't often happen when people are following the rules. Instead of thinking about breaking laws, the authors challenge us to think about "whether we should question them." Last July, to put this principle to the test, the MIT Media Lab hosted a conference called "Forbidden Research," which explored everything from robot sex to genetically modified organisms. It was a chance to move past the "acceptable" parameters of academic dialogue and bring rigorous dialogue to issues that will surely have an impact on humanity.

6. Practice over theory
"In a faster future, in which change has become a new constant, there is often a higher cost to waiting and planning than there is to doing and improvising," write the authors. We live in a world in which failure is an important, and sometimes essential, part of growth—but that can only happen when we get out there and start putting our ideas into action. The approach, the authors write, can apply to anything from software to manufacturing to synthetic biology.

7. Diversity over ability
Research shows that diverse groups, working together, are more successful than homogenous ones. And diversity has become a central piece in the philosophy of many schools, workplaces, and other institutions. "In an era in which your challenges are likely to feature maximum's simply good management, which marks a striking departure from an age when diversity was presumed to come at the expense of ability," write the authors.

8. Resilience over strength
Large companies, the authors write, have, in the past, "hardened themselves against failure." But this approach is misguided. "Organizations resilient enough to successfully recover from failures also benefit from an immune-system effect," they write. The mistakes actually help systems build a way to prevent future damage. "There is no Fort Knox in a digital age," the authors write. "Everything that can be hacked will, at some point, be hacked."

9. Systems over objects
How can we build accurate weather forecasts in an age of climate change? Or trustworthy financial predictions amid political changes? These types of issues illustrate why it may be worth "reconstructing the sciences entirely," according to neuroscientist Ed Boyden, quoted in the book, who proposes we move from "interdisciplinary" to "omnidisciplinary" in solving complex problems. Boyden went on to win the Breakthrough Prize, awarded by Mark Zuckerberg and other tech giants, for his novel development of optogenetics, in which neurons can be controlled by shining a light."
joiito  future  emergence  authority  safecast  systems  systemsthinking  small  agility  agile  donellameadows  jayforrester  influence  risk  safety  disobedience  compliance  autonomy  reslilience  decentralization  openstudioproject  lcproject  sfsh  self-organization  practice  theory  arabspring  ruleoflaw  jeffhowe  networks  mitmedialab  collectivism  collectiveintelligence  compasses  institutions  invention  innovation  failure  scale  diversity  ability  heterogeneity  homogeneity  management  interdisciplinary  transdisciplinary  omnidisciplinary  complexity  internet  web  attention  edboyden  climatechange  medialab 
july 2017 by robertogreco
The History of Ed-Tech: What Went Wrong?
"There’s a popular origin story about education technology: that, it was first developed and adopted by progressive educators, those interested in “learning by doing” and committed to schools as democratic institutions. Then, something changed in the 1980s (or so): computers became commonplace, and ed-tech became commodified – built and sold by corporations, not by professors or by universities. Thus the responsibility for acquiring classroom technology and for determining how it would be used shifted from a handful of innovative educators (often buying hardware and software with their own money) to school administration; once computers were networked, the responsibility shifted to IT. The purpose of ed-tech shifted as well – from creative computing to keyboarding, from projects to “productivity.” (And I’ll admit. I’m guilty of having repeated some form of this narrative myself.)

[tweet: "What if the decentralized, open web was a historical aberration, an accident between broadcast models, not an ideal that was won then lost?" ]

But what if, to borrow from Ian Bogost, “progressive education technology” – the work of Seymour Papert, for example – was a historical aberration, an accident between broadcast models, not an ideal that was won then lost?

There’s always a danger in nostalgia, when one invents a romanticized past – in this case, a once-upon-a-time when education technology was oriented towards justice and inquiry before it was re-oriented towards test scores and flash cards. But rather than think about “what went wrong,” it might be useful to think about what was wrong all along.

Although Papert was no doubt a pioneer, he wasn’t the first person to recognize the potential for computers in education. And he was hardly alone in the 1960s and 1970s in theorizing or developing educational technologies. There was Patrick Suppes at Stanford, for example, who developed math instruction software for IBM mainframes and who popularized what became known as “computer-assisted instruction.” (Arguably, Papert refers to Suppes’ work in Mindstorms when he refers to “the computer being used to program the child” rather than his own vision of the child programming the computer.)

Indeed, as I’ve argued repeatedly, the history of ed-tech dates at least as far back as the turn of the twentieth century and the foundation of the field of educational psychology. Much of we see in ed-tech today reflects those origins – the work of psychologist Sidney Pressey, the work of psychologist B. F. Skinner, the work of psychologist Edward Thorndike. It reflects those origins because, as historian Ellen Condliffe Lagemann has astutely observed, “One cannot understand the history of education in the United States during the twentieth century unless one realizes that Edward L. Thorndike won and John Dewey lost.”

Ed-tech has always been more Thorndike than Dewey because education has been more Thorndike than Dewey. That means more instructivism than constructionism. That means more multiple choice tests than projects. That means more surveillance than justice.
(How Thorndike's ed-tech is now being rebranded as “personalization” (and by extension, as progressive education) – now that's an interesting story..."

[via: ""Edward L. Thorndike won and John Dewey lost" is pretty much the perfect tl;dr version of the history of education."

See also: "Or David Snedden won. People forget about him." ]
audreywatters  ianbogost  johndewey  seymourpapert  edtech  computers  technology  education  ellencondliffe  edwardthorndike  bfskinner  sidneypressey  psychology  management  administration  it  patricksuppes  constructivism  constructionism  progressive  mindstorms  progressiveeducation  standardization  personalization  instructivism  testing  davidsnedden  history 
july 2017 by robertogreco
When Power Makes Leaders More Sensitive - The New York Times
"I’ve long heard the old warning about leaders who rise too high. “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely,” Lord Acton once said.

But recent psychological research upends this adage. Sure, power in the wrong hands can be dangerous. It turns out, however, that power does not always lead to bad behavior — and can actually make leaders more sensitive to the needs of others. Several studies suggest ways to encourage positive power.

Some psychologists separate power, defined as the control of valued resources, into two concepts: power perceived as freedom, and power perceived as responsibility. How you view power can affect how you use it.

When you see power as a source of freedom, you are likely to use it to serve yourself, selfishly. But when you see it as responsibility, you tend to be selfless.

Who you are — your character and cultural background — affects your approach to power. But contextual clues about how power should be used can be surprisingly effective in altering leadership behavior.

For example, according to one survey, published last year in the journal Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, people generally had the notion that those with power should act more ethically than those without but in truth act less ethically. And when people reflected on how they felt power was actually used — that is, unethically — obtaining a sense of power themselves made them more likely to cheat in a dice game. But when they thought about how they felt it should be used — ethically — power made them less likely to cheat.

A separate study found that awareness of the good behavior of others can improve the behavior of those with power. In that research, published in The Leadership Quarterly, students assigned to lead a group behaved less selfishly when told that other leaders had been unselfish.

A heightened sense of accountability can also keep power in check. A study in Social Psychological and Personality Science found that making people feel powerful increased their clarity and compassion when they had to lay off an employee in a hypothetical situation, but only when they knew they had to explain their layoff approach to others.

Merely shifting leaders’ focus to the experiences of others can lead them to use power in more thoughtful ways. In a forthcoming study in the British Journal of Social Psychology, researchers had undergraduates write about something that had happened to them or to someone they knew. Then the students evaluated their peers in a product-naming task, and some of them were given the power to help determine a winner. The researchers found that people with that power were more concerned about the peers they were evaluating than were those without it — but only if they’d first been asked to recount another’s experience.

“Any policy, any values, any organizational climate that draws attention to those lower in power should do the trick,” said Annika Scholl, a psychologist at the Leibniz-Institut für Wissensmedien, in Tübingen, Germany, and the lead author of the study.

When people don’t personally identify with a group, Professor Scholl said, giving them more power tends to reduce their feelings of responsibility for people in the group. But when they start with the sense that they belong to the group, greater power tends to make them more concerned about their effects on others. If you can find common ground, she said, “you think in terms of ‘we’ rather than ‘I.’”

Simply leaving a cloistered office and spending time with subordinates can shift a leader’s attitude. Melissa Williams, a psychologist at Goizueta Business School at Emory University, said physical proximity in shared office space often makes leaders more sensitive.

Companies in the marketplace have been using such insights for years. For example, TDIndustries, a privately held construction firm in Dallas, has embraced a principle known as “servant leadership” since 1970. What sounds like an oxymoron neatly describes power seen as responsibility. TDIndustries uses a number of techniques to ensure that its leaders work not to exploit workers but to enable them to flourish.

Every year, for example, employees evaluate their supervisors. They are asked whether their manager treats them fairly, offers appropriate training and includes them in their team. The feedback affects supervisors’ salaries and promotions.

“You’ve got to walk the talk here,” said Maureen Underwood, the executive vice president for human resources at the company. “And if you get lousy scores, then you get some extra adult supervision.”

There is another important factor in using power responsibly: When leaders feel that their power is being threatened, they tend to behave more selfishly, Professor Williams wrote in an article in the Journal of Management. She cited studies showing that such behavior increases when leaders feel insecure in their positions, doubt their own competence or sense that they are not respected. Precarious authority can lead people to lash out in order to maintain control. She notes the importance of selecting people who are a good fit for their tasks, whatever their positions, and then treating them with fairness and gratitude, ameliorating any resentment or self-doubt.

TDIndustries, which has appeared consistently on Fortune’s annual list of the top 100 workplaces in the United States, sees sensitive leadership as a matter of policy. “We say our supervisors have to do two things,” Ms. Underwood said. “You have to be servant leaders, and you have to make money. And they’re not mutually exclusive.”"
power  corruption  leadership  administration  management  2017  matthewhutson  psychology  freedom  responsibility  behavior  policy  hierarchy 
may 2017 by robertogreco
CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts: David Hammons
"Spirits aren’t something you see or even understand. That’s just not how they work. They are too abstract, too invisible, and move too quickly. They don’t live anywhere, but only run by and pass through, and no matter how old they are, they are always light years ahead. They do what they want, whenever they want. And under specific circumstances, at specific times, in specific places, to specific people, for specific reasons, they make their presence known.

In the Congo Basin in Central Africa, they are called minkisi. They are the hiding place for people’s souls.

David Hammons is a spirit catcher. He walks the streets the way an improviser searches for notes, looking for those places and objects where dormant spirits go to hide, and empowers them again. He knows about the streetlamps and the mailboxes where the winos hide their bottles in shame. Hammons calls it tragic magic—the art of converting pain into poetry.

[David Hammons. "Spade With Chains," 1973.]

Much has been said about the materials Hammons uses in his work. Most are taken from the street and cost very little—greasy paper bags, shovels, ice, cigarettes, rubber tubes, hair, rocks, basketballs, fried food, bikes, torn plastic tarps, Kool-Aid. Some of them are (knowingly) borrowed from the vocabulary of other artists, while others are closely tied to his own life and chosen surroundings in Harlem. Much has also been said about the meaning of his work—its arguments, its politics, what it’s “about.” And while much of what has been said has been useful, it has also been partly beside the point.

Materials are something one can see, and arguments are something one can understand, and that’s just not what Hammons is after. He’s interested in how much those wine bottles still somehow contain the lips that once drank from them. He’s after the pun on spirit—as in the drink, but also as in the presence of something far more abstract.
Black hair is the oldest hair in the world. You’ve got tons of people’s spirits in your hands when you work with that stuff.

[David Hammons. "Wine Leading the Wine," 1969. Courtesy of Hudgins Family Collection, New York. Photo: Tim Nighswander/IMAGING4ART.]

If Hammons is suspicious of all that is visible, it might be because the visible, in America, is all that is white. It’s all those Oscar winners, all those museum trustees, and all those faces on all those dollar bills. Some artists work to denounce, reveal, or illustrate racial injustice, and to make visible those who are not. Hammons, on the other hand, prefers invisibility—or placing the visible out of reach. He doesn’t have a lesson to teach or a point to prove, and his act of protest is simply to abstract, because that’s what will make the visible harder to recognize and the intelligible harder to understand.

If Duchamp was uninterested in what the eye can see, Hammons is oppressed by it—it’s not the same thing.

[David Hammons. "In the Hood," 1993. Courtesy of Tilton Gallery, New York.]
I’m trying to make abstract art out of my experience, just like Thelonius Monk.

For Hammons, musicians have always been both the model and the front line. When George Lewis says that “the truth of improvisation involves survival,” it’s because improv musicians look for a way forward, one note at a time, with no map to guide them and with no rules or languages to follow other than ones they invent and determine themselves. It forces them to analyze where they are and forces them to do something about it, on their own terms. Doesn’t get much more political than that.

Or, as Miles Davis once put it, “I do not play jazz.” He plays something that invents its own vocabulary—a vocabulary that is shared only by those who don’t need to know what to call it or how to contain it. And just as Miles Davis doesn’t play jazz, David Hammons doesn’t make art.

[David Hammons. "Blue Rooms," 2000 (installation view, The Centre for Contemporary Art, Ujazdowkski Castle, Warsaw).]
I’m trying to create a hieroglyphics that was definitely black.

Hammons goes looking for spirits in music, poetry, and dirt. He knows they like to hide inside of sounds, lodge themselves between words or within puns, and linger around the used-up and the seemingly worthless. He knows he’s caught some when he succeeds in rousing the rubble and gets it to make its presence felt. Like Noah Purifoy, he ignores the new and the expensive in favor of the available. Like Federico Fellini, he spends his time in the bowels of culture and makes them sing.

[David Hammons. "(Untitled) Basketball Drawing," 2006.]

There are the materials that make the art—those are the foot soldiers—but there is also the attitude that makes the artist. Hammons has his way of thinking and his way of behaving, which is once again not something one sees or necessarily understands, but is something that makes its presence known, the way spirits make their presence felt. There will be some who won’t recognize it and others who do—and his work is meant only for those who see themselves in it.
Did you ever see Elvis Presley’s resume? Or John Lennon’s resume? Fuck that resume shit.

Ornette was Ornette because of what he could blow, but also because he never gave into other people’s agendas or expectations.

What matters even more than having your own agenda is letting others know that it doesn’t fit theirs. “To keep my rhythm,” as Hammons puts it, “there’s always a fight, with any structure.” The stakes are real because should you let your guard down, “they got rhythms for you,” and you’ll soon be thinking just like they do. And in a white and racist America, in a white and racist art world, Hammons doesn’t want to be thinking just like most people do. His is a recalcitrant politics of presence: where he doesn’t seem to belong, he appears; where he does belong, he vanishes.

In short: don’t play a game whose management you don’t control.

[David Hammons. "Higher Goals," 1987. Photo: Matt Weber.]
That’s the only way you have to treat people with money—you have to let these people know that your agenda is light years beyond their thinking patterns.

The Whitney Biennial? I don’t like the job description. A major museum retrospective? Get back to me with something I can’t understand.

Exhibitions are too clean and make too much sense—plus the very authority of many mainstream museums is premised on values that Hammons doesn’t consider legitimate or at least does not share. He is far more interested in walking and talking with Jr., a man living on the streets of the East Village, who taught him about how the homeless divide up their use of space according to lines marked by the positioning of bricks on a wall. Those lines have teeth. In a museum, art is stripped of all its menace.

[David Hammons. "Bliz-aard Ball Sale," 1983. Photo: Dawoud Bey.]

The painter Jack Whitten once explained of how music became so central to black American life with this allegory:
When my white slave masters discovered that my drum was a subversive instrument they took it from me…. The only instrument available was my body, so I used my skin: I clapped my hands, slapped my thighs, and stomped my feet in dynamic rhythms.

David Hammons began with his skin. He pressed his skin onto paper to make prints. Over the subsequent five decades, he has found his drum.

[David Hammons. "Phat Free," 1995-99 (video still). Courtesy of Zwirner & Wirth, New York.]"
davidhammons  anthonyhuberman  art  jazz  ornettecoleman  milesdavis  theloniousmonk  material  rules  trickster  outsiders  artworld  resumes  elvispresley  johnlennon  insiders  race  racism  us  power  authority  jackwhitten  music  museums  galleries  menace  homeless  nyc  management  structure  presence  belonging  expectations  artists  fellini  noahpurifoy  availability  culture  hieroglyphics  blackness  georgelewis  improvisation  oppression  marcelduchamp  visibility  invisibility  souls  spirits 
february 2017 by robertogreco
The Slow Professor movement: reclaiming the intellectual life of the university - Home | The Sunday Edition | CBC Radio
"You have heard of the slow food, there's a "slow professor" movement.

Two university professors say they feel time-crunched, exhausted and demoralised. They say they are being asked to be more efficient at the expense of more thoughtful teaching.
"Really, we're being encouraged to stay away from the really big questions because they're going to take too long to think through. You want to pump out as much stuff as quickly as you can. That's going to have a consequence for how thoughtful things are." — Barbara K. Seeber

Maggie Berg, a professor of English at Queen's University, and Barbara K. Seeber, a professor of English at Brock University, are co-authors of The Slow Professor: Challenging the Culture of Speed in the Academy.

Berg and Seeger argue universities squeeze as much intellectual capital out of professors as possible, and closely monitor the output of their mental exertions.

They spoke to Michael about their book and their mission to "reclaim the intellectual life of the university.""

[Update: See also: "We need a “slow food” movement for higher education" ]
slow  highereducation  highered  education  academia  reflection  2017  barbaraseeber  maggieberg  deliberation  slowprofessor  productivity  standardization  speed  homogeneity  slowfood  knowledgeproduction  universities  corporatism  corporatization  competition  economics  fastknowledge  research  adminstrativebloat  teaching  howweteach  wisdom  faculty  howwelearn  friendship  benjaminginsberg  management  power  labor  work  casualization  adjuncts  busyness  time  anxiety  stress  davidposen  credentials  credentialization  joy  beauty  transferableskills 
february 2017 by robertogreco
Stop Serving the Feedback Sandwich – Medium
"Problem 1: the positives fall on deaf ears. When people hear praise during a feedback conversation, they brace themselves. They’re waiting for the other shoe to drop, and it makes the opening compliment seem insincere. You didn’t really mean it; you were just trying to soften the blow.

Problem 2: if you avoid that risk and manage to be genuine about the positives, they can drown out the negatives. Research shows that primacy and recency effects are powerful: we often remember what happens first and last in a conversation, glossing over the middle. When you start and end with positive feedback, it’s all too easy for the criticism to get buried or discounted.

Giving a compliment sandwich might make the giver feel good, but it doesn’t help the receiver."
feedback  feedbacksandwich  damgrant  2016  trust  psychology  management  leadership  criticism  constructivecriticism  clarity  teaching  education  change 
january 2017 by robertogreco
In Praise Of Mess: Why Disorder May Be Good For Us : NPR
""Clean up this mess!"

This is a command you've probably given or received in your life. Perhaps in the last day, or even the last hour.

To many of us, the desire to bring order to chaos – to tidy up our kids' toys, organize an overstuffed closet, or rake the leaves covering the lawn – can be nearly irresistible. And it's a desire that extends to other aspects of our lives: Managers tell employees to get organized. Politicians are elected on promises to clean up Washington. And so on.

But economist and writer Tim Harford thinks we're underestimating the value of disorder. In this episode of Hidden Brain, we talk with Harford about his new book, Messy, and how an embrace of chaos is beneficial to musicians, speechmakers, politicians – and the rest of us."
messiness  chaos  timhartford  disorder  management  leadership  order  organization 
december 2016 by robertogreco
How a single conversation with my boss changed my view on delegation and failure — Medium
"“Listen, if there isn’t something going off the rails on your team, then I know you are micro-managing them. You are really good at what you do, and if you stay in the weeds on everything, you’ll keep things going perfectly, for a while. But eventually two things will happen. One, you will burn out. And two, you will eventually start to seriously piss off your team. So I better see some things going sideways, on a fairly regular basis.”

My head exploded. This was so counter to traditional management philosophy: keeping everything going smoothly and hold leadership accountable when things went awry. This philosophy is certainly better than blaming the team itself, but ultimately it makes leaders paranoid about failing, and that has enormous repercussions. It makes us more conservative in our decisions to avoid failure and embarrassment. It teaches us to cover up our mistakes instead of being open about and learning from them. And worst of all, it keeps us from delegating and growing our leadership bench.

As leaders, we must learn to hand off significant portions of our jobs in order to grow and scale our teams. Sometimes these hand-offs are necessarily to people who may not be quite ready for it. They have to learn a bunch of things that we already know how to do, and initially they will do it slower and less effectively. The short term thinker in us may want to stay involved in everything because it’s less risky. But in doing so, we may unintentionally rob high potential members of our teams of leadership opportunities. We have to give them the space to fail in the short term so they can succeed and grow in the long term. And of course, there is that magical moment when we delegate and allow an emerging leader to grow into their new responsibilities, and they end up being way better at it than we ever were. That’s real management success.

That single conversation with my boss has had a big effect on me. His management philosophy has created a safe space for our leadership team to share what’s not going well. As a result, we are less likely to judge each other for the things that go “off the rails” in our teams. It feels good to be in a place where I can talk about areas of concern without fear of being judged, and instead even be praised for it. And because we share our challenges openly with each other, we are much more able to collaborate in productive ways to help each other succeed."
management  leadership  administration  failure  2016  micromanagement  margaretgouldstewart 
august 2016 by robertogreco
Nerf guns, beds and beanbag areas: what makes a productive office? | Guardian Sustainable Business | The Guardian
[via: ]

"Leaving aside debates about open plan offices, do we even need offices anymore? Advances in technology and remote working mean many staff can choose to work elsewhere.

For Chopovsky, this does not mean the end of the office. If staff can choose to work elsewhere, the office could become a place where workers can have important social encounters and build professional relationships rather than simply knuckle down and work. That means a combination of open plan offices and private rooms. He believes companies should facilitate that by creating areas where staff can come together either for informal chats or company-wide meetings.

This may already be happening in the UK. A survey of 1,100 British office workers, published in June, shows that most workplaces (70%) now also include a communal environment – break out spaces such as a shared kitchen or beanbag area – to work from or have meetings in, providing a space for more dynamic working. This is key to meeting workers’ needs, with almost a third (29%) deeming the ability to work from a variety of different locations in the office to be important, and almost half (48%) considering access to collaboration space with colleagues an imperative.

Better designed offices are not the end of the matter, however. John Ridd, councillor of the Chartered Institute of Ergonomics & Human Factors (CIEHF), says that while getting the design of the office right for your business and worker needs, it cannot be used as a panacea for improving employee wellbeing.

“To me the major thing is looking at the design of a person’s job in terms of workload and responsibilities. That is going to be far more important in terms of increasing productivity and indeed the wellbeing of the individual – because it is the happy worker who works more efficiently.”"
offices  officedesign  openoffices  2016  work  labor  health  well-being  culture  management  leadership  administration 
july 2016 by robertogreco
After years of intensive analysis, Google discovers the key to good teamwork is being nice — Quartz
[via: ]

"Google’s data-driven approach ended up highlighting what leaders in the business world have known for a while; the best teams respect one another’s emotions and are mindful that all members should contribute to the conversation equally. It has less to do with who is in a team, and more with how a team’s members interact with one another.

The findings echo Stephen Covey’s influential 1989 book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Members of productive teams take the effort to understand each other, find a way to relate to each other, and then try to make themselves understood."
2016  google  work  niceness  kindness  labor  teams  howwework  commonsense  understanding  administration  leadership  management  sfsh  conversation  productivity  projectaristotle 
july 2016 by robertogreco
How the ‘first-in-last-out’ ethic is creating a culture of overwork | Guardian Sustainable Business | The Guardian
[via: ]

"There is no doubt that working long hours in short sprints is sometimes necessary. But years of research shows that consistently logging too much at the office harms both productivity and the quality of one’s work. For certain jobs, such as those in the medical or industrial fields, overwork raises the prevalence of accidents and mistakes that can be costly and dangerous. This was a major reason Henry Ford cut the workweek to 40 hours back in 1914, and saw profits and productivity soar.

Office staff that are overworked spend time doing increasingly meaningless tasks and tend to get lost in the weeds, eventually becoming unproductive. Stanford University economist John Pencavel found that a worker’s output drops sharply if he or she works too much. In one study, employees who put in more than 70 hours of work a week accomplished little more than those who worked 56 hours on a consistent weekly basis. In other words, those extra 14 hours were a complete waste of time.

If we know the consequences of overwork, why do businesses think it’s a good strategy? Employers face fixed costs per employee, which means that inducing one employee to put in long hours, even if they are less productive, may be cheaper than hiring a second employee to split the work.

Rising inequality is another factor in this equation. As businesses have downsized their labor force over the past several decades, a trend exacerbated by the recession of 2008, spending extra time at the office felt like a small price to pay for those who remained. Research shows that overwork is especially prevalent within many occupations that have the biggest gap between their highest and lowest-paid workers, including business and finance, the legal profession, and computer and mathematical science. And while some of these workers are well compensated, there are many more that are putting in an increasing number of hours without seeing any increase in pay."

As a greater number of people began putting in longer hours, overwork became embedded in certain workplaces and organizational cultures. And, while the advent of technology allowed more flexible schedules for many workers, it also blurred the boundaries between work and home. Because evaluating the productivity of creative or knowledge workers is difficult, many managers consciously or subconsciously use long work hours and face time at the office as an evaluation metric rather than more concrete deliverables. A study of one firm by Boston University’s Erin Reid found that managers couldn’t tell the difference between their workers who were working 80-hour weeks, and those who just pretended to work 80 hours (while actually working much less). Both groups did well in their performance reviews. In contrast, those employees who were transparent in their need to work fewer hours were marginalized and received lower performance reviews regardless of what they accomplished.

That’s why we need a cultural shift. The Obama Administration’s decision to raise the overtime income threshold gives some hope that things will change for certain workers. But policy reforms can only go so far. It’s hard to contemplate that any worker will suddenly cite “productivity” and leave the office before their colleagues do without the explicit approval of their boss. Businesses, then, must lead the way, and there are a number of companies that are doing so.

Menlo Innovations in Ann Arbor, Michigan, for example, locks the doors at 6pm and bans employees from working from home because, as CEO Rich Sheridan says, “tired programmers start putting in lots of bugs”. Similarly, Leslie Perlow of Harvard Business School did an experiment with the Boston Consulting Group and found that mandating predictable, required time off resulted in higher employee satisfaction and retention. For these kinds of shorter work hours to be successful, of course, businesses must change the way they evaluate performance and focus on results and not hours.

It’s important that these companies do not apply these policies on a case-by-case basis, which often backfire for those who take advantage of them, primarily women. That is because those who receive this “special treatment” are often resented by colleagues, or seen as less competent. Businesses who truly want to combat overwork, therefore, must implement and enforce policies that apply to everyone.

That begins with ditching the hours-as-productivity model. Managers should instead focus on what is actually being produced rather than how long somebody stayed at work, at least for professional workers. That also means helping employees set realistic deadlines, and then getting out of the way. Giving workers more autonomy over their work results in greater efficiency, and results in more engaged, happier workers as well.

Managers must set an example and protect non-work time by limiting their own after-hours communication, and mandating more regular work hours and vacations. They should also clearly define this non-work time, and not leave it to their employees to set boundaries. In fact, telling employees to take as much time as they need may actually result in people taking less time off, as they tend to fall back on the expectation that “good” employees are the ones that work the hardest.

With all due respect to Mr Bloomberg, most of us have responsibilities outside of work that make it impossible to fulfill this “first-in-last-out” mindset. And even if we could, it’s clear that doing so not only wastes our time but also the time and money of our employers."
work  productivity  bridgetansel  workism  workaholism  henryford  history  economics  johnpencavel  overwork  labor  culture  social  leadership  management  administration 
july 2016 by robertogreco
We need to stop treating nonprofits the way society treats poor people | Nonprofit With Balls

"This is a good list of reasons (except in one instance) I've basically stayed away from foundations in fundraising for The @HumanUtility. Not to mention too many foundations are slow, conservative, + not interested in funding things that stray too far from stquo. And when you're a new organization w/ a very small staff, still trying to streamline operations, small, yet restricted grants are dangerous. I read an essay a few weeks ago about a large foundation that basically ran a startup into the ground w/program requirements. The foundation's program officers didn't seem the least bit contrite. It was weird. One literally said they didn't regret what they did smh. Of course, it was also on the startup's leadership to have planned to not have the foundation's funds become a distraction, but still. They who have the gold make the rules, but you have to be wary of processes that excessively distract you from the work to get the gold. I sat with someone for 30mins once + landed a gift of $25K. Then I got back in the car and went back to work. Now, that was from a (very) warm intro, but they didn't want letters of inquiry or 30-pg proposals. OTOH, a foundation I talked to in Maryland was interested in our work, but wanted a letter of inquiry just for permission to ask for $25K."]

"Many leaders, from both nonprofit as well as foundations, have been speaking up against restricted funding for years now—here’s a compelling piece by Paul Shoemaker [ ]—and I’m glad to see that it is starting to make some progress. But it is still slow, and it makes me wonder why this is. Why is general operating so difficult for many to accept? Why is it OK for us to be OK with the fact that millions of hours each year are wasted by nonprofits trying to comply with some funders’ unrealistic, and frankly, destructive [ ] requirements?

I think the answer may be that there is a strong parallel between how we treat nonprofits, and how society treats low-income people. I don’t think it is intentional. Like implicit racial or gender biases, most people are not even aware that it’s affecting their behaviors. But it’s important for us to examine these parallels, so we can better understand and change them:

The teach-a-man-to-fish paternalism. This philosophy, so ingrained in our culture, is patronizing and often ineffective, sometimes harmful. It assumes one person is a fount of knowledge while the other is an ignorant, empty vessel to be filled with wisdom. It ignores systems and environmental variables. We can teach someone to fish, but if they have no transportation to get to the pond, or if the pond is polluted, or if better-equipped corporations have been destroying aquaculture through over-fishing, then they’re still screwed while we feel good about ourselves. We see the same dynamics in funding via this belief that nonprofits can be self-sustaining if we just teach them to earn their revenues instead of constantly asking for free fish in the form of grants and donations.

The Bootstrap Mentality: This belief that people should pull themselves up by their bootstraps has been plaguing our low-income families for decades. It manifests in individuals who have found success to think they actually did it all on their own, blaming poor people for their situations, never mind again the privilege and system issues. In the nonprofit sector, it is seen in people from for-profits having an inflated sense of superiority, thinking “If my for-profit was successful in generating revenues, why can’t these lazy nonprofits also pull themselves up by their bootstraps?” Never mind the fact that over half of for-profits fail and that nonprofits and for-profits are completely different from each other.

The assumption of inability for future planning. There is an assumption that poor people don’t know how to plan for their future. If they do, why are they so poor then? Obviously they suck at planning ahead. The same assumption plays out in our sector. There is a belief among many people that if we give nonprofits too much money, they won’t know what to do with it. A program officer once told me, “I don’t want to give multi-year funding, because I think that will stop nonprofits from being innovative.” Because nothing encourages innovation better than regular bouts of night-terror-inducing, morale-sinking cash-flow emergencies.

The lack of trust in people’s ability to manage money: Society thinks poor people don’t know how to spend the money we give them. That’s why we have to monitor how they do it. Let’s restrict their ability to spend their food stamps on junk food; left to their own devices, they’ll probably just guzzle beer while feeding their kids tons of Hot Cheetos. Same with nonprofits. We need to monitor every penny they spend; otherwise, they’d probably waste money on fancy chairs and blinged-out business cards. And if we can’t protect these irresponsible organizations from themselves, then at least let’s make sure our own money is not being used to fund these things.

The No-Free-Lunch: There have been idiotic proposals by clueless politicians designed to punish the poor for violating whatever ridiculous expectations are set out for them. Like taking away food stamps if their kids don’t get good enough grades or if they’re not volunteering or seeking out employment, despite the fact that there are only so many volunteer and paid positions to go around. In our sector, our funding gets threatened if we don’t comply with various requirements, such as working toward “sustainability.” A colleague mentioned a grant that won’t pay for staff wages and other indirect expenses, and applicants have to demonstrate that they will be completely self-sustaining within a year. That gave us all a good chuckle.

The punishment of success. Ironically, while we expect poor people to work and save up money so they can stop being dependent, we punish them when they succeed at that, removing their benefits if they earn close to an amount where they may actually be able to no longer need the benefits. It’s weirdly paradoxical, demotivating, and insulting. In nonprofits, many funders expect sustainability and yet punish nonprofits for having a strong reserve, which is probably the most important factor for sustainability. You need to be sustainable, but if you are too successful at that, we’re not funding you, or we take away the money we gave you. I remember frantically trying to spend some left-over money because it otherwise would have had to be returned, per the requirement of this funder, even though the reason we had leftover was because we were spending it wisely; that money we saved would have greatly helped our programs if we had been allowed to put it into reserve.

The avoidance of eye contact. Poor people make the general public sad. That’s why most people avoid eye contact with individuals experiencing homelessness. And in our sector, it leads to some donors and foundations to avoid nonprofits, creating barriers in the form of “safe space” that prevent those doing the work from communicating and collaborating with those funding the work.

The expectation of gratitude: Every single time I bring up some sort of feedback regarding ineffective, time-wasting funding practices in our sector—such as requiring board chair signatures on grant applications (Why? Whyyyyy?!)—inevitably some people will counter with things like, “So people are giving you their hard-earned money, and you’re whining? You should just be grateful and comply.” It’s the same as poor people being expected to just be happy and appreciative of whatever scraps they manage to get."

"So many funding and accounting practices are anchored in a severe and pervasive distrust of nonprofits, the same distrust we heap on individuals with low-income. It goes without saying that these myths and philosophies are destructive, toward both our low-income community members and toward nonprofits. We must begin with trust as the default, or our community loses. If we are going to effectively address society’s numerous, complex problems—and recent tragedies and violence nationally and internationally highlight just how complex and serious things are—the way we currently view nonprofits must change. The relationships between funders, donors, nonprofits, for-profits, media, and government must change. We must see each other as equal partners with different but complementary roles to play. We must understand where philosophically our requirements come from and how they are affecting our partners, how it helps or hampers their work. We must be able to provide each other honest feedback and push one another to do better for our community. "
nonprofit  nonprofits  2016  funding  foundations  paulshoemaker  fundraising  restrictedfunding  sustainability  grantwriting  philanthropicindustrialcomplex  charitableindustrialcomplex  money  power  control  gratitude  trust  management  administration  leadership  planning  capitalism 
july 2016 by robertogreco
A theory of nonscalability | A Working Library
"Tsing on scalability:
Progress itself has often been defined by its ability to make projects expand without changing their framing assumptions. This quality is “scalability.” The term is a bit confusing, because it could be interpreted to mean “able to be discussed in terms of scale.” Both scalable and nonscalable projects, however, can be discussed in relation to scale. When Ferdand Braudel explained history’s “long durée” or Niels Bohr showed us the quantum atom, these were not projects of scalability, although they each revolutionized thinking about scale. Scalability, in contrast, is the ability of a project to change scales smoothly without any change in project frames. A scalable business, for example, does not change its organization as it expands. This is possible only if business relations are not transformative, changing the business as new relations are added. Similarly, a scalable research project admits only data that already fit the research frame. Scalability requires that project elements be oblivious to indeterminacies of encounter; that’s how they allow smooth expansion. Thus, too, scalability banishes meaningful diversity, that is, diversity that might change things.

(Emphasis mine.) I think about scalability and diversity in my work-life quite a bit: the tech and media industries have explicitly acknowledged the need for diversity (while so far only making token steps towards achieving it). But there’s often a notion that diversifying an organization will not require changes to that organization’s culture: the concept of “culture fit” presumes someone can neatly fit into the existing culture, as opposed to challenging it or expanding it—or even razing it. That tech (and, increasingly, media—and oh, that boundary is nothing if not fluid) also speaks of scalability in religious terms puts Tsing’s contention here in an even more interesting light. Scalability is expressed not only in the external artifacts of an organization—the software, the servers, the business model—but also the people who work for it and the people who interact with it as customers, clients, and, increasingly, inconstant laborers. That latter category—the Uber drivers, TaskRabbits, and Postmates—seems especially relevant to notions of scalability. Uber can scale, but the single parent who works as a driver and can’t predict what they’ll make from week to week cannot.

Tsing continues:
Scalability is not an ordinary feature of nature. Making projects scalable takes a lot of work. Even after that work, there will still be interactions between scalable and nonscalable project elements. Yet, despite the contributions of thinkers like Braudel and Bohr, the connection between scaling up and the advancement of humanity has been so strong that scalable elements receive the lion’s share of attention. The nonscalable becomes an impediment. It’s time to turn attention to the nonscalable, not only as objects for description but also as incitements to theory.

A theory of nonscalability might begin in the work it takes to create scalability—and the messes it makes. One vantage point might be that early and influential icon for this work: the European colonial plantation. In their sixteenth- and seventeenth-century sugarcane plantations in Brazil, for example, Portuguese planters stumbled on a formula for smooth expansion. They crafted self-contained, interchangeable project elements, as follows: exterminate local people and plants; prepare now-empty, unclaimed land; and bring in exotic and isolated labor and crops for production. This landscape model of scalability became an inspiration for later industrialization and modernization.

There’s the savage bit again: scalability often swamps all other considerations. If you define scalability as the solitary success metric, then you are bound to ignore—or violently overcome—all other measures. So another place to begin to build a theory of nonscalability might be to ask by what other metrics we should measure progress. Scalability cannot be our only aim."
mandybrown  leadership  management  scalability  hiring  scale  2016  annalowenhaupttsing  nonscalability  diversity  small  business  annatsing 
july 2016 by robertogreco
Intensification without representation – a recipe for collapse | Lebenskünstler
"Inspired by M. Jahi Chappell (title above), Ivan Illich (relationship of energy consumption, social/economic inequality, and specialization) and Joseph Tainter (quote below). Needless to say the arts are subject to the same law of declining marginal returns. Also note that there is immense energy consumption involved in administrators maintaining the social coercion necessary for institutional buy in from the administered."
randallszott  participatorydemocracy  democracy  infrastructure  specialization  technocracy  technology  inequality  community  representation  hierarchy  horizontality  mjahichappell  ivanillich  josephtainter  energy  energyconsumption  socialcoercion  coercion  administration  management  leadership 
june 2016 by robertogreco
A Manager’s FAQ — The Startup — Medium
"How do I get employees to perform better? Tell them what they are doing well.

How do I give negative feedback? By being curious.

How do I decide what to delegate? Delegate the work you want to do.

How should I prioritize? Fix problems. Then prevent problems.

How should I grade employees? Don’t. Teach them to self-evaluate.

When do I fire somebody? When you know they can’t succeed.

How do I fire somebody? By apologizing for our failures.

Why can’t I just tell people what to do? Because the more responsibility you have, the less authority you have.

How do I know if I am a good manager? Employees ask you for advice.

How do I know if I have good management team? Shit rolls uphill.


[Each point elaborated upon like…]

How do I get employees to perform better?
Tell them what they are doing well.

Most managers attempt to minimize an employee’s bad work instead of maximizing their good work. When 98% of an employee’s work is great and 2% is not, managers give feedback on the 2%.

We do this because schools taught us to. Tests started with a maximum score of 100 and points were deducted for every wrong answer. If tests started at zero and awarded points for every correct answer, we would be encouraged to continue doing better. Instead, we learn to fear mistakes and point them out in others.

Startups start at zero and earn points along the way. We expand our strengths instead of minimize our weaknesses. There is no maximum score. Steady progress, not expected outcome, is the measuring stick.

Treat employees similarly. An employee has a finite amount of time. Doing more good work leaves less time for bad work. Double-down on what your employees do well.
It also creates a positive feedback loop. Reinforcing great work encourages more great work, which creates more reinforcement. When you try to correct bad work, the best you can hope for is to stop giving feedback.

Maximizing good work instead of minimizing bad work requires patience and confidence. Fight the urge to tell people to “do better.” Instead, tell employees when they do something well. It takes conscious effort to find these opportunities but with practice it becomes habit. And your people will be more effective for it.


How do I decide what to delegate?
Delegate the work you want to do.

When I ask this question most managers respond with, “I delegated the call to Mary because she needs to learn how to handle an angry customer” or, “I delegated the report to John because he’s good at writing.”

It is funny how managers rationalize giving employees shitty work as a benefit to them. Mary’s manager delegated the call because he didn’t want to deal with the angry customer. John’s manager delegated the report because she didn’t want to write it.

Many managers treat their position as a privilege and delegating shitty work is one of the perks. They are lousy managers.

I can give you a simple rule to decide what to delegate. Delegate the work you want to do. There are reasons to do this:

1. Employees will love working for you. The work you want to do is probably the work they want to do, and they will be happy employees because of it.

2. You will train future leaders. They will see you doing the hard, miserable work that nobody wants to do. One day they will want to do it too. Not because they enjoy the work, but because they see you doing it as their leader, and they want to be leaders too.

3. You will grow. Most people want to do the work they are good at. If you delegate the work you are good at, the remainder will mostly be work you are bad at. You will struggle, suffer, and learn. That is where growth comes from.

To extend the eShares 101 sports analogy, hockey coaches talk about “skating to the hard parts of the ice.” This is the ice in front of the goal where defenders punish players. But this is where goals are scored, and those who suffer most score most. The best managers are always found on the hard parts of the ice.


How should I grade employees?
Don’t. Teach them to self-evaluate.

Employees often ask, “How am I doing?” I respond with, “How do you think you are doing?” Self-evaluation is the most important skill you can teach an employee. I am happy to offer my perspective, but only as feedback on theirs. They can evaluate themselves every day, minute, and second. I am lucky if I see their work once a week.

This may seem strange after years of receiving report cards and employee performance reviews. Companies (and schools) have convinced us we should be graded. It benefits the institution to do so. They can sort, rank, and filter employees. They can use it to decide who to fire and keep. They can set compensation against it. It is easer to manage employees as a distribution of scores rather than as unique individuals.

But employees gain nothing from it. It is selfish for us to reduce employees to a letter grade. Instead, we should become experts on our people’s strengths and weaknesses and help them become experts too.

We ask employees to have a ten-year career at eShares. If the only evaluation they come away with is a letter grade or employee rank, we have failed them as managers. They deserve more and the most valuable skill we can teach them is self-evaluation. They will carry that for the rest of their careers."
management  leadership  administration  howto  motivation  via:ableparris  tests  testing  grades  grading  howweteach  howwelearn  henryward  power  authority  evaluation  assessment 
june 2016 by robertogreco
Drunk people respect authority |
"Really interesting research by Laura Van Berkel shows that people who are drunk, tired, or suffering other types of cognitive impairment such as distraction or stress are more likely to be vulnerable to “those in charge” and when asked, affirm that “control or dominance over people or resources” is a “guiding principle in your life.” Equality is something a calm, leisurely person is more likely to support. We revert to hierarchy under cognitive stress.
According to a 2009 review, conservatives tend to support hierarchy and authority more than liberals do. Van Berkel, working with Chris Crandall and other colleagues, found that, in terms of how the hundred and seven subjects interviewed outside the bar thought about hierarchy, drunk people gave more conservative responses while sober people gave more liberal ones. Over the next few years, she and her team ran five more experiments, exploring the relationship between mental effort and support for hierarchy. In each case, they found that cognitive impairments, such as being stressed or distracted, made people more likely to favor hierarchy. Even encouraging “low-effort thought”—by forcing respondents to think quickly, say—made people more respectful of those in charge.

There may be some sub-category of people for whom being drunk arouses their own need to dominate. We’ve all seen belligerent, brawling drunks domineering drunks and aggressive drunks. And people who are stressed at work are also more likely to do what the boss says. Equality, the article notes, may be a state of mind."

[Referencing: "When Does Equality Flourish?"
hierarchy  management  flow  stress  caterinafake  2016  equality  cognitition  domination  obedience  control  lauravanberkel  chriscrandall  drunkenness 
june 2016 by robertogreco
A Framework for Thinking About Systems Change · Intense Minimalism
"I found the following diagram recently and I thought it was interesting: Unfortunately the source is a single book titled “Restructuring for Caring and Effective Education: Piecing the Puzzle Together” that contains a chapter by Knoster, Villa and Thousand. Apparently nobody quotes the content of it in any way around the web, and it’s without a digital edition, so I wasn’t able to evaluate the proper context and what the authors meant with each terms.

However, I find this valuable even in this unexplained form, so here it is:


While the original context seem education, the above seems more framed in terms of initial action around complex systems, which makes it interesting.

The aspect I find valuable about this diagram is that it highlights the outcomes of missing a piece, more than saying that you really need all of them. In other words, you can still achieve change without steps, but you have to consider the negative effect that comes out of it and address it."
systems  change  management  systemschange  confusion  vision  frustration  resistance  anxiety  falsestarts  actionplans  incentives  resources  skills 
april 2016 by robertogreco
The Great Re-Anchoring
"When I joined BuzzFeed just over a year ago, I spent the first few months of my time there setting the Product Design team up so it could scale well. I wrote a roles and responsibilities document, instituted Basecamp as the place for design work and discussion and overhauled our recruiting process. Since then, the design managers and I have set up quarterly peer reviews for the team, written our Design Leadership Principles and initiated weekly small group critiques in addition to our weekly one with the entire team. Each of these changes were made in response to needs we identified and wanted to make sure were met. They started out as experiments, but quickly became an official part of our team and process as each addition proved its usefulness. Progress was made. We felt good.

But recently, we decided to blow it all up.

A couple of months ago, my manager (our publisher) Dao initiated an offsite with senior tech management. The purpose of the offsite, she explained, was to do a close, critical examination of our processes and beliefs as an organization. She described our current processes and beliefs as anchors - things that we do because we’ve always done them and beliefs we have because we’ve always believed them. She told us that in order to evolve and grow our tech team, it was imperative that we reevaluate our anchors, decide whether not they’re still valid, and then re-anchor ourselves somewhere else. We got together and discussed all sorts of topics: why do we tend to lean toward building our own tools rather than buying things off the shelf? Why do we believe so strongly in small, iterative changes over large projects? In a few cases, our thinking was totally validated and we decided to leave our anchor where it was. In many cases, though, the discussion revealed that our current anchors were holding us back, or even that we disagreed on whether or not an anchor was important. It was a super productive day and has already impacted the way we work and communicate as senior management on the team."
design  leadership  management  buzzfeed  anchors  change  howwechange  unschooling  deschooling  process  tools  capwatkins  beliefs  legacy  2016 
february 2016 by robertogreco
on microaggressions and administrative power - Text Patterns - The New Atlantis
"Let’s try to put a few things together that need to be put together.

First, read this post by Jonathan Haidt excerpting and summarizing this article on the culture of campus microaggressions. A key passage:
Campbell and Manning describe how this culture of dignity is now giving way to a new culture of victimhood in which people are encouraged to respond to even the slightest unintentional offense, as in an honor culture. But they must not obtain redress on their own; they must appeal for help to powerful others or administrative bodies, to whom they must make the case that they have been victimized. It is the very presence of such administrative bodies, within a culture that is highly egalitarian and diverse (i.e., many college campuses) that gives rise to intense efforts to identify oneself as a fragile and aggrieved victim. This is why we have seen the recent explosion of concerns about microaggressions, combined with demands for trigger warnings and safe spaces, that Greg Lukianoff and I wrote about in The Coddling of the American Mind.

Now, take a look at this post by Conor Friedersdorf illustrating how this kind of thing works in practice. Note especially the account of an Oberlin student accused of microaggression and the way the conflict escalates.

And finally, to give you the proper socio-political context for all this, please read Freddie deBoer’s outstanding essay in the New York Times Magazine. Here’s an absolutely vital passage:
Current conditions result in neither the muscular and effective student activism favored by the defenders of current campus politics nor the emboldened, challenging professors that critics prefer. Instead, both sides seem to be gradually marginalized in favor of the growing managerial class that dominates so many campuses. Yes, students get to dictate increasingly elaborate and punitive speech codes that some of them prefer. But what could be more corporate or bureaucratic than the increasingly tight control on language and culture in the workplace? Those efforts both divert attention from the material politics that the administration often strenuously opposes (like divestment campaigns) and contribute to a deepening cultural disrespect for student activism. Professors, meanwhile, cling for dear life, trying merely to preserve whatever tenure track they can, prevented by academic culture, a lack of coordination and interdepartmental resentments from rallying together as labor activists. That the contemporary campus quiets the voices of both students and teachers — the two indispensable actors in the educational exchange — speaks to the funhouse-mirror quality of today’s academy.

I wish that committed student activists would recognize that the administrators who run their universities, no matter how convenient a recipient of their appeals, are not their friends. I want these bright, passionate students to remember that the best legacy of student activism lies in shaking up administrators, not in making appeals to them. At its worst, this tendency results in something like collusion between activists and administrators.

This is brilliantly incisive stuff by Freddie, and anyone who cares about the state of American higher education needs to reflect on it. When students demand the intervention of administrative authority to solve every little conflict, they end up simply reinforcing a power structure in which students and faculty alike are stripped of moral agency, in which all of us in the university — including the administrators themselves, since they’re typically reading responses from an instruction manual prepared in close consultation with university lawyers — are instruments in the hands of a self-perpetuating bureaucratic regime. Few social structures could be more alien to the character of true education.

Friedersdorf’s post encourages us to consider whether these habits of mind are characteristic of society as a whole. That seems indubitable to me. When people in the workplace routinely make complaints to HR officers instead of dealing directly with their colleagues, or calling the police when they see kids out on their own rather than talking to the parents, they’re employing the same strategy of enlisting Authority to fight their battles for them — and thereby consolidating the power of those who are currently in charge. Not exactly a strategy for changing the world. Nor for creating a minimally responsible citizenry.

In a fascinating article called “The Japanese Preschool’s Pedagogy of Peripheral Participation,”, Akiko Hayashi and Joseph Tobin describe a twofold strategy commonly deployed in Japan to deal with preschoolers’ conflicts: machi no hoiku and mimamoru. The former means “caring by waiting”; the second means “standing guard.” When children come into conflict, the teacher makes sure the students know that she is present, that she is watching — she may even add, kamisama datte miterun, daiyo (the gods too are watching) — but she does not intervene unless absolutely necessary. Even if the children start to fight she may not intervene; that will depend on whether a child is genuinely attempting to hurt another or the two are halfheartedly “play-fighting.”

The idea is to give children every possible opportunity to resolve their own conflicts — even past the point at which it might, to an American observer, seem that a conflict is irresolvable. This requires patient waiting; and of course one can wait too long — just as one can intervene too quickly. The mimamoru strategy is meant to reassure children that their authorities will not allow anything really bad to happen to them, though perhaps some unpleasant moments may arise. But those unpleasant moments must be tolerated, else how will the children learn to respond constructively and effectively to conflict — conflict which is, after all, inevitable in any social environment? And if children don't begin to learn such responses in preschool when will they learn it? Imagine if at university, or even in the workplace, they had developed no such abilities and were constantly dependent on authorities to ease every instance of social friction. What a mess that would be."
academia  preschool  conflictresolution  japan  alanjacobs  freddiedeboer  akikohayashi  josephtobin  machinohoiku  mimamoru  disagreement  rules  freespeech  culture  discomfort  collegiality  jonathanhaidt  power  authority  children  activism  management  administration  schools  society 
september 2015 by robertogreco
The tragedy of Cooper Union | Fusion
"Annals of Incompetence: How one of America’s last free colleges screwed its students and betrayed its legacy"
cooperunion  2015  felixsalmon  mismanagement  freecooperunion  small  education  management  administration  growth  scale  highered  highereducation 
september 2015 by robertogreco
Intervention – “Vernacular Values: Remembering Ivan Illich” by Andy Merrifield |
"Illich had it in for professional institutions of every kind, for what he called “disabling professions”; this is what interests me most in his work, this is what I’ve been trying to revisit, trying to recalibrate and reload, in our own professionalised times. I’ve been trying to affirm the nemesis of professionalism: amateurs. Illich said professionals incapacitate ordinary peoples’ ability to fend for themselves, to invent things, to lead innovative lives beyond the thrall of corporations and institutions. Yet Illich’s war against professionalism isn’t so much a celebration of self-survival (letting free market ideology rip) as genuine self-empowerment, a weaning people off their market-dependence. We’ve lost our ability to develop “convivial tools”, he says, been deprived of our use-value capacities, of values systems outside the production and consumption of commodities. We’ve gotten accustomed to living in a supermarket.

Illich’s thinking about professionalisation was partly inspired by Karl Polanyi’s magisterial analysis on the “political and economic origins of our time”, The Great Transformation (Beacon Press, 1944). Since the Stone Age, Polanyi says, markets followed society, developed organically as social relations developed organically, from barter and truck systems, to simple economies in which money was a means of exchange, a mere token of equivalent worth. Markets were always “embedded” (a key Polanyi word) in social relations, always located somewhere within the very fabric of society, whose institutional and political structure “regulated” what markets could and couldn’t do. Regulation and markets thus grew up together, came of age together. So “the emergence of the idea of self-regulation”, says Polanyi, “was a complete reversal of this trend of development … the change from regulated to self-regulated markets at the end of the 18th century represented a complete transformation in the structure of society.”

We’re still coming to terms with this complete transformation, a transformation that, towards the end of the 20th century, has made the “disembedded” economy seem perfectly natural, perfectly normal, something transhistorical, something that always was, right? It’s also a perfectly functioning economy, as economic pundits now like to insist. Entering the 1990s, this disembedded market system bore a new tagline, one that persists: “neoliberalism”. Polanyi’s logic is impeccable: a “market economy can exist only in a market society.”

Inherent vices nonetheless embed themselves in this disembedded economy. Land, labour and money become vital parts of our economic system, of our speculative hunger games. But, says Polanyi, land, labour and money “are obviously not commodities” (his emphasis). “Land is only another name for nature, which is not produced by man”, he says; “labour is only another name for human activity which goes with life itself”; “actual money … is merely a token of purchasing power which, as a rule, is not produced at all, but comes into being through the mechanism of banking or state finance”. Thus “the commodity description of labour, land and money is entirely fictitious”, a commodity fiction, the fiction of commodities.

Still, we live in fictitious times (as filmmaker Michael Moore was wont to say): land, labour and money as commodities provide us with the vital organising principle of our whole society. So fiction remains the truth, and fictitious truth needs defending, needs perpetuating; the postulate must be forcibly yet legitimately kept in place. But kept in place how, and by whom? By, we might say, a whole professional administration, by a whole professional cadre, by a whole professional apparatus that both props up and prospers from these fictitious times. Professionalism is the new regulation of deregulation, the new management of mismanagement, an induced and imputed incapacitation."

"Vernacular values are intuitive knowledges and practical know-how that structure everyday culture; they pivot not so much—as Gramsci says—on common sense as on “good sense”. They’re reasonable intuitions and intuitive reason: words, habits and understandings that inform real social life—the real social life of a non-expert population. Illich reminds us that “vernacular” stems from the Latin vernaculam, meaning “homebred” or “homegrown”, something “homemade”. (We’re not far from the notion of amateur here.) Vernacular is a mode of life and language below the radar of exchange-value; vernacular language is language acquired without a paid teacher; loose, unruly language, heard as opposed to written down. (“Eartalk”, Joyce called it in Finnegans Wake, a language for the “earsighted”.) To assert vernacular values is, accordingly, to assert democratic values, to assert its means through popular participation."

"Illich chips in to add how professionals peddle the privileges and status of the job: they adjudicate its worthiness and rank, while forever tut-tutting those without work. Unemployment “means sad idleness, rather than the freedom to do things that are useful for oneself or for one’s neighbour”. “What counts”, Illich says, “isn’t the effort to please or the pleasure that flows from that effort but the coupling of the labour force with capital. What counts isn’t the achievement of satisfaction that flows from action but the status of the social relationship that commands production—that is, the job, situation, post, or appointment”.

Effort isn’t productive unless it’s done at the behest of some boss; economists can’t deal with a usefulness of people outside of the corporation, outside of stock value, of shareholder dividend, of cost-benefit. Work is only ever productive when its process is controlled, when it is planned and monitored by professional agents, by managers and the managers of managers. Can we ever imagine unemployment as useful, as the basis for autonomous activity, as meaningful social or even political activity?"

"Perhaps, during crises, we can hatch alternative programmes for survival, other methods through which we can not so much “earn a living” as live a living. Perhaps we can self-downsize, as Illich suggests, and address the paradox of work that goes back at least to Max Weber: work is revered in our culture, yet at the same time workers are becoming superfluous; you hate your job, your boss, hate the servility of what you do, and how you do it, the pettiness of the tasks involved, yet want to keep your job at all costs. You see no other way of defining yourself other than through work, other than what you do for a living. Perhaps there’s a point at which we can all be pushed over the edge, voluntarily take the jump ourselves, only to discover other aspects of ourselves, other ways to fill in the hole, to make a little money, to maintain our dignity and pride, and to survive off what Gorz calls a “frugal abundance”.

Perhaps it’s time to get politicised around non-work and undercut the professionalisation of work and life. In opting out, or at least contesting from within, perhaps we can create a bit of havoc, refuse to work as we’re told, and turn confrontation into a more positive device, a will to struggle for another kind of work, where use-value outbids exchange-value, where amateurs prevail over professionals. If, in times of austerity, capitalists can do without workers, then it’s high time workers (and ex-workers) realise that we can do without capitalists, without their professional hacks, and their professional institutions, that we can devise work without them, a work for ourselves. Illich throws down the gauntlet here, challenges us to conceive another de-professionalised, vernacular non-working future. He certainly gets you thinking, has had me thinking, and rethinking, more than a decade after I’ve had any kind of job."
via:javierarbona  ivanillich  professionals  experts  amateurs  economics  conviviality  karlpolanyi  politics  capitalism  neoliberalism  empowerment  self-empowerment  unschooling  deschooling  production  consumption  corporatism  corporations  institutions  self-survival  invention  innovation  markets  society  labor  land  commodities  nature  money  michaelmoore  andymerrifield  bureaucracy  control  systems  systemsthinking  deregulation  regulation  management  incapacitation  work  vernacula  vernacularvalues  values  knowledge  everyday  culture  informal  bullshitjobs  andrégorz  antoniogramsci  marxism  ideleness  freedom  capital  effort  productivity  socialactivism  maxweber  time  toolsforconviviality 
july 2015 by robertogreco
Ivan Illich, "Philosophy... Artifacts... Friendship"
"Architects drafted on paper or modeled in clay, not on a screen. True, in the time of Ford's Model A, when Thérèse of Lisieux was canonized, and I was born, the instrumental artifact moved toward its apogee; it was becoming increasingly dominant in the sensual environment. But technology was still conceived as a tool for the achievement of a telos, a final cause set by its user, not as milieu. Technology had not yet redefined homo from tool-user to co-evolved product of engineering. The nature of the object was not a quandary; it was something more or less what it had been for generations. This is no longer so. The old rules for the discernment of good from evil spirits must be complemented by new rules for the distinction of things from zombies, and objects from pictures. Temperance, what the Cappadocians call nepsis, must now guard the heart, not only from real things like sweet skin and weighty bullion, but also guide one to the sound recognition of the allurements of mere images and so-called needs....

In my own pilgrimage, I engage philosophy as ancilla: on the one hand, to resist - how should I call it? - algorithmic reductionism and, on the other, to dispel the illusion that power or organization can ever enhance the practice of charity. This double conceptual shield against loving misplaced concreta, and belief in benevolent management inevitably implies the rejection of those genetic axioms from which the topology of technological thinking arises. This topology is well protected, if not hidden, by a self-image meant to give comfort to life beyond virtue and the good. The aim to make life always better has crippled the search for the appropriate, proportionate, harmonious or simply good life - hopes easily written off as simplistic or irresponsible. Only sober, unsentimental, vernacular rhetoric can possibly demonstrate the incompatibility of mathematical modeling or systems management with the quest for faith and love. The typical artifacts of our decade are at once more intimately and deviously connected to the understanding of revealed truth than hearth or arms or mill, the res agricola, res bellica, and scientia mechanica of earlier times....

In my seminars, I have seen many a student look up from the exegesis of a passage by Aelred of Rivaulx, Héloïse, or Hugh of St. Victor, and search for a correspondence in his or her own twenty-two year-old heart, and recognize what the notions related to process, field, feedback, loop, and context sensitivity have done to their grasp. At such moments of disciplined alienation, it is then possible to foster the insight that it is almost impossible for an inhabitant of "the system" to desire an I-Thou relationship like that cultivated in Talmudic or monastic communities. Following such an awakening and finding themselves at a loss to recapture this past experience, a thirst is incited....

In the study of theology, ecclesiology was my preferred subject; and, within this discipline, liturgy. Liturgy, like ecclesiology, is concerned with sociogenesis. It inquires into the continued embodiment of the Word through rituals. Necessarily, these rituals often center on objects like tables, tombs and chalices. So, my interest in these so-called sacra led me to the theory of instrumentally used objects. I pursued the nature of the artifact in the belief that understanding would deepen my insight into virtue in our epoch, especially the virtue of charity. Therefore, the love of friendship, philia, as practicable under the social and symbolic conditions engendered by modern artifacts, has been the constant subject of my teaching. For me, finally, philosophy is the ancilla amicitiae."
sensorium  ivanillich  1996  via:ayjay  technology  objects  artificat  charity  friendship  organization  power  goodness  enough  well-being  theology  ecclesiology  liturgy  sociogenesis  systemsmanagement  management  faith  love  temperance 
july 2015 by robertogreco
Why company towns are bad for people | The Sacramento Bee
"City of Industry lives on incestuous ties between corporations and government

City embodies California’s tendency to hand over public institutions to private enterprise

City of Industry shows that we need to change how we think about government"

"Don’t expect much from the investigations. There have been about nine of them over the years. Although Stafford went to prison, the city of Industry’s structure has proven to be resilient. And business interests there find the city’s present configuration too good to give up.

To change the city of Industry, California would need to dismantle those specific technologies that have transformed governmental functions into property and that have, as a result, made so many California cities immune to meaningful reform. Industry’s most important strains of governmental DNA include its industrial-only purpose; creative boundary drawing that keeps out the meddling rabble; media narratives that code its recurring “corruption” scandals as breaches of individual morality; a model of city management that outsources municipal services to private contractors; the old California redevelopment laws and financing mechanisms that paid for its industrial development; and city charter laws that guarantee Industry its sovereignty in the face of repeated scandals.

The best way to address our city of Industry problem, in other words, is to change how we think about government. We need to shift our focus from blaming all systemic corruption on the moral failings of individuals, and look for the specific technologies that have made the privatization of government, from City Hall to the White House, seem natural and necessary."
losangeles  cityofindustry  lapunete  cities  companytowns  2015  victorvalle  via:javierarbona  california  government  corruption  corporations  corporatism  governance  privatization  property  management 
july 2015 by robertogreco
Farm Management Software | Farm Record Keeping | Farming Software
"We believe it should be easier for farmers to make land more productive

Our mission is to help bring farmers the future of farming. We challenge what is possible and invent new ways of applying cutting-edge technology to the world's oldest and most foundational industry.

Farmers are the core of agriculture and we help them use technology to be more successful. Farmer success is our success. We will never make a decision that doesn't benefit farmers.

Our world depends on agriculture. By making farming more efficient and helping farmers grow more using less, we have the opportunity to make a massive positive impact.

And, we've brought together a world-class team to make it happen."
farming  agriculture  data  management  maps  mapping  via:blubirding 
july 2015 by robertogreco
Facebook's Little Red Book | Office of Ben Barry
"As the company of Facebook grew, we faced a lot of challenges. One of them was explaining our company's mission, history, and culture to new employees. Over the years, a lot of formative company discussions and debates had happened in Facebook Groups, over email, or in person. Those who had been present at the time had context, but for new employees that information was difficult to find, even if you knew what you were looking for. We wanted to try to package a lot of those stories and ideas in one place to give to all employees."
facebook  hacking  design  books  bookdesign  culture  management  2015  via:caseygollan  benbarry  timbelonax  jsmith  lcproject  openstudioproject  classideas  tcsnmy 
july 2015 by robertogreco
Continuous learning : it’s a mindset not a technology or product | Learning in the Modern Workplace
"In this fast-moving world, we constantly need to learn new stuff. In the workplace, this is particularly important, as I showed in an earlier blog post, where Jacob Morgan talks of the future employee moving from “knowledge worker” (knowing stuff) to “learning worker” (learning new stuff).

So how can organisations support continuous learning at work?

1. It doesn’t mean creating more training or e-learning and force-feeding it to people. It means encouraging and supporting individuals to continuously learn for themselves.

2. It doesn’t mean trying to manage everyone’s learning for them – and trying to track it all in a LMS, It means everyone taking responsibility for their own learning, and managers measuring success in terms of job and team performance.

Of course, many individuals are already doing this – as a natural part of who they are – and that is what is giving them a personal competitive edge at work (as well as in life). They are always aware of what they learning, they seek out new opportunities to do so, and they share their thoughts (often in their blogs).

Although many organizations are implementing social technologies to support sharing at work, it takes more than technology to underpin continuous learning

Continuous learning is a mindset not a product or technology.

It means ..

• working with managers to help them build a learning mindset in their teams, and to provide the time and space to do so – and to measure success by changes in job and team performance.

• working with individuals to encourage and support independent (self-organised, self-managed) learning, e.g. showing them how

-- to extract the “learning” from their daily work

-- to discover the wide range of learning opportunities on offer – not just internally but also on the Web through professional networking, “learning the new”– through both people and content, formal and informal; and

-- to share the good stuff with their colleagues

• working with teams to support valued (rather than indiscriminate) sharing of learning and experiences

Whereas there is still a need for a L&D department to provide training (and manage that it has been done), continuous learning is not the sole responsibility of the L&D department – everyone has a part to play."
learning  lms  janehart  2015  via:willrichardson  self-organization  technology  mindset  management  leadership  administration 
june 2015 by robertogreco
Be Kind
"I almost got fired once.

My friend, and CTO at the time, Dustin Moskovitz pulled me into a room one morning. He told me I would no longer be working on News Feed, which was surprising because at the time I was the only engineer keeping it running. Instead they were going to hand it off to someone else and build a team around that person. With alarm in my voice I asked if I was being fired. Dustin relented only after a telling pause: “no, but you need to find something else to do."

I believe if you looked at what I had accomplished in my two years at Facebook to that point, it would not be obvious that I should be a candidate for such a stern conversation. In addition to building the backend and ranking for News Feed I had also launched a number of other popular features on the site. I maintained our early anti-abuse efforts in my spare time. I was one of a small group of people making decisions that would shape our infrastructure for years to come. I wasn’t the best engineer at the company but I was solid, I was dedicated, and I was clearly having an impact.

So why was I being sidelined? I demanded answers. Dustin did not disappoint.

He gave me a single sheet of paper. On it, in a dull monospace font, were anonymous quotes about me from my coworkers.
“Boz is one of the better engineers at Facebook” one read, and then the next "I would have a hard time working with him."

These two statements struck me as incongruous. If I was a good engineer, why would it be hard to work with me? Of course that question was the very foundation of my problem.
“He is most interested in the truth…but more inhibited members of the team avoid any discussions with him."

The realization hit me hard. In short, I thought my job was to be right. I thought that was how I proved my worth to the company. But that was all wrong. My job was to get things done and doing anything meaningful past a certain point requires more than one person. If you are right but nobody wants to work with you, then how valuable are you really? How much can you realistically expect to accomplish on your own? I was “winning” my way out of a job one argument at a time.

I headed home early that day to think about what I had heard. My future wife April was gentle but she offered me little reprieve from the feedback: “If you want people to work with you, you need to be kind.” It turns out this wasn’t just a problem I had at work. Looking back, I’m amazed (and grateful) that my friends put up with me.

Altogether this feedback changed the course of my career and probably my life.

I don’t think I was ever outright mean to anyone. I was just callously indifferent and on a long enough timeline that is indistinguishable from being mean. In a cruel twist of irony I thought that was what it meant to be professional. In retrospect it just seems inhuman. It will take me several posts to details the many mistakes that got me to this point, but my biggest lesson was the importance of kindness.

Being kind isn’t the same as being nice. It isn’t about superficial praise. It doesn’t mean dulling your opinions. And it shouldn’t diminish the passion with which you present them.

Being kind is fundamentally about taking responsibility for your impact on the people around you. It requires you be mindful of their feelings and considerate of the way your presence affects them.

Being kind hasn’t hurt my effectiveness at all. Being thoughtful about the emotions of my colleagues hasn’t made me any less right or wrong, it has simply made me more likely to be asked to help in the first place. Being invited to more conversations has allowed me to scale my impact in a way that would have been unfathomable on my own.

I’m still not as good as I’d like to be at any of this. When I’m under stress I can sometimes fall back into my old habits. But believing deeply that I am responsible for how I make others feel has been life changing for me. Being kind turns out to be a long term strategy for maximizing impact."
kindness  andrewbosworth  advice  facebook  management  careers  social  via:kissane  2015  responsibility  howwework  truth  indifference  meanness  humanism  humans  interpersonal  socialemotional  thoughfulness  emotions  socialemotionallearning 
may 2015 by robertogreco
The Course Hath No Bottom: the 20,000-Person Seminar
"A few years ago, Sean Michael Morris and I wrote, “Meaningful relationships are as important in a class of three as they are in a class of 10,000.” In the rest of that article, we wonder at questions of scale: how to scale up, when to scale down, and what it might mean to scale sideways. My question here: is it possible to scale up and down simultaneously — to create more and more intimate learning experiences for larger and larger groups of learners?

I’m currently co-teaching Shakespeare in Community, a Massive Open Online Course from University of Wisconsin-Madison. The goal of the course is to bring thousands of learners into conversation. While I’ve taught MOOCs since 2012 on several platforms, this is the first time I’ve developed a Coursera MOOC. Coursera is a platform well-oiled for content-delivery. In fact, when I sat down with Daphne Koller, the founder and president of Coursera, she used the word “content” several dozen times. I asked about “conversation”, “dialogue”, and “community”. Her responses showed that these are, for Coursera, an afterthought. And after playing around inside the guts of the tool, it remains clear to me that these are, indeed, an afterthought. All the proof I need is that it’s about ten times easier to upload a video, and track the watching of that video, than it is to administer the discussion forum. But Coursera does content-delivery incredibly well. My content feels stroked and adored by the platform. It feels genuinely loved. As learning management systems go, I am happy to go on record saying that Coursera is one of the best.

However, I remain certain that learning is not something that ought to be managed. The better we become at managing learning, the more damage we do to learning. This is the cruel irony of the learning management system. The better designed it is for doing its core function, the worse off the learning that happens inside of it. As a technology, the learning management system is genuinely Orwellian. I like best the learning management system when it is still a baby, before it has fully grown up, before it has earned its stripes. But every learning management system is almost immediately on its way toward extinction. They die quick deaths at the point they forget that learning is an encounter, not a spreadsheet. The gradebook, and the demands it places on every single other feature, ultimately kills the learning management system. (Thus, I wouldn’t blame the technological systems so much as I’d blame the institutional and political climates that drive them.)

If we are to use these systems, we need to carve out more space in them for nuance — fashioning simpler platforms that serve as launching pads to places outside their own orbit (both physical and virtual). And every course inside a learning management system should ask students to reflect on the “rhetoric of the room” — the ways the shape of the room affects the learning we do inside of it. We either critically interrogate our tools or are subject to them. There is no middle ground between these two."
coursera  mooc  moocs  2015  jessestommel  management  learning  howwelearn  howweteach  teaching  lms  technology  edtech  conversation  contentdelivery  relationships  pedagogy 
may 2015 by robertogreco
Edutopia | Jacobin
[Too much to quote (still tried and exceeded Pinboard's visible space) so go read the whole thing.]

"Education is not a design problem with a technical solution. It’s a social and political project neoliberals want to innovate away."

"Tim Brown, IDEO’s CEO and a regular at Davos and TED talks, has described design thinking as a way to inject “local, collaborative, participatory” planning into the development of products, organizational processes, and now schools.

Design Thinking for Educators is full of strikingly drawn graphic organizers and questions like, “How might we create a twenty-first century learning experience at school?” with single paragraph answers. “Responsibility” is used three times in the text, always in reference to teachers’ need to brainstorm fixes for problems together and develop “an evolved perspective.” (The word “funding” is not used at all — nor is the word “demand.”)

We’re told faculty at one school embarked on a “design journey” and came to an approach they call “Investigative Learning,” which addresses students “not as receivers of information, but as shapers of knowledge,” without further detail on how exactly this was accomplished.

Of course, the idea of engaging students as experienced co-teachers in their own education isn’t novel, nor is it an innovation that sprang forth from a single group of teachers using graphic organizers to brainstorm and chart solutions.

Marxist educator Paulo Freire developed his critique of the “banking model” of education — in which students’ minds are regarded as passive receptacles for teachers to toss facts into like coins — while teaching poor Brazilian adults how to read in the 1960s and ’70s. His book Pedagogy of the Oppressed helped reignite the progressive education movement during that era, and his collaborative approach to learning remains influential in American schools of education today.

Peter McLaren, who taught elementary and middle school in a public housing complex for five years before becoming a professor of education, has since further developed Freire’s ideas into an extensive body of revolutionary critical pedagogy, which I was assigned in my first class as a master’s student in education. The Radical Math project, launched a decade ago by a Brooklyn high school teacher whose school was located within a thousand feet of a toxic waste facility, draws heavily on Freire’s perspective in its curriculum for integrating social and economic justice into mathematics.

Yet, here we are, a “nation at risk,” with lower test scores than our international peers and children still arriving at school every day without breakfast.

Like all modern managerial philosophies that stake their name on innovation, “design thinking” has been framed by creative-class acolytes as a new way to solve old, persistent challenges — but its ideas are not actually new.

According to Tim Brown, design thinkers start with human need and move on to learning by making, “instead of thinking about what to build, building in order to think.” Their prototypes, he says, “speed up the process of innovation, because it is only when we put our ideas out into the world that we really start to understand their strengths and weakness. And the faster we do that, the faster our ideas evolve.”

What design thinking ultimately offers is not evolution, but the look and feel of progress — great graphics, aesthetically interesting configurations of furniture and space — paired with the familiar, gratifying illusion of efficiency. If structural and institutional problems can be solved through nothing more than brainstorming, then it’s possible for macro-level inputs (textbooks, teacher salaries) to remain the same, while outputs (test scores, customer service) improve. From the perspective of capitalism, this is the only alchemy that matters.

Design Thinking for Educators urges teachers to be optimistic without saying why, and to simply believe the future will be better. The toolkit instructs teachers to have an “abundance mentality,” as if problem-solving is a habit of mind. “Why not start with ‘What if?’ instead of ‘What’s wrong?’” they ask.

There are many reasons to start with “What’s wrong?” That question is, after all, the basis of critical thought. Belief in a better future feels wonderful if you can swing it, but it is passive, irrelevant, and inert without analysis about how to get there. The only people who benefit from the “build now, think later” strategy are those who are empowered by the social relations of the present.

The same people benefit when analysis is abandoned in favor of technical solutions — when the long history of education for liberation, from Freire to the SNCC Freedom Schools to Black Panther schools to today’s Radical Math and Algebra projects (none of them perfect, all of them instructive) is ignored."

"IDEO puts forth the fact that Innova students perform higher than the [Peruvian] national average on math and communication tests as proof that they’ve delivered on their mantra for the project: “affordability, scalability, excellence.”

But if test scores are higher than those of public schools, it is not because of the soul-searching of teacher/designers. It’s because tuition is about a quarter of the national median income. After all, a consistent pattern in the educational research of the past half-century is that the socioeconomic status of a child’s parents is one of the strongest predictors of his or her academic success."

"Design thinking, embraced by key figures in business and especially in the tech industry, insists that educators adopt a perpetually optimistic attitude because that is what it takes to believe everything will turn out okay if we just work together to streamline our efforts. That is what it takes to believe that the best idea is the one that survives group discussion and is adopted. The rabid optimism of the techno-utopian vernacular, with its metaphors that no longer register as metaphors, obscures the market imperatives behind the industry’s vision for the future.

This is intentional. Conflating the future with unambiguous, universal progress puts us all on equal footing. Participating as a citizen in this framework consists of donating your dollar, tweeting your support, wearing your wristband, vowing not to be complacent.

Critiquing the solution only impedes the eventual discovery of the solution. And why make demands for power if you yourself are empowered? Empowerment, as Duncan uses it, is a euphemism. Anger is empowering, frustration is empowering, critique is empowering. Competence is not empowering.

The fact is, education is not a design problem with a technical solution. It is nothing like building a spaceship. It is a social and political project that the neoliberal imagination insists on innovating out of existence. The most significant challenges faced today in education are not natural obstacles to be overcome by increasing productivity — they are man-made struggles over how resources are allocated."

"The United States is one of just three OECD countries, along with Israel and Turkey, where schools that serve rich families have better resources and more funding than schools that serve poor families. The other thirty-four countries included in the index either provide equal funding for all students or spend a disproportionate amount of money on students from low-income families.

In a country where the top 20 percent of the population earns eight times as much as the bottom 20 percent, this inevitably leads to two distinct and parallel systems of education, one for the rich and one for the poor. It’s not that “money doesn’t matter” for reforming the education system, or that technology can be a substitute, but that children from working-class and poor families score lower on standardized test scores than their wealthy peers — and America has many more poor families than rich."

"One example of the importance of this kind of flexible and evolving practice — especially for children from low-income families — comes from Lisa Delpit, educator and author of Other People’s Children. In talks, Delpit uses a situation she witnessed in a preschool in which a teacher handed out a tray of candy and instructed children to each take a piece and pass on the tray. Some of the children took multiple pieces, and there was not enough to go around.

A teacher evaluating the children without interpreting the context, like a machine, would conclude that the children did not successfully complete the task and need more practice in sharing. In fact, after asking why the children took extra pieces, the human teacher found that they were simply engaging in a different kind of creative economy, saving up a couple of pieces to take home to siblings later.

I suspect the innovation Gates is investing in is not a technological one, but a managerial one. The only truly novel thing Sal Khan has done is produce a cheap and popular way to distribute basic lectures and exercises to a large number of people who like them."

"The firing and disciplining of teachers is also an ideological choice: teachers threaten the ruling class. Though they are atomized as workers into separate classrooms and competing districts, teachers are, as Beverly Silver puts it, strategically located in the social division of labor. If they don’t go to work, no one can — or at least, no one with children to look after. As caretakers, teachers are by definition important and trusted community figures, public care workers who can shut down private production.

In the United States, where the vast majority of families continue to rate their own child’s teacher highly, even while believing the political mantra that the nation’s education system is rapidly deteriorating — unique job protections like tenure serve to further strengthen teachers’ capacity to resist … [more]
meganerickson  2015  whigpunk  education  designthinking  timbrown  ideo  policy  canon  paulofreire  oppression  capitalism  inequality  management  petermclaren  salkhan  khanacademy  billgates  gatesfoundation  arneduncan  politics  economics  edwardthorndike  history  bfskinner  psychology  control  power  technosolutionism  progress  technology  edtech  funding  money  priorities  optimism  empowerment  distraction  markets  lisadelpit  otherpeople'schildren  hourofcode  waldorfschools  siliconvalley  schooling  us  democracy  criticalthinking  resistance  criticalpedagogy  pedagogy  howweteach  howwelearn  efficiency  rote  totelearning  habitsofmind  pedagogyoftheopressed  anationatrisk  rotelearning  salmankhan 
march 2015 by robertogreco
Freakonomics » From Good to Great … to Below Average
"Ironically, I began reading the book on the very same day that one of the eleven “good to great” companies, Fannie Mae, made the headlines of the business pages. It looks like Fannie Mae is going to need to be bailed out by the federal government. If you had bought Fannie Mae stock around the time Good to Great was published, you would have lost over 80 percent of your initial investment.

Another one of the “good to great” companies is Circuit City. You would have lost your shirt investing in Circuit City as well, which is also down 80 percent or more. Best Buy has cleaned Circuit City’s clock for the last seven or eight years.

Nine of the eleven companies remain more or less intact. Of these, Nucor is the only one that has dramatically outperformed the stock market since the book came out. Abbott Labs and Wells Fargo have done okay. Overall, a portfolio of the “good to great” companies looks like it would have underperformed the S&P 500.

I seem to remember that someone did an analysis of the companies highlighted in Peters and Waterman‘s 1980′s classic book In Search of Excellence and found the same thing.
What does this all mean? In one sense, not much.

These business books are mostly backward-looking: what have companies done that has made them successful? The future is always hard to predict, and understanding the past is valuable; on the other hand, the implicit message of these business books is that the principles that these companies use not only have made them good in the past, but position them for continued success.

To the extent that this doesn’t actually turn out to be true, it calls into question the basic premise of these books, doesn’t it?"
2008  goodtogreat  jimcollins  leadership  administration  management  business  businessbooks 
march 2015 by robertogreco
Deep Culture: A New Way of Work — Work Futures — Medium
"I will be keynoting at the Social Now conference on 21 April 2015 in Amsterdam. The topic is the theme of the book I am writing, Deep Culture: A New Way of Work.
The future attitude to work is to question all assumptions, and only retain what works, what adds to the mix, and what opens options. This is why autonomy, purpose, and the regard of those you respect will become the first theorems of a new logic in business: not because it sounds good when trying to hire people, but because it works, and because the legacy, shallow culture left over from the last century has led to the highest levels of disengagement since we started to pay attention. — Stowe Boyd

I intend to explore a number of contradictions that define the new way of work emerging today, which I am calling deep culture. For example, deep work culture is based on embracing dissent, not slavishly pursuing consensus. It embraces widespread democracy, and rejects oligarchic control of the many by the few. Deep culture is based on distributed and emergent leadership, where any and all can step forward to lead when it makes sense, instead of leadership being limited to an elite caste of managers.

The changing nature of work is happening so fast and we are so close to it that we have a hard time seeing what’s different, or to abstract the new principles that underlie the new practices. I hope to tease some of those out, and to treat them as a new set of requirements for work technologies of the next five or so years."

[via: "So what do you think @stoweboyd’s deep culture of work mean for k12 edu "

replied: “@Braddo @stoweboyd Great question. Maybe moving from ~Monopoly to ~Calvin Ball / Nomic ( )? * ”

*referencing: “often the case ☛ school : learning :: finite game: infinite game*

*defined: …”

""A finite game is played for the purpose of winning, an infinite game for the purpose of continuing the play."
Finite & Infinite Games
Carse" ]
stoweboyd  work  autonomy  howwework  deepculture  change  2015  via:braddo  purpose  democracy  horizontality  dissent  consensus  control  leadership  emergent  management  administration  nomic  infinitegames  finitegames  jamescarse 
march 2015 by robertogreco
Hack Education Weekly Newsletter, No. 101
"Every week, I take all the essays and articles that I’ve bookmarked and sift through them in order to craft this newsletter. I’m always struck by how many weird and ridiculous claims are made about education and technology, both in the “mainstream” and industry press. (I don’t know why this continues to surprise me, and the right response, quite arguably, is to neither link to nor write for [ ] these publications…)

There’s the continuous clarion call for more data collection, more automation, more engineering, more scientific management, and of course more disruptive innovation. These are the narratives loudly trying to shape the future.
Of course, these narratives are intertwined with power and policies. As Alan Jacobs notes [ ], we confuse surveillance with care. We confuse surveillance with self-knowledge, Rob Horning adds [ ]:
I don’t think self-knowledge can be reduced to matters of data possession and retention; it can’t be represented as a substance than someone can have more or less of. Self-knowledge is not a matter of having the most thorough archive of your deeds and the intentions behind them. It is not a quality of memories, or an amount of data. It is not a terrain to which you are entitled to own the most detailed map. Self-knowledge is not a matter of reading your own permanent record.

We confuse individuals’ acts of (self-)documentation with structural change and justice. We confuse the “sharing economy” for the latter as well. According to Evgeny Morozov:
The citizens, who are not yet fully aware of these dilemmas, might eventually realise that the actual choice we are facing today is not between the market and the state, but between politics and non-politics. It’s a choice between a system bereft of any institutional and political imagination – where some permutation of hackers, entrepreneurs and venture capitalists is the default answer to every social problem – and a system, where explicitly political solutions that might question who – citizens, firms, the state – ought to own what, and on what terms, are still part of the conversation.

It doesn’t help that so many of these narratives comes from “a town without history,” as Mike Caulfield observes in “People Have the Star Trek Computer Backwards.”

[See also: ]
audreywatters  alanjacobs  robhorning  evgenymorozov  2015  surveillance  care  education  edtech  mikecaulfield  data  datacollection  management  scientificmanagement  self-knowledge  caring  permanentrecords  permanentrecord  records  justice  socialhustice  hierarchy  patriarchy  siliconvalley  edreform  technosolutionism  politics  policy  control  power  citizenship  civics  legibility  documentation  assessment  accountability  sharingeconomy  jessestommel  innovation  disruption  disruptiveinnovation 
march 2015 by robertogreco
When Employees Talk and Managers Don’t Listen
"When faced with important decisions, managers can choose to rule in an autocratic (making unilateral choices) or democratic (inviting employees to have a say) way. Managers are often encouraged to take the democratic approach (generally called participative management) because research has shown that motivation, job performance, and morale increase when employees have the opportunity to contribute their concerns and ideas.

But this study finds that there’s a consequence to giving employees a voice: A company then has to listen. If employees conclude that a manager is just trying to win points by paying lip service to consulting them — and has no intention of acting on their advice — they are likely to stop offering input and, worse, act out their frustration by clashing with their colleagues.

The researchers refer to the illusion of having participative influence as “pseudo voice.” It comes into play whenever a manager ignores ideas slipped into suggestion boxes, concerns voiced in meetings, and complaints registered in employee surveys. And it is common even at companies that say they are committed to giving employees a chance to contribute their ideas. In that setting, according to the authors of this paper, some managers feel constrained to ask for their employees’ views even though they have no intention of following through on anything they hear."

"Conversely, employees who thought their manager was indeed paying attention spoke up more often and got along better with one another, improving the organization’s functioning as a whole.

With so much to be gained, some managers may be tempted to play the voice card cynically, capitalizing on the initial trust that employees typically exhibit. “If a manager succeeds in offering employees an illusion of influence without being noticed, the organization benefits from the positive effects of voice opportunity,” the authors write.

But such bogus efforts will most likely backfire on the manager, the authors warn. “It is likely that their employees will soon notice that their input is not regarded, and the accompanying negative feelings will undo the positive effects of voice opportunity,” they write. “As a result, employees are more likely to suspect pseudo voice in future situations,” and wind up convinced that their opinions are being ignored even when they are not.

To avoid this outcome, it is not enough for managers to solicit opinions only when they intend to listen — they also have to provide feedback that includes tangible evidence that they followed up and did something."

[via: ]
management  voice  democracy  leadership  2015  farce  pseudovoice  administration 
february 2015 by robertogreco
Hullabaloo: Rewarding failure by design?
"For the investor class, it is a tragedy of the commons when they don't get a cut from it. That's why, for example, they are so hot to see a middle man in every middle school."

"David Dayen wrote yesterday at Salon about Sen. Elizabeth Warren's opposition to investment banker, Antonio Weiss, President Obama's nominee for Treasury Department undersecretary for domestic finance. One of Weiss' biggest clients is Brazilian private equity fund 3G. Dayen describes deals that would make Paul Singer blush. (Okay, maybe not.) They seem almost designed to reward failure:
The deals also exhibit the modern hallmark of corporate America: financial engineering. Decisions are made to satisfy shareholder clamoring for short-term profits rather than any long-term vision about building a quality business. The manager class extracts value for their own ends, and the rotted husk of the company either sinks or swims. It doesn’t matter to those who have already completed the looting.
capitalism  investment  investors  middlemen  privatization  2014  failure  tomsullivan  us  policy  politics  education  schools  forprofit  infrastructure  commons  bankruptcy  finance  banking  bankers  barrysummers  looting  corporatism  financialengineering  management  roads  tollroads 
december 2014 by robertogreco
How to care for introverts
"I've read a lot about introverts and extroverts over the years (posted this back in Feb 2003 for example), but this list (found here ) of how to care for introverts still hit me like a pile of bricks.

1. Respect their need for privacy.
2. Never embarrass them in public.
3. Let them observe first in new situations.
4. Give them time to think; don't demand instant answers.
5. Don't interrupt them.
6. Give them advance notice of expected changes in their lives.
7. Give them 15 minute warnings to finish whatever they are doing.
8. Reprimand them privately.
9. Teach them new skills privately.
10. Enable them to find one best friend who has similar interests & abilities.
11. Don't push them to make lots of friends.
12. Respect their introversion; don't try to remake them into extroverts.

It's just dawned on me that when something goes wrong in my life, it's often one of the things on this list that's the culprit, especially #4 and #6. And #2 pretty much explains my middle and high school experience. Has anyone read Susan Caine's Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking? I've heard great things about it, but haven't had a chance to read yet. Thinking I should bump it to the top of my queue. Holy crap, it's only $2.99 for Kindle...BOUGHT."

[Or as Allen says: “PS this is good advice for taking care of anyone ¯\_(ツ)_/¯”]
introverts  introversion  jasonkottke  2014  privacy  management  psychology 
december 2014 by robertogreco
Culture Stories: Introduction and Milk.
"So that was a very mundane story about milk. Why did I share it? Because I think sharing stories like these is how we increase and improve culture. It’s not something that can be fixed by having TW3 meetings with senior management. While the senior management should absolutely read these, and (sometimes) discuss them, the act of writing and sharing them itself is how to improve the way we work.

In case you were in doubt, I’m not suggesting that sharing milk is how you improve the culture. Maybe sharing milk isn’t the right culture for a particular organisation, but I’d be interested in hearing why.

These discussions should be in the open. They may not be interesting to people outside your organisation (although you may be surprised), but knowing that they are public will help prevent them being too inward looking. Remember that (hopefully) new people will be joining your team regularly, remember that you are not an isolated team.

So share your culture stories! Maybe we’ll find somewhere to collate them. Or tell me why you think this is a stupid idea. If no-one convincingly does the latter, then I hope to post up a few more of my own.

To kick us off, here are some stories by Alice Bartlett6 that encouraged me to do this one: Six Months at GDS and Tampon Club. I also highly recommend reading Hidden dangers of team building rituals for some wise words on ensuring you’re not being exclusionary."

[via: ]
culture  milk  offices  management  government  jamesdarling  organizations  sharing  collectivism  teams  2014  tamponclub  alicebartlett 
december 2014 by robertogreco
“Wider lessons” | Music for Deckchairs
"Put more simply: throw together a crowd of smart, driven individuals who’ve been rewarded throughout their entire lives for being ranked well, for being top of the class, and through a mixture of threat and reward you can coerce self-harming behaviour out of them to the extent that you can run a knowledge economy on the fumes of their freely given labour.

They will give you their health, their family time, the time they intended to spend on things that were ethically important to them, their creativity, their sleep. They will volunteer to give you all of this so that you can run your business on a shoestring, relative to what you intend to produce, so that you can be better than the business up the road. They will blame themselves if they can’t find enough of this borrowed time—other people’s borrowed time—to hand over to you.

Just wait while I send this email. Start without me. I’ll be along in a bit. Do you mind if I don’t come?

They will do this at all levels of the career, even if you pay them by the hour at a real rate that disintegrates to something approaching casual retail work once you factor in all the things they’ll have to do on their own time to get the job done well. They will do this especially if they’re also trying to run alongside the speeding train that might represent their future career hopes.

Some days they will also drive each other for you. They will whisper about each other, and turn a blind eye to each other, and not quite find the time to act on their own secret critical thinking about any of it. They will also surreptitiously maintain each other through care and coping practices and shrugs in the corridor and exchanged glances and raised eyebrows in meetings and Friday drinks that become chronic, secretive drinking problems so that they can get some rest without writing emails in their heads at 3am.

In fact, if you get the scarcity, intermittency and celebratory settings for occasional reward just right, then the toxic alchemy of hope and shame will diminish their capacity for solidarity, and they will keep the whole thing going for you, in the name of commitment, professional standards, the value of scholarship, academic freedom, the public good of educational equity.

But I love teaching. I love my students. I love my research. I love that I get to work from home on Fridays. And Saturdays. And Sundays.

Until they don’t. Until they can’t.

This week, an email is circulating that seems to have been organised to go out with a degree of aforethought, by Professor Stefan Grimm, a senior UK academic who has died after being put on performance management for the insufficiency of his research. He was 51.

The university concerned are reviewing their procedures. They’re even having a think about “wider lessons” to be drawn from this unfortunate turn of events.

Is it about one bad manager, at one particularly bad university? Is it about the culture of one place, all by itself, some unique sinkhole of shame into which one life has fallen? Can that one university review its procedures and its management training, and encourage the rest of us to move on to the next bit of news?

As you were. Nothing to see here.

Here’s my thought. This is only how it will turn out if we all agree that this is an OK way for rankings impact to be seen as good.
An alternative is for us at a broad level of professional solidarity to do some version of putting our bats out for Professor Stefan Grimm.

So what I will do is this. It’s a little personal pledge and I’m putting it here to remind me.

Whenever I hear the senior management of our university talk about rankings, competitiveness or performance I will tell someone about Professor Stefan Grimm.

Whenever I hear our government say that Australia needs a more competitive university system, I promise to think about Professor Stefan Grimm instead.

Whenever a colleague is being talked about in my hearing as unproductive, I will stop what I’m doing and remember that Professor Stefan Grimm took the action that he did.

Whenever someone uses the word “deadwood” to describe something other than actually dead wood, I will ask them if they heard about Professor Stefan Grimm.

That’s all we have. But if we agree to mind about this together, it really is not nothing.

Some days hope is really very difficult to sustain."

[See also: ]
management  academia  science  highered  highereducation  education  money  work  labor  stress  corporatization  2014  stefangrimm  competitiveness  capitalism  performance  research  professionalism  katebowles  solidarity  equity  hierarchy  administration 
december 2014 by robertogreco
The Plashing Vole: Grimm's Tale
"Stefan was going to be fired. Not because his work was no good: it was, as the publications list shows. No, he was going to be fired because he didn't attract the 'sexy', headline funding. He quietly raised money to pay for his ongoing research as and when he needed it. His failure was the inability to grasp that his university – which isn't so different from lots of others – care far less about the discoveries made than the headlines achieved from lottery-style grants. 'X wins £50m grant' is the dream THES or New Scientist headline, not '£50,000 for Grimm'.
Your current level of funding does not constitute the appropriate level for a professor at Imperial College. Unless you submit and are awarded a Platform grant as PI in the next 12 months we will seek to initiate disciplinary action against you. This email constitutes a warning that your performance is being monitored and that action may be brought if you fail to meet the conditions herein

Grimm was told he had to bring in £200,000 p.a. – not contractually, but let's leave that aside. His letter explains that he did that through a series of small grants, but that wasn't good enough: it had to be the stuff of headlines, or 'impact' as it's officially known in the Research Assessment Framework to which we all have to submit.

This isn't about science - it's about bragging rights, or institutional willy-waving. Grimm was informed – in public – that he was to be fired, and left waiting for the axe to fall while the axe-wielder marauded around the campus boasting about it like an even more pathetic Alan Sugar.
I fell into the trap of confusing the reputation of science here with the present reality. This is not a university anymore but a business with very few up in the hierarchy, like our formidable duo, profiteering and the rest of us are milked for money, be it professors for their grant income or students who pay 100.- pounds just to extend their write-up status.

If anyone believes that I feel what my excellent coworkers and I have accomplished here over the years is inferior to other work, is wrong. With our apoptosis genes and the concept of Anticancer Genes we have developed something that is probably much more exciting than most other projects, including those that are heavily supported by grants.

This is not, I shouldn't have to say, how academia works. Einstein famously published one peer-reviewed paper. Science rarely has a Eureka moment: it's rather a series of careful, thoughtful developments of work done by one's forebears and peers. A management which demands a Eureka a day is one which doesn't just not 'get' academia, it's a management which contradicts the academic method and it's one which has forgotten that it's meant to serve the needs of science, the arts, students and researchers, not the insatiable maw of attention seeking 'Leaders' (that's the word they use now) and the PR office. It's also a management that kills."

[See also: ]
stefangrimm  academia  education  funding  highereducation  highered  money  finance  business  corporatization  2014  science  publishorperish  bullying  capitalism  pressure  management  administration  hierarchy 
december 2014 by robertogreco
Productivity is Taking Over Our Lives | New Republic
"The paradox of the autodidactic productivity industry of GTD, Lifehacker and the endless reviews of obscure mind-mapping or task-management apps is that it is all too easy to spend one’s time researching how to acquire the perfect set of productivity tools and strategies without ever actually settling down to do something. In this way, the obsessive dream of productivity becomes a perfectly effective defense against its own realization. 

As Samuel Johnson once wrote: “Some are always in a state of preparation, occupied in previous measures, forming plans, accumulating materials and providing for the main affair. These are certainly under the secret power of idleness. Nothing is to be expected from the workman whose tools are for ever to be sought.”

Nor is there any downward cut-off point for “our current obsession with busyness”, as one researcher, Andrew Smart, describes it in his intriguing book Autopilot: the Art and Science of Doing Nothing. Smart observes, appalled, a genre of literary aids for inculcating the discipline of “time management” in children. (Time is not amenable to management: it just keeps passing, whatever you do.) Not allowing children to zone out and do nothing, Smart argues, is probably harming their development. But buckling children into the straitjacket of time management from an early age might seem a sensible way to ensure an agreeably docile new generation of workers."

"This ordinary usage encodes an ordinary wisdom: that mere quantity of activity—as implied by the get-more-done mania of the productivity cult—has nothing to do with its value. Economics does not know how to value Rainer Maria Rilke over a prolific poetaster in receipt of an official laureateship. (One can be confident that, while mooching around European castles and writing nothing for years on end, Rilke would never have worn a T-shirt that announced: “I’m doing work”.) And his life sounds like more fun than one recent Lifehacker article, which eagerly explained how to organise your baseball cap collection by hanging the headwear on shower-curtain hooks arrayed along a rail."
gtd  gttingthingsdone  productivity  control  leisure  artleisure  leisurearts  idleness  stevenpoole  2013  time  management  efficiency  davidgraeber  andrewsmart  rainermariarilke 
october 2014 by robertogreco
Against Editors
[similar situation to education… teacher : writer :: administrator : editor]

"Here is the traditional career track for someone employed in journalism: first, you are a writer. If you hang on, and don't wash out, and manage not to get laid off, and don't alienate too many people, at some point you will be promoted to an editor position. It is really a two-step career journey, in the writing world. Writing, then editing. You don't have to accept a promotion to an editing position of course. You don't have to send your kids to college and pay a mortgage, necessarily. If you want to get regular promotions and raises, you will, for the most part, accept the fact that your path takes you away from writing and into editing, in some form. The number of pure writing positions that offer salaries as high as top editing positions is vanishingly small. Most well-paid writers are celebrities in the writing world. That is how few of them there are.

Here is the problem with this career path: writing and editing are two completely different skills. There are good writers who are terrible editors. (Indeed, some of the worst editors are good writers!) There are good editors who lack the creativity and antisocial personality disorders that would make them great writers. This is okay. This is natural. It is thoroughly unremarkable for an industry to have different positions that require different skill sets. The problem in the writing world is that, in order to move up, the writer must stop doing what he did well in the first place and transition into an editing job that he may or may not have any aptitude for. It is impossible to count how many great writers have made the dutiful step up the career ladder to become an editor and forsaken years of great stories that could have been written had they remained writers. Journalism's two-step career path is a tragedy, because it robs the world of many talented writers, who spend the latter half of their careers in the conceptual muddle of various editing positions.

It is also a farce. The grand traditional print media system—still seen today in top-tier magazines and newspapers—in which each writer's story is monkeyed with by a succession of ever more senior editors is, on the whole, a waste of time and resources. If you believe that having four editors edit a story produces a better story than having one editor edit a story, I submit that you have the small mind of a middle manager, and should be employed not in journalism but in something more appropriate for your numbers-based outlook on life, like carpet sales. Writing is not a field in which quantity produces quality. Writing is more often an endeavor in which the passion and vision of one person produces a piece of work that must then be defended against an onslaught of competing visions of a series of editors who did not actually write or report the story—but who have some great ideas on how it should be changed."

"When any industry fills itself with middle managers, those middle managers will quite naturally work to justify their own existence. The less their own existence is inherently necessary, the harder they will work to appear to be necessary. An editor who looks over a story and declares it to be fine is not demonstrating his own necessity. He is therefore placing himself in danger of being seen as unnecessary. Editors, therefore, tend to edit. Whether it is necessary or not.

This is not to say that editing is not a legitimate job. It is. It is also a necessary step in the writing process. But it is not the most important role in the writing process. That would be writing, which any honest editor will tell you is much harder than editing. (An editor who will not admit this is not worth listening to.) Reporting is a difficult chore. Writing is a psychologically agonizing struggle. Editing is not easy, but not as onerous as either of the two tasks that precede it. You would never know that, though, by looking at the relative salaries of the people who do the work."
journalism  writing  editing  administration  middlemanagement  administrativebloat  teaching  management  leadership  careers  careerism  2014  hamiltonnoland  thisisaboutteaching  education 
august 2014 by robertogreco
When the Boss Says, 'Don't Tell Your Coworkers How Much You Get Paid' - Jonathan Timm - The Atlantic
"In both workplaces, my bosses were breaking the law.

Under the National Labor Relations Act of 1935 (NLRA), all workers have the right to engage “concerted activity for mutual aid or protection” and “organize a union to negotiate with [their] employer concerning [their] wages, hours, and other terms and conditions of employment.” In six states, including my home state of Illinois, the law even more explicitly protects the rights of workers to discuss their pay.

This is true whether the employers make their threats verbally or on paper and whether the consequences are firing or merely some sort of cold shoulder from management. My managers at the coffee shop seemed to understand that they weren't allowed to fire me solely for talking about pay, but they may not have known that it is also illegal to discourage employees from discussing their pay with each other. As NYU law professor Cynthia Estlund explained to NPR, the law "means that you and your co-workers get to talk together about things that matter to you at work." Even "a nudge from the boss saying 'we don't do that around here' ... is also unlawful under the National Labor Relations Act," Estlund added.

And yet, gag rules thrive in workplaces across the country. In a report updated this year, the Institute for Women’s Policy Research found that about half of American employees in all sectors are either explicitly prohibited or strongly discouraged from discussing pay with their coworkers. In the private sector, the number is higher, at 61 percent.

This is why President Obama recently signed two executive actions addressing workplace transparency and accountability. One prohibits federal contractors from retaliating against employees who discuss their pay with one another. The other requires contractors to provide compensation data on their employees, including race and sex. But while these protect workers at federally contracted employers—of which Lilly Ledbetter was one—it does not affect any other employers.

The bill that would cover the rest of workers is the Paycheck Fairness Act. The law would both strengthen penalties to employers who retaliate against workers for discussing pay and require employers to provide a justification for wage differentials.

These reforms are necessary to address this widespread, illegal problem that the law has failed to address for decades. Gag rules violate a fundamental labor right and allow for discriminatory pay schemes.

Given their illegality, why are gag rules so common? One answer is that the NLRA is toothless and employers know it. When employees file complaints, the National Labor Relations Board’s “remedies” are slaps on the wrist: reinstatement for wrongful termination, back-pay, and/or “informational remedies” such as “the posting of a notice by the employer promising to not violate the law.”

At the same time, ignorance of the law can just as easily fuel gag rules. Craig Becker, general counsel for the AFL-CIO, used to serve on the National Labor Relations Board. He told me that workers who called the NLRB rarely were aware that their employer’s pay secrecy policy was unlawful.

“The problem isn’t so much that the remedies are inadequate,” Becker said, “but that so few workers know their rights.” He says that even among those workers who are aware of the NLRA, many think that it protects unions but no one else. Now overseeing organizers at the AFL-CIO, Becker has found that before organizers even begin helping workers, they have to educate employees on this very basic law. “Workers call us up saying they’re unhappy and they want to organize,” Becker explains, “and when organizers look at the employee manual, sure enough, they find a policy saying that workers aren’t allowed to discuss their pay.”

Gag rules, then, are policies that flourish when employers know the law and their employees do not.

But why do employers do this in the first place? Many employers say that if workers talk to each other about pay, then tension is sure to follow. It’s understandable: If you found out that your coworker made more than you for doing the same work, then you’d probably be upset.

A study by economists David Card, Enrico Moretti, and Emmanuel Saez from Berkeley and Alexandre Mas from Princeton supports that prediction. To study the relationship between pay transparency, turnover, and workplace satisfaction, they selected a group of employees in the University of California system and showed them a website that lists the salaries of all UC employees. They found that employees who were paid above the median were unaffected by using the website, while those who were paid lower than the median became less satisfied with their work and more likely to start job hunting. This result suggests, according to the authors, that employers have an incentive to keep pay under wraps."
salaries  employment  legal  tcsnmy  chandlerschool  2014  gagrules  management  administration  labor  organization  compensation  transparency  opacity  morale  inequality  discrimination  race  gender 
july 2014 by robertogreco
Chapter 4 of An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth by Mohandas K. Gandhi
[Wayback: ]

"This sad situation developed after my departure from South Africa, but my idea of having permanent funds for public institutions underwent a change long before this difference arose. And now after considerable experience with the many public institutions which I have managed, it has become my firm conviction that it is not good to run public institutions on permanent funds. A permanent fund carries in itself the seed of the moral fall of the institution. A public institution means an institution conducted with the approval, and from the funds, of the public. When such an institution ceases to have public support, it forfeits its right to exist. Institutions maintained on permanent funds are often found to ignore public opinion, and are frequently responsible for acts contrary to it. In our country we experience this at every step. Some of the so-called religious trusts have ceased to render any accounts. The trustees have become the owners, and are responsible to none. I have no doubt that the ideal is for public institutions to live, like nature, from day to day. The institution that fails to win public support has no right to exist as such. The subscriptions that an institution annually receives are a test of its popularity and the honesty of its management, and I am of opinion that every institution should submit to that test. But let no one misunderstand me. My remarks do not apply to the bodies which cannot, by their very nature, be conducted without permanent buildings. What I mean to say it that the current expenditure should be found from subscriptions voluntarily received from year to year."

[Related: ]

[More on endowments: (.pdf)]
endowments  money  finance  colleges  universities  nonprofit  gandhi  institutions  power  control  democracy  management  permanent  funds  publicopinion  charitableindustrialcomplex  philanthropy  capital  wealth  organizations  permanence  impermanence  ephemeral  ephemerality  legacy  philanthropicindustrialcomplex  nonprofits  capitalism 
july 2014 by robertogreco
Why You Hate Work -
"Employees are vastly more satisfied and productive, it turns out, when four of their core needs are met: physical, through opportunities to regularly renew and recharge at work; emotional, by feeling valued and appreciated for their contributions; mental, when they have the opportunity to focus in an absorbed way on their most important tasks and define when and where they get their work done; and spiritual, by doing more of what they do best and enjoy most, and by feeling connected to a higher purpose at work."

"Put simply, the way people feel at work profoundly influences how they perform. What our study revealed is just how much impact companies can have when they meet each of the four core needs of their employees.

Renewal: Employees who take a break every 90 minutes report a 30 percent higher level of focus than those who take no breaks or just one during the day. They also report a nearly 50 percent greater capacity to think creatively and a 46 percent higher level of health and well-being. The more hours people work beyond 40 — and the more continuously they work — the worse they feel, and the less engaged they become. By contrast, feeling encouraged by one’s supervisor to take breaks increases by nearly 100 percent people’s likelihood to stay with any given company, and also doubles their sense of health and well-being.

Value: Feeling cared for by one’s supervisor has a more significant impact on people’s sense of trust and safety than any other behavior by a leader. Employees who say they have more supportive supervisors are 1.3 times as likely to stay with the organization and are 67 percent more engaged.

Focus: Only 20 percent of respondents said they were able to focus on one task at a time at work, but those who could were 50 percent more engaged. Similarly, only one-third of respondents said they were able to effectively prioritize their tasks, but those who did were 1.6 times better able to focus on one thing at a time.

Purpose: Employees who derive meaning and significance from their work were more than three times as likely to stay with their organizations — the highest single impact of any variable in our survey. These employees also reported 1.7 times higher job satisfaction and they were 1.4 times more engaged at work.

We often ask senior leaders a simple question: If your employees feel more energized, valued, focused and purposeful, do they perform better? Not surprisingly, the answer is almost always “Yes.” Next we ask, “So how much do you invest in meeting those needs?” An uncomfortable silence typically ensues.

How to explain this odd disconnect?

The most obvious answer is that systematically investing in employees, beyond paying them a salary, didn’t seem necessary until recently. So long as employees were able to meet work demands, employers were under no pressure to address their more complex needs. Increasingly, however, employers are recognizing that the relentless stress of increased demand — caused in large part by digital technology — simply must be addressed."
leadership  administration  management  tcsnmy  work  purpose  focus  schedules  employment  care  rest  renewal  productivity  2014  tonyschwartz  christineporath 
june 2014 by robertogreco
Avoid these three traps and become a more decisive leader - Quartz
[via: ]

"I recently oversaw a study designed to clarify the relationship between pivotal decisions and leadership. Based on our nationwide survey of 500 college-educated adults in professional careers, representative of 16% of adults in the United States, we uncovered four distinct decision-making styles, all defined by the level of accountability and ingenuity employed.

1. A leader continually works on improving how things are done in large and small ways, seeking different perspectives, and bringing people along a purposeful mission.

2. A manager focuses on the job at hand without greater vision or ingenuity.

3. A wanderer offers exciting ideas but can’t make things happen.

4. A clock puncher stays in a comfort zone and resists change.
Particularly when making decisions at pivot points—which by definition call for changing the status quo—you need to avoid the trap of risk avoidance and make decisions like a leader. However, our study found that, over time, most people tend to move toward the status quo–with increasingly unsuccessful results.

People slip in and out of the four decision-making modes, but tend to default to one of them. For those who find themselves not making pivotal decisions consistently as a leader, it is likely that they have landed unwittingly in one of three common traps.


The first trap I uncovered is complacency—it’s simply easier not to rock the boat. New ideas take work and face too many skeptics. Insular thinking sets in, making ideas more safe than imaginative and solutions more recycled than on target. But a key finding in our study is that people who focus only on the day-to-day issues—even with diligence and excellence—don’t get the successful outcomes leaders get. To stand out as a leader, make appointments with yourself—literally, block out time on your calendar—to brainstorm on a regular basis about forward-looking needs of your team and business.


Another trap that almost everyone falls into on occasion is busy-ness. Being so busy getting through a day can leave no time for matters that need careful thought. Daily interactions at the office become primarily transactional, such as project and information updates. Ideation and problem solving become work done solely in scheduled meetings and the annual planning process. There’s no other time to discuss new perspectives and ideas with colleagues and customers. It becomes a way of life and years pass since you had an idea that truly excited you. Our study found that leaders make the time to talk with a variety of people to explore a number of options and to gain support for ideas. So, I often advise people to make the time to have lunch once a week with someone other than daily contacts to have conversations that explore new ideas and options.

Playing it safe

A third common decision-making trap is having more concern for keeping your job than for doing your job. The job of meeting expectations can turn into managing by a checklist. While it’s certainly important to deliver according to agreed upon goals and expectations, the job of the leader also includes inspiring others through example and outlook. People want to be part of something that engages the passion and optimism of their leaders. They want their leader to care about the work more than they care about profits, and to care about what the team thinks. Our study found that leaders worked hard to build enthusiasm and to make sure that everyone affected by a major decision understood his or her thinking.

Overall, the most important differentiator of leader decision-making is reaching out to people, listening to them, understanding the problems people struggle with in their jobs, and building awareness and support for decisions. Often, people lend support simply because they feel treated with respect and appreciation when they were asked to give their perspective. Accountability for rallying support is so important that, if you do nothing else differently, do this as a regular part of your job and you’ll likely see more consistently successful outcomes.

Coming up short on ingenuity, the other key measure of leadership decision making, can also be a blind spot for many people. Often, they fail to see the extent to which they stay within the comfort zone of the status quo. They don’t know what they don’t know. From the vantage point of their comfort zone, new ideas appear as more work and disruptions than they are worth.

The challenge is to recognize these warning signs in your approach to decisions. It’s difficult to see yourself as others see you. It’s easy to trade off effectiveness for efficiency just to get through a day, especially when technology and globalization enable constant connectivity. This makes it more important than ever to look truthfully at the trade-offs we’ve made and which of them we want to reclaim, where we are, where we want to go, and take action on closing the gap."
juliatangpeters  leadership  management  administration  change  statusquo  busyness  complacency  institutions  organizations  decisionmaking  perspective  ingenuity  cv  2014 
may 2014 by robertogreco
How to Minimize Politics in Your Company - Ben's Blog
[via: ]

"As I developed as a CEO, I found three key techniques to be extremely useful in minimizing politics.

1. Hire people with the right kind of ambition—The cases that I described above might involve people who are ambitious, but not necessarily inherently political. All cases are not like this. The surest way to turn your company into the political equivalent of the US Senate is to hire people with the wrong kind of ambition. As defined by Andy Grove, the right kind of ambition is ambition for the company’s success with the executive’s own success only coming as a by-product of the company’s victory. The wrong kind of ambition is ambition for the executive’s personal success regardless of the company’s outcome.

2. Build strict processes for potentially political issues and do not deviate—Certain activities attract political behavior. These activities include:

• Performance evaluation and compensation
• Organizational design and territory
• Promotions

Let’s examine each case and how you might build and execute a process that insulates the company from bad behavior and politically motivated outcomes.

Performance and compensation—Often companies defer putting performance management and compensation processes in place. This doesn’t mean that they don’t evaluate employees or give pay raises; it just means they do so in an ad hoc manner that’s highly vulnerable to political machinations. By conducting well-structured, regular performance and compensation reviews, you will ensure that pay and stock increases are as fair as possible. This is especially important for executive compensation as doing so will also serve to minimize politics. In the example above, the CEO should have had an airtight performance and compensation policy and simply told the executive that his compensation would be evaluated with everyone else’s. Ideally, the executive compensation process should involve the board of directors. This will a) help ensure good governance and b) make exceptions even more difficult.

Organizational design and territory—If you manage ambitious people, from time to time, they will want to expand their scope of responsibility. In the example above, the CFO wanted to become the COO. In other situations, the head of marketing might want to run sales and marketing or the head of engineering may want to run engineering and product management. When someone raises an issue like this with you, you must be very careful about what you say, because everything that you say can be turned into political cannon fodder. Generally, it’s best to say nothing at all. At most, you might ask “why?”, but if you do so be sure not to react to the reasons. If you indicate what you are thinking, that information will leak, rumors will spread and you plant the seeds for all kinds of unproductive discussions. You should evaluate your organizational design on a regular basis and gather the information that you need to decide without tipping people to what you plan to do. Once you decide, you should immediately execute the re-org: don’t leave time for leaks and lobbying.

Promotions—Every time your company gives someone a promotion, everyone else at that person’s level evaluates the promotion and judges whether merit or political favors yielded the promotion. If the latter, then the other employees generally react in one of three ways:

a. They sulk and feel undervalued

b. They outwardly disagree, campaign against the person, and undermine them in their new position

c. They attempt to copy the political behavior that generated the unwarranted promotion

Clearly, you don’t want any of these behaviors in your company. Therefore, you must have a formal, visible, defensible promotion process that governs every employee promotion. Often this process must be different for people on your own staff (the general process may involve various managers who are familiar with the employee’s work, the executive process should include the board of directors). The purpose of the process is twofold. First, it will give the organization confidence that the company at least attempted to base the promotion on merit and second, the result of the process will be the information necessary for your team to explain the promotion decisions that you made.

3. Be careful with “he said, she said”—Once your organization grows to a significant size, members of your team will, from time to time, complain about each other. Sometimes this criticism will be extremely aggressive. Be very careful about how you listen and the message that it sends. Simply by hearing them out without defending the employee in question, you will send the message that you agree. If people in the company think that you agree that one of your executives is less than stellar, that information will spread quickly and without qualification. As a result, people will stop listening to the executive in question and they will soon become ineffective.

There are two distinct types of complaints that you will receive:

a. Complaints about an executive’s behavior

b. Complaints about an executive’s competency or performance

Generally, the best way to handle complaints of type 1 is to get the complaining executive and the targeted executive in the room together and have them explain themselves. Usually, simply having this meeting will resolve the conflict and correct the behavior (if it was actually broken). Do not attempt to address behavioral issues without both executives in the room. Doing so will invite manipulation and politics.

Complaints of type 2 are both more rare and more complex. If one of your executives summons the courage to complain about the competency of one of their peers, then there is a good chance that either the complainer or the targeted executive has a major problem. If you receive a type 2 complaint, you will generally have one of two reactions: a) they will be telling you something that you already know or b) they’ll be telling you shocking news.

If they are telling you something that you already know, then the big news is that you have let the situation go too far. Whatever your reasons for attempting to rehabilitate the wayward executive, you have taken too long and now your organization has turned on the executive in question. You must resolve the situation quickly. Almost always, this means firing the executive. While I’ve seen executives improve their performance and skill sets, I’ve never seen one lose the support of the organization then regain it.

On the other hand, if the complaint is new news, then you must immediately stop the conversation and make clear to the complaining executive that you in no way agree with their assessment. You do not want to cripple the other executive before you re-evaluate their performance. You do not want the complaint to become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Once you’ve shut down the conversation, you must quickly re-assess the employee in question. If you find that they are doing an excellent job, then you must figure out the complaining executive’s motivations and resolve them. Do not let an accusation of this magnitude fester. If you find that the employee is doing a poor job, there will be time to go back and get the complaining employee’s input, but you should be on a track to remove the poor performer at that point."
benhorowitz  2010  management  leadership  officepolitics  politics  work  workplace  business  behavior  psychology  groupdynamics  relationships  administration  organizations  promotions  conflict 
may 2014 by robertogreco
Why salaries shouldn't be secret - Vox
"One of the problems is that virtually everybody in corporate America — from senior management all the way down to entry-level employees — has internalized the primacy of capital over labor. There’s an unspoken assumption that any given person should be paid the minimum amount necessary to prevent that person from leaving. The simplest way to calculate that amount is to simply see what the employee could earn elsewhere, and pay ever so slightly more than that. If a company pays a lot more than the employee could earn elsewhere, then the excess is considered to be wasted, on the grounds that you could get the same employee, performing the same work, for less money.

How is it that most Americans still believe in this way of looking at pay, even as we reach the 100th anniversary of Henry Ford’s efficiency wages? Ford was the first — but by no means the last — businessman to notice that if you pay well above market rates, you get loyal, hard-working employees who rarely leave. Many contemporary companies have followed suit, from Goldman Sachs to Google to Bloomberg: a well-paid workforce is a happy workforce, which can build a truly world-beating company.

Such companies are, sadly, still rare, however. That’s bad for employees — and it’s bad for the economy as a whole. We need wages to go up: they’ve been stagnant, for the bottom 90% of the population, for some 35 years now. We also need employee turnover to go down: employees become more valuable, in general, the longer they stay with a company — and it takes a long time, and a lot of human resources, to train a new employee up to the point at which they really understand how their new employer works.

There are two things I look for, then, in any company. The first is high entry-level wages. They’re a sign that a company values all of its employees highly; that it likes to be able to pick anybody it wants to join its team; and that it considers new employees to be a long-term investment, rather than a short-term source of cheap labor."

"If you work for a company where everybody knows what everybody else is earning, then it’s going to be very easy to see what’s going on. You’ll see who the stars are, you’ll see what kind of skills and talent the company rewards, and you’ll see whether this is the kind of place where you fit in. You’ll also see whether men get paid more than women, whether managers are generally overpaid, and whether behavior like threatening to quit is rewarded with big raises. What’s more, because management knows that everybody else will see such things, they’ll be much less likely to do the kind of secret deals which are all too common in most companies today."
salaries  pay  employment  administration  management  leadership  2014  felixsalmon  compensation  transparency 
may 2014 by robertogreco
Meetings: even more of a soul-sucking waste of time than you thought | News |
"Nobody needs telling that meetings are a catastrophic waste of work time. But even so, it's a little alarming to learn just how much time they can waste. In the Harvard Business Review, three consultants from Bain report the results of an exercise in which they analyzed the Outlook schedules of the employees of an unnamed "large company" – and concluded that one weekly executive meeting ate up a dizzying 300,000 hours a year. Which is impressive, given that each of us only has about 8,700 hours a year to begin with. Including sleep.

The explanation is that a weekly meeting of a few hours doesn't just use up those hours for each person present; it creates knock-on time demands throughout the organisation. In this case, the weekly meeting took up 7,000 person-hours for the executives involved. But they also had to meet with unit heads in order to prepare for it, generating another 20,000 hours of meetings; those unit heads had to prepare for those meetings with team meetings (63,000 hours), and those team meetings generated numerous preparatory meetings (210,000 hours). And that total, the authors write, "doesn't include the work time spent preparing for meetings".

To be sure, the figures would mean rather more if we knew the size of the workforce involved. Nor do I have any idea what line of business this company's in. But it's hard not to conclude that the purpose for which it really exists is … having meetings. The Harvard Business Review doesn't quote Dave Barry, but maybe should have: "Meetings are an addictive, highly self-indulgent activity that corporations and other large organisations habitually engage in only because they cannot actually masturbate."

It's not my place to say that most or even many of those 300,000 hours were wasted ones. But there's plenty of research to suggest they may well have been. It would be hard to invent a worse system for reaching decisions than the modern meeting. For a start, there's evidence to suggest – as you expected – that it's the overconfident loudmouths who get their way, not the most knowledgeable attendees. Moreover, items higher up the agenda get more attention regardless of their importance.

Oh, and meetings are ground zero for Parkinson's Law of Trivilality, otherwise known as the Bike Shed Effect. People won't speak up about the big, complex, important decisions, because they're scared of embarrassing themselves. But they still want to feel (and appear) as if they're making a contribution, so they'll make sure to weigh in on the unimportant stuff instead. The result: triviality gradually comes to dominate. A decision about the construction of a new bike shed, as Parkinson put it, "will be debated for an hour and a quarter, then deferred for decision to the next meeting, pending the gathering of more information".

There are other reasons for holding meetings besides decisionmaking, it's true. But there's not much reason to think these purposes are best achieved that way either. If the goal is status reporting – catching everyone up on where things stand – there are numerous electronic tools for that. (These have the great advantage of being asynchronous: the boss can demand that everyone provide an update by a certain time, without requiring that everybody do it at a certain time.) And if the goal is generating new ideas, quiet, focused solitude may be more effective as brainstorming. (Here's an interesting technique, 'brainswarming', that seeks to combine the best of both.)

Or maybe you're using meetings primarily to foster a sense of togetherness and team spirit? Don't do that.

If it's not in your power to consign meetings to purgatory for evermore, you might at least suggest holding them standing up. That way you could reduce the time they take up by 34% without any reduction in the quality of decisions reached. (In any case, sitting is killing you.) If at all possible, though, find an alternative. "A meeting," the business writer Dale Dauten once wrote, "moves at the speed of the slowest mind in the room … all but one participant will be bored, all but one mind under-used". That's no way to spend 300,000 hours a year."
meetings  2014  productivity  leadership  administration  management  time 
may 2014 by robertogreco
Reciprocal Needs in the Employment Relation
* Reciprocal Needs in the Employment Relation

We can look at two sides of the management coin: What do the individuals get out of it? And what benefit does the whole system derive from it?

I will disregard any benefits that accrue to managers just by holding the position of managing. Those are just circular logic. Circular logic abounds in discussions of management and hierarchy. For example, consider status reports. It will be said that status reports are necessary so managers know what their employees are working on. It's circular because it treats the existence of hierarchic management as axiomatic, then demands an interaction to serve that hierarchy. In other words, I will not consider interactions that only exist to serve the structure itself.

Let's look first at the needs that an individual has as an employee. From "Drive" we see that an individual is motivated by autonomy, mastery, and purpose\cite{Pink09}. Over the long-term, these positive motivators have the greatest effect. However, they do require security and trust. A developer working on a big, change-the-world project still can't be motivated if they fear layoffs will be coming next month.

Over the short term, an individual also needs to avoid the demotivators. A bad fit in workload, autonomy, rewards, fairness, community, or values\cite{Masl97} will outweigh long-term positives by about three to one.\cite{Amab11}

I will frame these needs in the form of questions to which an individual would like to have answers.

1. "What should I be working on now?"
1. "Do I know how to do it?"
1. "Can I work in a way that I enjoy?"
1. "Am I good at what I do?"
1. "Does my work mean anything?"
1. "Can I get my work done in time?"
1. "Can I get the resources I need to do the work? (Training,
equipment, assistance.)"
1. "Am I making enough money?"
1. "Am I being treated fairly, compared to my peers in the company?"
1. "Am I being treated fairly, compared to my peers in the rest of the
1. "How do I fit in here?"
1. "Does anybody care about me?"
1. "Does anybody care about my work?"
1. "Do I agree with my colleagues about the right ways to work, act,
and interact?"
1. "Where am I going?"
1. "Can I get there from here?"

With each of these needs, they are not met by "the company", because "the company" is not a corporeal entity: it cannot talk, think, act, or feel. Rather, each of these needs can be met by interactions with other members of the company. By the same token, if a need goes unmet, it is unmet because some important interaction is not handled.

Some questions also address relations among people. These are not questions a person would ask about themselves, but rather questions a person would ask about how to affect other people in their company:

1. "How can I deliver a hard message to X?"
1. "I believe that X is not meeting their commitments. How can I get that fixed?"
1. "How do I ensure I never work with X again?"
1. "I know that X is creating legal or financial problems. What should I do?"

We will turn now to the reciprocal side of the employment relationship, which is the needs of the system as a whole.

In order to keep functioning, the system has to be able to deal with certain issues. When I say "the system", of course I mean that the individuals in the system need a way to arrive at collectively acceptable decisions and implement those decisions.[fn::Although John Gall would disagree with me. In his view the system has ends of its
own, namely those which cause the system itself to grow.] Unfortunately, there will always be some systemic needs that are not unanimously popular. For example, you can't ask for 100% decision about the need to terminate someone's employment. It may be necessary for the company, and even good for the majority of the people, but it won't be a unanimous decision. Other decisions may involve changing the character of the system by hiring people in new skill sets or service areas or exiting service areas that many of us enjoy.

These system mechanisms can't be expressed as personal questions, since there is no "I" to voice them. I'll write these as declarations of systemic needs. In order to function and scale, the system needs mechanisms to:

1. Limit expenditures to within available resources.
1. Ensure that all needed tasks get done, not just the fun ones.
1. Incorporate new people as the company grows.
1. Correct problems that could disrupt the system.
1. Reposition within the market.
1. Converge on cultural and community standards."
via:sha  reciprocity  employment  management  relationships  motivation  hierarchy  administration  leadership  autonomy  mastery  danielpink  purpose  security  trust  care  belonging  systems  systemsthinking 
april 2014 by robertogreco
The One Room Schoolhouse Goes High Tech | MindShift
[Starts out rosy (and there is a lot of interesting in this model) and the title sounds encouraging, but the concerns are hidden down below. School of One and Rocketship are not progressive.]

"While the school is using Common Core as a guideline for its teaching standards, students aren’t grouped by grade level. Rather, students move through activities based on their skill and are broadly grouped in age ranges that include transitional kindergarten, “youngers,” “olders,” and middle school.

“We don’t think there’s such a thing as a grade,” Ventilla said. “Kids are at different levels across their academic and non-academic trajectories and it’s about creating an environment of peers, people that push them, people that are good influences, but also people that they can be friends with and have intellectual peers.”

This is not a new concept, of course. Champions of competency-based education have been advocating this model for years, and Brightworks, a school that opened a few years ago just a few miles away that’s focused on project based learning uses the same premise. In that way, it’s less a brand new innovation and more of an amalgamation of different models borrowed from Montessori, Waldorf, homeschooling, and different education theorists, as evidenced by the books scattered around the school’s office — Finnish Lessons, The Smartest Kids in the World, 5 Minds for the Future, How Children Succeed.

Another borrowed idea applied to AltSchool is the School of One model in New York. Students at AltSchool work from an individual playlist the teacher puts together that’s keyed to his or her interests. The teacher can keep track of student progress on a dashboard, ensure the tasks have been completed, and adjust activities depending on how students are progressing. For example, recently, AltSchool teacher Carolyn Wilson assigned a video about California’s delta to one student, paired with questions about how water moves through the system.

“He moved it to the ‘done’ column, but it wasn’t done, so I told him he was turning me into a screaming monster,” Wilson said. When she checked his work and saw he hadn’t finished, Wilson tagged that assignment with a screaming monster icon and a note to the student telling him to go back and answer the questions and complete a reflection."

"AltSchool is fundamentally a for-profit technology start-up, recently announcing $33 million dollars in venture capital funding. Slightly less than half of its current staff — a total of about 25 people, including teachers — are computer engineers. Despite the techy underpinnings, technology isn’t all that visually present in AltSchool classrooms the way it is in many schools with one-to-one programs or at a charter network like Rocketship, according to AltSchool staff. But technology is a pervasive part of this model behind the scenes.

“If you look at how learning gets personalized in most schools out there, it’s by sticking a kid in front of a screen,” said AltSchool Chief Technology Officer Komal Sethi. “That’s because it’s easy. That’s not how we think about it.” Tech tools help students track their assignments, document their work, and allow teachers to stay on top of each student’s individual lesson plan. “We want the real-world, project-based learning to happen, we just want to be able to see that it’s happening,” Sethi said. And to that end, AltSchool classrooms are being videotaped and recorded in an effort to capture classroom moments that the teacher might have missed. “We’re basically trying to say, what can we observe that’s going on to help the teacher do the things she already does,” Sethi said.

The engineering team is working to build technology that will allow teachers to bookmark moments when the class gets particularly loud, for example, so they can go back to that moment and see if something needs to be modified in the instructional practice, or if there is a particular incident to observe later.

“That’s a moment when something happened that the teacher wanted to keep so she could go back and see what happened that allowed this breakthrough,” Ventilla said. He also believes parents will be grateful for having a video recording of breakthrough academic moments in their children’s lives, like when they first learn to read. The school’s engineers are working to create sensors sophisticated enough to pick up on students’ facial expressions and then send a signal to the teacher’s dashboard. He said the sensors would potentially help teachers know when a child is struggling, even if she’s in another part of the room. It’s meant to give the teacher another set of eyes.

This model flies in the face of many student data privacy concerns surfacing recently regarding collecting more data on students. The school and its developers keep the raw video and audio data for two years before trashing it, but can save particular moments to share with teachers or parents for much longer.


AltSchool plans to launch officially next fall with several modular classrooms around San Francisco and surrounding cities, as well as in Silicon Valley at $19,100 per year. “Our model is attractive to families who know what they want educationally and come to us to have some of the logistics taken care of without having to reinvent the school,” said Anna Cueni, the school’s director of operations.

In addition to running schools, the company will be designing software for teachers’ needs. “Every one of our engineers spends time directly in the classroom, collaborates directly with students, and many of them actually teach during part of their week,” Ventilla said. Teachers and developers work together to design tech tools that meet specific classroom needs.

So far, developers have created the software that makes student playlists, the audio and video replay system that allows teachers to bookmark important moments in the classroom, and have made a weekly parent summary tool that makes it easy for teachers to curate and share insights about students each week. This close collaboration could create products that other schools find useful and eventually might license.

“We’re not trying to make existing schools work better,” Ventilla said. “We are trying to actually advance a new model of a school.” That said, if a charter network wanted to begin a whole new set of schools based on the AltSchool model, Ventilla wouldn’t be opposed. But he said the model would not work in a traditional large school building with a centralized administration and little flexibility."
altschool  2014  education  progressive  startups  maxventilla  schools  lcproject  microschools  smallschool  management  rocketshipschools 
april 2014 by robertogreco
Fast Path to a Great UX - Increased Exposure Hours
"As we've been researching what design teams need to do to create great user experiences, we've stumbled across an interesting finding. It's the closest thing we've found to a silver bullet when it comes to reliably improving the designs teams produce. This solution is so simple that we didn't believe it at first. After all, if it was this easy, why isn't everyone already doing it?

To make sure, we've spent the last few years working directly with teams, showing them what we found and helping them do it themselves. By golly, it actually worked. We were stunned.

The solution? Exposure hours. The number of hours each team member is exposed directly to real users interacting with the team's designs or the team's competitor's designs. There is a direct correlation between this exposure and the improvements we see in the designs that team produces."

[via: ]
design  research  usability  ux  observation  understanding  empathy  2010  learning  administration  leadership  management  tcsnmy  attention  exposure  exposurehours  organizations  fieldwork  fieldvisits  ethnography  listening  noticing 
april 2014 by robertogreco
Episode Sixty: We Have Always Been At War; Our Independence Day; Spimes, Duh
"Last episode I talked about the Chief Empathy Officer, and in case I wasn't clear, I want to make it abundantly so this time: I think having a chief empathy officer is a stupid idea, exactly the kind of tactic that makes it look like you're jumping on a bandwagon and fixing something without fixing anything at all. It's almost as bad as having a hived-off UX team and exactly the kind of thing where, as Matt Locke points out, a general good practice in business is promoted up to the C-level suite so that you don't have to do deal with it anymore.

Let me put it clearly: no one person in an organisation should have sole responsibility for "empathy", especially in a manner that's going to make it easy for detractors to make fun of it. Instead, customer-centricism is something that needs to be distributed throughout, from the bottom-up as well as top-down

Leisa Reichelt tweeted at me in response to that episode the concept of 'exposure hours'[1], which is such a blindingly simple idea that you're kind of surprised (and then when you think about, it understand why) more companies or organisations don't use it. It's just this: the more time your designers or product owners spend with end-users, the better designed those products or services tend to be: "There is a direct correlation between this exposure and the improvements we see in the designs that team produces." And this isn't just for design personnel - as soon as non-design personnel were included in the contact hours, the entire group would fall together. This is as much an argument for audience/customer contact across each functional unit or team across an organisation.

An aside: there's a wonderful tv series (it's true! Such things exist!) called Back To The Floor[2] which started in the UK in which, for entertainment purposes (and the occasional tear-jerker), C-level executives are forced to take entry level jobs in their organisations and are bluntly confronted with the humanity of their employees. Because, you know, living in a bubble.

At this point my brain wanders off and looks at the anti-pattern. Capitalism is all too often thought of as being combative and the American strand in particular borrows heavily from sports metaphors (crushing it, home run, left field, sprint). It's all anyone can do to try and impress that often capitalism doesn't necessarily have to be a zero-sum game, and that type of thinking feels like it's at odds with a customer-centric or empathy-driven organisation.

The anti-pattern, of course, is dehumanising your enemies so you can make it easier to kill them. Losing shopkeepers with face-to-face interaction dehumanises customers. Interchangeable call-center workers dehumanise customers. Reducing a customer to a statistic and traffic-light feedback mechanisms. In essence, putting up barriers and abstracting away difficult-to-quantise or measure or digitise measures that seek to make the customer experience more predictable and scaleable.

In some ways, you can get at this empathy intuitively and by having strong direction - if you're lucky. And by lucky, I mean *really* lucky - you're the kind of person who's a one in a million Steve Jobs type, and remember even *he* got it wrong with things like the hocky puck mouse and, well, iTunes, where the strategy was right and the initial user experience (plug in a first gen iPod, FireWire your songs over) was great but then degraded over time with lack of focus. And Jobs, well, Jobs was just making sure that he understood *himself* really well and appeared to be pretty true to that and wouldn't stand for any shit. So at least you get clarity of vision for products like iPhone or iPad that way.

But for everyone else, and for everyone else, chances are blindingly highly likely that you're not Steve Jobs, in which case research to understand the audience and the user need is absolutely critical. So the question is: why do hardly any organisations do this?

It's interesting because for engineers and entrepreneuers the first product is often the "scratch your own itch", which makes sense, because you understand your own itch and you know exactly where it's itching and what you might need to un-itch yourself. But when that product or service starts to grow outside of that market or that population, then having the ability to understand the people you're interacting with becomes super important, I think.

There are ways to mitigate needing to have a super-developed corporate sense of empathy, though. You can use network effects to tie people in social applications, you can use local monopolies like in fixed-line telecommunications, and plain-old regulation of competitors and limited service in air travel. But the flip side of Moore's Law is that communication and computation has gotten ever cheaper, so all of these organisations got "social", which the consultants remind us is all about having "conversations". And the thing about having conversations with an organisation that lacks empathy, or lacks the ability to act upon empathy, is that over time, they end up feeling like a sociopath.

For those of you who have been following along at home, the protracted amount of thinking in this area may or may not have something to do with one of my side projects.

[2] "
danhon  empathy  titles  culture  ux  organizations  administration  leadership  management  tcsnmy  knowing  leisareichelt  exposurehours  exposure  attention  fieldwork  fieldvisits  ethnography  listening  noticing 
april 2014 by robertogreco
Should We Automate Education? | EdTech Magazine
"In 1962, Raymond Callahan published Education and the Cult of Efficiency, a historical account of the influence that “scientific management” (also known as “Taylorism,” after its developer, Frederick Taylor) had on American schools in the early 20th century — that is, the push to run schools more like factories, where the productivity of workers was measured, controlled and refined.

Callahan’s main argument was that the pressures on the education system to adopt Taylorism resulted neither in more refined ways to teach nor in better ways to learn, but rather, in an emphasis on cost cutting. Efficiency, he argued, “amounted to an analysis of the budget. … Decisions on what should be taught were not made on educational, but on financial grounds.”

Fifty years later, we remain obsessed with creating a more “efficient” educational system (although ironically, we object to schools based on that very “factory model”). Indeed, this might be one of the major promises that educational technologies make: to deliver a more efficient way to teach and learn, and a more efficient way to manage schooling.

Deciding What We Want From Education

Adaptive learning — computer-based instruction and assessment that allows each student to move at her or his pace — is perhaps the latest in a series of technologies that promise more ­efficient education. The efficiency here comes, in part, from the focus on the individual — personalization — instead of on an entire classroom of students.

But it’s worth noting that adaptive learning isn’t new. “Intelligent tutoring systems” have been under development for decades now. The term “intelligent tutoring” was coined in the 1980s; research into computer-assisted instruction dates to the 1960s; and programmed instruction predates the computer altogether, with Sidney Pressey’s and B. F. Skinner’s “teaching machines” of the 1920s and 1950s, respectively.

“Education must become more efficient,” Skinner insisted. “To this end, curricula must be revised and simplified, and textbooks and classroom techniques improved.”

Rarely do we ask what exactly “efficiency” in education or ed tech ­entails. Does it mean a reduction in ­errors? Faster learning? Reshaping the curriculum based on market demands? Does it mean cutting labor costs — larger classroom sizes, perhaps, or teachers replaced by machines?

We also often fail to ask why efficiency would be something we would value in education at all. Schools shouldn’t be factories. Students aren’t algorithms.

What happens if we prioritize efficiency in education? By doing so, are we simply upgrading the factory model of schooling with newer technologies? What happens to spontaneity and messiness? What happens to contemplation and curiosity?

There’s danger, I’d argue, in relying on teaching machines — on a push for more automation in education. We forget that we’re teaching humans."
audreywatters  automation  education  edtech  learning  children  humanism  humans  efficiency  2014  1962  raymondcallahan  management  taylorism  factoryschools  schools  industrialeducation  schooling  adaptivelearning  bfskinner  sidneypressey  computers  computing  technology  curiosity  messiness  spontaneity  unschooling  deschooling 
april 2014 by robertogreco
Dreaming about the future is bad for your career — Gigaom Research
"Dan goes on to make this a cautionary tale for business leaders. But I believe the issue isn’t just managers and leaders: it’s everybody. People are afraid of creativity in general, and especially in times of stress, where traditional approaches to problem are strongly favored, even when they don’t work.

And creative people are uniformly considered unsuitable leaders unless they couple that with high degrees of charisma, as I detailed in The cultural bias against creatives as leaders. In fact, this bias has been suggested as the root cause of why so many leaders fail, and why groups seem to resist change. We continue to select for leaders that are uncreative, who strongly favor tradition over innovation, and who inspire a culture that follows that lead.

The answer? Alas, I am not sure that there is one. Being a dreamer may be something like ‘following your passion’. As Cal Newport has observed, following your passion may be terrible job advice."

"So, before you can get a job where you get to dream about the future, you need to sharpen your skills and share a lot of dreams that matter to others. Share your dreams, hone them, but don’t be surprised if you are sidelined because of them. You may need to intentionally take on the techniques of charisma to be considered a leader if you lead with ideas instead of traditionalism.

Sagan is right, that we rely on those who can imagine new worlds, devices, tools, or practices, but many of those dreamers pay a high price, and many of those dreams never see the light of day."

[Update: see also:

"Here’s a working hypothesis:
The organizations that most need change agents probably are the least likely to hire them because change agents typically make people with non-change orientations scared or nervous. If the people within were already oriented toward change and innovation, their organizations wouldn’t be the ones in the most need of change agents.

So a change- and innovation-oriented job candidate has a steep uphill battle to get considered and hired. The challenge is how to get people on hiring committees in non-change-oriented institutions to recognize the value of hiring for innovation, not replication…

Got any thoughts on this?"]
leadership  creativity  charisma  2014  bias  passion  cv  stoweboyd  carlsagan  danpontefract  calnewport  values  administration  management  careers  scottmccleod  schools  changeagents  change  hiring 
march 2014 by robertogreco
Episode Forty One: When You're Part Of A Team; The Dabbler
"The thing is, a lot of this behaviour is very easy to mistake for cult-like behaviour from the outside. Apple frequently gets described as a cult - not only are its employees members of the cult, but its customers are described in terms of being followers, too. And you see this cult behaviour in terms of the reverence expressed toward dear leaders (Messrs Wieden and Kennedy, for example, or the brain trust at Pixar, or Steve at Apple) but also in terms of the transmission of the values of those leaders. Wieden prides itself on a number of maxims ranging from a thousands-of-thumbtacks installation done by members of its advertising school of the slogan FAIL HARDER (with requisite misplaced thumbtack) to pretty much every employee being able to understand what's meant by "the work comes first" even if they do need a bit of re-education as to how, exactly, the work comes first (ie: it is not a get out of jail free card when you disagree with the client about what counts as good work). Then there are the Other Rules, the ones practically handed down from the mount (or, more accurately, discovered in an office scribbled in pen) that state:

1. Don't act big
2. No sharp stuff
3. Follow directions
4. Shut up when someone is talking to you

and turned out to be a parent's note to their child but actually not that bad advice when you think about it.

[See also: ]

And now, another nascent organisation, another one that I constantly harp on about: the UK's Government Digital Service. I don't think it's a coincidence that from the outside two of the people (but certainly by no means the only people) influential in the success of GDS and its culture are Russell Davies and Ben Terrett, both of whom have been through the Wieden+Kennedy, er, experience.

Russell is an exceedingly smart, unassuming and humble person who has a singularly incredibly ability to be almost devastatingly insightful and plain-speaking at the same time. It feels rare to see both at the same time. But what he's articulating at the moment in terms of GDS strategy and implementation is the thought that "the unit of delivery is the team" and when you're building a new organisation from the ground up, and one whose success is tied directly to its ability to embed within and absorb the culture of an existing massive entity, the UK civil service, it feels like watching a (so far successful) experiment in sociology and anthropology being deployed in realtime. A note (and thanks to Matthew Solle for the clarification because it's an important one): while the GDS works with the civil service, it's not actually a part of it, instead being a part of the cabinet office and being more tied to the government of the day.

So there are macro-level observations about Pixar that you glean from books and other secondary sources, but it's not until you visit the place and start to talk to the people who work there that understand starts to feel that it unlocks a little more. I'm lucky enough to know one person at Pixar who's been gracious enough to host me a few times and while we were talking about the culture of the place and how, exactly, they get done what they get done, one thing that struck me was the role of the individual and the individual's place in the team.

You see, one of the things it felt like they concentrated on was empowerment and responsibility but also those two things set against context. My friend would talk about how every person on his team would know what their superpower was - the thing they were good at, the thing that they were expert at - and everyone else would know what that superpower was, too. And the culture thus fostered was one where everyone was entitled to have a reckon or an opinion about something and were listened to, but when it came down to it, the decision and authority rested with the expert.

Now, this might not sound like a stunningly insightful revelation. Allowing people to have opinions about the work of the greater team and then restricting decision-making to those best qualified to make it sounds on the surface like a fairly reasonable if not obvious tenet, and maybe even one that because of its obviousness would seem reasonably easy if not trivial to implement. Well, if you think that, then I'm sorry, it sounds like you've never been a good manager before: it turns out to be exceedingly difficult.

At this point the narrative begins to sound rather trite: Pixar, and the companies like it that consistently achieve "good" results and are able to marshall the resources of large teams to accomplish something greater, are simply trying harder than all the other ones. And in the end, it may well be as simple as that. It's easy to have a mission statement. It's easy to have values. It's significantly harder to try as hard you can, every single day, for thirty years, to actually live them.

In the same way that one does not simply walk into Mordor, one does not simply say that one has a set of values or culture and it magically happen.

This is perhaps best illustrated in the blindness of the new wave of stereotypical valley startups that rail against bureaucracy and instead insist that their trademarked culture of holocracy inures them to the requirement of bureaucracy. That the way they instinctively do things is sufficient in and of itself. Well: bullshit to that. That simply doesn't scale, and the companies that think they're doing that - and I'm looking at you, Github, winner so far of the Best Example Of The Need To Grow Up award of 2014 and we've not even finished the first quarter of the year - are living in some sort of hundred-million-dollar VC-fueled fantasy land. Which, I suppose, goes without saying.

I began this part by implying something about teams, and I sort of alluded to it when mentioning the GDS maxim that the unit of delivery is the team.

I think it's becoming clear that the type of delivery that is expected in this age by its nature requires a multi-disciplinary team that works together. It's not enough, anymore, to have specialisms siloed away, and one thing that jumped out at me recently was the assertion in conversation on Twitter with a number of GDS members that there isn't anybody with the role of "user experience" at GDS. Everyone, each and every single member of the team, is responsible and accountable to the user experience of delivery, from operations to design to copy and research.

The sharpest end of this is where digital expertise had traditionally been siloed away in a sort of other. In a sort of check-boxing exercise, organisations would recruit in those with digital experience and either for reasons of expediency or for their own good, would shepherd them into a separate organisational unit. Davies' point - and one that is rapidly becoming clear - is that this just doesn't make sense anymore. I would qualify that and say that it doesn't make sense for certain organisations, but I'm not even sure if I can do that, and instead should just agree that it's a rule across the board.

Of course, the devil is always in the detail of the implementation."

"The thing about hobbies in the networked age is that it's incredibly easy for them to become performative instead of insular. That's not to say that insular hobbies are great, but the networked performance of a hobby comes with seductive interactions built not necessarily for the hobbyist's benefit but for the benefit of the network substrate or medium. As a general reckon, hobbies in their purest form are nothing but intrinsic motivation: whether they're an idiosyncratic desire to catalogue every single model of rolling stock in the UK or increasingly intricate nail art, before the hobby becomes performative it is for the self's benefit only, a sort of meditation in repetitive action and a practice.

The hobby as the networked performance, though (and I realise that at this point I may well sound like a reactionary luddite who doesn't 'get' the point of social media) perhaps too easily tips the balance in favour of extrinsic motivation. Whether that extrinsic motivation is in terms of metrics like followers, likes, retweets, subscribers or other measurable interaction with the hobbyist the point remains that it's there, and it's never necessarily for a clear benefit for the hobbyist. You could perhaps absolve blame and say that such metrics are intrinsic properties of the enactment of a social graph and that they're making explicit what would be rendered as implicit feedback cues in any event, but I don't buy that. They were put there for a reason. Friend counts and subscriber counts were put there because those of us who are product designers and of the more geeky persuasion realised that we could count something (and here, we get to point the finger at the recording pencil of the train spotter), and the step from counting something to making visible that count was a small one and then our evolutionary psychology and comparison of sexual fitness took over and before you knew it people were doing at the very least SXSW panels or if you were really lucky TED talks about gamification and leaderboards and whether you had more Fuelpoints than your friends.

So that's what happened to the hobby: it moved from the private to the public and at the same time the dominant public medium of the day, the one that all of us had access to, marched inexorably to measurement, quantification and feedback loops of attention."
danhon  leadership  administration  management  pixar  wk  russelldavies  benterrett  authority  empowerment  collaboration  teams  2014  hobbies  expertise  trust  tcsnmy  lcproject  openstudioproject  motivation  performance 
march 2014 by robertogreco
The Myth of the Non-Technical Startup Employee, by Zoelle Egner | Model View Culture
"The indignities unwittingly foisted upon the early operations employee are many and varied."

As the first non-technical hire at a startup, you wear many hats.

You answer support tickets, write newsletters, even order lunch: whatever needs to get done. When you’re lucky - and I was - that means days spent untangling complex problems and creating processes to keep the chaos at bay.

Unfortunately, when it comes to the tech industry at large, it can also mean a constant battle to justify your intelligence, your value, and your very existence. It can mean struggling against gendered expectations about your work product and complete ignorance of what your role entails. Worse, as the defacto keeper of the sacred Company Culture™, you run the risk of enabling and reinforcing a system of amenities and perks which aren’t actually meant for you.

Though the indignities unwittingly foisted upon the early operations employee are many and varied, at their core, most can be traced back to three core misconceptions that pervade the industry at large.

1. You only take a job in business operations if you aren’t smart enough to be an engineer (or designer, or product manager, or…)

2. If your role isn’t technical, you don’t actually understand the product.

3. The ops person is here to be your mommy.

Operations is a necessary evil, and it doesn’t really matter

That means the people who do it don’t really matter, either.

Choosing to work at an early-stage startup can mean choosing to sacrifice a lot: weekends, the opportunity to see friends for weeks on end, even basic knowledge of what’s going on in the outside world. Obviously, it’s also rewarding enough that we continue to make those sacrifices time and time again. Yet the myths we hold so dear — the noble engineer, sleeping under his desk to get the product out on time; the company that cares for its employees’ every need — exclude and marginalize an entire class of people whose contributions to these startups make their success possible. Perhaps that just comes with the territory of working in an operational role, but it also sends a clear message: this industry is supposedly changing the world, but only the contributions of a select few are worthy of celebration. The rest, well — someone had to keep the snacks filled.

But of course it’s not that simple. If you don’t file your taxes or pay vendors on time or hire the right people at the right speed or handle any of the other, myriad issues that operations folks handle each day, it doesn’t matter how great your product is: you’re going to run into serious problems. Technical infrastructure isn’t the only part of a startup that needs to scale seamlessly. This, ultimately, is why these myths about business operations are so painful and damaging, both to the professionals who suffer from them and the businesses that perpetuate them. You can have a great product and still fail because your business was broken. But it shouldn’t happen that way, and it doesn’t have to.

Yes, it means taking the time as a founder to understand what operations means, and finding the right person to help make it happen, regardless of their gender. It means trusting that whomever you hire will be just as invested in the success of the company and just as valuable as people with more widely understood responsibilities. But the result is worth it. Particularly when it comes to early stage startups, a good operations person who is engaged as a true partner in building the business can lengthen your runway and give you the chance you need to be successful and sustainable. That’s a prospect worth fighting for."
zoelleegner  softskills  management  operations  startups  2014  gender  organizations  work  labor  culture  administration  technology  emotionallabor  shrequest1 
march 2014 by robertogreco
The GitHub Debacle and Why Holacracy is Bullshit | BraceLand
"EDIT: I should make very clear that GitHub does not seem to have been employing holacracy as their organizing model. Instead, Tom Preston-Werner describes it in this talk as “business minimalism.” I was sloppy in equating the two. I do stand by the larger point that these anti-hierarchical models, whatever you call them, don’t deal with power structures effectively. Business minimalism and holacracy both seem to be trying to address the same problem, bureaucracy, without really dealing with why bureaucracies get to be the way they are in the first place. I also edited the title of this post replacing a colon with the word “and” to help clarify.


A couple weeks ago I was in a conversation with some of my progressive organizer friends about holacracy, the latest fad in tech culture which calls for organizational structures without any hierarchy (ie: managers). Some of them were really intrigued by the elements of empowerment and decentralization at it’s core. I felt differently. Holacracy always smelled to me like a naive reaction to bureaucracy, without really understanding how and why bureaucracies end up like they do. It also has this implicit disdain for people in organizations who are responsible for the softer skills that keep things running smoothly. You know, things like communication, empathy, human resources management, etc. I see these skills getting devalued in the tech world all the time. If you can’t build shit you’re not worth anything.

Watching this debacle go down at GitHub, I’m not at all surprised to hear (from my fabulous colleague Mike Migurski, who explains perfectly why I think holacracy is bullshit) that the co-founder implicated in the story was a believer in the holacratic ideal.

Channeling Marshall Ganz, the absence of structure is a structure in and of itself. When you allow a power vacuum to emerge someone will fill it, and it’s usually the people who have traditionally held power (rich white men). That’s how you end up with stories like this coming out of GitHub.

In the wake of this, I’m starting to think all of the problems we’re seeing with Silicon Valley these days—the ineptitude at politics, the clumsiness with handling inequality in SF, the lack of gender and racial diversity in the industry—are actually rooted in a systemic failure to understand how power works. As we move to an era where tech is central to our culture and economy, smart founders and investors will come to realize that stacking their companies full of people who understand politics and can create healthy cultures is as important to success as having kick-ass engineers.

The problem with management isn’t managers, the problem with management is bad managers. And it’s not hard to imagine that people who don’t understand how power works aren’t going to be very good managers."

[Conversation about Julie Ann Horvath's Github experience here:

An Metafilter discussion that predated this news: Do we need managers? ]
catherinebracy  github  2014  michalmigurski  softskills  holocracy  horizontality  hierarchy  management  hierarchies  administration  power  social  groupdynamics  inequality  technology  technosolutionism  marshallganz  structure  structurelessness 
march 2014 by robertogreco
What Your Culture Really Says — about work — Medium
[via: ]

"Toxic lies about culture are afoot in Silicon Valley. They spread too fast as we take our bubble money and designer Powerpoints to drinkups, conferences and meetups all over the world, flying premium economy, ad nauseam. Well-intentioned darlings south of Market wax poetic on distributed teams, office perks, work/life balance, passion, “shipping”, “iteration,” “freedom”. A world of startup privilege hides blithely unexamined underneath an insipid, self-reinforcing banner of meritocracy and funding. An economic and class-based revolt of programmers against traditional power structures within organizations manifests itself as an (ostensively) radical re-imagining of work life. But really, you should meet the new boss. Hint: he’s the same as the old boss.

The monied, celebrated, nuevo-social, 1% poster children of startup life spread the mythology of their cushy jobs, 20% time, and self-empowerment as a thinly-veiled recruiting tactic in the war for talent against internet giants. The materialistic, viral nature of these campaigns have redefined how we think about culture, replacing meaningful critique with symbols of privilege. The word “culture” has become a signifier of superficial company assets rather than an ongoing practice of examination and self-reflection.

Culture is not about the furniture in your office. It is not about how much time you have to spend on feel-good projects. It is not about catered food, expensive social outings, internal chat tools, your ability to travel all over the world, or your never-ending self-congratulation.

Culture is about power dynamics, unspoken priorities and beliefs, mythologies, conflicts, enforcement of social norms, creation of in/out groups and distribution of wealth and control inside companies. Culture is usually ugly. It is as much about the inevitable brokenness and dysfunction of teams as it is about their accomplishments. Culture is exceedingly difficult to talk about honestly. The critique of startup culture that came in large part from the agile movement has been replaced by sanitized, pompous, dishonest slogans.

Let’s examine popular startup trends that are being called “culture” and look beneath the surface to find the real culture that may be playing out beneath it. This is not a critique of the practices themselves, which often contribute value to an organization. This is to show a contrast between the much deeper, systemic cultural problems that are rampant in our startups and the materialistic trappings that can disguise them.

We make sure to hire people who are a cultural fit
What your culture might actually be saying is… We have implemented a loosely coordinated social policy to ensure homogeneity in our workforce. We are able to reject qualified, diverse candidates on the grounds that they “aren’t a culture fit” while not having to examine what that means - and it might mean that we’re all white, mostly male, mostly college-educated, mostly young/unmarried, mostly binge drinkers, mostly from a similar work background. We tend to hire within our employees’ friend and social groups. Because everyone we work with is a great culture fit, which is code for “able to fit in without friction,” we are all friends and have an unhealthy blur between social and work life. Because everyone is a “great culture fit,” we don’t have to acknowledge employee alienation and friction between individuals or groups. The desire to continue being a “culture fit” means it is harder for employees to raise meaningful critique and criticism of the culture itself.

Meetings are evil and we have them as little as possible.
What your culture might actually be saying is… We have a collective post-traumatic stress reaction to previous workplaces that had hostile, unnecessary, unproductive and authoritarian meetings. We tend to avoid projects and initiatives that require strict coordination across the company. We might have difficulty meeting the expectations of enterprise companies and do better selling to startups organized like us. We are heavily invested in being rebels against traditional corporate culture. Because we communicate largely asynchronously and through chat, it is easy to mentally dehumanize teammates and form silos around functional groups with different communications practices or business functions.

We have a team of people who are responsible for organizing frequent employee social events, maintaining the office “feel”, and making sure work is a great place to hang out. We get served organic, vegan, farm-raised, nutritious lunches every day at work.
What your culture might actually be saying is… Our employees must be treated as spoiled, coddled children that cannot perform their own administrative functions. We have a team of primarily women supporting the eating, drinking, management and social functions of a primarily male workforce whose output is considered more valuable. We struggle to hire women in non-administrative positions and most gender diversity in our company is centralized in social and admin work. Because our office has more amenities than home life, our employees work much longer hours and we are able to extract more value from them for the same paycheck. The environment reinforces the cultural belief that work is a pleasant dream and can help us distract or bribe from deeper issues in the organization.

20% of the time, or all of the time, people can work on whatever they want to
What your culture might actually be saying is… We have enough venture funding to pay people to work on non-core parts of the business. We are not under that much pressure to make money. The normal work of the business is not sufficiently rewarding so we bribe employees with pet projects. We’re not entirely sure what our business objectives and vision are, so we are trying to discover it by letting employee passions take root. We have a really hard time developing work that takes more than a few people to release. We have lots of unfinished but valuable projects that get left behind due to shifts in focus, lack of concentrated effort, and inability to organize sufficient resources to bring projects to completion.

We don’t have managers and the company is managed with no hierarchy
What your culture might actually be saying is… Management decisions are siloed at the very top layers of management, kept so close to the chest they appear not to exist at all. The lack of visibility into investor demands, financial affairs, HR issues, etc. provides an abstraction layer between employees and real management, which we pretend doesn’t exist. We don’t have an explicit power structure, which makes it easier for the unspoken power dynamics in the company to play out without investigation or criticism.

We don’t have a vacation policy
What your culture might actually be saying is… We fool ourselves into thinking we have a better work/life balance when really people take even less vacation than they would when they had a vacation policy. Social pressure and addiction to work has replaced policy as a regulator of vacation time.

We are all makers who are focused on shipping.
What your culture might actually be saying is… Features are the most important function of our business. We lack processes for surfacing and addressing technical debt. We have systemic infrastructure problems but they are not relevant because we are more focused on short-term adoption than long-term reliability. We prioritize fast visible progress, even if it is trivial, over longer and more meaningful projects. Productivity is measured more by lines of code than the value of that code. Pretty things are more important than useful things.

Talk to your company about culture. Talk to other companies about culture. Stop mistaking symbology and VC spoils for culture. Be honest with yourself, and with each other. Otherwise, your culture will kill you softly with its song, and you won’t even notice. But hey, you have a beer keg in the office."
shanley  2013  business  culture  github  horizontality  hierarchy  hierarchies  control  power  meetings  homogeneity  organzations  vacation  policies  politics  work  labor  process  social  socialpressure  management  administration  illegibility  legibility  decisionmaking  powerstructures  criticism  valve 
march 2014 by robertogreco
managers are awesome / managers are cool when they’re part of your team (tecznotes)
"Apropos the Julie Ann Horvath Github shitshow, I’ve been thinking this weekend about management, generally.

I don’t know details about the particular Github situation so I won’t say much about it, but I was present for Tom Preston-Werner’s 2013 OSCON talk about Github. After a strong core message about open source licenses, liability, and freedom (tl;dr: avoid the WTFPL), Tom talked a bit about Github’s management model.
Management is about subjugation; it’s about control.

At Github, Tom described a setup where the power structure of the company is defined by the social structures of the employees. He showed a network hairball to illustrate his point, said that Github employees can work on what they feel like, subject to the strategic direction set for the company. There are no managers.

This bothered me a bit when I heard it last summer, and it’s gotten increasingly more uncomfortable since. I’ve been paraphrasing this part of the talk as “management is a form of workplace violence,” and the still-evolving story of Julie Ann Horvath suggests that the removal of one form of workplace violence has resulted in the reintroduction of another, much worse form. In my first post-college job, I was blessed with an awesome manager who described his work as “firefighter up and cheerleader down,” an idea I’ve tried to live by as I’ve moved into positions of authority myself. The idea of having no managers, echoed in other companies like Valve Software, suggests the presence of major cultural problems at a company like Github. As Shanley Kane wrote in What Your Culture Really Says, “we don’t have an explicit power structure, which makes it easier for the unspoken power dynamics in the company to play out without investigation or criticism.” Managers might be difficult, hostile, or useless, but because they are parts of an explicit power structure they can be evaluted explicitly. For people on the wrong side of a power dynamic, engaging with explicit structure is often the only means possible to fix a problem.

Implicit power can be a liability as well as a strength. In the popular imagination, implicit power elites close sweetheart deals in smoke-filled rooms. In reality, the need for implicit power to stay in the shadows can cripple it in the face of an outside context problem. Aaron Bady wrote of Julian Assange and Wikileaks that “while an organization structured by direct and open lines of communication will be much more vulnerable to outside penetration, the more opaque it becomes to itself (as a defense against the outside gaze), the less able it will be to “think” as a system, to communicate with itself. The more conspiratorial it becomes, in a certain sense, the less effective it will be as a conspiracy.”

Going back to the social diagram, this lack of ability to communicate internally seems to be an eventual property of purely bottoms-up social structures. Github has been enormously successful on the strength of a single core strategy: the creation of a delightful, easy-to-use web UI on top of a work-sharing system designed for distributed use. I’ve been a user since 2009, and my belief is that the product has consistently improved, but not meaningfully changed. Github’s central, most powerful innovation is the Pull Request. Github has annexed adjoining territory, but has not yet had to respond to a threat that may force it to abandon territory or change approach entirely.

Without a structured means of communication, the company is left with the vague notion that employees can do what they feel like, as long as it’s compliant with the company’s strategic direction. Who sets that direction, and how might it be possible to change it? There’s your implicit power and first point of weakness.

This is incidentally what’s so fascinating about the government technology position I’m in at Code for America. I believe that we’re in the midst of a shift in power from abusive tech vendor relationships to something driven by a city’s own digital capabilities. The amazing thing about GOV.UK is that a government has decided it has the know-how to hire its own team of designers and developers, and exercised its authority. That it’s a cost-saving measure is beside the point. It’s the change I want to see in the world: for governments large and small to stop copy-pasting RFP line items and cargo-culting tech trends (including the OMFG Ur On Github trend) and start thinking for themselves about their relationship with digital communication."
michalmigurski  2014  julieannhovarth  github  horizontality  hierarchy  hierarchies  power  julianassange  wikileaks  valve  culture  business  organizations  management  legibility  illegibility  communication  codeforamerica  subjugation  abuse  shanley  teams  administration  leadership 
march 2014 by robertogreco
Amazing Structure: A Conversation With Ursula Franklin - Robinson Meyer - The Atlantic
"The gender issue is really a postwar issue. Women, wherever they were, what side or what in the war situation, stepped into the places that men had left. And they were competent, and they could do it. It was only after the war, when the men came back, that they needed the mystique—that she’s a girl, and so oughtn’t [to be] there, this is a man’s job. The gender issue, in practical terms—either who [could be] in school or who thought they could do which job, which science, which math—is a postwar issue anywhere in the world.

And it’s the issue of a large number of well-organized men, who often got their training in the army during the war, returning and needing both work and justification for their organized maleness in a very hierarchical structure. These guys came out of the military, and brought skills, but mostly brought demands.

There were women who had coped—often very well in very technical [positions]—but what was needed now was a distinction between those who came out of a culture of order, discipline, and minimal consideration of an individual’s contribution. So you had to get the women out of the workplace. And that’s when that question—they can’t do math, or they are frightened of machines—that’s where all that crap comes from. But it’s there, and it took until the late ’50s when women said: “Ah ah! What’s going on here?”

It’s the collectivity—with some consciousness-raising, you see—that actually, the personal is political. It’s not that our skirts are too short or too long; it’s just that we are being pushed around and maybe we have to put a stop to it collectively. But that gender-based look at knowledge and competency is postwar.

So my school experience: It was ‘so what?’ "

"There’s no question that somebody who was in the position I was when my son was born, and said to somebody, ‘I’m pregnant.’ There’s legislation now; they have to keep your job; they have to give you that much maternity leave; you have a medical insurance system that picks up some of those expenses; and no employer can say no. That’s an enormous change.

The salary thing is still a question where one may have to struggle, but it is not that a priori a woman gets paid less for work of equal value. And there are laws that one can change. Not that people who need to challenge have the power to do so, but that exists. I mean if you see the number of women—school principals and university presidents—that is the change.

I constantly emphasize that the issue is not essentially gender. The issue is patriarchy. I must say that I myself have been surprised at the rapid rise of lady patriarchs. And of course there are lady patriarchs. I was surprised how easily young women who have all options open for patriarchy become as much the patriarch in a hierarchical structure as any man does; and conversely, how many men—how many men, not that many—have found a collaborative structure convenient and don’t pull rank. 

The developments flow from there. The main development is legislation—and that hand-waving isn’t good enough."

"[Q] And when you say “lady patriarchs,” what do you mean?

I mean women who behave as if they are generals or bishops. It makes no difference in many ways if it’s a woman or a man. In particular positions, a woman can be as inconsiderate a lady patriarch as a male patriarch would have been. So the issue is the hierarchical structuring; the issue is patriarchy.

[Q] You were also involved in strontium testing. Did that float out of your social work in the ’60s, your work as a citizen?

What you are referring to is the sense that one is a citizen first and happen to be a professional in one area or another, but you don’t stop being a citizen because you are a highway engineer or a professor of metallurgy, but you also don’t leave all your scientific knowledge when you are a resident in the district that is suddenly heavily influence by pollution from another plant; or, globally, from fallout or chemical pollution.

When you object to things like that, you bring the skills that you have to have professionally to it, as do all the others who may provide citizen input or position. The whole fabric of the democratic process comes from citizens who are competent in various ways, and my competency happens to be science. I have a certain skill in teaching to make it clear to people without using jargon what certain inevitable things, such as nuclear fallout or river pollution, mean, and that the half-life of uranium doesn’t change when you change governments. Somebody has to say that at the right place in the right language, and I’ve always taken these opportunities and, like others, contributed with the best I had.

So I’ve very much been a part of women’s peace organizations and very much meet in the most active form of pacifism—the prevention of situations that lead to war. So the pacifism, elective pacifism, are all the political and social measures against injustices that in the end drive hatred and violence.

[Q] Once you were at the University of Toronto, and got into archeometry and teaching, I suppose that followed the reforms in Canada. Did you see the university change over your time there, and just generally what was it like to be a female professor of engineering during the ’70s and ’80s?

Well… pretty lonely. You know the real difficulty is to protect and advance your women students, and to see that they are in a hassle-free learning environment. When I came to the university, I’d been around long enough to know that I wasn’t one of the gang, and I never would be. I didn’t have a desire to be one of the boys.

But the great wish—to give my women students a hassle-free, happy learning environment—that’s what’s difficult. The culture of engineering is not a culture of acceptance and understanding of anything that is female and—at the same time—equal. So that’s… that’s a real job. It was a long and hard [work] in this, and it’s by no means yet all done."

[See also Annes post about Ursula Franklin: ]
ursulafranklin  robinsonmeyer  2014  interviews  feminism  partiarchy  gender  hierarchy  hierarchies  law  legal  women  science  structures  management  organizations  history  canada  highered  highereducation  labor  regulation  standards  quakers  pacifism  peace  equality  quaker 
march 2014 by robertogreco
Videogames and the Spirit of Capitalism | Molleindustria
"We are only learning to speak of immeasurable qualities through videogames. It’s a slow and collective process of hacking accounting machines into expressive machines. Computer games need to learn from their non-digital counterparts to be loose interfaces between people. A new game aesthetic has to be explored: one that revels in problem-making over problem-solving, that celebrates paradoxes and ruptures, that doesn’t eschew broken and dysfunctional systems because the broken and dysfunctional systems governing our lives need to be unpacked and not idealized.

Strategies are to be discovered: poetic wrenches have to be thrown in the works; gears and valves have to grow hair, start pulsing and breathing; algorithms must learn to tell stories and scream in pain."

[direct link to video: ]
videogames  gaming  paolopedercini  molleindustria  games  art  design  capitalism  economics  efficiency  control  rationalization  marxism  bureaucracy  consumption  commerce  standardization  socialnetworks  quantification  sybernetics  gamification  goals  society  taylorism  relationships  pokemon  facebook  farmville  zynga  management  power  labor  addiction  addictiveness  badges  behavior  measurement  commodification  rogercaillois  play  idleness  ludism  leisure  leisurearts  artleisure  maxweber  resistance  consciousness  storytelling  notgames  taleoftales  agency  proteus  richardhofmeier  cartlife  simulation  2014  douglaswilson  spaceteam  henrysmith  cooperativegames  collaborativegames  tamatipico  tuboflex  everydaythesamedream  unmanned  systemsthinking  human  humans  oligarchy  negativeexternalities  gamedesign  poetry  johannsebastianjoust  edg  srg  shrequest1  simulations  pokémon 
february 2014 by robertogreco
Episode Nine: Everything In Silos, Forever and Ever, Amen
"Just Good Enough is bullshit. Just Good Enough means that a company doesn't have to produce a useable site that provides easily findable manuals or reference for its product, because Google will index that content eventually. Just Good Enough means I can just about use your site on my phone. Just Good Enough means that the timekeeping software that everyone in the building uses (and has to use - otherwise the entire business screeches to a halt) is only Just Not Irritating Enough to have to deal with. Just Good Enough means that you can whip up a Word document that you can save and then email to me for comment and I can open it up where it's saved in my Temporary Outlook Files and then save it as Your Document - Dan Comments.doc in my Temporary Outlook Files and then email it back to you, where you'll revise it and then send it to a project manager who will then rename it Your Document - Dan Comments - Final Feb 4 2014.doc and then email it back to me for more comments. Or where Google Docs is Just Good Enough to use single sign on so that in theory we can all use it together, but that its text formatting doesn't quite work and not everyone uses it.

It's bullshit. Just Good Enough should be offensive. Just Good Enough is the digital/software equivalent of a bridge that doesn't quite kill anyone most of the time, instead of one that actually does the fucking job. "


"This is what the threat of the consumerisation of IT is, then, to entrenched divisions and groups. It means that five years ago, the apocryphal story of someone at the BBC being quoted however many tens of thousands of pounds for a Rails server from outsourced IT deciding to, bluntly, fuck it and just stick an AWS instance on their card and expense it was the inevitable sharp end of the wedge: digital, devolved from some sort of priesthood that existed to serve itself, and instead unlocking its potential to the people who have problems that need solving now, and don't particularly care whether something is a solution or not, or has properly gone through procurement (and yes, I realize that this opens you to the possibility of a raft of 'Just Good Enoughs').

But you can't have one without the other. Leadership that reacts to teams reaching for their cards and organically using AWS or Basecamp or whatever because it's Just Good Enough and flies under the procurement radar, or reaching out to Get Stuff Done with small external groups rather than using internal resource by asking: "what's the problem here, and why are our employees choosing to react in this way rather than internally?" and fixing that internal provision of resource are the ones that are going to win. Which is, again, why GDS is building internal capability rather than external.

In a conversation with GDS's Russell Davies about this, the one comment of his that stood out was that none of this was new to those of us who've been working in digital or interactive. There was no stunning insight, no secret sauce, no magic recipe. Just that, from a leadership and organizational point of view, digital was an important concept to align around as a way of achieving their goals: and then, GDS conceived on (again, my external reckoning) with teams constructed around delivery. It was just that the will was there.

So here's the thing. (And this type of wrapping up inevitably feels like a Church of England sermon or Thought for the Day).

Siloed organisations, where digital is "over there", aren't going to succeed. At the very least, they're only going to unlock a fraction of the opportunity that's available to them. At the very worst, they'll find themselves both slowly ("oh, they've only got a few tens of thousands of users") and quickly (Blackberry, Nokia) disrupted. Runkeeper will come and eat their lunch. Netflix will become the next video network. Uber, much as I hate them for being Uber, will come along and work out that hey, digital actually can make your business of cars that move things from one place to another better for the end user. 

They're just not. 

It's just a question of how fast we get there.

My brother, when asked when video games will finally be treated as mainstream culture, used to say: "When enough people die." 

GDS is showing that we don't need people to die for digital to work. We just need leadership that wants it."

[Reference post: ]
danhon  2014  russelldavies  services  digital  organizations  technology  edtech  bbc  basecamp  problemsolving  leadership  management  siloing  culture  it  justgoodenough 
february 2014 by robertogreco
A Poet's Warning | Harvard Magazine Nov-Dec 2007
"Yet even as the College returns to its civilian pursuits and petty vanities—students struggling with the poems of Donne, “professors back from secret missions” bragging about their adventures—Auden sees another kind of conflict taking shape. This is the war between the two sensibilities, the two social and spiritual visions, that Auden names Apollo and Hermes. Apollo, the Greek god of light and music, becomes for Auden “pompous Apollo,” the patron saint of “official art.” Against him, Auden sets Hermes, the trickster god, protector of thieves and liars, who is “precocious” and undisciplined. Both of these gods can make a kind of music, but Auden asks the reader to decide “under which lyre” he will take his stand.

The comedy of the poem, and its prescience, lies in Auden’s description of Apollo, the presiding spirit of what he calls “the fattening forties.” The danger to postwar America, the poet suggests, lies in the soft tyranny of institutions, authorities, and experts—of people who know what’s best for you and don’t hesitate to make sure you know it, too. Auden gives a wonderful catalog of the things these Apollonians want to impose: colleges where “Truth is replaced by Useful Knowledge,” with courses on “Public Relations, Hygiene, Sport”; poems that “Extol the doughnut and commend/The Common Man” (did Byron Price flinch at those lines?); even processed foods: “a glass of prune juice or a nice/Marsh-mallow salad.” In short, Auden is already predicting the dullest, most conformist aspects of American life in the Cold War years, the kind of prosperous mediocrity that gave the 1950s a bad name.

But if it’s impossible to dislodge Apollo from his throne, Auden suggests, you can still follow Hermes in private. That is why the last stanzas of “Under Which Lyre” offer a “Hermetic Decalogue,” a set of commandments for free spirits who refuse to fall into line:

Thou shalt not do as the dean pleases,
Thou shalt not write thy doctor’s thesis
On education,
Thou shalt not worship projects nor
Shalt thou or thine bow down before

Thou shalt not answer questionnaires
Or quizzes upon World-Affairs,
Nor with compliance
Take any test. Thou shalt not sit
With statisticians nor commit
A social science.

This advice is half-joking, but only half. For Auden is reminding his Harvard audience that all the official apparatus of the university is extraneous to its highest purpose, which is to cultivate freedom and inwardness. It is a message that still needs to be heard today, when the expense of higher education forces so many students to look at it as an investment, rather than an adventure.

Auden knows that, if everyone lived by the Hermetic Decalogue all the time, the world would grind to a halt. “The earth would soon, did Hermes run it,/Be like the Balkans,” he ruefully acknowledges. A society run by Hermes would be a disaster; but a society without any followers of Hermes in it would be a nightmare. That message makes “Under Which Lyre” a truly American poem, in the tradition of Emerson and Whitman and Twain, all of them defenders of the individual against the collective. The continued life of Auden’s Phi Beta Kappa poem is a reminder that, when the generals and censors and other powers of the earth are forgotten, it is the mere poet who remains."

[Full poem:
Also here:
Audio: ]

"Professors back from secret missions
Resume their proper eruditions,
Though some regret it;
They liked their dictaphones a lot,
T hey met some big wheels, and do not
Let you forget it.

The sons of Hermes love to play
And only do their best when they
Are told they oughtn't;
Apollo's children never shrink
From boring jobs but have to think
Their work important.

But jealous of our god of dreams,
His common-sense in secret schemes
To rule the heart;
Unable to invent the lyre,
Creates with simulated fire
Official art.

And when he occupies a college,
Truth is replaced by Useful Knowledge;
He pays particular
Attention to Commercial Thought,
Public Relations, Hygiene, Sport,
In his curricula.

Thou shalt not do as the dean pleases,
Thou shalt not write thy doctor’s thesis
On education,
Thou shalt not worship projects nor
Shalt thou or thine bow down before

Thou shalt not answer questionnaires
Or quizzes upon World-Affairs,
Nor with compliance
Take any test. Thou shalt not sit
With statisticians nor commit
A social science."
via:lukeneff  trickster  whauden  poetry  experts  administration  authority  truth  mediocrity  unschooling  deschooling  edreform  education  learning  management  self-importance  hierarchy  poems  1946  highered  highereducation  tyranny  softtyranny  authorities 
february 2014 by robertogreco
STET | Making remote teams work
"I’ll be the first to admit that remote work is not a panacea for all that ails the modern workplace, nor is it suitable for everyone. It’s just as possible to have a dysfunctional remote team as it is to have a broken and unproductive office space.

That said, in the tech community today, remote work has some clear advantages. For the employer, it enables hiring from a more diverse set of workers. Yahoo! may be unwilling to hire an engineer who lives in Kansas City and isn’t inclined (or able) to move to Sunnyvale or New York, but another team may be more than happy to accommodate her. Remote teams also don’t incur the costs associated with expensive campuses and their roster of caterers, laundromats, buses, and gyms, making them more appealing to smaller and leaner organizations. (And, since those perks are usually designed to keep workers at the office, employees could be said to benefit from their absence.) For employees, remote work can permit a flexibility and freedom that is especially valuable to those with less-than-perfect home lives. Caring for children or elderly parents, or contending with an illness or physical or mental disability, may all be made easier with the flexibility to work when and where it best works for you.

This last point is, in some ways, the most damning criticism of Meyer’s policy at Yahoo!: a mother with a full-time nanny may find no difficulty in making it to the office every day, but most parents are not so well-supported. Of the remote workers I spoke to, a recurring theme was the ability to time-shift one’s day to meet their kids’ schedules (as were various techniques for insulating the workspace from tantrums, about which more in a moment). Remote working holds the promise of adapting work to fit our lives, rather than requiring that we twist and bend our lives to fit the space that work demands.

But only if it’s done well. Remote working is a different way of working, with different constraints and practices. It undoes decades of management policies and, given its relatively recent uptake, there’s scant information about the best way to proceed. What follows is some advice, drawn from our own experience at Editorially, with guidance from others about how to make remote teams work — and which pitfalls to look out for."

"One of the most unexpected things that I’ve learned from working remotely is that it isn’t just about accommodating different lifestyles or taking advantage of technology’s ability to compress long distances. Remote working encourages habits of communication and collaboration that can make a team objectively better: redundant communication and a naturally occurring record of conversation enable team members to better understand each other and work productively towards common ends. At the same time, an emphasis on written communication enforces clear thinking, while geography and disparate time zones foster space for that thinking to happen.

In that way, remote teams are more than just a more humane way of working: they are simply a better way to work."

[See also: ]
mandybrown  collaboration  tools  communication  2014  stet  technology  remote  work  howwework  editorially  accessibility  inclusivity  chat  video  management  organization  organizations  administration  inclusion  inlcusivity 
january 2014 by robertogreco
Brazil let its citizens make decisions about city budgets. Here’s what happened.
"Our results also show that Participatory Budgeting’s influence strengthens over time, which indicates that its benefits do not merely result from governments making easy policy changes. Instead, Participatory Budgeting’s increasing impact indicates that governments, citizens, and civil society organizations are building new institutions that produce better forms of governance. These cities incorporate citizens at multiple moments of the policy process, allowing community leaders and public officials to exchange better information. The cities are also retraining policy experts and civil servants to better work with poor communities. Finally, public deliberation about spending priorities makes these city governments more transparent, which decreases corruption."
brazil  development  economics  brasil  2014  government  via:jedsundwall  participatory  budgeting  participatorybudgeting  transparency  democracy  governance  administration  leadership  management  classideas  tcsmny 
january 2014 by robertogreco
How Spotify organizes teams: Squads, Tribes, Chapters, and Guilds | Emmanuel Quartey
"It’s always interesting to learn about the internal organization of an organization.

The way a collective is structured reveals its values, and the function it is optimized for.

Two short PDFs about Spotify’s internal organization:

1. Scaling Agile at Spotify with Tribes, Squads, Chapters, and Guilds

2. How Spotify Builds Products "
spotify  organizations  mentorship  teams  tribes  leadership  management  huilds  squads  2013  henrikkniberg  andersivarsson  collaboration 
december 2013 by robertogreco
Zappos is going holacratic: no job titles, no managers, no hierarchy - Quartz
"During the 4-hour meeting, Hsieh talked about how Zappos’ traditional organizational structure is being replaced with Holacracy, a radical “self-governing” operating system where there are no job titles and no managers. The term Holacracy is derived from the Greek word holon, which means a whole that’s part of a greater whole. Instead of a top-down hierarchy, there’s a flatter “holarchy” that distributes power more evenly. The company will be made up of different circles—there will be around 400 circles at Zappos once the rollout is complete in December 2014—and employees can have any number of roles within those circles. This way, there’s no hiding under titles; radical transparency is the goal.

“We’re classically trained to think of ‘work’ in the traditional paradigm,” says John Bunch, who, along with Alexis Gonzales-Black, is leading the transition to Holacracy at Zappos. “One of the core principles is people taking personal accountability for their work. It’s not leaderless. There are certainly people who hold a bigger scope of purpose for the organization than others. What it does do is distribute leadership into each role. Everybody is expected to lead and be an entrepreneur in their own roles, and Holacracy empowers them to do so.”

In its highest-functioning form, he says, the system is “politics-free, quickly evolving to define and operate the purpose of the organization, responding to market and real-world conditions in real time. It’s creating a structure in which people have flexibility to pursue what they’re passionate about.”

Twitter Co-Founder Ev Williams is one of the system’s early adopters; he uses Holacracy to run his publishing platform Medium, which has around 50 employees. Jason Stirman, whose roles include head of people operations and product designer at Medium, says that one of the best things about Holacracy is that it facilitates autonomy. “Ev isn’t the CEO of Medium to have another title for his Twitter bio. He wants the company to operate at the highest level possible, and he recognizes that all the power consolidated at top is great for people who are hungry but it can be a total bottleneck. There are decisions he wants to make and the rest can be absorbed in other areas of the organization.”

Still, Holacracy can feel unnatural, especially at first. Meetings are designed to rapidly process tensions. The focus is on the work, not the people. “It’s not a very human-centric model for things,” says Stirman. “For example, if you’re a junior designer, Holacracy says that you should bring up everything in this forum, but it can be difficult to ask for feedback or mentorship, especially when you’re new.”

Robertson says that Holacracy is meant to address structural issues, and that leaders will respond to the human element in different ways. Medium has created mentorship circles, and Zappos has similar plans. Williams and Hsieh both “have a high capacity to see the complex systems at play in their organizations,” says Robertson. “It’s not linear or a matter of just following the logical argument; it’s seeing the cloud of interconnections and influences, beyond just cause and effect thinking.”

At the Zappos “All Hands” meeting Hsieh said that at most companies, “there’s the org chart on paper, and then the one that is exactly how the company operates for real, and then there’s the org chart that it would like to have in order to operate more efficiently. … [With Holacracy] the idea is to process tensions so that the three org charts are pretty close together.”"
zappos  hierarchy  hierarchies  management  leadership  organizations  organization  tonyhsieh  aimeegroth  2013  horizontality  holacracy  autonomy  mentorship  power  evanwilliams  medium 
december 2013 by robertogreco
Titles are Toxic – Rands in Repose
"A good way to explain this is to imagine the poor use of titles in Toxic Title Douchebag World. In this imaginary world, the first five hires after the founders have given themselves impressive sounding titles. VP of Business Development or Director of Advanced Technology. If you’re employee #34 and someone is walking around the building calling themselves the SVP of Platform Engineering, you might be in Toxic Title Douchebag World.

I’m not suggesting that this is not an accomplished person. I’m not saying that they don’t have a wealth of experience or fantastic ideas, but never in my life have I ever stared at a fancy title and immediately understood the person’s value. It took time. I spent time with those people — we debated, we discussed, we disagreed — and only then did I decide: “This guy… he really knows his stuff. I have much to learn.” In Toxic Title Douchebag World, titles are designed to document the value of an individual sans proof. They are designed to create an unnecessary social hierarchy based on ego.

When that first title shows up for your first leader, ask yourself: does this title reflect a job I consider to be real and of obvious value? If the answer is anything other than a resounding yes, your titles might be toxic.

"No no no no and no. To understand how this breaks down, let’s head back to Toxic Title Douchebag World.

In this world, our SVP of Talent looks at his 119 employes and 17 leads and thinks, “Well, the folks who are the most cranky are the engineers who have been here the longest, so I’ll do what I did at my former company — I’ll create titles: Associate Engineer, Engineer, Senior Engineer, Staff Engineer, and Architect.”

By themselves, these titles are not completely toxic. It’s the process by which the SVP of Talent assigns these titles. Here are a few samples of his increasingly flawed reasoning:

He creates a stack ranking of employees based on years of tenure and last year’s performance rating.
He draws lines on this list to create groups. Where does he draws these lines? Well, it’s based on his mood.
With this group done, he passes it on to the leads who he thinks will have good opinions about the groups, but in reality will mostly share his opinion without question.
If you don’t have blinding teeth-grinding rage after reading those three bullets, I’ll put you over the edge. This isn’t really Toxic Title Douchebag World: this is your world. This grim, poorly defined decision process has heralded the arrival of a lot of title systems that you’re living with right now.

Now, those who designed and deployed titles don’t intend to do harm. They are, hopefully, intending to build a rational system for growth, but what they don’t account for is that…"

Business cards are dead. Yes, I feel bad when I’m at a conference and someone hands me their gorgeous business card and looks expectantly for mine. Sorry, I don’t have one. Well, I do. You’re looking at it right now. It doesn’t fit in your wallet, but it saves a little bit of a tree and has vastly more information than a business card.

Resumes, in their current form, I hope, are not far behind. It’s convenient to have a brief overview of someone’s career when we sit down to interview, but more often than not, when I’m interviewing you, I’m searching Google for more substance. Do you have any sort of digital footprint? A weblog? A GitHub repository? It’s these types of artifacts that give me the beginning of insight into who you are. It’s by no means a complete picture, but it’s far more revealing than a bunch of tweets stitched together in a resume.

Titles, I believe, are an artifact of the same age that gave us business cards and resumes. They came from a time when information was scarce. When there was no other way to discover who you were other than what you shared via a resume. Where the title of Senior Software Engineer was intended to define your entire career to date.

This is one of those frustrating articles where I gnash my teeth furiously about a problem, but don’t offer a concrete solution because I haven’t solved for this problem and I’m wondering if anyone else has. I believe there is a glimmer of a good idea regarding gauging and annoucing ability in ideas like Open Badges but the burden of progress is a two-way street.

For a leader of humans, it’s your responsibility to push your folks into uncomfortable situations where they’ll learn, document, and recognize their accomplishments, and help them recover from the failures as quickly as possible.

For the individual, it’s about continually finding new jobs. In my career, I’ve been a student, a QA engineer, an engineer, a manager, and a writer. Each job is a path I’ve chosen. I’ve had much support along the way, but, more importantly, I’ve never been content to be complacent, nor ever believed there weren’t more jobs to be discovered, and always knowing that I’m more than a title."
business  management  titles  2013  via:litherland  administration  hierarchy  work  businesscards  resumes 
december 2013 by robertogreco
Microaggression and Management — about work — Medium
"Much of the pivotal early work on microaggression focused on its role in racism, and has been applied to other systems and their interrelations. These microaggressions have sexist, racist, and classist impact — it is useful to understand their common role across intersecting systems. I am purposefully adopting a broad definition “microaggression,” which has been examined in varying degrees of focus and granularity.

Here are five categories of microaggression in management and examples of how they play out.

Body Language and Touching…

Unequal Visibility and Accountability…

Derailing and Gaslighting…

Performances of Excessive Confidence…

Preferential Treatment as a Reward and Division System…

"In order to break the self-perpetuating cycle of microaggression in the workplace, we need to re-imagine and re-implement the concept of management. Management should be a job description that pertains to a particular type of work done on a team related to facilitating the team and enabling it to be as successful as possible. Management should NOT be an honorific, based in an unequal power dynamic, and associated with superiority, entitlement and hypermasculinity. When managers locate their value and contribution to the company in the latter system, microaggression against the very team they are supposed to be part of becomes the default mode."
culture  feminism  management  work  power  control  business  administration  leadership  abuse  superiority  2013  shanley  politics  aggression  microaggression  gender  patriarchy  paternalism  psychopathy  psychology  manipulation  authority  behavior  gaslighting  visibility  hierarchy  accountability  tcsnmy 
november 2013 by robertogreco
Margaret J. Wheatley: The Irresistible Future of Organizing
"Why do so many people in organizations feel discouraged and fearful about the future? Why does despair only increase as the fads fly by, shorter in duration, more costly in each attempt to improve? Why have the best efforts to create significant and enduring organizational change resulted in so many failures? We, and our organizations, exist in a world of constant evolutionary activity. Why is change so unnatural in human organizations?

The accumulating failures at organizational change can be traced to a fundamental but mistaken assumption that organizations are machines. Organizations-as-machines is a 17th century notion, from a time when philosophers began to describe the universe as a great clock. Our modern belief in prediction and control originated in these clockwork images. Cause and effect were simple relationships.   Everything could be known.  Organizations and people could be engineered into efficient solutions. Three hundred years later, we still search for "tools and techniques" and "change levers"; we attempt to "drive" change through our organizations; we want to "build" solutions and "reengineer" for peak efficiencies.

But why would we want an organization to behave like a machine? Machines have no intelligence; they follow the instructions given to them. They only work in the specific conditions predicted by their engineers. Changes in their environment wreak havoc because they have no capacity to adapt.

These days, a different ideal for organizations is surfacing. We want organizations to be adaptive, flexible, self-renewing, resilient, learning, intelligent-attributes found only in living systems. The tension of our times is that we want our organizations to behave as living systems, but we only know how to treat them as machines.

This faith in the organization's ability and intelligence will be sorely tested. When there are failures, pressures from the outside, or employee problems, it is easy to retreat to more traditional structures and solutions. As one manager describes it: "When things aren't going well, we've had to resist the temptation to fall back to the perceived safety of our old, rigid structures. But we know that the growth, the creativity, the opening up, the energy improves only if we hold ourselves at the edge of chaos."

The path of self-organization offers ample tests for leaders to discover how much they really trust their employees. Can employees make wise decisions? Can they deal with sensitive information? Can they talk to the community or government regulators? Employees earn trust, but leaders create the circumstances in which such trust can be earned.

Because dependency runs so deep in most organizations these days, employees often have to be encouraged to exercise initiative and explore new areas of competence. Not only do leaders have to let go and watch as employees figure out their own solutions, they also have to shore up their self-confidence and encourage them to do more. And leaders need to refrain from taking credit for their employees' good work-not always an easy task.

While self-organization calls us to very different ideas and forms of organizing, how else can we create the resilient, intelligent, fast, and flexible organizations that we require? How else can we succeed in organizing in the accelerating pace of our times except by realizing that organizations are living systems? This is not an easy shift, changing one's model of the way the world organizes. It is work that will occupy most of us for the rest of our careers. But the future pulls us toward these new understandings with an insistent and compelling call."

[via: ]
systems  systemsthinking  margaretwheatley  myronkellner-rogers  1996  organzations  management  humans  humanism  machines  modernism  organizing  resistance  self-organization  administration  leadership  structure  dependency  initiative  competency  rigidity  livingsystems  life  rules 
october 2013 by robertogreco
russell davies: the web, the web, the web
"I'm Not Saying: the website is broken therefore the company must have stupid web people.

I Am Saying: the website is broken therefore the company must have stupid leadership.

I Am Further Saying: I bet the web people are brilliant and are struggling to cope with an organisation that thinks the web is for marketing and aftersales rather then realising that the web is the platform on which they should build their whole business.

I Am Further Acknowledging Again That This Is Hard: It's hard because you have thousands of skus and legacy systems tied into horrible service contracts in competing regions, divisions and cultures. Fair enough. That's what you have to solve. That's why it's not a technology problem.

If you have so many products that you can't build a website that can easily surface them - then you have too many products.

If you have a corporate structure that means customers can't find the stuff they want - then you have the wrong corporate structure."
russelldavies  sony  web  management  digital  tcsnmy  organization  administration  leadership  2013 
october 2013 by robertogreco
Rise Above The LMS #4C13 [video & transcript] - betajames
"If we acknowledge that writing often constitutes public work, if we are interested in enhancing the status of first-year composition, we should rethink housing our courses in learning management systems."

"Blackboard wasn't written for me. Blackboard wasn't written for me as an educator or for that person as a student. Blackboard was written for the Blackboard company to dominate education in a very particular way. Blackboard was created to help create an equivalence between distance learning and real-life learning so that in your classroom you're actually using this technology as much as you would long distance...It's created not to promote the user's agency, but to decrease the user's agency and increase the institution's dependence on this piece of software."

"For as much as Blackboard may be about preserving itself as the top LMS option, it is also about preserving the traditional aspects of higher education."

"I also agree with Matthew Gold’s perspective that the problem with learning management systems ‘lies in the conjunction of three words that should not appear together. Learning is not something that can be “managed” via a “system.”’ Given how we may use Blackboard or another platform, our course banners might as well read “Under Old Management.” Many of the faults of traditional LMS platforms are also the faults of higher education.

Still, the title of this talk isn’t “Rage Against The LMS.” Well, it was, but it isn’t anymore. In fact, my co-panelist Brian McNely has, in his words, “backed away from a militant anti-LMS perspective in everyday practice, in large part because it’s simply not conducive to getting things done with what we have…I don’t have the energy or influence to overturn my university’s LMS policy; I can offer my students interesting workarounds to the limitations of the LMS.” Like him, I’m more interested in how we might rise above the LMS, either through alternatives or by other means."

"we need to see the LMS as an opportunity to reconsider how and what it is we do as teachers.

This diagram is part of a blog entry by Lisa M. Lane in which she looks at how and where courses begin. According to Lane, starting in an LMS implies a teacher-centric model, closer connection with the college and its structures, greater concern for security and privacy, and emphasis on presentation and content over interactivity and community. Starting on the open web or a social media site implies a learner-centric model, greater connection with the outside world, and emphasis on community over content. "

"This diagram is part of a blog entry by D’Arcy Norman in which he sees a role for the LMS in higher education “if for no other reason than the simple reality that most instructors, and many students, aren’t ready, willing, or able to forge their own solutions." Norman also acknowledges that “even a grassroots No-LMS environment eventually grows to resemble an LMS-like space." Through these diagrams, we can come to see the LMS in general as less of a learning management system and more of a learning mediated system."
lms  education  blackboard  highereducation  highered  management  control  openweb  cv  jamesschirmer  institutions  institutionware  douglasrushkoff  2013  henryrollins  punk  edupunk  open  hierarchy  organizations  zachdelarocha  matthewgold  d'arcynorman  howweteach  howwelearn  brianmcnely  blackflag  lisamlane  williambeasley  ds106 
october 2013 by robertogreco
The neoliberal assault on academia - Opinion - Al Jazeera English
"Something as apparently innocuous as an accreditation agency demanding that syllabi be written in a particular format, or majors justified in a particular way, can wind up empowering university management to intimately regulate teaching. A meaningless buzzword in the mouth of a dean, such as "new majority student", might in practice help legitimate the hiring of less qualified faculty. After all, if "teacher ownership of content" is old fashioned, why do you need to hire a professor who can create his or her own course?

The bottom line of the neoliberal assault on the universities is the increasing power of management and the undermining of faculty self-governance. The real story behind MOOCs may be the ways in which they assist management restructuring efforts of core university practices, under the smiley-faced banner of "open access" and assisted in some cases by their "superstar", camera-ready professors.

Meanwhile, all those adjunct faculty are far more subject to managerial control and regulation than are tenured professors. Aside from their low cost, that is one of the principal reasons why they are so attractive to university managers. "

[See also: “When Adjunct Faculty Are the Tenure-track's Untouchables”
and “When Tenure-Track Faculty Take On the Problem of Adjunctification” ]
tarakbarkawi  2013  academia  neoliberalism  power  management  adjuncts  adjunctification  economics  policy  us  uk  administration  control  hierarchy  labor  highered  highereducation  class  austerity  crisis 
august 2013 by robertogreco
The Spinoza question - New APPS: Art, Politics, Philosophy, Science
"But if, in despotic statecraft, the supreme and essential mystery be to hoodwink the subjects, and to mask the fear, which keeps them down, with the specious garb of religion, so that men may fight as bravely for slavery as for safety, and count it not shame but highest honour to risk their blood and their lives for the vainglory of a tyrant; (Spinoza, TTP, Preface)"

"Top-down control is generally exerted through a segmentary hierarchy that is adapted to preserve nearly egalitarian relationships at the face-to-face level…The trick is to contruct a formal nested hierarchy of offices, using various mixtures of ascription and achievement to staff the offices…. Selfishness and nepotism [family emotions] … degrade the effectiveness of social organizations. (Richerson and Boyd 2005, 232-33)"
spinozaquestion  via:bobbygeorge  hierarchy  power  control  egalitarianism  selfishness  nepotism  fear  religion  slavery  safety  shame  tyrants  leadership  management 
august 2013 by robertogreco
« earlier      
per page:    204080120160

Copy this bookmark:

to read