Re: The Dharma & Business LO2220
Tue, 18 Jul 95 18:41:33 GMT

Commenting on LO2115

I like very much the imagery of "dancing with ambiguity." It
evokes in me the idea of playfulness, which is another concept I wish the
business world would take to heart.

A metaphor which I use in creating a "bridge" between an
understanding of "Dharma" and the everyday world which includes "Business"
is: "life as an improvisatory art." Mary Catherine Bateson has written a
jewel of a book, _Composing a Life_, in which she explores "the ways we
combine familiar and unfamiliar components in response to new situations,
following an underlying grammar and an evolving aesthetic." She writes:
"Sometimes a pattern chosen by default can become a path of preference...
I believe that our aesthetic sense, whether in works of art or in lives,
has overfocused on the stubborn struggle toward a single goal rather than
on the fluid, the protean, the improvisatory." What I like about her
writing is how it so much reflects a living, loving testament to the ideas
she was involved in with her father, Gregory Bateson. The book is through
a woman's eye and I highly recommend it.

It seems to me that the reluctance to deal with or acknowledge
ambiguity on the part of "the business world" is a suggestive
interpretation for the decisions made by many men and women to break away
from "traditional" companies and start their own businesses. Tapping into
their ability to "dance with ambiguity," even if in this context it is not
refering to a conception of the self. Margaret Holt in LO1843 quoted
Joline Godfrey, who has been following women's experiences, looking for
pattern: "'But as they heard one another's stories, it became obvious
they were all telling the "same" secrets and they "shared" a world view:
The old myths of business they had grown up with: every man for himself,
buyer beware, bigger is better, were bogus, or at least false for them.
Each of the women at those tables and countless others I have listened to
since, tell of running companies according to their own sense of what is
right, they often do so, outwardly, "passing" as real business people to
be taken seriously.' She also added some important findings related to the
relationship of profit to serving the community and different
interpretations of what it means to be successful in business."

I have the feeling that this whole discussion on the importance of
ego and ambiguity is akin to the cockroach theory. One or two speak up
and it means you've probably got thousands of them behind the floorboards.
Perhaps smart companies are those recognizing this, and *seriously*
providing alternatives to "traditional" merit systems. Here is a brief
anecdote from my last freelance job that centers on this problem: My
observation was that many managers were unable to suspend the presumption
of superiority with regard to empowerment issues. They basically
considered empowerment as something that they "already had" and the
problem was for the "others," who never made it up the corporate ladder,
to become more "like them." Meanwhile their "egos" were causing terrible
blocks in effective communication and collaboration. Meglomania as an
equal problem in authentic empowerment was a non-issue in this company.
The company also had a revolving door employment policy, so there wasn't
exactly much motivation to say "why don't we sit down and talk about
this." The whole empowerment issue to these managers was "something that
HR was doing with the masses." (I call 'em as I see 'em.) The point is,
as alternatives proliferate, who will choose to stay in a situation like
this? I think people will choose to stay when there is respect and
learning at all levels of the organization.

By the way, if there are any smart companies out there,
groupware-enabled and exploring new organizational forms, who might be
looking for a young, slightly irreverant, transplanted Bostonian for their
Italian operations, please drop me a line. I'm looking for alternatives.
(I've also got working papers and speak the language fluently.)

	Jackie Mullen