Business Overwhelms LO12960

Myers, Kent (
Thu, 20 Mar 1997 15:00:36 -0500

Replying to LO12944 --

A significant change in business complexity will be accompanied by a
changing mix of management mechanisms. Keeping the same mix is not an
option, unless stopping the whole economy is also an option. It seems
certain that the new mix will make heavy use of electronically mediated
text, since text can be orders of magnitude more compact, persistent, and
available compared to spoken conversation.

People will learn how to use text. Lesson 1: writing is painful, and it
continues to be painful no matter how much you write. (I had a student
who assumed that one should put as much energy into writing as into
speaking. Once I explained to her that writing can't be any good unless
it hurts, she improved rapidly.) Lesson 2: Reading demands tremendous
attention and imagination to make up for the checks and supports that are
built into conversation.

Spoken conversation is superior in quality, but it can't get the job done.
Text-based mechanisms introduce new and permanent limitations, but they
have the potential to get the job done -- when and if workers throw off
their old ways and adapt. Neither the Boomers nor Xs seem to know how,
which means that this is going to take a long time.

Analogue: The emergence of civilization required that everyone "step up"
to farming and animal domestication, even though the hunter's life was far
easier, fairer, and healthier. (A recent reintepretation of Genesis shows
it as a story of the fall from the hunting life to agriculture.)

Gerald Weinberg's analogue: If you persist in playing pinball with a
novice's mental model, you might get a little better at keeping the ball
in play, but you will never make any dramatic improvements. The only way
to improve is to become familiar with the whole range of mechanisms for
scoring and ball control, then concentrate and master new mechanisms.
Every time you try something new you will get lower scores for a while,
then eventually better scores if you keep at it. Playing pinball well may
look easy, but it isn't, and it doesn't come naturally.

(By painting this dark picture I'm toying with an assumption behind a lot
of LO conversation, that we can make life more pleasant at the same time
we find effective ways to work. We may have to find new ways to enjoy
life, not just new ways to work.)


Kent Myers

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