There is no Organization, but…

There is no Organization, but…

Ari-Pekka Skarp makes an interesting and relevant observation in his recent blog post  “There is no Organisation…“.

Actually, the title seems a tad misleading, as I take the body of the article to say that the idea of an “organisation” is a product of an implicit, collective agreement (or delusion) between those for whom the idea of that thing-perceived-as-an-organisation has some shared relevance.

From the Solipsist perspective (at the root of The Matrix trilogy), there is no anything, excepting that which is a product of our minds. So in that context to say that “there is no organisation” seems a bit of a non-statement, and somewhat like saying “there is no Bandersnatch”.

Anyhow, from my perspective as an Organisational Therapist, I can agree that there is no physical “organisation”, (except maybe in a legal-entity sense). But I also observe that there is a collective something, which I choose to call “the organisational psyche”, which in a sense exists outside of all the individuals participating in the delusion.

Put another way, the thing that I refer to as the collective (organisational) psyche is a legacy of – and product of – the perceptions acquired by the various individuals during their participation in the shared delusion – including perceptions acquired from other folks who have also participated in the same delusion.

Fundamentally, we approach a discussion about the nature of reality - which I’ll leave for another day.

- Bob

Further Reading

The Monkeys and the Banana – Explanation on Anserws.com

10 comments
  1. Bob, thank you for picking up on Ari-Pekka’s post. The way you explain it reminds me of Pratchett’s “anthropomorphic personifications” in his Discworld books, Death being the most prominent example. In the real (round) world, “God” as a personification of whatever a person believes in is another one.
    I wonder if it would help our therapeutic approach of we made this kind of narrative thinking explicit by creating a rich Persona of the organisation we believe to be a part of?
    I assume that could produce some valuable insights…
    Do you know if that has been done? What do you think we could achieve with such a “character”? Which stories people might tell about her?

    • Sounds like a great idea. I have experimented with Personas in the context of treatments (a.k.a. improvement stories) for improving organisational effectiveness, but I like your idea of creating a Persona (or various options / variants thereof) for the organisation itself. Kind of like Scenario Modelling c.f. Adam Kahane in “Solving Tough Problems”.

      - Bob

      • Exactly:-)
        Let’s try that. I’ll write down something later. Maybe this could be a less judgemental alternative to an assessment…

  2. The organisation as a persona reminds me of the made to stick/switch notion of people finding a behavioural compass by referencing the body of identity stories about the organisation… “the Nordstrom employee who ironed a shirt for a businessman late for a meeting, even though the shirt wasn’t bought there” etc. When you look for these stories in many organisations you get stories of issues and processes, stories of profit not purpose; all of which leads to a pretty grim persona, but a telling one nonetheless. Just thinking out loud.

  3. My idea is about stories, yet I want to start in the imaginative, creative space. Once you created a persona for your organisation, people can start creating stories: Love stories, war stories, dramas, comedies… Which will let personas emerge for the other organisations you interact with. People would of course use the gist of real stories (like the one with that ironed shirt) as an inspiration.
    My idea is that by fictionalising the stories first, you get into a playful mindset, open to new possibilities. Later, you might “interpret” the stories to link fictional elements to real life events, some of which might not have happened yet… And that could lead you into a narrative future, and to experiments for organisational flourishing.

  4. Interesting idea Olaf. I have also been thinking about how to use narrativism in the organizational contexts. Once I had a series of coaching sessions with a leader where we started to make a narrative of “tribe of leaders” he wanted to belong to. We explored the values and practices of that imaginary tribe and it really revealed some new viewpoints to his situation…

  5. “But I also observe that there is a collective something, which I choose to call “the organisational psyche”, which in a sense exists outside of all the individuals participating in the delusion.”

    This resembles what G.H. Mead wrote about “cult values” or “generalized other”. For Mead, the mind wasn’t inside some autonomous individual, but actually mind was a social process. It meant that mind in a very real sense was “outside” of the thing we call individual. Norbert Elias said that “individual” is the singular form of the same process which in a plural is called the “society”…

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