In a workshop last week (hence no Thursday entry) I heard comments on the state of the banking mechanism and whether the image of a 'mechanism' had contributed to the desperate state of the world economy.
The idea of a 'mechanism' is endemic in business and organizing. We constantly make reference to 'leverage', 'driving change' and 'overcoming resistance.' Here is the 'system preferences' icon on my Mac - I'm guessing that there aren't too many cogs inside this particular machine and if there are they won't be setting the look of the screen or configuring the internet preferences. I'm struck by the similarity between the Mac icon and this Chaplin image in 'Modern Times.' Chaplin struggled against the dehumanising effects of modernism and the mechanisation of work; a struggle that still continues today as people are required to act unthinkingly, to obey and not ask questions.
In 'Images of Organization', a stock favourite of mine, Gareth Morgan challenges the idea of the machine as a viable 'image' for our organizations. Mechanistic approaches work well when there is a straightforward task to perform in stable conditions. It seems that this is not the case in the complex, highly dynamic world of modern banking.
Organising in a world of non-linear complexity requires new images and different ways of thinking. Morgan recalls the 'butterfly effect' where small stimuli lead to massive changes in the system. He also references the beautiful 'Lorenz Attractor' where a complex system 'flips' into a different pattern of behaviour - from 'boom' to 'bust' perhaps...
Click here to make your own Lorenz Attractor.