Not Even Wrong – The Model 13

May 2014
Stockholm, Papas Deli

All models are wrong, but some are useful
– George E.P. Box

First, the working title of my book is “Not even wrong”. I’d be surprised if you did not feel that the title warrants an explanation of sorts, but I’ll have to get back to you on that.

What follows here is a brief high level description of what I intend to spend my time writing about. I thought I’d present this in the shape of a conceptual model that attempts to capture that which is on my mind. These are the thoughts and ideas that I will explore during the writing process.

Please excuse any intellectual lapses as this is very much work in progress. I also ask you to forgive the rather dry language. I reckon I have time to make this a more lustful read further down the road.

On we go. Let’s start with what I’m trying to get you to agree with.

The first fundamental element of the model is the definition of work. Work is here defined as understanding where you are, defining where you want to go and then go there. For me, this definition works well as it has the quality of simplicity and can be used on macro- as well as micro levels. This means that it’s valid if you’re trying to move an organization towards a vision, and it’s valid if you’re trying to accomplish a more minor task.

The second fundamental element of the model is the definition – or perhaps more accurately –  “usage”, of the word “change”. In this model, everything that we do is change. If we perform a task, such as say, writing a user story, we are creating change, as the user story didn’t exist before you decided to write it. In this sense, creation is change. Action is change. Going to the bathroom is change. The hypotheses here is that the process of change is active on this micro level. We normally speak of change and the necessity to understand the change process when the change we want to see is on a grander scale. I posit that change is everywhere, all the time. This means that we are via our work constantly trying to introduce change in a constantly changing environment. If this is valid theory, understanding the mechanisms of change becomes imperative.

The third fundamental element of the model is that learning, quite like change, happens all the time at all levels. I posit that it’s impossible to create change without creating the opportunity for learning. This learning is the force that takes us towards our desired state, as we cannot get to where we want to be without internalizing and applying this potential for knowledge that we create. If this is valid, understanding how we learn becomes imperative.

A fourth fundamental element is people. All work involve people. There is not one single more important thing to understand than people and what happens between people. We are dealing with individuals that are of different temperaments and persuasions. People with hopes, fears and dreams. And when these different people come together in groups to do work, something new happens. Something rather remarkable. If this is valid, understanding individuals and groups become imperative.

A fifth fundamental element is that every aspect in the model represent connected entities and as such they constitute parts of a whole, and that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.

A summary of this could read: work = people, change and learning  – and they are all connected and simultaneously active processes.

There are a few further aspects of work defined by the model. They can be explained as follows:

If we fail at understanding people, we will not excel at anything, as each “step” in this definition of work is performed by people.

If we fail at understanding the world as it is, we will not excel at anything, as we will make decisions, form theories and come to conclusions regarding every other aspect of work based on this flawed understanding.

If we fail at defining where we are in relation to the emergent future – and the desired position in this emergent future –  we will not excel at anything, as we cannot hope to think intelligently about moving to our desired state if we don’t know where we are.

If we fail at exploring our desired state – the place we want to occupy in the emergent future – we will not excel at anything as this means that we cannot possibly figure out which route(s) to take. There are most certainly several routes leading to our true north, yet knowing our true north is the only thing that can help us understand wether our current path is better or worse than any other path.

The final important aspect of the model is that there are two sides. On the left we see work as it sometimes appear today. To the right we see how we could do work. The purpose of this distinction is twofold:

First, I want to exemplify that which doesn’t work well and somehow prove that this is – in varying degrees – the current state of affairs. The field on the left is burdened with practices based on misconceptions, both in the parts and in the whole. I will refer to the left field as an aggregate of comfortable illusions – and try to demonstrate how research debunks these practices.

Second,  the model features a meta-level, and is applied to itself. At the foundation of the model I propose a way towards high level change, a way to move from the the darker illusionary left to the more enlightened right. This then, is the high-level change towards the future of work.

Finally, what I also hope to prove is that the right side of the model is not only preferable for reasons of heart and mind, which might attract hopelessly cuddly people such as myself. It is also preferable for reasons of the wallet, as I believe that the effectiveness of any endeavor will increase noticeably with every step we make towards the right.

If you have any thoughts on this, I welcome any feedback and dialogue. Hit me up in the comments, or send me an e-mail.

I will answer most promptly. If I can get back from the pub in time.