Not Even Wrong – Why this book? 8

May 2014
Rio de Janeiro, Pestana Rio Atlantica

In a time of universal deceit – telling the truth is a revolutionary act
– George Orwell

This is a book about work. Work is game played in a world inhabited by adults who all play the adult game. So in a sense, work is a game within a game. I see these games as gated communities fully equipped with cameras, alarms and electrified barbed wire fences stretching miles up into the stratosphere. These are the walls that keep out the unruly dangerous chaos that lurks outside in the wilderness. The chaos we call Life.

These games are games of smoke and mirrors. As with any game, there are rules. Some are explicit and some are implicit. The first major implicit rule is that we have to buy into, yet don’t talk about or question, the game itself. The second is that we respect each others illusions, our masks and the charades.

Some become so adapt at these theatrics that it becomes who they are and what they do. It becomes what they sell in this our marketplace for labour. They sell their ability to play the game. These people usually make their way towards the top. For make no mistake, the game is fixed in favor of those who are committed to playing.

If you are one of these people you might not like this book. Because I’m calling you out. The implicit rule that the game is to be respected and left alone will be made explicit, so that we can examine it. We will then be left with a choice. “Is this a rule that serves us well?”, I will ask rhetorically, upon which I imagine you sitting there in your favorite reading chair, shaking your head in bewilderment, silently mouthing the word “No”.

We live in an era where many of us occupy ourselves with what is sometimes referred to as “knowledge work”. According to one definition, you know that you’re a knowledge worker if you do what you do far better than your boss does it. Sometimes to such an extent that to them, what you do resembles wonderful and sometimes even frightening magic.

I’m not alone to have observed and remarked upon that this era of “knowledge work” calls for a rethink of how work works. This is the message that I would like to contribute to.

Yet, I have nothing to sell you in the shape of frameworks, process and comes-in-a-box-solutions. I simply propose to you a way of looking at things. I suggest ways for us to improve on how work works, and I provide a guide for those of you who feel compelled to investigate further. This then, is merely a collection of ideas that are all better expressed by the authors of the respective ideas. I stand firmly on the shoulder of these giants. My contribution, if any, is to collect these ideas, perhaps put them into context, and present them to you for your consideration.

One concern is of course that the people who could benefit the most from reading this simply do not read books. I fear that there might be dire evolutionary consequences of such disinterest. Darwin would like that.

This is not a book for the easily offended. It’s not for people willing to walk all over people to get to whatever pay grade they have decided will make their neighbors envious.

This is a book for all the wonderfully skilled people I’ve met over the years. You know who you are. The geeks, the freaks, the introverts, the misunderstood. The Change Agents, the Rule Breakers and Troublemakers.

This is a book for all you brilliant people who get amazing shit done despite – not thanks to – the way work works.

Earlier posts on “Not Even Wrong”