What Kind Of Community Would You Like To Live In?

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Monday, 7.26am

Sheffield, U.K.

In the final analysis, entropy always wins.one-liners collection

The simplest things to represent are static but everything we see is dynamic, shifting, ever-changing and we find it hard to look at these and make sense of what is going on with one using the other.

For one reason or the other I’ve been looking at a lot of creative, art related material recently – and there’s something that goes on, something at the heart of creativity that is a deeper connection, an insight that comes not from logic and order but from a thought that crystallizes in the middle of the night, something that you just have to express and create. This is not the experience most of us have, as we step through lives of schedule and order. It takes a certain courage, a willingness to step away from the lit center and into the dark unexplored – or perhaps it needs resources and support. Either way it’s off the normal path and the way you do things now will never lead you there.

The question I asked in yesterday’s post was what kind of company would you want to join if you didn’t know what role you would have in it. That question immediately makes you think in static and dynamic terms. The static elements have to do with roles, function, responsibilities and the dynamic ones have to do with flow, relationships, learning and change. What sort of environment do you think would work best for you in this day and age?

For me, I think the first thing would be that you’re led by someone who knows more and is willing to teach others. Good leaders are not ones that make plans and give orders. Good leaders are people who coach and develop others, helping them learn and grow. In any group there will be someone who will take on a leadership role because they know what needs to be done or someone will take on the role as a learning opportunity – a chance to practice being a leader.

When it comes to the allocation of resources I lean in the direction of having a market that matches supply and demand. This kind of thing comes down to decisions like whether you should pay everyone the same amount or pay at set bands or pay at the rate set by the market or pay based on individual value generated. I’m not an expert on this but your compensation should be connected to the value you create – not on the fact that you exist in a role. This gets hard quickly of course, because what if you created value in the past or your value will be seen in the future. It depends on whether you’re trying to be fair or trying to optimize and you’ll probably never get it quite right. On the whole, however, current ways of doing things are probably heading in the right direction – increasing transparency, fair treatment and open competition at least give you a chance to go for any role. And if the organization doesn’t follow those approaches then you probably wouldn’t want to work for them anyway.

Now, you’ll do better in a competitive market when you have what is needed to compete – which comes down to the resources you already had. And that means what your parents had. If someone doesn’t have the resources that give them an advantage then society has a responsibility to try and balance that out. Perhaps organizations do too. It’s easy to ignore the world out there and only take on the best people but perhaps organizations should give less fortunate people a chance – even if that has to do with a few months of work experience. I learned almost everything that I’ve found professionally useful in three months of a real work placement. It was a struggle to get it but I was lucky I did and it made a huge difference.

One of the basic rules of life is that entropy always increases. If you’re not sure what entropy is a good visual is that of a cigarette. As it burns, the smoke floats away – the order of the cigarette form loses order as it turns to ash and smoke. Disorder and randomness always increase. Now couple the rises in entropy with the questions of static and dynamic activity and you have an idea of the challenges faced by any organization. What we’re trying to do in most cases is create static structures that will respond to dynamic circumstances and keep them functioning in the face of advancing entropy. A high-functioning organization is an anomaly, a weird unexpected thing in the universe. After all, think about it. Isn’t life itself an anomaly, the fact that we live on this planet with a bewildering diversity of organisms, that breathe and move and have brains – for all we know alone in an universe of uniformly dead rocks and dust?

Pure order is also dead – the crystalline structure of carbon is locked in place in a diamond which, while pretty, is of no consequence in a world where no mind exists to see it and think, “Ooh that’s pretty.” Everything that matters to us as humans exists in that narrow space between dead order and total chaos. And we’ve been grappling with how to deal with that for generations, evolving and developing ways of functioning that, on the whole, seem to be working now. For those of us lucky enough to have access to them, that is. There are the unfortunate, the unlucky, the ones born to the wrong parents in the wrong places in the wrong time. I don’t know what you can do other than to have the services in place to support and help them to market what they can do.

Perhaps one of the biggest problems out there is that we don’t actually value what is done enough. The clearest example of this in history is the value of work done by women at home – the vast majority of housework is done by women. And they should be paid for doing this – not by the state but by the other person in the house. Or, of course, the work could be shared equally. Taking another example, we know that medical care is expensive for physical injuries. But you have mental injuries too, we all probably have them just from the experiences we had growing up. A friend says that all grown-ups would benefit from therapy, especially before having children but that’s expensive. Should care work be adequately compensated – medical and mental care is, for those that can afford it. Menial and manual care is also expensive these days, which is why people are building devices and robots to help.

When I try and answer this question about the kind of group I would like to be part of, what seems to emerge is varying ideas that circle around fairness. Fairness of opportunity, fairness of treatment regardless of background, a fair community – but fairness backed by a need to contribute, to participate, to learn and grow and develop. And such organizations don’t emerge naturally – because what is natural is total disorder and what is natural is an extreme reaction to disorder by the imposition of total order. What is difficult is balance and fairness and the ability to do that comes down to leadership.

So let’s explore some of those ideas next.

Cheers,

Karthik Suresh

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