04 September 2007

Three posts about fifteen things [ iii ]

I feel like this last set of traits are practically gimme’s. Not to say that they aren’t worth mentioning, but that I felt like I needed to have a good justification for the other two sets, especially the Greek¹. But they’re not gimme’s: it is not often that I see these qualities demonstrated at work. I think that’s because acting (especially acting publicly) on these qualities can make an employee particularly vulnerable to predation. So if I intend to keep these on the board, I’d better make it easy and safe for people to be decent to one another and unpleasant for them to not.

Passion (Integrity ∩ Arete ∩ Eudaimonia « Sustainability)
This is why I don’t need to care whether you are having fun at work. If you enjoy what you are doing, find it satisfying and fulfilling, can muster genuine enthusiasm, then fun is an incidental bonus. Part of what makes this principle cool to me is that in order to adhere to it, an employee and a company have to reach a consensus about role and action. As usual, anything like this requires a high degree of trust and skilled managers of people. Frankly, I find that more often than not, passion is what leads good people away from a company – not deeper into it. That’s broken, mostly on the management side of the equation.

Optimism² (Arete ∩ Sustainability » Eudaimonia ∩ Family)
If Pierre Reverdy can assert that love doesn’t exist – only proofs of love³ – then I’m comfortable making the less contentious observation that optimism without evidence is no different than delusion. I must admit that optimism has gotten me in trouble: A company not worthy of your optimism is sure to be a source of your dismay. It’s worth the risk for me anyhow. When my optimism wanes, it’s a strong indicator that I am not long from the door. Like passion, optimism begs a constant negotiation between company and employee with management as the facilitator. Obviously it also helps to have peers that are optimistic. Optimism isn’t hopefulness. Hope is passive. Optimism needs to be active, agreed upon in context and willed into being.

Stewardship (Sustainability » Eudaimonia ∩ Family ∩ Phronesis « Wisdom)
You can have a pet if you can take care of it. You can have a project for the same reason. I expect you to be able to think through to the logical conclusion of taking care of a project. [What happens to the waste exhaust from a car? The waste heat? The scrap materials when the consumer is done with it? Someone wasn’t grown up enough to have had a project, I’d say.] The logical starting point as well! [An ounce of design is worth a pound of revision. Interesting discussion at One Man Hacking.] This extends to relationships as well as projects.

Agility (Family ∩ Wisdom » Phronesis ∩ Integrity)
One can’t just act or respond quickly. That’s going to be chaos. So agility has to be tempered by pragmatic forethought and lucid consideration of what the right thing to do may be. And then also act or respond quickly.

Transparency (Wisdom » Phronesis ∩ Integrity ∩ Arete)
Again, Wikipedia comes in so handy in not having to reinvent the wheel. “Transparency implies openness, communication, and accountability. It is a metaphorical extension of the meaning used in the physical sciences: a ‘transparent’ object is one that can be seen through… Transparency cannot exist as a purely one-way communication though… [it] creates an everyday participation.” Structurally, corporate transparency has a peripheral benefit springing from the participatory opportunities – employees are always at least passively involved in the business. It’s a step closer to partnership than most senior management folks seem to be comfortable with. In my view, if I can’t trust the people in my company with even passive involvement, then I don’t want the people. Or maybe the company.

¹ I’m still torn about using the actual Greek words. Plenty of time to think it through yet.
² I’m sticking with optimism over sustainability. The conventional notion of sustainability should be sufficiently covered by stewardship.
³ "Il n'y a pas d'amour, il n'y a que des preuves d'amour."

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