Desire lines

When we invent sparkly new terms, mistakenly believing because we have named something we have described it… we by implication denigrate the opposite? It’s quite possible that in our greed for the new that we leave a trail of destruction behind us, ignoring that what is claimed to be new may actually already have been going on for some time, but just not flagged in quite so garish a manner. In reality, a trail of more promise may have already been laid ahead.

When we talk about Smart Working, do we imply that all other practices are Dumb Working? If not Smart, they must be Dumb. Perhaps because everyone has been working in a Dumb way they were too Dumb to realise that they could be Smart and so were forever condemned to wasteful use of time, a disregard to technology, an insistence on a lemminglike commute, an adhere to rigid organisational and command structure. Yet within most environments, our natural resourcefulness has created smart ways to work – loose teams, freely available technology solutions, working when where and how it makes sense. Most people don’t need to be told its Smart, they just find smart ways.

When we talk about a Learning Organisation, does that means all others are Insular Organisations, recirculating the same information and ideas, without concern or focus on the development of its people, inwardly focussed and reclusive? In most organisations people and teams self-develop without invitation, they don’t wait for the call, they know what they don’t know and they seek it out. The open access to information means learning has never been easier. And the organisation benefits and develops from the sum of the parts, the drive of its people to learn and grow. It just happens.

When we talk about Social Business, do we consider that all other business is Unsocial at best, or Antisocial at worst? That the insular Unsocial Business has its borders closed, portcullis down, sharks in the moat – the organisation talks to no-one, and no-one engages with it – its people are locked down. Even in the most security-conscious or restrictive environment, people engage socially, face-to-face and on social networks. Business has become innately more Social. It’s not Social Business any more. It’s just Business.

And when we get excited about creating an Agile Workplace (itself a fiction – something inanimate cannot be animate), do we imply a rigidity and inflexibility in all others, a prescriptive and straightlaced reinforcement of the Unsocial, Insular Organisation with its Dumb Working habits? Or do we ignore that many people have found a natural agility in the way they work through necessity, by deploying technologies that work for them, using the 24 hours that each day allows in a ways that suit best, interacting in spaces and places that work? We don’t need a workplace to be called Agile for people to demonstrate their agility. They just do, because they can.

We need to be respectful of where we have got to even if we don’t trumpet every journey, and be careful where we tread. We can build roads where there are none, naming them as we go – or we can follow the desire lines, the trodden grass, the bare tracks. They probably lead us to a better place.

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