Wendell, I’m not content

It may, in some quarters, be considered churlish to express a degree of discontent after taking part in the tenth and most energised, three-dimensional Workplace Trends event to date. The emotional disposition is at once both palatable and uncomfortable.

First the palatable reason, applicable to all events of this nature. One should never leave the table full.

The success of an event is determined by how hungry you are to know more, to want to ask more questions, seek more answers, research, network, talk, and research again. To not rely on others to tell you at a conference what you may find out for yourself. To engage, interact, blog, comment, tweet, whatever it takes to drive a transit van out of your comfort zone. If you attended university, what on earth did you ever learn from lectures? They were clues, signposts, markers in the ground.

If you are content at the end of an event, it’s not that it failed you, it’s that you failed it.

Second, the uncomfortable reason, applicable to this event in particular. It was too far downstream.

The themes of the event – wellness, productivity and the workplace itself – are the product of management: the underlying philosophy, its relationship with the modes of production, the practice and the language. In the shallow waters of the delta, where the currents are gentle, social business – the greatest opportunity to challenge the century-long Taylorist status quo in all that time – did not receive a single mention.

While the image of Taylor hung on screen like Emmanuel Goldstein for a suitable restrained Two Minutes’ Hate – more Two Minutes’ Huh? as puzzled glances rather than shoes were thrown – we were starting, at long last, to paddle upstream… just as it was time for wine. It was fun splashing around with happiness, culture, collaboration, Obscurity Based Working and pies, buit it didn’t resolve anything. If you were in tune with the palatable reason above, you may just decide to do that for yourself.

Workplace Trends 2013 needs to start at this point and continue on the more difficult journey, uncomfortable as it may be, unless it just wants to be fun.


[cartoon by Gary Larson]

6 thoughts on “Wendell, I’m not content

  1. I am not attending Workplace Trends to find an answer. Like a student it gives me signposts, images, thoughts, clouds that I may want to follow! And you are so right again Neil, but “the majority” does not dare to challenge the century-long Taylorist status quo… well I do and last time I did throw it at a so self-pronounced famous architect, he did not dare to challenge me directly but instead “remove” me from his list of writers in his magazine… to chose very conventional and yes BORING writers who stick to conformity. Dare I say he chickened out….??? YES I do – the truth heart, and it is time we challenge it openly and dare to hurt the audience!! I would love to see the next wave of Workplace Trends to challenge this status quo openly and go far, very far in provoking the audience of mindful knowledge INgineers!! We need to start that transformational process!

  2. Thought provoking once again. But those who question the status-quo are labeled rebels. Of course, there will be discomfort and of course there will be resistance, it’s just a lot easier to take cues and keep replicating.

    Till then we will keep having fun splashing around with happiness, collaboration, productivity. Did I miss anything?

  3. Neil, most conferences still opt for the path of least resistance – vanilla sells. There is also more money to be made and less aggravation to be had, by shuffling and re-shuffling the old cards of the management business deck and presenting them as a ‘new’ thinking. The idea of throwing the entire deck away and dealing from a new one? Preposterous.

  4. Neil, having come from the kingdom of status-quo conferences, I wholeheartedly agree with your feelings about them. My new thing introduces a conference format totally different from the “norm”, and it’s interesting to me how many people who say they’re bored with the traditional conference get a little uncomfortable with what we’re planning to do. It requires you to be actively present and supports people who are willing to say what they really think. No idea if it will fly – I guess we’ll see. If you’re interested, I’d love to have your involvement, or at least your insights. Cheers, Amanda Brooks.

  5. Pingback: Just Practising | Workplace Trends – What workplace designers are thinking about

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