April 17, 2018

Atemporality of the Corporation

What time horizon does strategy work on?

How does an organization “think” about the future? On what time horizon do imagined company futures appear? How long does corporate history remain in the “memory” of the organization?

Corporate history is fascinating to me. Despite the constant non-stop creation of documentation (emails, documents, meetings notes, slack messages) - the history of a company is largely (if not entirely) oral.

Rooted in a company’s oral history are memories and myths of failed projects, company motivations, strategies, hires, fires, mistakes, successes and more.

How far back does your company “remember”?

What stories are often-repeated? Are they true?

(does it matter?)

I spend all day long positioning myself as a consultant for companies. The currency I’m dealing with is change… but over what time horizon? How quickly can change happen? How far into the future can we comfortably project?

How do imagined futures of the world externally affect our own internal futures?

While doing some self-reflection of the work I do I realized that since heading out on my own the average length of a client retainer is 18 months. I have one client I’ve been working with for 2.5 years.

On a call with a client last week they mentioned that they enjoyed the way I structured my thinking in documents which were referenceable all the way back to the beginning of our engagement. It allowed us to quickly and easily flip back to our thinking and work from two years ago.

So you might say corporate histories and corporate futures are on my mind…

With that, three interesting reads:

Atemporality of the creative artist

There are new asynchronous communication forms that are globalized and offshored, and there is the loss of a canon and a record. There is no single authoritative voice of history. Instead we get wildly empowered cranks, lunatics, and every kind of long-tail intellectual market appearing in network culture. Everything from brilliant insight to scurillous rumor. This really changes the narrative, and the organized presentations of history in a way that history cannot recover from. This is the source of our gnawing discontent.


Present-tense Anthropology

Then the Great Report would not be something that was either to-come or completed, in-the-past: it would be all now. Present-tense anthropology; anthropology as way-of-life. That was it: Present-Tense Anthropology™; an anthropology that bathed in presence, and in nowness—bathed in it as in a deep, bubbling and nymph-saturated well. And yet … And yet … And yet. The Great Report still had to be composed. That was the deal: with Peyman, with the age. Even if it wasn’t composed in a way that conformed to any previous anthropological model, it nonetheless had, somehow, to find a form. It was all a question of form. What fluid, morphing hybrid could I come up with to be equal to that task? What medium, or media, would it inhabit? Would it tell a story? If so, how, and about what, or whom? If not, how would it all congeal, around what cohere? How could I elevate the photos I had pinned about my walls, the sketches, doodles, musings, all the stuff cached on my hard-drive, the audio-files and diaries not my own—how could I elevate all these from secondary sources to be quantified, sucked dry, then cast away, to primary players in this story, or non-story? Above and beyond this, how could life as lived become transmogrified from field-work into work, the Work?

Source: The highly recommended Satin Island by Tom McCarthy

Bifo After the Future

The organization of labor has been fragmented by the new technology, and workers’ solidarity has been broken at its roots. The labor market has been globalized, but the political organization of the workers has not. The info-sphere has dramatically changed and accelerated, and this is jeopardizing the very possibility of communication, empathy and solidarity.

In the new conditions of labor and communication lies our present inability to create a common ground of understanding and a common action. The movement that spread in the first years of the decade has been able to denounce the effects of capitalist globalization, but it has not been able to find the new path of social organization, and of autonomy from capitalist exploitation.

Source: The wonderful After the future by Bifo

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This post was written by Tom Critchlow - blogger and independent consultant. Subscribe to join my occassional newsletter: