Big companies breed small minds

Two views on the same idea:

Daniel Dennett in How The Mind Works, courtesy of Alex Wright:

A flow chart is typically the organizational chart of a committee of homunculi (investigators, librarians, accountants, executives); each box specifies a homunculus by precribing a function without saying how it is accomplished (one says, in effect: put a little man in there to do the job). If we then look closer at the individual boxes we see that the function of each is accomplished by subdividing it via another flow chart into still smaller, more stupid homunculi. Eventually this nesting of boxes within boxes lands you with homunculi so stupid (all they have to do is remember whether to say yes or no when asked) that they can be, as one says, "replaced by a machine." One discharges fancy homunculi from one's scheme by organizing armies of idiots to do the work.

Jim McGee, courtesy of Bill Seitz:

Years ago I worked for one of the big systems consulting firms. In a conversation on a flight from New York to Chicago, one of the partners told me, "Jim, we can't have everybody thinking for themselves, 90% of the people here are just pulling on the oars. If everybody decides to steer we won't get anywhere." There's a huge amount of industrial logic in this. You want to control risk. You want predictable results. You want control and replicability. What makes the transition to a knowledge economy so scary is that it disrupts this equation. What if one of those guys pulling on the oars figures out how to make a sail? Contemplation of these questions makes innovation and new knowledge creation feel like potential chaos. Easier to push the problem into the categories that promise continued control.

Tuesday, February 24, 2004 | Permalink | Filed in Organizations


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