Coevolving Innovations

… in Business Organizations and Information Technologies


Enterprise joy

Posted on February 07, 2006 by dougmcdavid

I’m writing this as a response to one of David’s comments , where he noted the dark cast of my first posting on this site. 

I agree that there is a kind of serious cast to that post, where I talk about the complexity and uncertainty that managers face.  This prompted David to comment about the pain-relief school of management consulting.

However, I did mention the notion of sustainment, and this was meant in the most positive way, as an indication of the mutually life-sustaining relationship among human beings and their institutions.

I’d like to go a little further and propose the thought that enterprises may be a source of joy, and may even be thought to experience joy.  I credit this notion to one of our IBM colleagues, Sukanya Patwardhan.  As part of an extended discussion, I introduced one of my standard themes, which is that human social systems are fundamentally living systems , which, as usual led to a health care analogy.  Sukanya pursued this point further by saying that maybe what we should be concerned about is not simply healing, but rather to foster well-being in enterprise institutions.  She further said that as services professionals we should go beyond feeling our clients’ pain, but rather share their joy.

I have thought a lot about those words, and they resonate with me.  I agree with David that technologies can be fun, as well as utilitarian, or dominating in the sense of providing competitive advantage.

As technology and business continue to coevolve, maybe it makes sense to put more stress on the joy that this can bring.  Not just the joy that might come from knocking a few points off a rival’s market share, but the joy that comes from creating positive sources of value.  As Robert Wright points out in his book Nonzero , the history of innovation is a continuing win-win game. 

This can be fun, and a source of joy, for us humans involved in the game.

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