Coevolving Innovations

… in Business Organizations and Information Technologies


Requirements … or … dreams?

Posted on March 27, 2006 by dougmcdavid

This blogging area is about coevolution, and specifically coevolution of technology and culture. OK, maybe we haven’t said that so explicitly, but that is the larger process that would include coevolution of technology and business, or technology and work, or technology and enterprise.

How much of this is really about “requirements” at all? The definitions of requirements, as Martin has pointed out, are so dry and pedestrian. Requirements may be compulsory, requirements may be needs.

I like to think that much of what we do, even in business applications of technology, is about desires. Or, in the words of one of our IBM colleagues Sukanya Patwardhan, maybe it is about dreams.

What is it that gets right to the heart of what a user of technology aspires to? What can fulfill their human desires for success? How does this trace back to the levels of the Maslow hierarchy, from physiological survival to psychological actualization?

In a services world, like the one we live in (like the one we have always lived in even when fixated on the product-oriented industrial miracle), the fulfillment of dreams is an endless cascade of services. At some basic point there are people fulfilling their desires for influence, aesthetic satisfaction, or more basic survival and power. Almost none of this is “required” in any meaningful sense. Almost of all of this, however, is perfectly valid from the point of view of human beings embedded in their cultural environment, pursuing their most deeply felt dreams of success.

Humberto Maturana talks about the importance of recognizing the nature of humans as loving animals. This word “loving” is dangerous and largely forbidden in a businesss context, as Dr. Maturana is the first to observe. However, as he uses it, the term is both simple and powerful. For Maturana, love is a relational behavior through which another arises as as a legitimate other in coexistence with oneself. Holding the door for a colleague is a manifestation of the recognition of this legitimacy. Understanding the dreams of a service client is a powerful manifestation of this recognition.

At the heart of this conception is the further recognition that people rarely, if ever, use technology for its own sake. As Maturana further notes, humans are fundamentally languaging creatures. Almost all of our technology, especially in the IT realm, is about enhancing the ability of humans to perform language. We don’t talk to cell phones. We use cell phones to talk to each other. We don’t communicate with our laptops, we use laptops to create e-mails, blog entries and other communications of language.

A question that I am pursuing is whether this perspective of services in support of each other’s dreams, and technology in support of more effective recogintion of eah other’s humanity, might not be a huge untapped and unrecognized source of value.

Stay tuned, for further exploration of these themes.

1 to “Requirements … or … dreams?”

  1. daviding says:

    Moving from one philosopher to another …. I’ve found it interesting that in Being and Time, Heidegger differentiates between interactions with people and interactions with things (i.e. tools), whereas the researcher in Actor-Network Theory tend to make them roughly equivalent (e.g. Latour’s “Sociology of a Door Closer”). These models aren’t quite so simplistic, but do represent interactions between human beings and the world of living and non-living things.

    The ideas about dreams and loving remind me of Blade Runner.



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