Dave Snowden

Making values mundane; inducing mendaciousness

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There are various meanings of the word Common. it can mean shared by as in held in common which is the way most Learning Organisation people use it, but it can also mean showing a lack of taste and refinement; vulgar. I’d add to that pejorative statement in the content of shared of common values lacking discernment; reducing to the mundane. The context of this is a presentation earlier today on complexity and culture (more on mapping and measuring tomorrow) in which I challenged the shared mission and values convention that is all too common. Basically there are three things wrong with the idea:

  1. You can’t achieve it; values evolve over time in context and you can’t control the context for long enough.
  2. You shouldn’t do it; if you got anywhere close you would destroy all variety within the system and stifle its evolution.
  3. You get what you asked for not what you need; all you do when you declare values is to publish the language of power and expectation, once its explicit everyone will game it, they will come mendacious in their behaviour. All slide sets and proposals will include the words as totems, and deceptive totems at that.

Now we don’t want values to be discordant, but we do want what I will call coherent and contextual diversity. That means different values and belief systems that interact, sometimes contradict, but in all cases enable co-evolution and contextual application.

So, your mission for today, should you choose to accept it, is to tear down all those platitudinous sayings overlaid on motivational pictures (the water dropping the pond and spectacular sunrise are too especially pernicious attempts at a visual metaphor) and publicly burn them. True values are not taught and declared they evolve through the acts and interaction of the living, they are understood at a near tacit level by those who live them.

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