Here’s a recent aside from Edward Tufte that got me thinking:
“In an authoritarian institution, such as a corporation, there’s nothing like an order from on high saying, “From now on, we’re not using PowerPoint.” That will do it. People will work out something.”
So if you’re a CEO or somebody senior, what can you get away with?
- Could you successfully ban Powerpoint?
- Could you do the rational thing and switch everybody off PCs and onto Macs (you wouldn’t need half as many collaboration tools and productivity would soar)?
- Could you switch off the corporate mailserver and let anyone use whatever email accounts they wanted to?
- Could you get your managers to think more and talk less?
The thing is, I’m not sure the power of leaders is all that it’s cracked up to be… or implied by Tufte’s statement. Power is generally given, not taken, and infrastructure both soft and hard (=baggage) is often much more powerful than leaders. Who, however feel they have to strut the stuff, so they become very good at making theatre out of decisions they are allowed to make.
In KM we talk a lot about the importance of senior management buy-in and support. But it only goes so far. Figuring out the leverage and affordances in the infrastructure and then massaging and coaxing it patiently through change is much harder but ultimately more useful. The problem is, we haven’t yet figured out to make theatre out of it. And that makes us boring.
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