The Change Demand is Human

–Although perhaps not as silent as the ethical demand

In a recent correspondence with a dear friend Jacob Christoffer Pedersen he touches upon the uncontrollable in life and life in organisations, provokingly claiming that we forget (with an outset in the German sociologist Hartmut Rosa) life on account of the controllable and effectiveness – we forget our own life in the life in organisations. We dehumanise ourselves in organisations, we deny (human) life, we streamline it in the name of effectiveness (we become oblivious).


Change Influences Change

But what is it, that is, not only on the inside of the organisation, if there is one? But also, what is closer to the core, if there is one?

Maybe we can dig so deep, that besides describing phenomena, we can identify contours of ontology by opening different doors. Whether I am able to open and close doors that are relevant to the proclamation “We dehumanize ourselves in organizations” and the accompanying (scary) question: “Is not that what we are actually trying to do anyway?” – must be up to you as a reader to decide.

The life of the organization – is there more than the life of efficiency?

That type of streamlining sounds ugly, but unfortunately realistic, and perhaps hopeful, if we follow Kirkeby’s interpretation of community (communitas) in organizations:

“Communitas is the real hearth for the death of the organization and for its” rinascita “, its rebirth” (p. 12). *1)

If we stubbornly do the same thing tomorrow as we did today, we have not changed anything – if we were close to death yesterday, we will presumably and predictable be so today!

Here we can talk about more than both the criteria of physical-heart and brain death, precisely because we are talking about a community. The community can die. In the physical sense, it can be dissolved, for example, e.g., because it cannot “change” and adapt (transform) itself to the demands and development of the environment (commercially we call this kind of death “bankruptcy”). This process can be long and hard, precisely because it does not start with physical death, where the soul also leaves the body and spreads in the “ether”. This is how death often works in communities and organizations – although in some cases it can occur suddenly. Most often, the death struggle is elongated, because it is also the struggle for rebirth (the mode of hope), not by the individual but by the “spirit” of the organization, its “ethos” – true survival is conditioned by a mental and cultural rebirth, otherwise, we are just as far. The only thing we have then achieved is a breathing pause before the next death struggle, the beast survived but has not found new pastures. If we stubbornly do the same thing tomorrow as we did today, we have not changed anything – if we were close to death yesterday, we will presumably and predictable be so today! Now things are a bit more complicated than here outlined, but hope the outline makes sense. The change must necessarily take hold and place in the individual in order to be able to be common with others.

(On a note one could claim that the more painful death comes about when an organisation becomes irrelevant to itself in the sense of its members – this is part of the reason we focus on retention and attraction when the existing members can no longer recognise themselves in the image of the organisation – a sub-type of organisational dementia!).

Perhaps it is a classic phenomenon of indulgence and conceptual inbreeding (what we are also witnessing in organizational inbreeding – “this is how we have always done here”, is one of the finest examples of that kind)! A years-long condensation effect – a cyclical implosion force that follows Conway’s law in its own autopoietic process, where the systemic composition recreates itself through its message to its members (thus self-reinforcing) – monotony (like boiling a fond, if you don’t pay attention it will evaporate in the end). The hopeful must be found in the rebirth, a changed and renewed viable spirit that in the first place WANTS (not necessarily CAN) more than the existing – perhaps a mere will.

It is presumably also in this landscape that we must all eventually become criminals, but most only retrospectively, for we must break Conway’s systemic law and form new concepts in both the scientific and philosophical sense. New concepts if we want to survive the oppressive systemic power that lies hidden in the neo-capitalist model, where techne has become a virtue, and humanitas a (efficiency) tool.

How do we want organisations and organising?

If we want organisations and organising, I personally think we must follow a different cartography – Ole Fogh Kirkeby offers a viable conceptual construction, which is not actually new, but more a rediscovery and reconceptualization of “old” and “universal” laws forgotten (oblivion) in the sacred name and motto of efficiency: “Growth (top and bottom line, GNP) at all costs, including human & environmental cost.”

Organizations are communities, some more loosely coupled and linked than others, but always about degrees of common interests. “Community” from Latin “communitas” described by Ole Fogh Kirkeby with assistance from Cicero in “Organizational philosophy – a study in Liminality” *1), p.13:

The concept of >> communitas << refers since antiquity to an >> anthropological postulate <<, to a conception of the human being. This being is social according to Cicero, who in the main work >> De Officiis << talks about >> the social instinct << (>> haec communitas <<), which is the deepest feeling in human nature, but it is crucial that the communitas we are looking for here is not just any communitas, but that which is connected with an ethos, whose being is humanitas. >> Humanitas << is thus determined in the >> Historische Wörterbuch der Philosophie <<:

>> Humanitas refers to the “abstract” of the Latin adjective >> humanus << (human) less being human in a neutral-definite sense than the sum of the spiritual norms and practical ways of relating that make man human. ” *1

Here, some will fall into the trap of spirituality and resort to proclamations about pedagogical roundtable talk, about soft values ​​and their irrelevance to pursuing the techne of efficiency. With certainty they can be rejected, there is not much else that is more factual than “humanity”. Our social being is a fact that has been established on more than one occasion – and that is exactly what the “humanitas” concept holds. Our physical appearance (as workforce also knowledge work) is just another species of animal, what Alain Badiou calls “the beast” and “the inner immortal” more denote our humanitas in his ethics *2)

If we are only beasts, we are limited to a world of techne (and instincts) and our hexis (Latin: habitus) will of course follow this – mechanical beings (only) with productive value according to the teachings of efficiency, an animal productive force, alone. Human pig farms, but hopefully that’s not the whole truth, hopefully, we still think we differ from other beasts – because we are human beasts. We have the special ability to produce something new (change) – we are philosophical beings who can conceptualize **) our world and the world around us, it is reserved for us and we are doomed to this status (clichéd paraphrasing of Sartre, but no less true). As you write Jacob:

But in organizations, we deny it. Because we cannot just make life more efficient that way.

which, in fact, may just lead back to “oblivion”, “the lost realization of the uncontrollable” “we surf” in the name of efficiency and speed – we are busy and efficiently occupied elsewhere than in life (also a point of Hartmut Rosa).

Surf, sail, dive

You can only surf on surfaces, a physical fact that does not give much understanding of ocean currents and the deep sea, and life below the surface – which is only verified by jumping dolphins and when the white shark nibbles a surfer in the butt. About the organization below the surface, Kirkeby writes:

“This phenomenon world (spirit of organization, atmosphere – its ethos, my addition) can be found on the organization’s” surface “, expressed in its codex, etc.…, but most often it will require a dichotomous figure, where a distinction is made between surface and a deep, an outer and an inner, something obvious and something hidden.” p.11 (* 1)

I’m aware of the controversy in the forthcoming proclamation, because we have some pretty serious global problems. But the basic issue may have to be found in the “mortal sins” “greed” and “gluttony” (selfishness, “me, myself and I”, us and the others…) and the construction of our “capitalist” system, and there are many white sharks (Enron, banks, law firms, Google, Facebook and many more, and you and me – when we are constantly closest to ourselves, which is best expressed in “Every man is the architect of his own fortune – yet there will be no fortune without the other and others.

The pure utilitarianism (ethics) as an independent, single and selfish framework is not ethics, but just what it is – exploitation (rather than sustainable use and joint co-use). For recent thoughts on capitalism see for instance (x).

But where and to whom should we and can we look, in what space should we cry for help if we hope to hear more than our own echoes, and perhaps be heard by and with others?

An inherent problem in many revolutions is funny enough also oblivion to where we are.

I think we need to look towards ourselves, not my generation primarily, but towards the youth. We must cry for help from the youth, we must marry and not be separated from the youth’s madness/playfulness and foolhardiness/recklessness – for it is through the uncontrollable events, the border country we must push against the borders (frontiers) and experience the liminalities and be pushed back and cross – it is in a thought construction best expressed by Aristotle through the concept of “Mesotes” we must find the golden mean – and it is also a fact that we cannot find the middle if we cannot find the outer limits (were we for a moment lose control – Kierkegaard). Managing such a process requires wisdom and perhaps some form of stability in generations – the mode of old age, also called experience and ultimate “Phronesis” – practical wisdom **). An inherent problem in many revolutions is funny enough also oblivion to where we are. Setting a direction requires we know where we are – in short, it is hard to unlearn if one does not realise what one has already learned.


Per Berggreen
Per Berggreen
Per is a truly hybrid profile with a background as BSc Production Engineering, Army officer, Master’s in Philosophy within Ethics and Values in organizations and IT within organisation, strategy, and governance. More than 20 years’ experience in large national, international and global organizations with a long-range of experiences within organisational, people and competence development, IT & technology strategy, governance & organisation in different roles focusing on collaboration, engagement, relation- & partnership management. A firm believer in decency & dignity, virtue ethics, and concepts of conscious capitalism and stakeholder theory. He has designed, developed, implemented, and lead global collaboration forums and Communities of Practice (CoP) within Renewable Energy (Wind), Fashion, and Software development companies and as a consultant within Food and FMCG, Financial Services & Banking, Pharma, Production and Auto industries. Extensive global experiences with cross-functional and -cultural collaboration within complex organisational environments and system landscapes. Experienced leader and project, program, and portfolio leader focused on individual, organisational, and business impact, change, and transformation. He has driven initiatives from a reverse impact & benefit perspective within IT/Digital & Organizational transformation & development, account management roles, established customer relations as engagement architect in companies like Vestas, Bestseller, Siemens, and SAP all kick-started by national liaison officer and international NATO liaison to the Partnership for Peace program. Focused on building trust and three key relationship states Transactional | Transmissional | Transformational and the potential to transition states and stretch the exchange economy from being predominantly focused on reciprocity to be about mutuality in both design, concept, and realization. We are humans before anything else and that’s the fundamental outset for all relationships and the ethical demand. A “philo” for philosophy and admirer of the ancient Greeks and the Stoics combined with contemporary thinking especially within organisational- and leadership – philosophy. He believes the foundation for all our activities are found(ed) in thought & reflection and nurturing that ability is as important as making yourself vocal. Values are cardinal to our existence and fundamental to who we are and how we act personally, privately, and professionally.

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