The whole and its parts

The whole & its parts

The power of ideas

There are at least four ideas that shape today’s business world because of of the power of these ideas.

In his book “Kinds of Power. A guide to its intelligent uses.” James Hillman names efficiency, growth, service, and maintenance.

Efficiency and growth have become ideas businesses focus on. In simple terms, efficiency is seen as the best possible way to acquire power as an organization, whereas growth becomes the way to hold on to that power.

However, it is a focus that is taken out of context. Efficiency only initiates a motion and is the immediate instigator of change. The context within which efficiency unfolds is the question “Why?” A question Aristotle answered with four kinds of causes: The archetypical principle that governs an event, the purpose, what is being changed, and efficiency as the initiation of a motion.

Focusing on efficiency easily leads to systems staying in power without the ability to align people with a purpose.

Growth on the other hand is a broad description that can be understood in many ways. And without a clear sense of what growth is envisioned, it loses its connection with its possible sense of acquiring mastery. When this happens, it is only the desire for control that remains accessible and the reason why growth is sought.

Service has multiple elements that can influence its perception. The idea of quality of service is confronted with the fact that what is seen as good or as bad cannot be objectified. Service then also is a view of the relationship between the organization and its clients. Impacting that perception is that service is seen as linked to its cousins – serf, servile, servant, servitude which all come from servus, i.e. slave. A view that isn’t empowering, apart maybe, for those who can command service. A third way in which the idea of service is impacted is the intention to see it within a context of productivity, where the effort to optimize it goes against the idea of service itself.

Maintenance is the idea of how keeping a system active is addressed. Where maintenance in the past was a way to show respect for something material that was worth caring for and keeping, it now is mainly seen as a cost. The way many products are built is in the hope of making them maintenance-free. The process of aging and becoming difficult to use cannot be prevented by reducing the need for maintenance. It just makes it less probable that the product will be maintained. Interestingly, as it has become garbage, there is no one who can use it anymore. With luck, it can be recycled.

Whatever an organization’s approach is to the idea of efficiency, growth, service, and maintenance, these ideas have changed over the last century. And these changes reshaped how organizations work today.

The power resides in the idea one has of them. The stories we tell ourselves are transformed by them.





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