2011 annual lecture - an outline


After yesterday’s rather self indulgent cri de coeur (which received comments far more generous and thoughtful than it deserved) let me get back to the substance of my planned 2011 annual lecture, working title: ‘21st century enlightenment – what it could mean for organisations’.

Here, just for starters, is the basic layout. Given that I am an amateur when it comes to organisational theory, I am looking for ideas for key texts I should read before stating to write.

Part one – why organisations matter:

What do we mean by an organisation? What is the relationship between human evolution and organisation (some, I know, argue that our brains developed because of the size of groups we lived in).  Taking a helicopter view, what is the organisational ecology of a country like ours?

Part two – the problem with organisations:

Cover here both the intrinsic problem with organisations (above a certain size?) to whit entrenched hierarchy, bureaucracy, division of labour (use here Weberian distinction between substantive and procedural  [bureaucratic] rationality). Also, the modern challenge to organisations (pace of change, technology, declining deference…) with particular reference to Clay Shirky.

Part three – 21st century enlightenment:

Core of 2010 speech with particular emphasis on new thinking about autonomy (freedom), universalism (fairness) and humanism (progress/mission).

Part four – autonomy in organisations:

How do organisations approach the goal of greater employee autonomy (which is critical both to productivity/innovation and job satisfaction)? Is the idea of self-aware (self regulating) autonomy useful and how can it be acted upon?

Part five – justice in organisations:

How do we think and talk about justice within organisations ? How should we seek to inculcate a culture of collaboration and empathy?

Part six – organisational mission:

The problem with being driven entirely by the bottom line or some other reductive measure of progress (Kay, Hutton). How do organisations develop richer, more pluralistic ideas of mission, how do they stick to the mission and how do they maintain space for discussion within the organisation about whether the mission is being honoured or needs to be re-examined?

Part seven – The 21st century enlightenment organisation:

Try to bring points under four to six (above) into a single vision and relate to challenges and aspirations for the RSA.

How does this seem? What must I read before I go any further?

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