Organisasjonen og elefanten

Organisasjonen og elefanten

Du har kanskje hørt historien om de seks lærevillige, men akk så blinde menn som på hvert sitt vis beskrev en elefant? De hadde aldri sett elefanten, men fortalte med iver og glød det de kunne kjenne med hendene sine.

«En vegg» ropte mannen som måtte strekke seg på tå for å kjenne oppover den imponerende magen på siden av elefanten. «Et spyd» utbrøt han som holdt en glatt og skarp elfenbenstann mellom hendene sine. «Aha!» sa en tredje «den likner på en slange». Vi skjønner jo at det var han som holdt i snabelen. Forslagene haglet inn: «Et tau!» – «Et tre!» – «En vifte!»

Organisasjonsdyret

Las oss nå bytte ut elefanten med den organisasjonen du er en del av, det være seg familien din, arbeidsplassen din eller det nettverket du er avhengig av fordi du jobber alene.

Hvordan vil du beskrive din organisasjon? Det ville du ganske sikkert gjøre ut fra det ståsted du har. Din rolle. På en måte er alle i organisasjonslivet blinde når vi skal undersøke og beskrive «organisasjonsdyret». Med andre ord: Vår observasjon er ikke objektiv. Vårt ståsted og vår erfaringsbakgrunn vil påvirke hva vi «ser», hvilke begreper vi vil anvende og hvilke konklusjoner vi trekker. Alle har vi rett og alle tar vi feil.

Daglige tilpasninger

Enhver organisasjon er i stadig forandring om vi liker det eller ikke. Det skjer daglig tilpasninger til samfunnet rundt på alle nivåer i organisasjonen.

Et eksempel de aller fleste av oss kjenner fordi det utløste voldsom debatt var lovpålegget handelsnæringen fikk om å skjule tobakksvarer i dagligvarebutikker. De ansatte skulle håndtere møtene med tobakkskundene fra 1. januar 2010. Det går an å tenke seg et bilde som så slik ut.

September 2009: Ved den ene kassa på nærbutikken sitter en ung student. Han skulle egentlig ha vært ferdig med studiene sine, men klarte ikke å ta en viktig eksamen på vårparten fordi hans mor døde av kreft i mai. Når denne eksamen er unnagjort flytter han fra byen.

Ved kasse nummer to sitter en røyksugen dame på 35. Hun er forbanna og mener direktivet griper rett inn i hennes privatliv og følelse av frihet.

Bak henne sitter en dame som er vokst opp under fjerne himmelstrøk. Hun har hatt jobben i to uker og strever med språket. Hun strever også med å forstå kodene på arbeidsplassen og den lette tonen mellom ledelse og ansatt. Norsk politikk har hun ikke noe forhold til.

På bakrommet sitter en nyskilt daglig leder. Papirarbeidet har hopet seg opp og han stirrer tomt foran seg. Han tenker på at han ikke skal være sammen med ungene sine i jula og at han snart må ha på plass både ombygging og en strategi i samarbeid med sine ansatte for å møte den uønskede utfordringen.

Sett at det var deg som skulle inn for å bidra i denne fasen slik at ting kom på plass i tide. Da ville en forståelse av ulike understrømmer, sjargonger og tolkningsrammer være helt avgjørende for hvordan budskapet ville bli mottatt. Hvis ikke ville sjansen for å få skivebom være stor. Du ville sitte igjen uten å ha innfridd, mistet din legitimitet og den nødvendige tillit.

Og de ansatte ville forsøke å endre ulike elefanter.

Det er da det kan være greit å minne seg selv på det gamle diktet av John Godfrey Saxe:

THE BLIND MEN AND THE ELEPHANT

A Hindoo Fable

IT was six men of Indostan
To learning much inclined,
Who went to see the Elephant
(Though all of them were blind),
That each by observation
Might satisfy his mind.

The First approached the Elephant,
And happening to fall
Against his broad and sturdy side,
At once began to bawl:
“God bless me!—but the Elephant
Is very like a wall!”

The Second, feeling of the tusk,
Cried:”Ho!—what have we here
So very round and smooth and sharp?
To me ‘t is mighty clear
This wonder of an Elephant
Is very like a spear!”

The Third approached the animal,
And happening to take
The squirming trunk within his hands,
Thus boldly up and spake:
“I see,” quoth he, “the Elephant
Is very like a snake!”

The Fourth reached out his eager hand,
And felt about the knee.
“What most this wondrous beast is like
Is mighty plain,” quoth he;
“‘T is clear enough the Elephant
Is very like a tree!”

The Fifth, who chanced to touch the ear,
Said: “E’en the blindest man
Can tell what this resembles most;
Deny the fact who can,
This marvel of an Elephant
Is very like a fan!”

The Sixth no sooner had begun
About the beast to grope,
Than, seizing on the swinging tail
That fell within his scope,
“I see,” quoth he, “the Elephant
Is very like a rope!”

And so these men of Indostan
Disputed loud and long,
Each in his own opinion
Exceeding stiff and strong,
Though each was partly in the right,
And all were in the wrong!

moral.

So, oft in theologic wars
The disputants, I ween,
Rail on in utter ignorance
Of what each other mean,
And prate about an Elephant
Not one of them has seen!

 

They’re made out of meat

They’re made out of meat

“Thinking meat! You’re asking me to believe in thinking meat!”

– They’re made out of meat.

– Meat?

– Meat. They’re made out of meat.

– Meat?

– There’s no doubt about it. We picked up several from different parts of the planet, took them aboard our recon vessels, and probed them all the way through. They’re completely meat.

– That’s impossible. What about the radio signals? The messages to the stars?

– They use the radio waves to talk, but the signals don’t come from them. The signals come from machines.

– So who made the machines? That’s who we want to contact.

– They made the machines. That’s what I’m trying to tell you. Meat made the machines.

– That’s ridiculous. How can meat make a machine? You’re asking me to believe in sentient meat.

– I’m not asking you, I’m telling you. These creatures are the only sentient race in that sector and they’re made out of meat.

– Maybe they’re like the orfolei. You know, a carbon-based intelligence that goes through a meat stage.

– Nope. They’re born meat and they die meat. We studied them for several of their life spans, which didn’t take long. Do you have any idea what’s the life span of meat?

– Spare me. Okay, maybe they’re only part meat. You know, like the weddilei. A meat head with an electron plasma brain inside.

– Nope. We thought of that, since they do have meat heads, like the weddilei. But I told you, we probed them. They’re meat all the way through.

– No brain?

– Oh, there’s a brain all right. It’s just that the brain is made out of meat! That’s what I’ve been trying to tell you.

– So … what does the thinking?

– You’re not understanding, are you? You’re refusing to deal with what I’m telling you. The brain does the thinking. The meat.

– Thinking meat! You’re asking me to believe in thinking meat!

– Yes, thinking meat! Conscious meat! Loving meat. Dreaming meat. The meat is the whole deal! Are you beginning to get the picture or do I have to start all over?

– Omigod. You’re serious then. They’re made out of meat.

– Thank you. Finally. Yes. They are indeed made out of meat. And they’ve been trying to get in touch with us for almost a hundred of their years.

– Omigod. So what does this meat have in mind?

– First it wants to talk to us. Then I imagine it wants to explore the Universe, contact other sentiences, swap ideas and information. The usual.

– We’re supposed to talk to meat?

– That’s the idea. That’s the message they’re sending out by radio. ‘Hello. Anyone out there. Anybody home.’ That sort of thing.

– They actually do talk, then. They use words, ideas, concepts?

– Oh, yes. Except they do it with meat.

– I thought you just told me they used radio.

– They do, but what do you think is on the radio? Meat sounds. You know how when you slap or flap meat, it makes a noise? They talk by flapping their meat at each other. They can even sing by squirting air through their meat.

– Omigod. Singing meat. This is altogether too much. So what do you advise?

– Officially or unofficially?

– Both.

– Officially, we are required to contact, welcome and log in any and all sentient races or multibeings in this quadrant of the Universe, without prejudice, fear or favor. Unofficially, I advise that we erase the records and forget the whole thing.

– I was hoping you would say that.

– It seems harsh, but there is a limit. Do we really want to make contact with meat?

– I agree one hundred percent. What’s there to say? ‘Hello, meat. How’s it going?’ But will this work? How many planets are we dealing with here?

– Just one. They can travel to other planets in special meat containers, but they can’t live on them. And being meat, they can only travel through C space. Which limits them to the speed of light and makes the possibility of their ever making contact pretty slim. Infinitesimal, in fact.

– So we just pretend there’s no one home in the Universe?

– That’s it.

– Cruel. But you said it yourself, who wants to meet meat? And the ones who have been aboard our vessels, the ones you probed? You’re sure they won’t remember?

– They’ll be considered crackpots if they do. We went into their heads and smoothed out their meat so that we’re just a dream to them.

– A dream to meat! How strangely appropriate, that we should be meat’s dream.

– And we marked the entire sector unoccupied.

– Good. Agreed, officially and unofficially. Case closed. Any others? Anyone interesting on that side of the galaxy?

– Yes, a rather shy but sweet hydrogen core cluster intelligence in a class nine star in G445 zone. Was in contact two galactic rotations ago, wants to be friendly again.

– They always come around.

– And why not? Imagine how unbearably, how unutterably cold the Universe would be if one were all alone …

This story was a 1991 Nebula nominee and appeared in Omni, april 1991. Written by Terry Bisson.

The video:

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