Individual Competence vs. Organizational Efficiency LO28855

From: AM de Lange (
Date: 07/17/02

Replying to LO28850 --

Dear Organlearners,

Benjamin Compton <> writes:

>Four or five years ago I was an active participant on
>this list. I stopped participating because of unexpected
>changes in my life, and I simply didn't have the time to
>contribute or to read each message. (I have re-subscribed
>and read each message, although I don't have as much to
>say as I once did. . .)

Greetings dear Ben,

We are glad that you are back. Your thinking often scratch deeper than the
surface. We need that.

>Just before I unsubscribed, I had a number of
>conversations with those on the list about how to reward
>the best performers. I was in favor of a formal ranking
>system, where people were grouped in thirds based on
>their performance. The top third was to be given the
>highest pay raises/bonuses, the middle third was reward
>but less generously, and the bottom third was told they'd
>better not be in the same position at the next evaluation
>or they'd be asked to leave.

I remember our dialogue on that topic. I also remember my own unease --
past performances are seldom a guarantee for future performances.

>Given that fact that so many people have pushed back
>at my idea, I've been careful to look for reasons why
>my thinking is flawed -- essentially, reasons I believe
>my thinking is flawed. I couldn't find one, until today.
>And I thought I'd share it with this list.
>Today, a friend sent me this article in e-mail:

Thank you Ben. I had a vivid recollection of the movie "The Lion King"
while reading it through the first time. I have read it through several
times. Each time I came deeeper under the impression that there is more
between the lines than within the lines. I will try to summarise by a few
quotes what is within the lines:

"The very best companies, they concluded, had leaders who were obsessed
with the talent issue. They recruited ceaselessly, finding and hiring as
many top performers as possible. They singled out and segregated their
stars, rewarding them disproportionately, and pushing them into ever more
senior positions."

"An employer really wants to assess not potential but performance. Yet
that's just as tricky." ....."How do you evaluate someone's performance in
a system where no one is in a job long enough to allow such evaluation?"
"A company's business is supposed to be shaped in the direction that its
managers find most profitable. But at Enron the needs of the customers and
the shareholders were secondary to the needs of its stars."

"The broader failing of McKinsey and its acolytes at Enron is their
assumption that an organization's intelligence is simply a function of the
intelligence of its employees. They believe in stars, because they don't
believe in systems."

"The talent myth assumes that people make organizations smart. More often
than not, it's the other way around."

"They were there looking for people who had the talent to think outside
the box. It never occurred to them that, if everyone had to think outside
the box, maybe it was the box that needed fixing."

Now what dd i perceive between the lines? Four things.
(1) They (like Mckinsey and Enron) articulated creativity with talent.
The "stars" had to be extraordinarily creative persons.
(2) CEOs gave these stars extraordinary power in rank and wealth.
(3) These stars brought these organisations to their knees or even
flat on their face.
(4) Power without appropiate checks corrupts in a manner that the
more the power, the more the corruption.

These people had a fundamental flaw in their thinking. They had the Mental
Model that the outcome of talent (creativity) is good, right, just and
beautiful. Since i began studying literture on creativity more than thirty
years ago, i had the same Mental Model for many years. Today i know that i
got that Mental Model from the very literature which i studied.

I had been disregarding my tacit knowing through those many years. My
tacit knowing was something different. As a kid, adolloscent and
university student my greatest sufferings were usually instigated by the
most creative among my associates. But my greatest fun in group activities
also involved the most creative among them. In other words, the more the
creative the people i were involved with, the higher the ups and the
deeper the downs i had to expect.

As teacher at high school i observed the pupils carefully, trying to
uncover the relationship between creativity and learning. The behaviour of
these pupils began to remind me once again of my own tacit knowing. This
seeing in others what i also experienced self earlier made me aware of the
Mental Model which i was bowing to -- creativity is divine. But creativity
rather had two faces like the Roman god Janus -- the one face good, right,
just and beautiful, but the other face bad, wrong, injust and ugly.

I then began to search for indicators how to promote the positive of
creativity and avoid the negative if it. For many years i groped in the
dark, not finding anything substantial. Then, in another project which i
did not in any way associated with searching for these indicators, i
discovered phenomenologically the seven essentialities of creativity
(7Es). Soon afterwards i became very excited because i began to perceive
how they are the indicators i was searching for such a long time.

The 7Es are liveness ("becoming-being"), sureness ("identity-context"),
wholeness ("unity-associativity"), fruitfulness ("connect-beget"),
spareness ("quanitity-limit"), otherness ("quality-diversity") and
openness ("paradigm-open"). Let us try to explore how these "stars with
talent" ignored these 7Es in their highways towards more power.

Their own "becoming" was paramount to them, yet they were ignorant to
leaving other fellow "beings" (co-workers, clients and share holders)
behind. Their never understood their own "identity" as talented stars
depended on the "context" (the rest of the organisation and its
environment) in which they had to work. They jumped from rank to rank
without "associating" themselves firmly in each rank, thus breaking down
the overall "unity" of the organisation. They never saw their failing
innovations as inffective "connections" which lacked a "beget". They dealt
lavishly with "quantities", especially money, without any awareness of
trespassing "limits". They were brilliant in lateral thinking, but undid
"diversity" by lack of "quality" in their management. They were quick on
shifting their own paradigms, but were closed to the paradigm fixations of

>As I read it, I found myself agreeing with the first part,
>stunned by the middle, and finally accepting the article
>as the best explanation of why my thinking is flawed
>that I've come across. In fact, it has convinced me to
>think through my beliefs on this matter even more carefully.
>I may even change my mind, but that's a big step so I'm
>not committed to it.

Ben, this (dont force me for an opinion because I am still working upon
it) is something which i respect and honour very much. Thank you for
saying because it has an important bearing.

My explanation above of how the "stars with talent" failed the 7Es ought
not to be taken as a valid explanation for anybody else. The reason is
that the 7Es are not things which just exist, but that in each of them
evolution is required for any system. Allow me to explain it with

Jan Smuts, the father of holism, defined it for the OED as "the whole is
more than the sum of its parts". Today's whole does not suffice for
tomorrow's whole. Today's whole is just part of tomorrow's whole. Thus
holism is not wholeness per se, but "increasing wholeness". As a
consequence a person's tacit knowing of wholeness has to increase to a
certain level before that person can follow the articulation of another
person on wholeness. It has to increase to even a higher level before that
person can self articulate wholeness.

I consider the 7Es as my personal guidelines to promote constructive
creativity while avoiding destructive creativity. I cannot expect anybody
else to consider them likewise. But what i do want from other people, is
to use any means to promote positive actions while avoiding negative
actions. It is exactly here where the topic "Individual Competence vs.
Organizational Efficiency" comes in.

The "versus" in the topic implies a tension or difference in polarity. It
means that one of the two, either the individual or the organisation, has
a negative polarity so that the other one has a positive polarity. (The
philosopher Hegel some two centuries ago called it a dialectical
disposition consisting of a thesis and an antithesis.) This difference in
polarity will surely drive the individual and organisation to the edge of
chaos where bifurcations happen. When a bifurcation results in an
emergence both get a positive polarity, but in an immergence both will get
a negative polarity. The emergence will benefit the environment, but the
immergence will do great damage to the environment.

Hegel gave no clear criteria (indicators) to know which pole is the thesis
and which pole is the antitheses. (He got his idea from Goethe who
actually did give one criterium for the pole which could expect
"Steigerung" -- synthesis upon synthesis. It was wholeness.) But he
carefully described how the thesis dissolves the antithesis so that a
synthesis results. Sadly when the "thesis" is the negative pole, it
dissolves the "antithesis" as positive pole so that the "synthesis"
becomes a horrible catastrophe. The first to employ Hegel's philosophy was
Karl Marx in his Das Kapital. However, he also failed to give sufficient
criteria how to identify among the two poles the correct one as thesis.
Yet his work led to one of the greatest revolutions the past two millennia
-- communism. But as a result of insufficient criteria communism became
bankrupt after about a century, following too many times the negative
poles as thesis.

Capitalism is following the same path because of insufficient criteria to
identify correctly one of the two poles as the thesis. Enron and WorldCom
are recent catastrophes along this path. It is the path depicted so
brilliantly in movie The Lion King. Scare is brilliantly competent -- in
reducing the country to a wasteland. What is worse, he needed followers to
do it and they gave him all their assistance willingly.

This makes me wonder, thinking of the article your referred to. Who had
been Scare in this case -- the "stars with talent" in Enron or the
"consultants with treasure maps" in McKinsey?

With care and best wishes


At de Lange <> Snailmail: A M de Lange Gold Fields Computer Centre Faculty of Science - University of Pretoria Pretoria 0001 - Rep of South Africa

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