Switching off the autopilot



He was thinking, not only dancing."

So wrote Suzanne Moore, writing of the continuous invention and reinvention that characterised the art of David Bowie.

Thinking, not only dancing.

The words have rattled around my head since I first read them.

Thinking, not only dancing.

And it prompts the thought that we should beware the organisation (whether we work in it, or with it) that does not have an intellectual life.

Now given that the word 'intellectual' is feared so much by those who like to present themselves as doers, makers and generally amongst life's practical and unpretentious go-getters, let me clarify.

We should beware the organization that does not at every level exhibit and encourage a healthy degree of spirited debate.

That merely absorbs the current orthodoxy.

That feeds upon the speculation and ‘best practice’ of others.

That cannot accommodate heresy.

That indeed, believes heresy IS something which exists.

And that is too locked into the comfort of habit to question it.

Of course the bigger the organization, the greater the need for process, systems, and rules.

Which presents us with a rather delicious paradox.

There's nothing like size and success to make an organization stupid.

And while this is a paradox, it is not excuse.

The balance must be found.

The voices must be heard (and insist they make themselves heard).

The safe spaces and forums created.

The future must be visited.

And the experiments run.

For the organization that can not or will not, isn't merely dancing.

It's dancing in the dark.


Suzanne Moore, ‘My David Bowie, alive for ever', Guardian, 11.01.16