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The Ceramic Vs The Organic Worldview
...and how it plays out in the world of work
Broadly speaking, there are two ways of viewing the world: the Ceramic (or hydraulic) view and the Organic view. The Ceramic worldview is individualistic and sees the world as concrete, solid, measurable, and definable. The world and everything in it, including people, is mere stuff to be manipulated, collected, owned, bought, sold, killed, stuffed, put in boxes and hung on walls. Trophies that mark the exploits and successful adventures of men (because it's nearly always men). The ceramic view is afraid, alienated, isolated, suspicious, narcissistic and alone in this universe. There is nothing beyond the physical world; therefore, its spoils must be controlled and protected because there is always someone out to take what's yours.
According to this worldview, there must be a boss, and the boss must tell everyone else what to do and when to do it. Otherwise, people will be disorganised and unproductive. In this top-down approach, control and productivity are the keys to success. Data is how the ceramic worldview appraises your efforts, and your effort is the measure of your value to them. If you do not put in the effort, you are forced to the edges with barely the entitlement to live. Most people find themselves in the middle, on the rat wheel, constantly proving themselves worthy of existence. If you cannot or choose not to rent your body and mind to these men, to work your bollocks off for the best years of your life, then you do not deserve to have a roof over your head, good healthcare, food in your belly, and a sense of security.
On the other hand, the Organic view is a collectivist view that sees the world and everyone in it as self-organised, self-sufficient, and supportive. If left to their own devices, human beings figure it out in the most optimal way and support one another in the process. This view sees us as inherently motivated, creative and innovative, and given the right environment, we discover solutions to problems that benefit everyone equally. It sees benefit in the effort in and of itself rather than the promise of reward. There is nothing to lose and everything to gain, according to the organic view, because there is always enough for everyone. You lose today, you win tomorrow - there is no need to hoard, to manipulate, to steal either legally or illegally.
There is no boss, no bodied or disembodied entity making it all happen. Cause and effect, the idea that someone or something must have got the ball rolling, that something made it bang way back in the beginning are of the ceramic worldview and of linear thinking. It is a primitive concept analogous to fleas in a jar experiment. In contrast to the ceramic worldview that trusts nobody, the organic worldview is inherently trusting. But this is not to be confused with naivety. On the contrary, the organic worldview understands complexity and allows things to work themselves out, for the dust to settle of its own accord, so to speak. It is the Ceramic worldview that is naive.
Now why is this important?
At work, this idea is incredibly important. Especially when it comes to hiring people, forming teams and leading an organisation. Because, you can't watch everyone all the time, or even some of the time. Besides, research has shown that people's performance suffers dramatically when they know they are being watched. The Hawthorn Experiments showed us this one hundred years ago, and subsequent studies continue to highlight this fact. There is an exception, however. If tasks are simple and repetitive, then surveillance may work, but if tasks are complex, surveillance has a negative impact on performance. It's exhausting not to offer trust, and without it, there is no team. There is no collective energy moving in the same direction. Instead, lack of trust breeds a culture of individualism. Your people might use language that they think reflects teamwork and unity, but it's all for show. It's surface acting and contains no heart and no soul. They are in it for their own survival because that is the atmosphere your lack of trust has created.
The workplace, as we have largely constructed it, is a fake plastic environment where people pretend. They put on a show, and sometimes they do a "good" job of it. They may even fool themselves most of the time. But they are not invested, not really. And you'll come to know this when the shit hits the fan, because when the shit hits the fan, you need people capable of solving problems. Capable and equipped with the psychological, emotional and intellectual capacity to come up with solutions to the novel problems that shit hitting the fan creates. If you have not cultivated an environment of trust, one where people are autonomously motivated and supported, where they feel competent, and a part of something worthwhile, the answers to shitty problems won't come.
The universe is self-organising; we don't need to force its conformity. We began to understand this around 300 or 400 years ago. Arguably, some cultures did so way before this. So, in your work and in your business, be inclined to embrace an organic concept of life (trust) rather than a ceramic one (mistrust). It may be the difference between survival or not.
I help the self-employed and small business owners run better businesses by applying psychological principles to work. Find out how.