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12. The Instrumental Imperative

Peter Block Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub


the instrumental imperative.        The moment we gain enough personal clarity about our intentions and decide to be accountable for bringing them into the world, we come face to face with a culture that is indifferent or even unfriendly towards the very idealism, intimacy, and depth that this requires. Modern culture is not organized to support our idealistic, intimate, and deeper desires. It is organized to reinforce instrumental behavior. But if we understand the nature of the culture, we gain some choice over it.

Culture is really a set of messages about how we should operate in the world. It imposes the political imperative upon each of us to get with the program, and the program requires that we become highly instrumental. The word instrumental captures the aspect of our lives, especially in our work, that values efficiency (the engineer) and barter, exchange, and the art of the deal (the economist). But we not only have to make the deal, we have to become the deal. Who we are gets defined as a currency according to the current rate of exchange in a marketplace. It is an accommodation we make with the world that can distract us, one degree at a time, from what matters most to us. It is the means by which the commercial version of what it means to be a person brings us under its spell.

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12 Design for Delivery the Last 500 Feet

Paul Polak Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

When your customers are scattered all over the map, and there’s nothing like FedEx or a working postal system available to deliver your product, the cost of getting your goods into customers’ hands can be prohibitive — unless your business model incorporates a way to fill the gap.

Developing practical and profitable new ways to cross the last 500 feet to the remote rural places where most poor families in the Global South now live and work is an essential step toward creating vibrant new markets that serve poor customers.

Even in emerging economies that feature both a strong industrial sector and a substantial middle class — Brazil and India come quickly to mind — huge numbers of people (800 million in India alone) live far from the towns and cities where goods are abundant and freely sold. Any business that wants to expand beyond the urban areas where customers cluster tightly together must therefore find ways to deliver its products directly to customers who live in more sparsely populated areas.

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3 Adapting the Method to Fit Your Situation

Gary R. Sisson Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

Don’t kid yourself. Hands-On Training may follow a formula, but it’s not a rigid system. Each time the method is applied, it is being used by people. Their personalities, their situations, and their personal preferences shape just about everything that happens. There are choices to be made, pitfalls to avoid, and opportunities for creativity throughout the process. Perhaps a story may help to illustrate this point.

Recently I was invited to assist a company in the southeastern United States. It was a heavy industrial factory that produced steel wire. Those not familiar with wire manufacturing might find it helpful to know something about the process. Wire manufacturing (called “wire drawing”) is part science and part art. To form the wire, a coil of steel rod as thick as your thumb is pulled and stretched (i.e., drawn) through a series of smaller and smaller holes (called “dies”) by powerful motor-driven pulleys (called “capstans”) until it is drawn down to the correct size. The process is fast, hot, noisy, dirty, and relatively dangerous. You can burn yourself, break an arm, get a cut. Accidents can happen in an instant. Wire drawing is hard work, but it is also work that takes a good deal of thought. A considerable amount of technical troubleshooting is required, so job experience is a valuable commodity within the wire industry.40

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13. The Archetypes of Instrumentality and Desire

Peter Block Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub


the archetypes of instrumentality and desire.         Carl Jung was a psychologist who had a profound influence on our thinking about personality and behavior. He developed the concept of the collective unconscious. He understood that our way of moving through life is affected as much by the common images held by a culture as it is by individual personality and personal and family history. Central to his thinking about what drives our behavior is the existence of certain archetypes.

An archetype is an inherited way of thinking, a mythic image that exists for all members of a culture. Within the image of an archetype is collected a whole series of possibilities and qualities that helps explain who we are and who we might become. I want to use this concept of archetypes to explore a range of possibilities and qualities that help us understand our place in today’s industrial-turned-information age. The instrumental aspect of the culture discussed in the last chapter is primarily given form through the archetypes of the engineer and economist.

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7. Cultural Differences

Cox, Taylor Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

If the immigrant who comes here in good faith becomes an American and assimilates himself to us he shall be treated on an exact equality with everyone else. But this equality is predicated on the man’s becoming in very fact an American and nothing but an American. There can be no divided allegiance here. Any man who says he is an American but something else also, isn’t an American at all.

The above quotation from a 1919 speech by the president of the United States, Theodore Roosevelt, exemplifies a perspective on cultural difference that I find is still widely embraced today. The quotation indicates that “American” meant a monolithic culture identity based on nationality and nothing else. In contrast to this philosophy, a major principle of this book is that America, like many other nations of the world, is really a macroculture within which many microcultures exist. In many situations, these microcultures provide alternative norm systems for guiding behavior. A knowledge of intergroup cultural differences has often been cited as important for understanding diversity in organizations, but exactly what these differences are and how they are relevant to behavior in organizations have not been well articulated in the literature. Therefore, in this chapter, numerous examples of specific cultural differences are provided.

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