Esko Kilpi photo. A detail of Cy Twombly @ SFMOMA

The post-industrial, creative and entrepreneurial society is emerging. Entrepreneurs are like artists and artists are like entrepreneurs. They both “turn nothings into somethings”. Artists give a form to ideas that for some other people might be nothing more than vague thoughts or passing emotions. Art is the most efficient way of creating novel associations, enriching connections and new, sometimes radical, openings. Art creates suggestions for fresh ways of defining the world we live in.

For an artist, everything you do feeds into everything you do. In this kind of iterative learning the task is to know what you should keep…

Esko Kilpi photo @ SFMOMA

Many people have jobs that are not meaningful to them, jobs that are pursued mostly for money. Because of the common disconnect of the industrial worker from the material product of her effort, it is understandable that the focus of work easily shifts to monetary compensation.

Earnings become a symbol and cause of a successful working life. The workers’ value becomes tied to their value as measured by their financial rewards.

By fixating primarily on an externalized good, meaning the wages, the activity of work itself may be overlooked as a source of meaning. This can lead to mindless work…

From imposed order to freedom and from routine to creativity

We have been struggling to make sense of the changes in our natural and digital environments. Many people claim that descriptions of the world can be expressed with data, and the future of work is thus algorithmic and data-driven. The belief is that our view of the world can be revised and improved through more data, and more knowledgeable observations of data. According to this view, data enables us to make progress towards an objective view of what the truth is, also regarding the existential level problems we face.

This orientation makes sense to many because we are accustomed to…

Esko Kilpi photo

The way we view working life is influenced by the way we view the world. This view rests on the most fundamental assumptions we make about reality. In the present competitive view of the world, we often think that the most capable are those who are the most competitive, and accordingly that competition creates and secures long-term viability.

It is one of the simplistic explanations we use. We build simple systemic models and crude abstractions. As a result, both our sense making and our decisions are built on an inadequate appreciation of the complex, interdependent systems we are part of.

Esko Kilpi photo

Up to now, we have seen the world around us as systems that, we thought, could be described and understood by identifying rational causal links: if I choose X, then it will lead to Y. If, on the other hand, I choose A, it will lead to B.

We are accustomed to drawing boxes and arrows between those boxes. We try to model the world as predictable processes based on knowing how things are and controlling how they will be. We want to be certain, and we think we are.

Management theory is based on this. The whole system of…

Esko Kilpi photo

Firms following the mass-industrial logic have given us remarkable material well-being over the last few centuries, but are increasingly being criticized for not being suited to handling the needs of today. Firms need to excel at innovating a post-fossil future. Companies need to meet new demands for constant change, and need to embrace uncertainty in ways that we have not been used to.

The industrial approach to management places a heavy emphasis on the formulation of plans and intentions and then communicating them as actions to be executed by the organization. The belief is that managers can make useful forecasts…

Esko Kilpi photo

People often need to act and make decisions in situations in which causality is poorly understood, where there is considerable uncertainty and people hold different beliefs and have personal biases. However, people very reluctantly acknowledge that they face ambiguity at work. Problems in organizations tend to get labeled as lack of information. It feels more professional to try to solve a knowledge management problem that is called lack of information than a problem that is called confusion.

Knowledge workers are often put in a position where they have to negotiate some understanding of what they face. The same event means…

Esko Kilpi photo

Charles Darwin wrote a less well-known book The Descent of Man after writing the famous On the Origin of Species. In the Descent of Man he made the revolutionary claim that evolution is not only about the survival of the fittest, but also the result of attraction and delight in individual subjective experience. With aesthetic evaluation and choice, a new kind of evolutionary agency emerges, the capacity of individual aesthetically based judgments to drive evolution. Beauty equals fitness.

The implications were, and still are, profound: the many wonderful sights and sounds of nature are not only delightful to us human…

Esko Kilpi photo

We are used to thinking that what happens in organizations is the realization of the choices of powerful people. They are supposed to know what is going on as they make those choices. However, the stories about decision making during wartime, or during the financial crises, make it very clear that politicians and executives are far from sure of what has happened and they simply don’t know what is going on at the moment.

Partially, it is because of corrupted communication. The results of failing communication can be catastrophic. Tim Harford wrote some years ago about a study on communication…

Esko KIlpi photo

Our social interactions play a role in shaping our brain. We know that repeated experiences sculpt the synaptic connections and rewire our brain. Our relationships gradually frame the neural circuitry. Being chronically depressed by others or being emotionally nourished and enriched has lifelong impacts on us. This is of course unwelcome news to someone whose relationships tend towards the negative but it also points out to where the reparative possibilities might be.

We can no longer see our minds as independent and separate but as thoroughly social. Our mental life is co-created in an interconnected network. The human mind is…

Esko Kilpi

Everything that needs to be said has already been said. But, since no one was listening, everything must be said again. -André Gide

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