There’s a business adage “nobody ever got fired for buying IBM”. It’s from back in the day (1970s) when Big Blue was the last word in computing. If you had a decision to make about what to buy you could, if you were too lazy or stupid or scared to look at other options, just buy IBM. It might not be the best or cheapest option, but it was a “cover your ass” strategy.
I wonder how much this risk-aversion explains the almost complete lack of innovation I have seen in public-facing activist gatherings over the past decade and a half (though, of course, I’ve been to a tiny percentage of a tiny percentage of all the ones staged).
How much – beyond not collecting real feedback, or reflecting on what it would take to really build a movement of people taking action (attending further events doesn’t count!) – is risk aversion at head office an issue?
How much – beyond simply not knowing that better ways exist – is it about people who are relatively junior in the hosting organisation(s) simply reaching for the “tried and tested (sic)” methods when putting on events?
Why risk the wrath of the higher-ups by proposing Open Space? Why risk offending the egos of the people who’ll be on the plenary or doing the keynote to suggest that it might be more useful for them to, um, Shut The Fuck Up? Why take a chance on a bunch of people saying what you don’t want them to?
There’s a line I’ve only just learnt, but shall be using until you are all (well, both) sick of it.
“I’ve searched all the parks in all the cities
and found no statues of committees”
So, what is to be done? Well, I suppose that when we are sending our “how exactly is this going to be interactive?” letters (see the algorithm from two posts ago), we should be ccing copies to the chief exec of the organisation concerned. And maybe to the Trustees, if any of them are awake.
And, of course, doing it better ourselves. To quote another dead white male (Bucky Fuller) –
“You never change things by fighting the existing reality.
To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”