weird stuff

Fiction sometimes explains reality in a much better way.

Corvallis had asked the usual questions about job title and job description. Richard [CEO] had answered simply, “Weird stuff.” When this proved unsatisfactory to the company’s ISO-compliant HR department, Richard had been forced to go downstairs and expand upon it. In a memorable, extemporaneous work of performance art in the middle of the HR department’s open-plan workspace, he had explained that work of a routine, predictable nature could and should be embodied in computer programs. If that proved too difficult, it should be outsourced to humans far away. If it was somehow too sensitive or complicated for outsourcing, then “you people” (meaning the employees of the HR department) needed to slice it and dice it into tasks that could be summed up in job descriptions and advertised on the open employment market. Floating above all of that, however, in a realm that was out of the scope of “you people”, was “weird stuff”. It was important that the company have people to work on “weird stuff”. As a matter of fact it was more important than anything else. But trying to explain “weird stuff” to “you people” was like explaining blue to someone who had been blind since birth, and so there was no point in even trying. —Neal Stephenson (2019) Fall: or Dodge in Hell

If the really important work in organizations — weird stuff — is beyond the HR department, why have such a department? Why not just outsource it or use a computer program?

In today’s work reality, JOB is four-letter word and time at work is an antiquated notion. Doing “weird stuff” is what humans are best at, but our education and work systems often beat these abilities out of us. The best organizations today are those that have more people doing “weird stuff’ than those having job descriptions. They will be able to run circles around standardized organizations.

learning in the flow of work

The “weird stuff’ is on the far right 😉

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