how ideas become ideology

Several times I have referred to this observation about how ideas connect to ideology.

“Ideas lead technology. Technology leads organizations. Organizations lead institutions. Then ideology brings up the rear, lagging all the rest — that’s when things really get set in concrete.”—Charles Green (2009)

Here are some examples of these shifts.

Ideas lead technology

Hedy Lamarr invented spread spectrum technology in 1941 but its value as a technology accelerated half a century later as it would, “galvanize the digital communications boom, forming the technical backbone that makes cellular phones, fax machines and other wireless operations possible.”

Peter Senge’s book, The Fifth Discipline, ushered in the idea of the learning organization but it was only recently that organizations had the Web 2.0 technologies to enable distributed team learning or share systems-thinking across the enterprise.

Technology leads organizations

Open source software development brought us distributed collaboration tools such as blogs and wikis. It was also key in promoting the narration of work. “Software developers have created an incredible educational environment for themselves that supports the idea of ‘public learning’ … learning in a way that simultaneously makes the environment smarter.”Dave Weinberger

Organizations lead institutions

Tech Savvy Women was established in 2008 using the web to advance professional women. Move ahead seven years and Canada’s Prime Minister forms the first gender-balanced cabinet — “Because it’s 2015”.

Ideology — set in concrete

“We live in capitalism. Its power seems inescapable. So did the divine right of kings. Any human power can be resisted and changed by human beings. Resistance and change often begin in art, and very often in our art, the art of words.” —Ursula K. Le Guin (1929-2018)

And a word of warning before any ideological shift — “Politics hates a vacuum. If it isn’t filled with hope, someone will fill it with fear.” Naomi Klein

I looked at these shifts in 2016 — a new business ideology — using this comparison table.

A comparison table between dominant ideologies between the market and network eras

My attempt at a new business ideology, named networked unmanagement on the table above, is the Principle of Network Management: It is only through innovative and contextual methods, the self-selection of the most appropriate tools and work conditions, and willing cooperation that more productive work can be assured. And the duty of being transparent in our work and sharing our knowledge rests with all workers, especially management.

So, is there a new ideology to replace The Principles of Scientific Management, written over 100 years ago and still informing management? Individual workers are still viewed as liabilities on the ledger sheet, and the recent spate of lay-offs in the IT sector does not indicate any progressive management models have been developed there. A good question to always ask about any major management initiative is — What is the underlying ideology informing decision-makers?

The principle of network management


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