Re: Intransitives of Determina

From: John Conover <>
Subject: Re: Intransitives of Determina
Date: Thu, 18 Aug 1994 15:51:43 -0700 (PDT)

Wynn, Eleanor,VCA writes:
> Well this is indeed a provocative and worthwhile discussion and I am glad that
> someone with actual management experience has brought it up. I don't have an
> answer. I am an anthropologist (UC Berkeley PhD 1979) (and a management
> consultant) and have worked my whole career in workplace practices from bottom
> to top, looking at collective practices, shared understandings and situational
> logic.

Hi Eleanor. Thanks for responding. I have tenure in anthro. too (a bit
dated-I don't know if the Anasazi are still in vogue,) and the replies
that were generated tend to fall into two categories. The military
(and there seems to be a lot in BPR-L,) seems to disagree, and think
that logical process is applicable, almost as a given. And, the
Anthro. folks seem to be supportive. I personally find it reassuring
that there are things that are important in the human agenda that can
never be handled by logical process (if that were not the case, it
could all be automated or mechanized, with no place for the human
mind.) It kind of guarantees that there is a place for the human mind,
and its inherent capability to come to grips with the intransitives of
life through issues of leadership, vision, etc. If you really stand
back and abstract yourself from the human social dilemma, you can see
that Arrow's work really reconciled what the Anthro. folks have known
all along-that leadership, politics, complexities of power, vision,
direction, and all of the other "intangible" things in social
organizations are really the "engine" that makes organizations work.

In some sense, I would suppose that we could extend the issues above
into a general statement (and I think most antro. folks would agree,)
that organizational culture is singularly the most important thing to
nurture when building an org. I have observed this by working with
Sun, MicroSoft, Intel, etc. These organizations tend to exhibit some
kind of a "swat team" mentality-and always in a hurry to capitalize on
the market place. What is peculiar, is that these organizations tend
to be very loosely administered (Apple, for example, was a $4B a year
revenue company before it ever had a budgetary process!)

I would suppose, that in some sense, a cultural failure is what has
happened to DEC, IBM, GM, etc. Probably something similar happened to
the Maya-Toltec, or the Anasazi which disappeared abruptly (within a
decade or so,) after centuries of success. (It would appear that such
things are caused by an institutional collapse because of the
abruptness of failure.)

Since I am speculating, we can see that religious institutions are
also kind of reconciled by Arrow's works, also. Usually, religious
axioms are cited to handle intransitives, for example, how do you
handle the intransitives of interpersonal relationships? "Do unto
others as you would have others do unto you," etc. Of course, handling
the intransitives of defection from religion will require leadership,
and a buyin from the constituents.

If this speculation is correct, then we may have a formal reason why 6
thousand years ago, the many gave away power to the few in
Mesopotamia-granted, highly speculative, but ...

> Since I take as my point of departure the second-hand explication of Heidegger
> (via Dreyfus and  to a lesser extent, Zimmerman) and since the anthropological
> practice is always to understand the internal logic of a group, whether or not
> it has any absolute logic--that is, the way people put together rationales--I
> have mainly looked at that and noticed in business 1) the arbitrariness, 2) the
> assumed nature (many things implicit, taken for granted, this being a big
> problem in change) 3) the bits and pieces nature of the theoretical background
> as such and especially as it relates to my field (people and what they do)
> which also extends into marketing (people and what they need things for).

Point is well taken. I would suppose we should make a distinction
between rational, and logical. Of course an intransitive process can
not be logical, but it can be rational (and I would suppose that
judgment of what is rational is intransitive, also.) I maintain, that
that is what humans do. Although they use logic, they can transcend
the limitations of logic. The great logician Rudy Rucker once made the
statement that the laws of logic are pitifully few in number.

> So my answer in a nutshell is that there is no logic, there is only a
> commonality of assumptions, not entirely overlapping from which people operate
> and more or less make sense. The issue is, when it's time to change, can they
> recognize that, reflect on the assumptions, bring them to the foreground and
> change some of them? Sometimes yes, sometimes no. I would urge a movement more
> toward common sense that goes down to the base of the organization and its
> nature as a social environment with some common sense priorities, and away from
> more formalization which is the false coin of management. But that is my view.

Yea, I think so too. Good points ...



John Conover,,

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