Happy management thoughts

11/06/2012 Comments Off on Happy management thoughts

I was reading an article on management and this sentence made me happy:

The Deleuzian use of desire as an immanent principle of creativity and movement enables for a new view on motivation that does not assume external stimuli but sees motivation as the continuous process of becoming.

It’s from a paper I found on Deleuzian theory and organisation theory (pdf), written by Alexander Styhre, University of Gothenburg, for a conference in Manchester, England, but hosted on the University of Waikato’s website (extra credit for diagramming that sentence).

Why does that sentence make me happy? The restlessness of it is certainly key. It prioritises movement and becoming — motion without specific direction. The statement also suggests that motivation in a management sense can be linked to creativity. This creativity is inherent in the situation — ‘immanent’ in the lingo. It’s a joyful and optimistic view of motivation and therefore the workplace.

This is the reverse of a typical management view, grounded in a sort of physics model, in which management energy is required to organise the potential entropy of the workplace. The workplace cannot be a perpetual motion machine.

I started reading the paper because of its title: ‘We have never been Deleuzians’. I should stress that I am not now (maybe never have been) a Deleuzian. I struggled through both volumes of Capitalism and Schizophrenia, and then read Massumi’s gloss on the second volume (helpfully provided me by an old editor friend), and also read some of A Deleuzian Century? I recount this reading history just to say that I’m not entirely ignorant.

Styhre’s paper makes the point that Deleuze’s thought is not presented as a fully-formed philosophical system, but rather as a toolbox. The philosopher performs a sort of bricollage on the world. I have some sympathy for such an approach, but only to a point. In my economics work, I often look for the tool that fits the question. Do I need a spanner or a hammer, supply and demand curves or a production possibility frontier? But, underpinning the various tools is a more-or-less consistent model of the economy that makes the various tools largely consistent with each other. The danger of philosophical bricollage is that nothing enforces consistency.

I guess the problem — and this comes through in Styhre’s paper — is that Deleuze is utopian. All of this rhizomatic identity and self-directed becoming is utopian. With the right view of motivation and creativity, the workplace can achieve perpetual motion. It’s a pretty pretty view of how the world and its beings could be.

But still, it’s a happy thought.

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