Which management do we want for tomorrow’s society?

Posted by Laurent Ledoux on 12/09/09

I can’t properly give an answer to this question but I do hope I’ll be in a better position to do so within a few months.

Indeed, Philosophy & Management, a small association which I have the pleasure to manage with a few friends, will launch on 16/09, in Brussels, “Question Time”, its new cycle of seminars, which adresses the question of the future of management, from a philosophical angle, of course. “Question time”: Questions for today’s managers. A cycle of seminars on questions of our times discussed by philosophers and managers. For a detailed program of the seminars (in French), visit our website. Should you wish to join us, don’t hesitate to contact me.

Created in 2000, this is already Philosophy & Management 9th cycle of seminars. It boasts 12 top level french and belgian philosophers (who are also often sociologists, economists,…) as speakers.

The program has been structured around the key ideas of philosopher Christian Arnsperger’s latest book: “L’éthique de l’existence capitaliste” (Ethics of the capitalist existence), published this month at Les Editions du Cerf. In this book, Arnsperger investigates how we could transform the axioms (key principles) of our current capitalist system, which alienate us all or maintain us alienated, into new axioms that would herald a new “post-capitalist” society.

To make it more concrete, Arnsperger argues that today’s capitalist system rests, among others, on the following axioms, principles or beliefs:
- competition is the only driver for efficiency and generation of wealth;
- our consumer needs are infinite;
- private ownership is necessary to stimulate creativity;
- “salvation” and social recognition are solely generated through work.

Are these axioms “natural” for humankind? Or are they “temporary”, the result of our recent history and battle of ideas (the last 300 years or so)? If we believe these axioms are not “natural” but “temporary”, can we free ourselves from them? How? How can we then “tune” society on other organizing principles? Arnsperger writes that freedom from these axioms requires a form of detachment (aloofness) from deep, inner fears: fear of death, of failure, of exploitation, among others.

Existential freedom, “existential liberalism” as he calls it, requires accepting our dependence and our finiteness as a human being. Dependence and finiteness which we share with all our peers. This detachment and this acceptance are for him the expression of multiple freedoms at the very bottom of our existence. This should allow us, for example, to move from the principle of capitalistic consumption to the principle of voluntary sobriety: a deliberate simplicity which advocates widening and deepening consumption rather than endless growth. It should also allow us to move from the principle of domination to that of mutual care or from the principle of propriety to the one of mutuality, commonness.

But one may say: how can we stimulate the advent of these freedoms? How can we facilitate or trigger this awakening at the level of each individual? Can we reconcile this awakening, these freedoms with the current management of companies? Should we change our way of managing them to ? If so, how should we try to do that?

I will discuss further in another entry the main ideas of Arnsperger’s stimulating thesis and the seminars we will dedicate to these questions but would like already to share with you the titles of coming seminars, which are suggestive already:

16/09: Public opening session, by the philosopher Christian Arnsperger, Eric Domb (CEO Paradisio) & Pierre Gurdjian (Managing Partner at Mc Kinsey)

26/09: Competition: the sole drive towards efficiency and wealth? by Pierre Dardot & Christian Laval

24/10: New local currencies for new local relationships? by Bernard Lietaer

21/11: Is it rational to work in order to develop oneself? by Pierre-Michel Menger

12/12: Is democracy in companies possible? by Isabelle Ferreras

16/01: Always more? Always better? Which future for growth, consumption and their management? by Patrick Viveret

27/02: Innovation, what for? by Luc de Brabandère

20/03: Which ‘business models’ in an economy without scarcity? by Yann Moulier-Boutang & Antoine Rebiscoul

24/04: Accountability or assistance: which balance? by Christian Léonard

06/05: Public closing session by Christian Arnsperger & Benoît Frydman

Should you wish to join us, don’t hesitate to contact me.

For those who live too far to join us in Brussels or have not the time to do so, we will try to post videos and/or podcasts of our seminars and conferences on our website.

For those who don’t read or understand French, let me share with you a few titles from the works in English of highly distinguished american professors or writers whose reading have indirectly inspired me in setting up these seminars (you’ll easily find the full reference of their work on the web – I have also discussed some of these books in previous entries of this blog). I hereby take the opportunity to warmly thank the authors of these books.
- Joanne B. Ciulla: “Honest work: a business ethics reader”
- Mark Strom: “Arts of the wise leader”
- Joseph S. Nye Jr. : “The powers to lead” (on leadership)
- Sharon D. Parks: “Big questions, worthy dreams”
- Richard Sennett: “The culture of new capitalism”
- Fred Kofman: “How to build value through values”
- Joseph Badaracco: “Defining moments: when managers must choose between right and right”
- Ronald Heifetz: “Leadership without easy answers”
- Howard Gardner & al.: “Good work: when excellence and ethics meet”
- Richard Farson: “Management of the absurd”
- Charles Handy: “The hungry spirit”
- Stephen Green: “Good value: Reflections on Money, Morality and an Uncertain World”

And for those living in Brussels who like “different” and short presentations, let me invite you to the next edition of “Pecha Kucha”.

Pecha Kucha, which is Japanese for the sound of conversation (bla bla), is a series of show-and-tell evenings for designers, architects, artists and creatives, started by Klein Dytham architecture in Tokyo in 2003 and now in 200 and plus cities worldwide. The Brussels edition is launched and organised by Alok Nandi, Architempo, as part of {creativity*conversation} series. It attracts a wide audience. The 9th Pecha Kucha Brussels will take place at Recyclart, on Sept. 19 at 20:20, in connection with the Design September programme. I’ll be one of the speaker, presenting reflections around Philosophy & Management’s new cycle of seminars. The concept: each speaker has 6 minutes 40 sec. for a presentation in 20 images. Each image is on screen for only 20 seconds. No more, no less. 20 images x 20 seconds each. Tempo, story, tension, show-and-tell.
For more info, visit Pecha Kucha’s website. Hopefully I’ll be able to post a video or a podcast of the event in a few weeks. At the very least I’ll be able to post the presentation itself.

As I mentioned earlier, I’ll discuss into more depths Question Time’s seminars in the coming months but, in the meantime, I can’t resist to ask you already what you would answer to that question: “which management do YOU want for tomorrow’s society ?” A friend already replied to me: “why do we need management at all ? “Managers” are responsible for much of what is going wrong in the world today… So, the hell with them and with management…”. Why not ? But then should’nt we agree upon what we mean by “management” and “managers”: are they our politicians, the CEO’s of multinationals,… ? Management comes from vulgar Latin “manidiare” (to handle), derived from Latin “manus” (hand – cognate with French manier and Spanish manejar). Management means therefore “guidance”. Don’t we need some guidance or another sort of it to get through the complexities of today’s society ? Don’t we need some guidance to support the advent of a “livable” tomorrow’s society ? What are the ideas that could guide us ? What are the ideas, the axioms, that today implicitly guide us ? Can we become conscious of them, can we free ourselves from them, or from the deep inner fears that make us hold to them ? Can we change these axioms if we want to ? What does it take to do so according to you? How should we change the way we “manage” organizations, private or public, to do so?

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Managing director of a business line within a large bank, Member of the board of Philosophie & Management and other public organisations (This blog only engages myself and in no ways the organisations I work for or have worked for in the past) more.



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