Saturday, February 11, 2017

模倣子 Organizational Values

The Power of Bullshit
It's true that many people and organizations say one thing and do another, indeed, many say one thing and do exactly the opposite. We can call this "hypocrisy," but it's not it's perhaps not such a useful label for a number of reasons. Why do people and organizations do this, who is responsible and what can be done (1) about it?

Beyond Hypocrisy
Hypocrisy can be subjective, and it's a label which  may always be "escaped" by citing even one anecdote to the contrary in the face of criticisms citing incidents where the stated values of an organization or individual were not upheld.  You might call this the "Nobody's Perfect" defense. Anyway, the blame game can go back and forth, and none of it is very precise and is likely to lead nowhere.  As always, memetic analysis comes to the rescue.

It's All Scapegoating
It's always fun to corner a president or a manager or arrested criminal in their lie, irrefutable evidence, red-handed and all that. Indeed, every would-be TV trial lawyer dreams of it, and it's all very satisfying...but seldom actually happens. One issue is that even the Bad Guys have their sympathizers. The only person who is universally hated is the one whom the system has decided to make an example of, and this is usually some "little guy."  Why? Because the system needs a MIAO (2) off of which to hang some new (immuno)memetic subsystem. A regular, partly successful company, government, or person cannot fulfill that role, i.e., of being "completely bad."

Even if one succeeds in grasping this Holy Grail of guilt "beyond the shadow of reasonable doubt," it merely becomes a "crime," and still is, by definition, "exceptional." In other words, even if the CEO gets smacked down hard, personally fined, thrown in prison, or (as no doubt some deserve), dragged into the Town Square and flogged (or shot), he or she is still a scapegoat for the sins of the many. Those sins, the sins of the memetic system, go unchallenged.

Triaging the Sins of the Many
Of course, the answer is a proper memetic analysis. If the organization has stated values, then, after evincing the immunomemetic inventory of the cohort, e.g., of the organization, it should be easy to see which memes are in line with the values of the organization and which are not. Or, since this is the stated goal of this memetic analysis exercise, one may simply note all the immunomemes one isolates that support or don't support stated values and note them and focus the analysis efforts on those. One could even stop taking inventory once a "sufficient" number of pernicious (and beneficial...!) immunomemes have been identified.

This is a useful or practical characterization of hypocrisy, since it actually gives you something to work with, it does not place blame on individuals (so there is nothing to defend against), and it may actually be susceptible to ameliorative actions (3).

For God's sake, let's try to get some kind of an example (4) going here, shall we?

Let's say an organization has values such as a) creativity at all levels, b) everyone's opinion matters, c) let's not assign blame, d) everybody takes responsibility for the appearance of the organization and/or it's products, e) if anything's wrong, could be improved, say so, f) speak up if you have questions. These values seem "good," likely to produce an effective and efficient organization, and they seem internally consistent.

But how may they be enforced?

Good question. Let's imagine a simple meme which may garner low-level memetic rewards for low-level members of a team by enacting them. Imagine something like this (6) being said at a meeting:

"We already talked about that"


It's useful to think of who is enacting these immunomemes. Managers, people in power, and so on, or the regular members of the group. Or, the parents versus the children, for instance. One "defense" by an organization is that the managers are not enacting the given immunomemes. But it never seems to be asked whether they are actively preventing their enactment by others. Immunomemetic action is (theoretically) all about bullying, and group dynamics are all about which bullying opportunities are allowed to be capitalized on in a given memetic environment (5).

"We already talked about that"
Anybody can deploy it. It's "unassailable" (7). It's very effective in shutting down any discussion of the given (perceived) topic. It's a little bit rude, but in a socially acceptable way, and it shifts the blame off onto the person asking the question or bringing up the topic, i.e., they are put on the defensive, and the cohort rallies to the enactor (as with any immunomeme) who is trying to protect them from "time being wasted" (whatever that means).

It's pretty easy to see how even this simple, seemingly innocuous behavior may be enacted by anybody at any level or context in the organization, and quickly violate a number of points of the list of values (if not all of them).  Can you see which ones might be violated by the free-for-all enactment of this meme?

So it seems that any organization that would let this sort of thing go on in spite of such a set of stated values would be completely full of shit, utterly hypocritical, but can we really say that?

When is it NOT Bullshit?
It's frustrating and seems like hypocrisy, but then again it's easy to see how behaviors that run counter to stated organizational values crop up like this along with dozens of others. However, it's a subtle yet obvious point to say that the reason organizations have stated values in the first place is that the "natural inclination" is to not do those good things, but rather to be lazy, opportunistic, self-serving, etc., and we want to hold ourselves to a higher standard.

Where we fall down is in not doing our memetic homework, and periodic inventory and clean-up, to make sure that our (immuno)memes are in line with our values. Okay, let's say we have the organizational will and penetrating insight to actually do a memetic analysis. Let's further say that we have evinced (8) a list of immunomemes, one of which is the "we already talked about that" immunomeme.

Now what?

There are a number of things we can do. We want to eradicate this immunomeme. Clearly it goes against our values, but it still offers memetic rewards to anybody who would deploy it. Note, that a lot of these activities must be undertaken by managers. They have the power to give extra memetic rewards because of their status (11), and to cause others to supply memetic rewards to enactors and non-enactors.

Creating new memes that can offer rewards when the offending meme is deployed. For example, "let's put a pin in that and bring it up later," "can somebody answer that question?" "I think I have an answer for that, if I may," "No, no, it's important...," "I think it will become clear as we move on," "let's hold on the questions for now," "we'll come around to that in a moment," and so forth. Initially a manager can deploy these kinds of memes (9).

The temptation is to eradicate the offending immunomeme by managers attacking deployers. This partly defeats the purpose of memetic engineering. For one, managers can't be everywhere. It's much more efficient to get the entire cohort deploying anti-immunomemes, since as with all things in memetic engineering, we want it to be self-sustaining, regardless of conscious, deliberate action by individual agents.  Also, if managers are always taking the action, although you get the promised reward of their mantle of authority (10), you can lose out because of factors such as polarization, polyvariability and pseudo-mutation.

Summary
Take a memetic inventory, focus on memes that cut against (or uphold) organizational values, and then design memes that supply rewards for negating the effect of the bad memes, or even by supporting the effect of the good memes.  The good news is that picking off even a few memes at a time can garner immediate benefits.

The managers must deploy (or at the very least support) the new memes, with the idea that they be taken up by the cohort at large and propagated from there.

More on this later...
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(1)  One can imagine at least two "agents" who might be interested in "doing something about it": managers and stakeholders in organizations which have become dysfunctional, i.e., are not doing what they say they "want" to be doing, and have become ossified in that behavior, and people who must interact with organizations which are deeply dysfunctional (sometimes deliberately so), or might want to dismantled or stop them.

(2) Please forgive the fast-and-loose anthropomorphicization.

(3) This is starting to encroach on the domain of disinurement, which is a theoretical one for me still. That is, the study and practice of the removal of part or all of a memeplex from a cohort.  This is one of the higher goals of applied macromemetics, by the way.

(4) An organization or person may call themselves "Christian," or "community-focused" or what-have-you, and that may be subjected to the same kind of analysis, but it's easier to look at an organization (or person) with stated values. Whether those values are "too vague," or "mutually contradictory," etc., is not really relevant here (yet).

(5) A silly example is how at a nudist resort there exists the suspension of the permission (tacit bullying) of making fun of people being nude or of their genitalia.

(6) I had thought of a longer list of simple, seemingly innocuous immunomemes, but they're not coming to mind right, and besides fewer is probably better in this case, but this list could be increased a great deal with even a simple memetic analysis.

(7) A property of a complainomeme, i.e., that it's very difficult to concisely mount a counterattack against it. With immunomemes generally, anyway, the point is that once it's been deployed it's already too late.

(8) The good thing here is that we probably don't have to get down to the level of "memetic hacking,"
i.e., the immunomemes we are interested in are flying around in the open (at meetings, et al), and we need simply write them down, with a note as to when, where, and how frequently they occur.

(9) and the manager automatically garners memetic rewards from the cohort (as a memetic nexus), and thereafter non-manager cohort members perceive that they may also garner similar rewards by deploying the new memes.  Indeed, deployments of the old, bad immunomemes provide a (bullying) opportunity for the new meme. The manager has effectively attached the new memes to the old, and provided the motivation to use them.

(10) Which is a double-edged sword, since there is also the principle of polarization, i.e., that a memetic fabric can orient itself into enactors and non-enactors of a given submemeplex, and indeed this is related to the concepts of polyvariability and pseudo-mutation. If a meme appears to be originating from multiple sources, or in different forms, then it is perceived as offering more memetic reward opportunity, i.e., a larger cohort will resonate, and more reliably. If only one person is the source, then absent that person, the reward may be nil, and/or one may be perceived as merely a suck-up as opposed to being connected to "the group feeling."

(11) Managers are memetic nexuses. This is a "memetic agent" whose messages (memes) are simultaneously received by all members of the sub-cohort of the nexus. Hence, memes they transmit are all reliable sources of memetic reward among members of the cohort, For example, a joke or comment made by the boss in e-mail or meeting, or even a comment they made that makes the rounds is something any staff member may use to elicit a response, i.e., a memetic resonance and thereby a memetic reward from any other member(s).
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模倣子  Memetics Essay - Memetic Index

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