Thursday, February 13, 2014

Dystopic Work Memes

Today work announced that we would be having a Catching Fire (Hunger Games) innovation challenge.  12 teams, competing for prizes.  As a manager who likes developers having any excuse to have innovation and tech time and engage in cross-functional work, I'll encourage participation.  As someone who wrote his master's thesis on dystopias, I'm disturbed.  While I don't consider The Hunger Games to be particularly dystopic, more post-apocalyptic, it's obvious dystopia is sort of what it was going for.  So we're celebrating innovation by embracing a genre that has, at it's core, the suppression of imagination and in most cases, stagnation.  And 12 teams?  If you carry the metaphor in the book a step further, that means those teams are controlled by a group/district, Panem or the Capitol, that has lots of leisure time and little day-to-day interaction with the other districts except to the extent that they use them as resources and control them through fear and scarcity.  This manager doesn't want to be identified with fear and scarcity, even if it does generate productivity gains.  And who's the 13th district?  MIS?  That's bad.  I hope they don't have their finger on the nuclear option.

And what about the whole kill each other theme?  It's not quite Battle Royale, but damn close.

It reminds me of a spam message I talked about on Facebook regarding the 451 Group.  While the meaning behind their name was obvious, to move into a post-paper world, the use of a book where burning paper is synonymous with burning memory is a frightening metaphor for your company.

Eryn and I were talking about it in the car.  She and my wife had recently read The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas (full story here) by Ursula Le Guin.  I told Eryn that for our next corporate innovation initiative we were going to mistreat a developer and then lock them in a supply cabinet so the rest of us could feel smarter for not being the ones locked in the closet.

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