On the internet nobody knows you are a Policy Officer

CaptureA few months ago I got an email from Seth Godin, world famous internet man.

This week  Nassim Taleb, sent me a tweet, the guy who predicted the 2008 economic crash.

I am a Policy Expert nobody, and Seth and Nassim are so internet-famous that they are like Elvis or Miley, known by just their first names.

So whilst this is nothing to anybody else, it pleases me, rivalling the time  when I was Molly Sugden’s bridesmaid.

I’m never going to be swapping recipes, or communicating with them ever again, but the subject was the subject of this blog. Systems and that. Seth was speaking about boundaries of systems and control,  and Nassim responded to a comment about systemic risk.
This is my area, certainly not of expertise but of interest.
Funnily enough, it is not only my area, it’s sort of my job, as I define it anyway. Performance to me is about doing it well, and doing it well is about doing it systemsy, so here’s the irony.

The Irony
I have spoken, however briefly, about my field of work with Seth and Nassim but…

I have not spoken a word to any of my organization’s Directors or Chief Executive in years.

They work on my floor, within spitting distance. This is a guess, I have not tried it out.
So how come? They seem nice enough. Not actively hostile or violent, or at least from what I can tell from my distance..
So how come busy people like Seth/Nassim who are not short of constant annoyances like look-at-me tweets, and are on a different continent, how come I’m spared a glance but I’m mute and invisible to the people I work for? Here’s my guesses…

  1. I’m not allowed
    No, really. I’ve never been. Not just me, others too, not everyone but some. There’s nothing explicit, no signs on the wall warning of dire consequences, but it is clearly understood who can and who can’t speak with them and about what.  An ex-colleague once bravely approached a then Director to complement them on a thing that they had written in a professional journal. It was systemsy-inclined or sympathetic anyway. The rehearsed complement was spat out, an attempt at broaching the great divide. The result was an awkward silence whilst standing in their doorway before scurrying off and the subject was never mentioned again. The other reason is…
  2. The internet is flat, and work is slopey
    No, really. Think of it like a glass of water spilled onto a flat surface.

CaptureThe water will go everywhere, there is no particular direction it will flow, and nowhere it can’t go.

This is like a blog post or tweet, it can go anywhere. The ideas and words in it can end up in places you’d never predict and couldn’t plan or intend. It’s mainly unpredictable, unplannable and chaotic. It is transmitted through networks of people connected through interests or professions. Otherwise known as Twitter and Facebook. But the mechanism isn’t important, it will be something else in a couple of years time.

On the other hand, in the workplace it is slopey, in the workplace water flows down the slope and never goes up it. Like a waterfall, or a stream of bats piss, it just goes down. So who is at the top of the slope determines what goes down it, and what is at the bottom can’t go up it either.

image A comment on a post somewhere on this blog that I can’t now find, said that perhaps this doesn’t matter. I get paid for being at work, and get really good material for this place. The best of both worlds, my mortgage paid and something useful out of it.

Thankfully I can get my autonomy, mastery and purpose from typing about the place that pays me, a disappointing irony but there’s loads of people who were famous bureaucrats, but not famous for BEING bureaucrats. Samuel Pepys, he was a Policy Officer of the 17th Century as well as becoming better known for his diary.  Lao Tzu was a Policy Officer 2,500 years ago, and wrote the Tao Te Ching. There’s plenty of people who had a day job as a Policy Officer, to pay for what they do for fun.

I am neither of those people, but the brilliant thing is, it just doesn’t matter. Here’s Bill Murray to explain why.

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