Why has the use of analytics seemingly become the key tool of those in management? Why the unfettered use of analytics?
In an increasingly dynamically complex world wherein individualism and the mechanistic worldview reign supreme, many increasingly feel compelled to gain greater and greater control over their (part of) reality. The connection between control and quantification is readily understood by considering the mechanistic worldview, today’s predominant worldview. This worldview emerged in the 1600’s gaining increasing acceptance and application following the work of Isaac Newton wherein he modeled Nature as a machine.
Thus with the emergence of the mechanistic worldview our understanding and relationship with each other and to Nature changed. Because machines can be managed and controlled, the prospects for those in authority seemed limitless. Everything out there became our objects to dominate, control and exploit, as we desire.
Moreover, control over the object follows from the measurement and quantification of that object. The reasoning goes something like this: knowledge is quantifiable knowledge and accordingly understanding of any thing derives from the quantification of that thing. Measuring a thing leads to knowing it and knowing it affords control over it. Hence if we can measure and quantify it we can control it.
In the workplace this translates into control over others’ actions. It shouldn’t be a surprise that control of another is made far easier, when the other is no longer viewed as a thinking feeling person but rather is cast or rendered as an object to be acted upon and whose actions can be modeled. The cause and effect stimulus-response model offers such a modeling framework. In light of this, the use of analytics as the key skill of those in management is not such a surprise.
Acting on Objects Informed by Measures for Control
So as the uncertainty in regard to goal attainment grows, you could expect people in management to seek greater control, feeling a greater need to measure everything. The measurements aren’t taken for the purpose of understanding the system but as the means to further objectify, label and judge people. So, for example, your work performance is measured not just as a means to dole out compensation in proportion to your contribution—as if knowing one’s independent contribution is even possible—but to exercise control over you in service to their self-interest. Part and parcel to control is the categorizing of individuals—poor performers to outstanding performers—which sets in play in those so judged negative emotions such as pride, fear and jealously. The same is true for corporations in relation to its customers.
The Internet, a technology that could and should be so helpful to so many, has been co-opted by profit maximizing corporations. No wonder companies want to quantify so much about us as we click our way about the Internet: We aren’t people, we’re simply consumers, a revenue source to be manipulated and controlled!
One can’t search for information without simultaneously triggering a deluge of advertisements. We mustn’t forget that advertising is more about manipulation of thinking than informing thinking—mind control not mind expansion. The intent is not to serve you as a person—to empower or enable—but to manipulate and exploit. Hence our increasing experience with the use of and (our) mistreatment by another’s use of analytics. So being inundated with advertising—particularly via the Internet and television—is more than just inconvenient and annoying.
Capitalism Underlies It All
But all of this is an effect of the inherent nature of capitalism. The system itself is grounded in and springs forth from the precepts of individualistic material self-interest and the domination and exploitation of people and Nature. Accordingly, it is a system absent of moral principles and thus unavoidably opposes life! Therefore, in a capitalist organized and governed society, these manipulative and exploitative experiences are highly probable experiences—it wouldn’t be capitalist society without them.
The language, the words used, speaks volumes reflecting the unspoken assumptions that align with one’s worldview and that support one’s actions. Ever hear someone in management exclaim, our people are our greatest asset! Stop and think, what is an asset, if not a thing owned and controlled. Its value is use value in exchange for another thing of (anticipated) greater value—a means to a profitable transaction. Once people internalize the notion of material self-interest as the meaning and measure of (their) life then they are easily exploitable and any sense of We in a world of only Me’s disappears.
Not surprisingly, the organizational environment is fertile within the profit-maximizing corporation for fostering the internalization of the material self-interest maxim and correspondingly the emergence of corporate henchmen and henchwomen—also known as corporate psychopaths—to carry out the corporation’s manipulative and exploitive strategies. While Immanuel Kant’s moral philosophy informs us that a person has value—inherent value—simply because he/she exists and thus it would constitute mistreatment to treat another as a means to our end, but those viewing others as objects are blind to this moral principle.
Interacting with People
However, if the intent were to help people—by providing interesting work, products and services—thus relating to them as an end in and of themselves, then the skill most needed would be empathic listening. Unfortunately, this intent and its associated management skill cannot find even a smidgen of support in the basic tenets of capitalism, hence its rarity.
Seeking to understand another requires an authentic sense of caring and concern for that person. It requires engaging with, not acting upon, that individual as a person. That is, the difference that makes a difference is relating to the person (i.e. the employee, the customer) as a fellow human being and not as an individual employee or an individual customer or an asset. The moment we categorize and label the other is the moment we allow ourselves to objectify the other. In so doing, we move further away from the fundamental truth that we each are fellow human beings and thus inhibit ourselves from understanding our own humanity and that of others.
To avoid becoming an object for manipulation—a mere functionary, playing the part as another’s tool—we must not enable the pursuit of outer value to overtake our very sense of our humanness. As noted in a previous post, treating people as fungible objects in the economic equation for the purpose of maximizing one’s own gain is not only exploitation, it is plain and simple dehumanization… In the end everyone loses… When you treat people as objects, you are essentially disregarding their humanness, and yours as well. To do so is simply crazy!
Also, if this isn’t also making us crazy then why is fear so prevalent among us? Short answer: enacting fear is profitable for the enactor. Using negative motions/energy (such as fear, jealousy, pride, hate) as a way to get others to re-act and move as desired is far easier than seeking to access another’s will—that is, their internal/intrinsic interests and motivations—as a means of helping others develop through their work.
We could begin by first ceasing the enactment of fear (i.e. the use of negative energy) and begin enacting trust (i.e. the use of positive energy). This would involve structuring our life as well as our organizations, not by the dictates of capitalism but by our very embrace of the fact that being (born) human is a gift that we must re-gift to others. When we pay it forward we each can become more of what we potentially are. Sharing our humanness makes us all that much more human—and that’s a good thing to behold.