I'm in NYC for a spell, and have spent the last two days inside a big ol' corporate office once more. The project is actually pretty interesting, and the people I'm working directly with are great, but the whole experience still gave me a healthy dose of The Fear.
My old friend, mentor and colleague Peter Crawford once pointed out to me that Corporate America is a lot like High School. It's an astute observation. Subsequently, I've come to see this as a common thread in most institutional settings, but having been off and running around politics and other scenes, I'd forgotten just how much the corporation creeps me out.
In part its because the modus operandi cuts against my own passionate (and arguably excessive) intermingling of life and work. It just seems like such a limiting thing, being in this big building, in your little cubicle or office, wearing some outfit, eating lunch in a cafeteria, renting away your days to make some other people rich.
It also irks me how corporations (any bureaucracies, really) tend reward ladder-climbing, don't-rock-the-boat, playing-office-politics type behavior rather than real innovation, drive, results, etc. It's a really different set of values than the world I inhabit most of the time. There are lots of rules about who's allowed to access what; a closed-source approach; personal fiefdoms wrapped in red-tape.
Anyway, it's good -- if a bit dispiriting -- to be reminded that this is how most peoples' work-lives really are. Dispiriting because it makes me momentarily pessimistic about humanity's chances ("this is the best we can do?"), and sad for all the squandered human potential. Good though because it reminds me how lucky I am, and also makes me optimistic based on how much progress is possible.