In the Hive
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.
I fully realize that corporations have grown up to be the things that they are because they do actually work, if only just barely/relatively better than that which came before, and maybe with a little help from an uneven playing field vs smaller entities. But why gripe? I think we're already seeing a shift to more open, dynamic and agile organizational forms, forms which are more fit and efficient and (hopefully) human and fun to be a part of. I think it's going to keep shifting, and I think at the end of it we'll be in a higher gear. I think. I hope. I dream.
Man, I'm tired. Fucking my competition and their foul concoctions of Red Bull and Jagermeister. It's not a good mix with a 6:30AM wake-up call. I needed to blow off some steam though; coming back into the city, full of fear and loathing, low on blood sugar, I'd started to rage at NYC even.
I was down in SOHO replacing my shuffle at the Apple store and the scene was just too much... it was like a mirror world of the corporation: everyone is pretty and "individualistic" but it felt just as hollow, soulless. "Oh come on; this isn't so special; we've got bulimia and pretension back in California too..." Luckily that passed -- spin the Astor place cube; down a slice of pizza; meet up with some friends; things look better -- and my internal gyro got back on track.
So now I'm off to rest. The rest of my week I'll do a more normal work thing for me; getting down to some engineering and sorting out of details. I'll be at Drinking Liberally tomorrow night, and rambling around the city like a savage lumberjack over the weekend. All that and more in a later post.
Also, if you find my life boring, check the sister-pal out. Good stuff, that.