Sunday, November 12, 2006

the never ending story the official patterns of talk protected by legitimate and formal streams of conversations seek to remove redundancy in action and in talk because it is inefficient in terms of day-to-day activities. At the same time, shadow streams of communication, both conscious and unconscious, enable the potential for engaging in redundant conversations with their possibility for generating misunderstanding, the pre-condition for the emergence of new patterns of meaning...and innovation arises.....

This process occurs among different people and in different locations. Since no purpose is detectable at the beginning of a particular conversational sequence from which an innovation emerges because such purpose itself emerges in conversation, anyone within an organisation might engage in this kind of talk. Speculation, imagination and fantasy might arise anywhere: from conferences people have attended, from magazines, from analogies drawn from other social settings, from social practices. As conversations progress some of the themes might recur. They become a pattern in such conversations. If this happens there then follows a period of intense negotiation of meaning. The outcome of these negotiations is that alternative explanations are increasingly ruled out. As new words become agreed upon, eventually some of the original contributors might withdraw as they disagree with what is stabilising.

The acceptance of the newly stabilised meaning might spread among groups or communities of practice. They acquire a new instrumental dimension. They are no longer just words, but instead they are part of a new pattern of conversation. They might be acted upon, in the sense that they might alter some material reality. If these new actions are supported by those who have the power to authorise the use of resources, openly or covertly, then experiments start. The results of these experiments will form the input to new redundant conversations. As new solutions emerge, there will be further questioning of novel experiments compared to the merits of old solutions that have become routine. If the outcome of experiments becomes a socially accepted "fact" then it will be incorporated in the legitimate pattern of talk in the current activities organisations engage in with the expectation of improving their viability. It is then that these activities become located in precise geographic settings, such as R&D. The process is, thus, self-organising since no one can control the course of conversations, no matter how powerful they are, although they might be able to terminate them. No one can control or shape the output since it is emergent. There is no individual hero at this stage.

However, this process, as it enters a more stable and ordered pattern of interaction tends to be reified and this "hides" the very nature of the process itself. Innovation, is in my view, the new meaning that is the emergent product of the dissipation occurring in conversations characterised by redundant diversity experienced as misunderstanding. The new meaning may be embodied in some new "thing" that is apparently detached from the messy process of its creation.

Furthermore, people tend to become detached from the emergent process of new meaning by their tendency to reconstruct past processes as coherent, logical and individually centred.

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