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Thinking psychoanalytically about desire in organizations - why we need a 3rd epoch


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Psychoanalytic understanding has approached the organization as being like the ego in its pursuit of sovereign autonomy, its inter-subjective discursive practices organizing its work in relation to its markets. The corporate entity has been approached as an a priori. Psychoanalytic understanding has addressed the ways in which individuals take up roles within the life of an organization, but not the ways in which an organization may support a multiplicity of roles one-by-one in the lives of its citizen-clients.
The a priori status of the sovereign corporate entity leads to the unconscious being referred to as descriptively unconscious, ‘below the surface’ of the inter-subjective practices it supports. The implication is that what lies ‘below the surface’ can in principle be made conscious. This repressed unconscious is distinct from the wider compass of the radically unconscious. Distinguishing the repressed from this radically unconscious enables us to establish a ‘beyond’ of the libidinally-invested-in identifications supported by the organization. Defenses against anxiety may thus become defenses against a ‘beyond’ of innovation, through which a posteriori organization might support innovative roles in the lives of its citizen-clients.
We need to understand how a radically unconscious valency for innovation becomes realized. This would enable us to address how individuals might support identifications with an organization when it was itself having to innovate continuously ‘under their feet’. Without such an understanding, we can only expect an organization to betray its citizen-clients through serving its a priori interests to the exclusion of ‘others’.

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Thinking psychoanalytically about desire in organizations - why we need a 3rd epoch

  1. 1. Thinking psychoanalytically about desire in organizations: why we need a third epoch Philip Boxer BSc MBA PhD June 22nd 2018 Dublin Consider the effects of digitalization… Challenges to the 1st & 2nd epochs leading to the need for a 3rd epoch Taking up these challenges in a 3rd epoch Commons Copyright © Philip Boxer 2018 – Attribution-ShareAlike 1
  2. 2. Consider the effects of digitalization… Commons Copyright © Philip Boxer 2018 – Attribution-ShareAlike 2
  3. 3. The promise of multi-sided businesses – it’s all about the ecosystem* • Digital business models involve new ways of creating, delivering and capturing value. • Digital has already upended established industries such as telecoms; transportation; and advertising and media - digital disruption is coming to every industry. • This disruption is fundamentally driven by the rise of platform business models that create new ways of connecting with users, supply chains, new partners and markets. • These models are ‘multi-sided’ (or ‘nonlinear’), enabled by the rise of ‘platforms’ enabling various players to connect in unique ways. • One-sided (or linear) businesses imply a single dominance of the consumer base. Multi-sided businesses aren’t just about a new route to market but about being a part player in a bigger picture where cooperation is the name of the game. • This means no big bangs: • Developing an ecosystem beneficial to all to some degree and building and testing your way into the ecosystem regardless of whether you are the creator or just a participant. * Source: Commons Copyright © Philip Boxer 2018 – Attribution-ShareAlike 3
  4. 4. Platform Strategies And Economics will reshape parts of every industry* • In ‘Platform Economies’ you integrate forward to embed services into your customer’s world. 1. Serve your customers one by one, and learn to love their problems. 2. Then learn suppliers’ problems, and solve them, too. 3. Learn and rapidly adapt to your customers’ needs with a digital connection to customers and suppliers. * Source: Commons Copyright © Philip Boxer 2018 – Attribution-ShareAlike 4
  5. 5. Re-thinking customer journeys* • The next-generation operating model • organizing efforts around the end-to-end customer journeys by identifying the critical journeys and where there is end-to-end value. • moving away from individual technologies and siloed operations capabilities to aligning them to these journeys in combination and in the right sequence. • combining a bunch of technologies and operational levers in a tailored sequence and integrated way to get stacked wins for companies in terms of customer experience, significant reduction in cost, and better positioning for growth. • Building a next-generation operating model • Needs active leadership from the top because it is core, touching so many parts of the organization - IT, operations, marketing, supply chain, everything. • Need to really understand what are the most important customer journeys and what are the most significant pain points that will add value. *Source: customer-journeys-with-the-next-generation-operating-model Commons Copyright © Philip Boxer 2018 – Attribution-ShareAlike 5 **Source: Hientz, H., H.-J. Kugler, B. Maag and D. Strube (2017). Digital Capabilities for Automotive Innovators 2030: Software Drives. Kornwestheim, Kugler Maag Cie GmbH. 2. • Another example**
  6. 6. A VUCA world order: Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, Ambiguity* • Customers will no longer purchase vehicles as a physical product; they will buy mobility solutions • Connected vehicles will form part of a system of systems (SoS) within their environment. • This will represent a fundamental change for vehicle development. • Manufacturers will no longer be in a position to specify each and every function over the lifetime of a car. • The functions will have to be based on an open SoS, developed within an ecosystem of different producers within their separate sectors of industry. • This ecosystem for continuous service provision will change and expand more or less rapidly depending on how advanced or mature any given service is. • The key to change will not so much be the technology as the company culture agile enough to work with different partners within a dynamic value network. • responding to rapid market changes, becoming a learning organisation, offering an attractive workplace for knowledgeable workers, and working effectively in complex ecosystems to adopt a variety of roles as a value contributor. Commons Copyright © Philip Boxer 2018 – Attribution-ShareAlike * Stiehm, Judith Hicks (2010) The U.S. Army War College: Military Education in a Democracy. (p6) Temple University Press, Philadelphia. 6
  7. 7. But… • The effects of digitalization are engendering new kinds of challenge to our ISPSO community in how we work with our clients: • Don’t just ask what your organization can do for you, or even what you can do for your organization. • Ask instead what you and your organization can do for its citizen-clients… • Organizations have to be able to support multiple primary tasks as the nature and tempo of clients’ demands for value diverge and accelerate. • These effects are also being accompanied by a number of unwelcome side-effects… Commons Copyright © Philip Boxer 2018 – Attribution-ShareAlike 7
  8. 8. The side-effects… • The corporate entities that have benefited from you-can-be-what-you-choose ideologies offering one-sided ‘market choices’ are in long-term decline • With diminishing gains from globalized outsourcing, and • technology-fueled de-layering of management. • “Business increasingly has been viewed as a major cause of social, environmental, and economic problems. Companies are widely perceived to be prospering at the expense of the broader community.” (Porter 2011) Commons Copyright © Philip Boxer 2018 – Attribution-ShareAlike 8 Porter, M. E. and M. R. Kramer (2011). "Creating Shared Value: How to reinvent capitalism - and unleash a wave of innovation and growth." Harvard Business Review(January-February): 2-17. • The resultant long-term stagnation in average incomes in the West has fed growing political outrage • even while digitalization has steadily increased the power of the citizen-client to choose. • But to choose between what and what in the face of one-sided choices? • This long-term stagnation reflects the one-sidedness of defensive organizational ‘cultures’ • It is accompanied by intensifying political tribalism, institutionalized racism, discriminatory behaviors towards women.
  9. 9. Challenges to the 1st & 2nd epochs* leading to the need for a 3rd epoch Commons Copyright © Philip Boxer 2018 – Attribution-ShareAlike 9 * Gabriel, Y. (2016). Psychoanalysis and the study of organization. The Routledge Companion to Philosophy in Organization Studies. R. Mir, H. Willmott and M. Greenwood. London, Routledge: 212-225.
  10. 10. 1st Epoch: ‘psychoanalyzing organizations’ • Practiced as systems psychodynamics • subject to the metaphor that an enterprise can be approached as being like an individual’s ego in its pursuit of sovereign autonomy Commons Copyright © Philip Boxer 2018 – Attribution-ShareAlike 10 * Armstrong, D. (2012). "Terms of Engagement: Looking Backwards and Forwards at the Tavistock Enterprise." Organisational & Social Dynamics 12(1): 106-121. • brings together* • Bion’s explorations of basic-assumption group mentality, • Eric Trist’s socio-technical breakthrough, • Fred Emery’s introduction of open system theory, • Ken Rice’s development of the concept of primary task, and • Elliott Jaques’ and Isabel Menzies’ account of social systems as a defense against anxiety. • Its primary task is to better understand the covert meaning of organisational behaviour, and thereby understand the deeper and unconscious challenges faced by leadership.
  11. 11. Source: Fig 2-1 on the Management Challenge: Systems Engineering Guide for Systems of Systems, OSD, Version 1.0 August 2008. A collaboration between actors aka a network Supporting system-of-system platforms Superposition of many collaborations Simultaneous care pathways Support The care system has to be able to manage many different things at the same time 1st Challenge: responding to clients one-by-one means sustaining multiple primary tasks • A network is a collaboration, the nature of which will be determined by the way its actors understand what the network’s client wants aka what is the client’s demand. • The networked actors can be spread across multiple organizations within an ecosystem. • The actors participating in the network define the way they want their collaboration to be supported by the platform. • For this to be possible, the supporting platform has to be able to support multiple simultaneous networks aka ‘superposed’ networks. Commons Copyright © Philip Boxer 2018 – Attribution-ShareAlike 11 v2
  12. 12. 2nd Challenge: needing to address the effects of inter-subjectivity • Taken up within the practice of socioanalysis • Psychoanalysis linked to systems thinking in order to explore individuals, groups, organizations, and society, added to which is the associative unconscious, which is as vital to understanding socioanalytic phenomena as the repressed unconscious. Commons Copyright © Philip Boxer 2018 – Attribution-ShareAlike 12 “The more we move from ideas of the personal unconscious toward ideas of a level of cultural unconscious, the more we require conceptions that understand social and cultural mores and “agreements” as serving actively defensive as well as simply tacit functions. Unconscious process occurs not simply in a social context but forms the fabric of social symbolic processes.” Long, S. (2006). "Organizational Defenses Against Anxiety: What Has Happened Since the 1995 Jaques Paper?" International Journal of Applied Psychoanalytic Studies 3(4): 279-295. Long, S. and M. Harney (2013). The associative unconscious. Socioanalytic Methods: Discovering the Hidden in Organisations and Social Systems. S. Long. London, Karnac: 3-22. • The associative unconscious is a formulation of the unconscious as a mental network of thoughts, signs, and symbols or signifiers, able to give rise to many feelings, impulses and images, implicate but not yet conscious. • This network is both between people and within each of them, its boundary not coinciding with the boundary of the individual.
  13. 13. 2nd Epoch: ‘studying organizations psychoanalytically’ – ideology and the social Other • This ‘fabric of social symbolic processes’ may be taken up in terms of the performativity of speech, drawing for its effects on different kinds of thirdness: • Performativity as constituted through citation of an authorizing context (Derrida, Butler) • Performativity as bringing theory into being through actor-networks (Callon, MacKenzie, Muniesa). • Performativity as socio-materiality ‘mattering’ through the entanglement of theorizing with realising (Barad). • Performativity places particular emphasis on the use of critical and interpretive approaches to the effects of language, • its major characteristic being the central importance it gives to subjectivity and inter- subjectivity. • In bringing psychoanalytic understanding into dialogue with the social sciences, philosophy, discourse analysis, literary criticism and rhetoric, • The performativity of speech is understood as drawing its effects from an Other. Commons Copyright © Philip Boxer 2018 – Attribution-ShareAlike 13
  14. 14. 3rd Challenge: how is this social Other to be understood psychoanalytically? • What is the relation between a ‘personal’ and a ‘cultural’ unconscious? • “Social defences are not only intrapsychic structures shared by different covalent individuals as first delineated by Jaques and Menzies. […] Just as linguistic structure and lexicon derives not from the individual who speaks or writes, but from the whole of the common language community, so social structures, some of which are defensive, belong to the Symbolic level of a community.” (Long, 2006) • In being subject to culture, primarily through language, one is subject to the Symbolic field. This is what Lacan also terms the big “Other”. (Long, 2008) Jutel, O. (2018). Post-Politics and Psychosis: The Crisis of American Liberalism’. Routledge Handbook of Psychoanalytic Political Theory. Y. Stavrakakis. London, Routledge. Zizek, S. (2016). "Can one Exit from The Capitalist Discourse Without Becoming a Saint?" Crisis and Critique 3(3). Commons Copyright © Philip Boxer 2018 – Attribution-ShareAlike 14 Long, S. (2006). "Organizational Defenses Against Anxiety: What Has Happened Since the 1995 Jaques Paper?" International Journal of Applied Psychoanalytic Studies 3(4): 279-295. Long, S. (2008) The Perverse Organisation and its Deadly Sins. London: Karnac. • The basis of the relation to this big ‘Other’ is perverse • “It is the national security state that functions as the Big Other called upon to reinstitute truth.” (Jutel, forthcoming) • The liberal resistance claims access to the big Other of the state, disavowing the lack or ‘the ambiguity of act directly as the instrument of the big Other’s will’ (Žižek, 2016).
  15. 15. Taking up these challenges in a 3rd epoch • responding to clients one-by-one by sustaining multiple primary tasks. • needing to address the effects of inter-subjectivity. • Understanding this social Other psychoanalytically. Commons Copyright © Philip Boxer 2018 – Attribution-ShareAlike 15
  16. 16. What more do we need to ask of a 3rd epoch? • In going beyond the 1st and 2nd epochs, Gabriel* pointed towards new developments in neuroscience and the growing interest in Lacanian approaches. * Gabriel, Y. (2016). Psychoanalysis and the study of organization. The Routledge Companion to Philosophy in Organization Studies. R. Mir, H. Willmott and M. Greenwood. London, Routledge: 212-225. Commons Copyright © Philip Boxer 2018 – Attribution-ShareAlike • Without this repressed/radically unconscious distinction, there can be no ‘beyond’ of the libidinally-invested-in perverse identifications supported by an organization’s structures. • This ‘beyond’ is the subject’s relation to a radically unconscious ‘lack’ – drive constituted by the relation to structural lack in a radically unconscious Other. • The organization need to work with the subject’s doubly subjection to the social Other and to a radically unconscious Other. 16 ** Solms, M. and J. Panksepp (2012). "The “Id” Knows More than the “Ego” Admits: Neuropsychoanalytic and Primal Consciousness Perspectives on the Interface Between Affective and Cognitive Neuroscience." Brain Science 2: 147-175. • New developments in neuroscience** underpin the distinct nature and influence of a radically unconscious, a distinction lost by referring to the unconscious only descriptively as ‘below the surface’ of inter-subjectively shared consciousness. • Freud’s distinction between the repressed unconscious and the wider compass of a radically unconscious is present in Lacan’s work, between the small-s symbolic social Other and a radically unconscious big-S Symbolic Other.
  17. 17. Working with this double subjection: three moments1 and two crises2 17 3 … which starts a new cycle •1st moment: “the instant of the glance “I can do this job.” Commons Copyright © Philip Boxer 2017 – Attribution-ShareAlike 1 Three moments from Lacan, J. (2006 [1966]). Logical Time and the Assertion of Anticipated Certainty: A New Sophism. Écrits: The First Complete Edition in English. New York, W.W. Norton & Co. 2 “I’m stuck. I can’t see a way forward here that doesn’t put into question why I took the job in the first place.” •2nd Crisis: I’ll never get there like this “I am going to have to work at finding a way to deal with this situation.” •2nd moment: “a time for understanding “uh oh – this is not going to be so easy.” •1st Crisis: It’s not going to be so obvious Involves a question(ing) of the relation to drive/lack aka repetition Accepting the stated problem/challenge and hoping that the existing approach will work. Realising that the approach will not work on its own. Getting to grips with the details of the particular situation and adapting the approach to make it work. Realising that there is a fundamental limitation to the approach aka there’s a gap. The person(s) involved put themselves ‘on the line’ in some way by acting to address the underlying gap/ lack3 that has emerged … •3rd moment: “a moment to conclude”
  18. 18. The question(ing) of the relation to drive/lack: the dialogue with that radically Other voice* 1. How could you think this has anything to do with you? It’s not your problem. But I feel this really needs dealing with! But I can’t just stand by and do nothing! I must try to do something. * Didier-Weil, A. (1979). Chapter IX: May 8th 1979 - Nouvelle théorie du Surmoi. The Seminars of Jacques Lacan Book XXVI - Topology and Time. J. Lacan. unpublished, Private. Commons Copyright © Philip Boxer 2018 – Attribution-ShareAlike 3. You realise there could be real consequences for you if you try and do something about this? 2. Who do you think you are? You really think you are going to be able to solve this? Leave it to those who know best. 18 There is a pleasure for you in your displeasure. Leave it to them and turn a blind eye. You can’t let it cost you personally.
  19. 19. Working with desire in organizations • Being edge-driven • Multi-sided demand means focusing on the other’s desire, and • driving the organization from its edges where it meets this other. • Working with unconscious valencies • Forensic methods of working within ecosystems to uncover possibilities • Re-framing through enabling a circulation of discourses within the libidinal economy of the organization • Developing tripartite leadership • The ethic of working with a double challenge (vertical and horizontal) • Triple-loop learning driven by relation to the situation of the client Commons Copyright © Philip Boxer 2018 – Attribution-ShareAlike 19
  20. 20. End 20
  21. 21. Horizontal linkages to particular clients’ contexts-of-use disrupt existing domain of relevance surface Commons Copyright © Philip Boxer 2018 – Attribution-ShareAlike An organization supports identifications by the way it knots together three ‘surfaces’ 21 Vertical accountabilities for use of capabilities constrain the way the surfaces are knotted the ‘WHO- for-WHOM’ the ‘HOW’ the ‘WHY’ the ‘WHAT’ primary task surface 1st surface: Relation to all the possible direct behaviors domain of relevance surface 2nd surface: Relation to the traces arising from direct and indirect behaviors primary risk surface 3rd surface: Relation to the value deficits of clients Multi-sided alliance* with client’s relation to their desire Affiliation* to one-sided model of demand * Boxer, P. J. (1999). The dilemmas of ignorance. What is a Group? A fresh look at theory in practice. C. Oakley. London, Rebus Press: 147-168.
  22. 22. End 22