Managing Hypocrisy

I’ve not yet finished reading Eco’s “The Name of the Rose” – great 14th century murder mystery with philosophers, inquisitors and church leaders thrown in – hard to spot where fact ends and fiction starts … anyway the point is I’ve also just received and started reading the 2nd edition (2002) of Nils Brunsson’s “The Organization of Hypocrisy” (1989).

Only just through the introductory paras, but having read Brunsson’s original “Irrational Organization” I’m already sympathetic to the message. In my Manifesto, and my Dissertation before that, I refer to Chris Argyris’ and Donald Schon’s “Theory in Use” – which I tend to summarise as “What we say, What we do, & What we say we do, are three different things”. The basic hypocrisy often turns up as “political correctness” in what we can say, whatever we intentionally or naturally actually do – with a clear conscience – a necessary lie. The net result is best-laid-plans, written records, and any knowledge learnt from them, can be deadly misleading if you act on them. They are comfortable “rationalisations of the irrational”. Knowledge and learning must be based on action and intent – hence “Theory in Use” & “Action Science”.

Interestingly Brunsson’s preface to the new edition suggests that perhaps he should suspend judgement on whether the hypocrisy was just a feature of society & culture at the time of original publication. Sadly for us all I suspect “it was ever thus” again – nothing new under the sun.

Remember Pinker’s “Baloney Generator”. Innately (by genetic evolution) the left side of our brain is hard-wired to be a spin-doctor, thanks to a long history of memetic / cultural evolution of rationalising the irrational.

Just noticed Brunsson’s subtitle is …
“Talk, Decisions and Actions in Organizations”
which maps very neatly to my own aphorism …
What we say (Talk),
What we say we do (Decisions) &
What we do (Actions) …
being three distinct things.

Looking forward to reading in full.

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