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Who Can I Talk To And Where Can I Go?

When I discovered and learned it, I automatically subscribed to the simple but profound principle of POSIWID: the “Purpose Of a System Is What It Does” (not what its stewards say it does). Because of this belief in POSIWID, I’ve always been highly skeptical of supreme experts and people in positions of anointed authority. Almost without fail, and sometimes unconsciously, many of these elites have internally motivated, self-serving agendas while externally offering up their vaunted expertise to “help” you and me. According to POSIWID, their purpose is to serve themselves first, while projecting the appearance of serving others first.

As Daniel Kahneman and other behavioral economics practitioners have discovered, people have an innate tendency to fall prey to the “confirmation bias“. The confirmation bias is where you and I take to heart any and all evidence that we’re “right” on a strongly held belief while ignoring any and all evidence to the contrary. Thus, in order to reinforce my deeply held disdain for supreme experts/authorities, I’ve read all of Nassim Taleb’s books along with these two:

wrong book covers

All of the aforementioned books are jam packed full of examples in many domains (medical, financial, political, business, academia) where experts and authorities royally fucked up and negatively impacted the physical and material lives of thousands or millions of people. It wouldn’t be so bad if the perpetrators suffered mightily along with their victims as a result of their own expert bullshit, but it’s galling when they escape unscathed. It’s particularly outrageous when incompetent gurus gain while their constituents lose big.

The most recent egregious example of elites winning big at the expense of the multitude is when Wall St. bankers kept getting bonuses (in order to, uh, retain “talent“) while common people were going bankrupt as a result of their “expert” actions during the 2008 crisis. Even today, six years later, not a single financial big wig was stripped of his/her wealth and/or tossed in jail as a result of his dumbass, irresponsible decisions. Another good example is when an “expert” CEO gets tossed a big golden parachute after being booted out of the company he/she crippled. Applying POSIWID to these types of systems results in:

The purpose of a profit seeking institution is to enrich its elites without regard to the impact of its behavior on the well being of any of its other internal and external stakeholders.

I’d love to explore the flip side of this particular belief, which is the “Purpose Of A System Is What It Says It Does“, but who can I talk to and where can I go to read about it?

  1. March 29, 2014 at 4:01 am

    POSIWID is my favourite ever acronym. It is so powerful, and using it pulls back the concept of purpose away from experts and powerful. Love it, it even sounds nice when you say it out loud.

  2. Dick Danjin
    March 29, 2014 at 4:10 am

    A great example is the current ,yet to fully unfold GM recall dilemma.GM has the Global Manufacturing System(well over 10 years old) in concert with the UAW-GM Quality Network,that has 39 action strategies that was giver birth 28 years ago.I was on the original design group,the GM people in that group rejected any inclusion of Demings work as such the reason being that Deming had publicly alienated Roger Smith the CEO of GM.

    What it says it does” would that not be the organization chart or what I would call the “clockwork organization” yet when we look at the chart we all know that is not how the place really runs,some refer to that as the “white spaces between the boxes”

    So what do we call that “other” and where is the organization chart for this other and what is it’s POSIWID.I have a professor friend and he terms it the “snake pit ” organization.

    This “snake pit” as opposed to the “clockworks not a pragmatic set of boxes void of the human dynamic.Rather it is a process that is nothing but the human dynamic.

    • March 29, 2014 at 4:28 am

      Sad, but not at all unexpected, that GM would ignore Deming cuz he pissed off King Roger.

      The org chart is a great example of “the purpose of a system is what it says it does”. I wish I thought of it!

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