Speech rituals

Alex Kjerulf has a rare rant against Fast Company’s celebration of the provocative approach to management of Fernando Flores.

I don’t know what’s worse – the awful methods Flores employs; the fawning tone in the Fast Company article which makes him sound like a corporate superhero swooping in to save business in trouble; or the fact that he charges companies millions of dollars for his assistance.

To me this is one of the most disgusting business practices I’ve ever heard of. I’m all for honesty and openness but that is obviously NOT what Flores is preaching.

It’s hard to judge an approach by Fast Company’s treatment of it, but like any model, technique or philosophy, Flores’ notion of speech acts is open to abuse. Like Alex, I’m wary of scripted interventions and even more so of management hero-worship.

I’m also interested in the way we use language and I think Flores is on an interesting scent when he challenges managers. Politeness can be over-rated in conversations. Unfortunately, Flores’ own approach can just as easily ossify into a ritual. As the mystics say, the tao that can be named is not the tao.

The other interesting thing about Alex’s piece is the vociferous debate in the comments. I liked it a lot. Apart from anything else, I think it’s a fitting counterblast to ideas that as a species we can usefully agree on an explicit set of rules by which to conduct our conversations.

1 thought on “Speech rituals

  1. Matt Moore

    We do love our charismatic saviours with their simple theories of human behaviour.

    I suspect that Flores’ technique is very much bound up with his personality – so I’m not sure if it transfers well to a codified “method”.

    Flores does sound like an interesting character – tho his vision of honesty seems very macho – I can imagine him being played by Jack Nicholson in the biopic (“you want the truth? etc”).

    The language of “commitments” seems to be common in business at the moment – altho they seem to be used in a one-sided way – by managers to beat up subordinates. There’s a lack of reciprocation.

    And this may go for the “politeness” thing too. Many bosses want honesty from their subordinates – but they don’t want to be told anything bad.


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