Thinking in new boxes

Posted: December 1, 2014 in cultural commentary
Tags: , , , , ,

I love writing for a living. Despite that, I’ll occasionally have a bit of a moan about the work, especially my monthly gig writing management theory articles. But the truth is, I enjoy thinking a bit about management, for the same reason that I watch some YouTube shows about computer games, even though I hardly ever play computer games.

It’s because of the other issues they bring up.

Both computer games and management are, in different ways and for different reasons, fairly new areas of study. Management theory has a few more decades under its belt, but neither was considered a serious subject of study a hundred years ago,* and some people still don’t treat them seriously now – my dad is endlessly surprised to hear that I can find six management topics a month to write about, despite the huge wealth of books, blogs and academic departments dedicated to the subject.

This makes these fields fertile areas for innovative thinking. There are relatively clear lines drawn around maths, history, English and other traditional disciplines. Cross-disciplinary work exists, but the central core is fairly solid and stable. Management and computer games, on the other hand, are built around borrowing ideas from other disciplines and mashing them together to see what works. That means they also produce insights that can be useful for other areas. For example, the recent furore over gender representation in computer games raises serious questions about what is and isn’t acceptable in society at large, about what free speech means and about how people respond to change.

This means that, when I sit down to read the Harvard Business Review blog or watch an episode of PBS Game/Show, there’s a decent chance that I’ll stumble across something that’ll inspire me in other areas of my life, and that will be interesting not because of the small extent to which I’m into management or computer games, but just because I’m a human being and this stuff is inherently fascinating. Sure, sometimes there’ll be things I don’t care about, like an interview with a hedge fun manager or a talk about why the Mario franchise is popular. But more often than not, I’ll find something that justifies the time.

I like that we have these fluid, open areas of our culture, and I suspect that they’re capable of faster innovation than more traditional fields. But most of all, I’m just glad there’s so much interesting stuff in the world. And if the stuff I’ve said has got you even a little intrigued then go browse the Game/Show videos, look for a title that sounds interesting, and give it a watch. They’re usually 5-10 minutes, and often get into fascinating areas of psychology and cultural theory. Great stuff.

 

* Yes, I know, one of them didn’t even exist then, and that feeds into my point.

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Comments
  1. Multiple books simply means that a lot of people want to know or don’t understand within one persons wordings, if we all looked to one persons perspective we’d never “learn” anything.

    • That’s an interesting point, and I think there’s a lot of truth in it. But doesn’t multiple books also imply disagreements about how to approach something? Lack of understanding isn’t the only reason for a different perspective.

      • True, though the thousands of books telling us the same information such as basic scientific ones certainly seem to suffer from personal presentations rather than disagreements.

        Everybody does love to try and argue their point on things that aren’t provable or easy to generalise, see the thousands of relationship advice columns, books and magazines that exist.

  2. Wayne Halm says:

    Aloha Andrew,
    I had no idea!! Writing about Management must be as thankless as being a Manager. The only thing I can think of little more frustrating than being a Manager is being a Writer. After four years of Management Studies and sixteen years of practice I walked away believing the only constant concept there is The Peter Principle.
    Of course I walked away to become a Writer – I must be one truly sick puppy.
    Bless you lad.
    A Hui Hou,
    Wayne

    • Oh yes, I served my time in the office trenches, and have the qualifications to remember it by. And like you I turned my back on it to become a writer, which to my mind is a far healthier occupation. Or maybe I’m just to sick to realise what ails me!

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