Controlling/controlled

Johnnie Moore

I’m Johnnie Moore, and I help people work better together

Wise words from David Weinberger:

When a candidate controls her campaign that means she in fact is being controlled. One coin, two sides. To control is to be controlled.

David’s written a delightful piece for the Harvard Business Review on the perils of accountabilism. Here’s the start; I heartily recommend the whole thing before it goes behind a paywall on Feb 26th.

Accountability has gone horribly wrong. It has become “accountabalism ” the practice of eating sacrificial victims in an attempt to magically ward off evil.

The emphasis on accountability was an understandable response to some god-awful bookkeeping-based scandals. But the notion would never have evolved from a buzzword into the focus of voluminous legislation if we hadn’t also been lured by the myth of precision: Because accountability suggests that there is a right and a wrong answer to every question, it flourishes where we can measure results exactly. It spread to schools—where it is eating our young—as a result of our recent irrational exuberance about testing, which forces education to become something that can be measured precisely.

When such disincentives as the threat of having to wear an orange jumpsuit for eight to ten years didn’t stop the Enron nightmare and other bad things from happening, accountabalism whispered two seductive lies to us: Systems go wrong because of individuals; and the right set of controls will enable us to prevent individuals from creating disasters. Accountabalism is a type of superstitious thinking that allows us to live in a state of denial about just how little control we individuals have over our environment.

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