In a tone equal to that used by Christopher Locke in the Internet Apocalypso, I ask: who the hell is Christopher Locke? Who is this man, talking in an authoritative, sometimes even assertive, manner? I am abhorred: where are the academic sources to support his claims? Where are the dates? The statistics? References?
The Big Bad Corporations
To be fair, he does make a reference to a familiar figure: Frederick Taylor. Locke went on to explain an all too familiar model of Taylor: the model that de-skilled the human worker. He says that this model will not do anymore, as global competition turns its tide at an uncontrollably fast rate. Competitors are sprouting like nasty, crabby mushrooms—and people are beginning to consider the options. Worse for them, they’re beginning to speak up.
Painful though the truth may be, this de-skilling, the command-and-control chain, the monopoly of knowledge are still very real from where I’m standing. These are companies I have personally been in or heard in stories, companies that will have none of what those in the bottom of the organization are thinking. Companies in fairly stable states, so much so that they don’t want their boats rocked. They may soon meet their painful end, but it’s not happening anytime soon.
The Healthy Paradigm
Still, allow me to concede. Locke is right. With the exception of a few stubborn but still unbelievably healthy companies, the Internet has done many a wonder in the market. So wondrous, that people are now able to speak with all the colorful emotions they’ve been gifted. So wondrous, that an invisible connection among the audience—or an active, vocal part of it—has been created. So wondrous, that companies are beginning to lose it.
And by it, Locke means control. This is where it gets real. Companies are one by one chipping in to make their own brand of Intranet: an avenue where employees can discuss and breathe to life the theory that Total Quality Management posits. But there’s a trick: you can only say so much. Management still takes over; you still have to portray brand loyalty; there’s still a limit to what you can express et cetera et cetera et cetera. He doesn’t need to give statistics for his rather bold claims that companies who practice such as obsessive-compulsive and ignorant. The unique experience of this self-confessed unique voice–it matches mine.
What do I do next, Smartypants?
I stop dead on my tracks: Locke is making peace with the same Fortune 500 companies he condemned by ‘loosening up a little’. And as if I can’t get any more aghast, Locke talks about my capacity, our capacity, to express our voice in the Internet—zilch about us, the same reactors to these companies’ products and services, making money and making companies ourselves! Then again, he can only say so little, and I can only do so much. I won’t penalize him for reserving his comments on what I think he should have said. I have, after all, my own unique voice–just like his.
I almost missed the point. No sooner did it dawn on me: Christopher Locke, true to what he’s written, is trying to talk to me in his own unique voice. No statistics, no high-falluting language. He’s trying to ‘strike up a conversation’, true to his idea that markets are conversations. A conversation–the same thing that made him earn publicity for his former company.
Why, Christopher, you could have told me sooner. You can’t blame me for being shocked at your all too self-assured opinions and experiences. You know , one semester of Intercultural studies barely did me any good.
*Christopher Locke, as it turns out, has been named by the Financial Times Group as one of the top 50 Business Thinkers of the World in 2001. The author is glad to have met him.