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only “lateralists” can subvert top-down structures

December 7th, 2014 by dk

Corporations and other large organizations will continue being top-down in structure until they recognize they’re subject to the power of the affine — that’s an esoteric term to describe self-similarity. Because they are top-down in structure, they cannot discern anything but what they know and what they are. Bottom-up might be the aspirant structure, but it cannot provide order and so it is not itself a structure.

The attainable variant is to hire lateralists — those who inhabit only and exclusively a horizontal space, weaving together the vertical hierarchies, but beholden to none of them. The current term of “silo-busters” is itself a verticalist term. Such is the level of subversion required — language can be expected to break down in describing the disruption, or it must adopt the dominant structure to describe the non-dominant impact.

(No, I’m not high. This is how my brain works all the time, I say to my Oregon friends.)

Large organizations (anyone who can hire supposedly “non-essential” personnel) should be hiring a bevy of lateralists. I have no exhaustive list, though one may exist out there. From my narrow perspective, I know of two.

A storyteller can help wonks turn their spreadsheets and “required” data analysis into compelling dramas where the decision-makers play a vital role in the sage. (It’s not what is. It’s what it means.) Some of this requires a showmanship that is counter to what they’ve been hired to demonstrate, but essential to the momentary success.

A game-theory aficionado can help with the day-to-day needs of consensus building and hostage negotiations. You may blanch at the idea that hostage negotiation is never a day-to-day affair, but it is. It’s usually not a person being held hostage, but an idea or an ideal. Having a go-to person on staff who understands the dynamics that emerge in these negotiations can help to achieve the greater good.

When these lateralists are empowered to move between “silos” and use their knowledge and skills when called upon, the top-down model starts to give way to a much more coherent and holistic approach that embraces both the verticality of hierarchy and the horizonality of problem-solving. (For the record, verticality is a word, but horizontality is not — which sort of proves my point.)

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