Human-Size Corporations

I've been reading the book Voluntary Simplicity by Duane Elgin.  The book is about sustainability, but in a holistic sense--one that starts with our own personal choices.  Not just about using compact flourescent light bulbs or recycling, but where we choose to live, how we work and what we own.

In the "living simply" chapter, Elgin expresses an idea I'd never considered before--mostly because I didn't think it was possible.
Simplicity is also manifest in more human-size places of employment.  Many people work within massive bureaucracies: huge corporations, vast government agencies, enormous educational institutions, sprawling medical complexes.  These workplaces have grown so large and so complex that they are virtually incomprehensible both to those who work within them and to those who are served by them.  Not surprisingly, the occupations that often emerge from these massive organizations tend to be routinized, specialized and stress-producing.  Simplicity in this setting implies a change in favor of more human-size workplaces, by redesigning organizations so they are of more compehensible size and manageable complexity.  By consciously creating workplaces that encourage meaningful involvement and personal responsibility, the rampant alienation, boredom and emptiness of work could be greatly reduced.
I work in a human-size place of employment.  There is personal responsibility because if you drop a ball, you know the person that it falls on. But I also deliberately sought that out. I've worked in a large corporate machine before and I always felt like I was playing a game where no one would tell me the rules. 

What I didn't think about was what these machines--which provide the lifestyle of a majority of the people we know--do to the soul.  Yet when your job feeds and houses you and there is no way to opt out. Moreover, we've become so specialized that few of us can pack up and work somewhere else.

I'm not sure what the answer is, but I do believe a reingineering of corporate America is inevitable.  With the web providing tools that allow small companies to function like large ones, maybe the shift to smaller is possible.

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© Random Cathy
Maira Gall