Socrates in the land of processes : a praise for enterprise common sense


Following the many laudatory feedbacks I had about the book, I recently read “Socrate au pays des process” (Socrates in the land of processes) by Julia De Funès.

Ok, the book is only available in French but it does not matter : I”m only going to discuss some points it raises and that’s worth being discussed.

Obviously, the opposition stated by the title between what is often seen as a cold, irrational and illogical thing and the wisdom of the philosopher caught my attention. As a matter of fact having an offbeat standpoint on that matter makes sense and should even nurture our reflexion. Not because the idea of process is disputable but because they way it’s been implemented often looks like the opposite of common sense.

Caricaturing the enterprise from a philosopher standpoint

If fact the title is quite misleading because if processes is the first point tackled in the book, it’s followed by all the trendy concepts and buzzword of the enterprise culture and worklife. So the book is about processes, big data, concepts like dealines, leadership etc. Even if far from being comprehensive, the author tackles some strong cornerstones that, let’s admit it, nearly everyone likes to point at to show how absurd life in a business may be.

So the book is made of series of short chapters, each dealing quickly with a matter. Each one can be read independently from the rest and the whole can be read in 1h.

Philosophy rather than humor

As a reader and knowing how absurd some very popular concepts may be, I would have expected an homoristic approach but…not. The author starts with a very realistic scene that can happen any business every day and deals with it with a philosophical standpoint, relying on the concepts of the greatest philosophers. It’s nice but in the end something is missing. It’s like listening to a philosopher doing an editorial on societal or business issues on the radio. A 5 minutes chronicle is funny, an 1hr one would be more than boring.

So her thinking is relevant and well documented, unbearable but I’m missing something that would have make me smile or even laugh. Julia De Funès has been serious. Too serious.

The enterprise is a fictional that borders on absurdity

But with a closer look, it’s obvious that the author nails exactly at was it wrong in nearly every business. She should have said what all us say when we face such situations in our worklife : what rubbish !

At work we have too often the feeling that we’re living in a fictional : rules no one can explain because they’ve been lasting for too long, the impression that the Company (with a upper case C” is an entity of its own, out of time, with rules and codes no human people set and to which everyone must comply with and employees that are consenting actors in this scenario while, when they see it from the outside say : “there’s no logic there”.

A fictional, but a fictional where everyone plays a character. Where people state their job title out loud and disclose their name in a sough. Where long and unproductive meetings are the theatre where we can see who can force others to lose their time by forcing them to attend meetings they have nothing to do in, produce reports about things everybody wrote etc.

A fictional where we all play very seriously a character we  consider as a dramatic one while we consider the same character humoristic when we watch others playing the same play.

And the fictional nature of corporate behaviors may be my biggest take from the book.

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