Tag Archives: Anthropology

Video

Mid-life Crisis Royale

Let’s say you’re contemplating whether you or a loved one is currently experiencing a ‘mid-life crisis,” and you’re wondering why that is, what that means, and who came up with the concept anyway.

The Royal Society has your back. Just be prepared for some very British references.

Keeping on brand, the lecture is over 40 minutes, but not over 60.

Honestly, based on the level of research Professor Mark Jackson has put into this, I’d be interested in a much longer lecture or series of lectures, but it’s still quite interesting.

They also have a brief Q&A video which, thankfully, is not tedious due to actual questions and answers.

Jobs Expanding to fit the Pointlessness

If you’ve wondered what the point of some jobs are — and if, in fact, there seem to be more jobs out there trying to “maximize innovative enterprise solutions” or just “realize value,” you’re not alone.

What’s worse is realizing you might be in one of those positions and then pondering what you can possibly do within the confines of that meaninglessness. (Though I suppose some people long for that.)

Why, you could put things on top of other things!

Over at the Washington Post, Jena McGregor talks with anthropologist David Graeber about his work exploring the societal and economic consequences of pointless jobs.

Besides the “Brazilian” fascination with the topic, I’ve been doing project and program management for about 20 years — a prime suspect for pointless work. As I explain to people from time to time, the level of meaning and satisfaction from my jobs varies greatly on the work culture and management where I work.

The contract where I updated a spreadsheet three times a day and had meetings about it was neither fulfilling nor, I would argue, very useful to anyone. It’s not like anyone got insight from the minutely updated spreadsheet or any bonuses from attending meetings. My management was unconvinced and, frankly, rather hostile to any process improvements.

Contrast that with a job where the manager said the first day, “No process is sacred, including our own.” And true to form, we updated one central business process no less than three times in three years — all to get people more engaged and meetings more consequential. I’ve also been in positions to happily eliminate thousands of hours’ worth of meetings from peoples schedules every year and set up intranet sites that (gasp) answer people’s questions without them ever needing to contact me about some previously inscrutable topic.

Reducing net headaches for hundreds of people — including those you’ll never meet — is immensely satisfying. But as Sam Lowry would attest, the bureaucracy resists simplification or clarity. So channel your inner Tuttle and watch out for Jack Lint.