Jungle Warfare, Darwinism, Machiavelli and OD

The birth of OD was rooted in establishing a type of organizational life which would never allow the atrocities of WW2 to occur again, and as such, OD  has a very humanistic bias in its very foundations.

The achievements of OD in establishing a humanistic compass are enormous. And while I believe that Hannah Arendt hit the nail on the head when she claimed how banal evil is, OD does provide a context for preventing certain types of evil from happening again in certain cultures.

But let’s put aside the last war for a moment, and let’s look at the present war. There is basically one dominant economic model –  is global capitalism. Other economic models do exist but they are minor players. Without competition, this dominant economic model gets more hard core, cruel and cut throat. This has impacted the economy and organizational life.

Organizational life is often a cess pool of political intrigue by folks struggling to keep a job by doing everything it takes not to be in the way of the swinging axe of the downsizing department. Everything goes when it is all about survival.

In my experience, jungle warfare within organizations seems to “pay off” by those  skilled in that art. Darwinism is a great key to understanding present organisational politics. And Machiavelli’s insights were never more apt: “Men should be either treated generously or destroyed, because they take revenge for slight injuries – for heavy ones they cannot” comes to mind.

I believe that in order to be relevant, we OD practitioners need to better understand jungle warfare, have a better grasp of Darwin and reread Machiavelli. We need to ask ourselves what can we change, and what can’t we change. And we need to ask ourselves if the solutions we provide suggest going unarmed into the battle ground. If indeed this is the perception of our work, OD has a real problem of being relevant for the present war.

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