27 February 2006

"Er" or "Ward": On Orientation

Language, of course, conveys subtleties and nuances that express specific and particular meaning - as McLuhan says, "The “right” word is not the one that names the thing but the word that gives the effect of the thing." So I mediatated a while on whether the orientation dimension of organizational effectiveness should be expressed as "inward-outward" or "inner-outer"; the latter won.

According to Google searches on the combinations of "inward/outward orientation" versus "inner/outer orientation," the "wards" have it by two orders of magnitude. That in itself would tend to favour the "ers" in my judgment. But there is a more nuanced consideration.

"Orientation" can refer to an adjustment or adaptation to a new environment, a direction followed, a tendency of thought, or the act or state of alignment in a particular direction. Rather than asking the question of "in which way" is an organization adjusting, or "in which direction" is an organization aligning, I would choose to ask, "where is the location" of the adjustment or alignment? Where are their people's (management and non-management) heads at? Has the organization created an anti-environment that allows them to conceive of themselves (and the effects they create) "in relation" to their total environment - an act that necessitates their people coming out of their own concerns and cognitively locating elsewhere, so that they can reperceive themselves?

I would hazard a guess that, while there may be many organizations with an outward orientation, there are likely precious few, if any, with a predominantly outer orientation. And those are the ones in which I'm interested.
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1 comment:

Mark Federman said...

I guess it's a fortuitous McLuhanian slip! But it works.

Reminds me of the story of how the book, The Medium is the Massage got its name. The original title of the book was to be The Medium is the Message, but the typesetter had made a mistake on the front page. When McLuhan saw the galley proofs, he realized that the inadvertent error provided a great probe, and the eventual title of his post-Understanding Media collage of ideas.