Death and the organisation - stories from beyond the grave

In society and in organisation, death is the great taboo, the greatest fuck-up of all and the one to be feared most. Yet, strangely, life seems to go after death. Even more strangely, there is evidence to suggest that embracing the certainty of death allows life to flow more fully.

In this session we will exchange stories, fears, ideas and questions around death in an organisational context. What does it mean to us? What is our experience of it? What can we learn from it?

The session will be held by Patrick. As an activist and former corporate lawyer, he has a particular interest in how embracing death in an organisation can lead to new ways of more resilient, network-like organising.

Come and play!

Date: 2016-02-27 11:00:00 - 2016-02-27 11:00:00, Europe/London Time.


Love this

And mean to participate, compatibly with my responsibilities in the care track. Would this a good place to share organisational failures in, er, our own organisation? wink

no taboos

Yes, Alberto, I would certainly be open to us sharing our own recent experience of failures. We have some good ones :slight_smile:


We certainly do laugh

I’m so in! Great topic - so much to share and learn! :slight_smile:

death unfails

Not sure how much it would fit in this session (if fitting at all), and yet this made me think of Capsula Mundi.

It is a quite old project, presented at Salone Satellite (Milan) in 2003, but I just found that a refreshed interest is awakening again (which motivated the authors to revamp the website).

The main concept is not new, but the way it’s turned into product and then communicated deserves some attention, I believe

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Nice as a metaphor

Thanks - I like this. Something about the new growing on the breakdown of the old.

Beyond the metaphor

I appreciated the symbolic implication of the project, too. And yet the aspect of it which always caght me the most is another one (sadly, it is less clear in their re-factored website).

In an old brochure, the authors presented their project by offering an original (shrewd in my opinion) vision: they considered the implications of certain “burial practices”, in terms of use of common spaces and the sustainability of it.

While still remaining in the domain of analogies, I find interesting to think about what (virtual and physical) spaces dead organizations keep occupying, what such spaces represent and how they can be transformed into something else, in a turnover which is factual (in addition to being symbolic) and which frames both dead and newborn organizations in a better-functioning metabolism (or lifecycle).

Do dead organizations produce “waste” (not necessarily, nor exclusively as a material output)? Is it something which can be re-used, re-factored or anyway re-injected into the system, in order to feed new realities being born?

Also, there’s maybe something to learn in observing living organization manufacturing dead products (like this, as an extremely literal example).

Again, I’m totally unsure that such concepts might be on topic: they might be either too materialistic or too abstract (depending on the interpretation), or just too far from the main objective of the session.

I just thought they could offer some useful insights, in contexts which are less commonly associated to the platonic idea of organization.

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My two cents

Thanks for sharing the link to Capsula Mundi: weird to read about something that seems so far off from current traditions, and yet common sense.

It seems people here are more interested in what happens after we fail, rather than the failing itself… so it will be up to @Patrick_Andrews to decide on the angle so we get the most out of the session. My preference would be for something narrower that we are asked to share so we have enough time to think of ways to unfail from death or “waste” in MoE’s inspired choice of word.

About startups, someone tweeted earlier today something that made me think of their inherently temporary pass - “A “startup” is the long tail of Surveillance Capitalism; a Silicon Valley brand. It’s a temporary structure that takes VC, dies, or is sold.” Also, when my little sis told me she got hired in a tech startup, but that said startup is 10 years old and keeps expanding, I didn’t really understand how it can still be in startup mode. “the startup condition” seems to be an ill one, when it keeps strangling founders for achieving growth faster, more efficiently and under stricter conditions. maybe I dont understand the terminology, the concept seems abused. To add to the interesting mix of morbidity in this thread…

Learning from Failures| What dead startups tell us about…us

Hi everyone,

Really like this topic and am getting inspired to put forward something I have been working on in case anyone is interested in playing.

I’m obsessed with the African startup scene for several reasons- the main one being that it is a great way to learn about what is really happening in African societies. E.g. if a food home delivery grows successful, it says something about the food culture/habits in the market where it operates. I suppose the same applies to startups which fail to take off (once you take into account things like lack of access to sufficient financing etc).

I had been researching he possibility of building some kind of mailing list which is dedicated to closing of startups when I came across this post:

One way in which this could be done is by setting up a kind of recruitment agency specialising in people who have worked on failed startups. Because they have valuable skills and lessons that others in new setups could avoid expensive mistakes by learning from.

Anyone up for prototyping something like this at LOTE5?

Just came across an interesting story related to death.

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It’s a startup until…

it can run on its own income.  Most never make it that far.  My wife has worked for a bunch of failed startups.  Many got a nice chunk of funding, overspent early, ran out of funds and folded up.  What I observed in many of them was too much confidence and not enough attention to preventing the many ways the funds just leak out like holes in a boat.  Rent someplace too expensive.  Hire too many people.  Buy too much equipment.  Market it before it really works right.  Things like that.

Also, to receive VC money means in most cases allowing them to decide how the company will be run, and by whom.  Many startups are the brainchild of someone with a good idea and prototyping skills but not much business sense.