The professor, an economist, made a joke. It was about economists, and the routine instruction to “assume away” variables. Though I don’t remember the actual joke, I remember our laughter in the classroom. And the powerful truth his joke conveyed about business decisions: we’d always be acting under assumptions.
As business school students, our work would be evaluated based on the soundness of our (fictional) decisions. So we learned to state our assumptions -- and what we’d be assuming away.
Political risk. Extreme climate events. Disruption in reproductive rights.
In my work life — and here — I’m pretty careful. What do I know, for sure? Who can help me in/validate my assumptions; what should I ask them? What’s opinion, and what's fact?
Over the last couple of years, I’ve spent some time considering the nature of competence. (I wrote about it, too.) We don’t know what we don’t know.
Last month, I pulled out my “hierarchy of workplace needs,” which I plan to come back to soon. Sharing the model in the past, I offered caveats: it’s a graphic representation, a visual metaphor. Not an actual hierarchy. It’s an experience-based opinion, not a peer-reviewed psychology study.
Reviewing Jason Li’s illustration, one of my unstated assumptions is glaringly absent: basic human dignity.
When I borrowed from Maslow’s Hierarchy, I did not assume that the ground under the triangle should say, “I am a human being, and worthy of being treated accordingly.”
Some truths, though self-evident, still need to be stated. This has been an :exploding_head: moment for me.
And, as it seems that we must say this…then we must have different conversations about work.
You may not think the gig economy is coming for your own job. If we're vibing together on the idea of "basic human dignity" as a basis for how people should be treated at work, I urge you to read up on HR 8442, “Worker Flexibility and Choice Act."
- On not knowing what we don't know, Competence: On Management #48 and a follow up, Feedback.
- Through a tweet I can't find, I think it was a reply to Yvahn, I also recently learned that Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs was informed by his observations as a guest of the Siksika people in Canada in the late 1930s.
Thanks to Interlibrary Loan, I put my hands on a copy of Sidney Stone Brown's Transformation Beyond Greed: Native Self Actualization. I've got more to learn on this! And I've said it before and stand by it, Yvahn's twitter is the best twitter.
- I shared some of my caveats about Maslow's hierarchy back in March, 2017, in What People Need, Right Now. And I wrote again about my own metaphoric hierarchy in 2019, in Are norms really normal? On Management #39. (Probably elsewhere, too. My kingdom for an archivist lol.)
- The Internet, among other things, will bring you a wealth of economist jokes. If that's your thing.
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