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Vernacular Culture and Heretics: Humanity the Zen of Zen?

October 30th, 2008

I found Art Kleiner’s concept of vernacular culture interesting in his book The Age of Heretics: A History of the Radical Thinkers Who Reinvented Corporate Management.

Vernacular as described by Kleiner:

Despite the power of corporate practice, something desperately desirable has been lost in everyday corporate life, and without it, corporations could not truly perform. This lost quality, unnoticed and yet desperately needed, was the vernacular spirit of everyday life …

there is no better word than vernacular for the quality of relationships and culture that dominated community life before the advent of the industrial age … 

Vernacular life was the way of life that still exists in these villages of our dreams … In a vernacular culture the best things in life are free, economic and personal life are mixed together … and every exchange of goods is not just an economic transaction but an expression of the community’s spirit …

the builders of industrial culture didn’t have to reject vernacular culture; they merely ignored it or destroyed it in passing, while the power of finance and operations, the power of the numbers culture, undermined the relationships that vernacular culture depended on.

There’s strong parallels to the vernacular culture, the Agile / Lean movement, open source, buying locally, the Toyota Way and an innate human need for community and contribution. Today, many of the institutes that have been built on industrial culture (GM, Ford) seem to be faltering, whereas those that have been built on vernacular culture (Toyota, Google) seem to be succeeding.

Through the book the author suggests that heretics are often responsible for transforming industrial cultured institutes to ones that embrace vernacular culture.

Kleiner describes a heretic as:

someone who sees a truth that contradicts the conventional wisdom of the institution to which he or she belongs and remains loyal to both entities – the institution and the new truth.

One of the concepts that is continual presented within this text is that conventional wisdom and institutions are often incorrect, as individuals we can change our situation, our work environment, and our world, but in order to make change we need to identify, verbalize, and seek out new ideas and approaches.

I don’t know how I was recommended this book, but I’m really enjoying it!

Author: Adam Kahtava Categories: Book, Musings, Open Source Tags:
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