Institutionalisation

it’s been a looong break {and good}, but getting back into the stream, one toe at a time. And as i venture forth into what is commonly known as the “new?” year, i keep coming up against this theme of “institutionalisation”. It’s almost tangible in every domain, which is no surprise, since it takes place at our begging. In fact, more than begging for it, we expend a large amount of effort to reach an acceptable level of “institutionalisation”.

wikipedia.org/wiki/Institutionalization labours more on the concept than i wish to for the purposes of this post, but does provide some interesting insight. In particular, “individuals who work within large established organisations can become socialised into organizational values and norms, and values and norms may become institutionalized”. Many companies actively strive to achieve this kind of congruence throughout their organisation at some level, since it will apparently promotes productivity through shared ideals, like-mindedness and co-operativity. Not to mention all the fluffy feel good factors which enable people just to work together in harmony. But does it reach a point where it becomes bad?

Neutrally, institutionalisation is just the embedding of those values. Negatively, it is the impact which that embedding has on the individual’s ability to function outside the structured environment. Positively, it is the culmination of effort in bringing people of varied personalities together such that they might work happily side-by-side.

Religion, politics, sportsfans- any social setting actually- all display some degree of institutionalisation. The extremes within each social environment tend to display the highest degree of institutionalisation, but only as a trend. Even groups which try and balance the extremes, if they play that game for too long and hard, achieve a level of institutionalisation in which they cannot operate within any extreme environment- if only for a season. Is that really so bad?

Then we look at the values embedded into our processes, our commercial ambitions, our societal goals and ideologies and how we champion them. We look at who champions them. Why do we support them? At what point do we stop supporting them? Do we champion something ourselves and why? And when we start scratching, we realise we want to achieve some sort of institutionalisation somewhere, but ironically, with really good intentions. [Ethics and morals aside, even if you’re downright evil, you’ll believe your intentions to be good] So, if we start something out with “good” intentions, can it really become bad?

The answer to that depends on many things i guess- again, more than i need to delve into. Let’s assume then that some people are happy to say “yes” and some people, happy with “no” and that some of their reasons and assumptions are valid. And some of them displaying clear characteristics as a result of institutionalisation. And some are happy to agree to disagree while others not. Sounds rather innocuous, doesn’t it?

But it’s exactly that boring mix of responses which we need to embed ourselves in. We need to be prepared from time to time to say both “yes” and “no”. We need to keep challenging the kind of institutionalisation we’re headed toward, without buying into it while at the same time believing it with all your heart and pushing into it 🙂 Shucks, half my brain just went on strike!

So, how exactly do we achieve that… ?

::shrug:: i think we just do, at least some of us do. From marriage, to social group, to local church, to sports club, to company, to development process- where ever you got people doing something together, you need to radically push to entrench the values and norms you believe in, all the while challenging them every step of the way. I don’t know of an easier way. But then again, it’s not supposed ot be “easy”, yet .. strangely .. it can be.