1 The Legacy of Twentieth-Century Ideas about Organizational Change

Picture the scene. I’m watching Boardwalk Empire on DVD with someone who came of age well into the twenty-first century. We get to the scene where a young “gofer” is asked his name by another gofer. He replies, “Al, Al Capone.” My young friend says, “Wasn’t he a real person?” I don’t answer immediately, pausing while I wait for a suitable gap in the dialogue. She answers her own question: “Yes he was.” She reads a few sentences about Al Capone from her iPhone. She then asks, “Are any of the other characters real?” “I don’t know,” I say. A slight pause and then, “What’s Nucky’s proper name?” “Enoch.” She looks up “Enoch Thompson” on the phone. “Oh yes, he’s real too.” Throughout our programme-watching her phone whistles at her intermittently, and each time she attends for maybe 30 seconds, smiling, pouting, texting.

There is nothing new in this account, and everything. My dinosaur ways, such as watching a DVD rather than viewing content direct from the internet, my assumption that all relevant information is present in the vision and sound on the screen, my distance from my electronic “work” devices (it is the weekend, my mobile phone is in a bag somewhere, undoubtedly still on silent from the last meeting on Friday), all mark me out as essentially from the pre-digital age. My young friend engages with the world differently. Her phone lives in her hand. She is a cyber-person at one with the internet. ...

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