From the Archives...

Management Center Vision 2007

[Matt Taylor Journal page 298, February 7, 1982, 8:48AM]
Instead, Colorado (prob)

Editor's Note: This document is the result of a personal visioning exercise that Matt and Gail did on the future of Taylor Associates from the vantage point of 2007 looking backwards 25 years to 1982. The premise of such an exercise is usually to assume the optimum success and then look backwards to explain how it all occurred, while never leaving the vantage point of 2007.

The document is interesting for the vision it depicts of the Anticipatory Management Center that was build in Boulder, Colorado in 1982 and also for uncovering the similarities and differences between that time and our time. It's also a window on our rich and challenging history--the struggles, triumphs and sacrifices that have allowed all of us in the network to share in the growth and wealth-creating use of this fascinating tool.

Looking back a quarter of a century it's hard to imagine a world without Management Centers. And yet, in 1982 there was just one. Now, no major decision is made unless facilitated in a Management center. There are those who claim that planetary society would be impossible without them. By 1982 we were reaching a "social limits to growth", and Management Centers were conceived as the first true Global Information Economy organization.

True or not, it is certain our world today would be very different without their existence. And most likely for the worst. Take a small thing: the Hyatt Grand Canyon Hotel--the resistance to putting a world class hotel anywhere near the canyon, let alone IN it was immense. Now ecologists call the structure a marvel of human-nature co-design. The hotel is the international headquarters of the "Earth Restoration League" and serves many other global functions as well. It seems no accident that the 1992 arms reduction agreement was designed in the hotel's crystalline environment with the participants looking directly into one of nature's most awesome sights. As one delegate said, "Here you can't help getting the point."

Bringing opposites together and creating something altogether new--and better; that is what Management Centers have been all about. It goes beyond simple conflict resolution; Management Centers were the first environments where synergy was consistently accomplished. Our concept of design is completely different today--but more importantly, an ability to solve complex issues is totally altered. In 25 years Management Centers changed the way a society perceived, solved problems--built visions and planned the future and, organized resources to accomplish this.

"We had plenty of help" the Taylors often say, meaning: the world in the early '80s was in a state of constant crisis. So much so, "that we had a difficult time at first convincing people that this state is not normal.!" Take the Air Traffic Controllers strike of 1981--the seemingly small incident that later was to bring so much grief to the Reagan Administration. "We had no way to work such issues out," the Taylors say, "personalities and issues were disguising the reality that our method of deciding issues was the problem--not all the symptoms we were combating and reacting to. Once we were able to demonstrate a better way, the rest was easy." What was not easy, was the 25 years it took to discover, develop and demonstrate that "better way." The story of Management Centers goes back 50 years. It is on one hand one of the most methodical and consistent stories in the history of invention; on the other, a heuristic search through avenues of frustration and failure. Depending on your point of view, you can be amazed that the development of Management Centers took so long--or that they happened at all!

The development of Management Centers is a story of paradox, for they were created to deal with the central paradox of Western technological civilization. "A paradox if left unresolved," say the Taylors, "would have destroyed our culture--the good and the bad together." To understand that paradox, is to understand late 20th Century America--a place that seems as distant to us today as the Middle Ages did to them--it is also to understand how Management Centers grew from "the jaws of defeat" in 1982 to one of the largest and successful enterprises in existence. This story is the story of Transition Management--it is the story of how a globe "leaped" from one epic to another, in one generation. It is the story of how a few and then many saw that this transformation had to be managed as did any human enterprise.

The paradox as Matt Taylor called it was described by C.P. Snow in his "Two Cultures" lecture. Snow introduced us to the Post WWII period with his observation that the cultures of science and the humanities were growing wide apart--as were the cultures of the have and have-not nations. All agreed with the diagnosis and then proceeded for a quarter of a century as if nothing could be made of it--and nothing was. With an optimism and abandon astonishing to us, the [society] rushed willy-nilly and smack into the last quarter of the 20th Century. The result was what has been called the great psychological depression of 1975-85. After years of trying to get anything described in a one page memo--management succeeded in doing it and stood aghast at the results. It was a period where every "solution" seemed to lead to a greater problem--as in fact it did. Pop art. Pop music... pop culture--all as profound as the term sounds--competed with an almost passionless pursuit of "the buck": a curious game our fathers played with fever until they nearly killed economies altogether. "People forget," Taylor was fond of saying in those days, "that the 'invisible hand' is us!" All and all these were interesting times--where the results of nearly every action were the opposite of that intended. What is different about today? Have we solved all our problems? No. Is this utopia? Certainly not one many of us would accept as such. What then? It can be summed up in a single statement: we no longer teach Science, Art and Religion as separate subjects. (The most difficult part of this assignment is to write in the English of the 20th Century--the structure itself is full of contradiction; how could people think that way?).

What did the Taylors do? They synthesized many trends in philosophy, art, science, management, etc.--added considerable invention of their own--and created a new system of thought and action. One more consistent with the way things were going. But their real accomplishment was that they were able to get it down into a form that people could experience. "Never ask someone to believe what contradicts their experience" was their motive--the problem was neither they, or anyone else had any experience of what this new thought in fact was. I never understood the magnitude of the problem until I ran across this quote from Matt's notebook (#MT/B NSB/3 81) "It takes a Management Center to create a Management Center." Here they were faced directly with "the paradox." How do you explain synergy to someone who has never experienced it--when all of their experience tells them that the proposed steps will lead nowhere? How do you create the complexity of a Management Center--when it is beyond the ability of anyone--in a society that had no real group process? How do you get the considerable capital and human participation to create a Management Center to solve problems that cannot be clearly seen without a Management Center? How do you create a Management Center that goes beyond the limits of those who first conceive it (Matt and Gail) when there is no known method of co-design capable of it? Catch 22; chicken & egg. By an act of will and imagination the Taylors were able to transcend this barrier; that was their principle creative contribution to this, our era. And because of this, their invention became the invention of a whole generation.

This shift took place in the critical first months of 1982--the period that this brief history focuses on. To accomplish it, the Taylors literally had to live in two paradigms at once--a task that extracted a considerable price. By 1982 many people had shifted to the paradigm we accept today--however, for many years, this decreased their effectiveness with other members of society. Realizing this, the Taylors created their organization in the fall of 1979 to bridge this gap--to "bring transformation to the marketplace." They lived in the no man's land between paradigms for 4 yeas until the critical mass of individuals formed that brought shape to Management Centers. It is my thesis that this was the critical reason why Management Centers worked and so many similar efforts failed. It was the integrity between means & ends--even when many supporters urged actions that "came from" (a common idiom of the time) the pre-paradigm shift view. That was the difference of Taylor Management Centers. This is why I have chosen this period--what happened in that 6 month period, the accomplishments of the individuals who "brought the concept through"--was a prelude to the 1980's, or better, a model of what is undoubtedly the most unusual decade in the history of humanity.

By the end of February 1982 the Taylors were emerging from what they later would refer to as their "conservative period." They launched a recruitment drive that was to result in the gathering of an extraordinary group of people--a group that proceeded to rethink how people think, how information is stored, retrieved and transmitted. They reconceived group process & organizational structure--they invented the 21st Century Corporation and created an example of one. In "one brief moment" all the rules changed--or shifted would be a better term--and an organization unprecedented in history was born. Strands were pulled from all walks of life--some of them were already successful, some not--one common trait united them all: the ability to go beyond previous success or failure, the desire to make the extraordinary...common. They became their own guinea pigs (animals used for experiment in pre-modern biology). They tested every process on themselves before others. They used the prototype Management Center and its methods as a tool for inventing what we know of today by the term. (It is an interesting historical curiosity that the first Management Center was called The Anticipatory Management Center--what kind of management is not anticipatory?) Breaker, in his Modes of Late 20th Century Thought refers to this period (of Management Center development) as a period of "gross wholesale invention." In a few years' period, the modern Management Center was born and--in a feat still considered extraordinary even by today's standards, 10 were created in major US metropolitan areas, eventually directly reaching 18% of the US population.

Breaker goes on to say, "If the spread of Management Centers had been any slower, undoubtedly the history of the last 20 years would be very different. The fact that the structure was in place for the 1988 US Presidential election to be held by the "town forum" method, now so common, can be directly credited to Management centers." Breaker concludes: "It is almost impossible to conceive of the difference that this made in the nature of US politics--suffice to say that the emergence of the Nine Nations would have been attended by much greater conflict if the election outcome of '88 had been different."

For those familiar (and that would be almost everyone) with the modern Management Center, a visit to the prototype "Anticipatory Management Center" would be quite a shock. The shock would be a double one (again the paradox!): how different the modern center is, and yet, how the seed of every aspect existed in the AMC by mid '82. It is a greater shock to read records indicating the struggle that had been required to keep the project alive during the prior year--as unbelievable as it seems from our perspective, in those days investors required what was called "proof" that a venture would succeed before committing resources. A common curiosity of the time was a "pro-forma" made of three totally dissimilar parts: the inventor's description of the value and potential of his or her project, the market feasibility study that "measured" anything similar to it to access the market, and a legal statement that disclaimed that any of it was true and stated that you were a damned fool if you did invest! The Taylor's position was [illegible] (from this vantage point). They had to "prove" the financial validity of Management Centers and according to an epistemology they fundamentally rejected--by economic standards they knew would be antiquated by the time Management Centers were half-developed. Ah, the paradox! How they maintained honesty, let alone sanity, in the circumstances is beyond me! It is one of the things that makes the history of their era fascinating. What the Taylors did was to tell their investors that they would make millions--which they did; and that by the time they made them, they wouldn't care--which in the main, I gather, they didn't. Imagine launching an enterprise on the basis that if it succeeds it will repudiate the method by which it was accepted! This is no mere curiosity; the Taylors were attacking the overwhelming dominate epistemology of the time (epistemology was a word they got in trouble for using--it was called jargon!). Matt referred to the dominate decision process of the time as "pre-Heisenberg" and his "decision by design" was in fact as radical a concept as Copernicus' concept of the solar system was to his time. Anyway, it was all there--at least in seed form--with a great deal of confusion of what was in fact, there. One of the more humorous tapes is one of Matt trying to explain to a group of venture capitalists that the potential market was "any organization in the world" and that the real value of a Management Center was not just the millions they would make but that "we will be able to use them!" I think that the truly extraordinary thing about the Taylors is that they saw Management Centers not as ends, but as means... of the few at that time who saw the coming social transformation the Taylors were of an even smaller group who saw beyond that." Everyone talks about the Transformation if it were a noun... Of course in those days if you were looking for capital, it was best not to mention transformation at all, and in an era healing from many exaggerations and downright dangerous fads, it was even more dangerous to propose that one had "a method" that "resolves the essential conflict of Western civilization." When charged with outright arrogance, Matt would reply that "after all it did take 25 years to work out the bare bones of the thing." But somehow out of this clutter of historical anomalies, using the "bare bones" prototype Management Center, this eclectic group of people used their methods on themselves and advanced.

How did the Taylors overcome the paradox? They identified the "collision with the future" (the accelerating rate of change vs. the ability of individuals and corporations to change) and showed how Management Centers were designed to deal with this. They showed that the cost could be projected within an order of magnitude... They asked people if they had a better strategy. Most importantly, they stopped arguing the point--which means wasting time on those who needed proof. They facilitated those whose experiences confirmed the assertions in discovering how to best invest their resources in solutions. In a leap that was truly extraordinary for the time, they saw Management Centers serving both consumer and producer alike. They saw the investor--not as someone who could help them--but as someone they could offer a unique opportunity to. "If I had my money where a lot of investment capital is, I would not be able to sleep either" is a remark attributed to Matt, although I was never able to confirm it. They projected a strong alternative vision to the course that society was drifting on, and challenged others to do the same. They created an organization capable of "containing" many strong and extraordinary people--something unheard of at the time when most organizations were built around the genius of a single person! Most importantly, they used the prototype Management Center (as crude as it was) to provide people with the experience of another way of looking at issues. Somewhere between mid-February and mid-March a critical mass was reached.

Those who "were there" describe events in terms more reasonable to surfboarding than creating an organization--it was as if all forgot themselves and were swept away by a concept larger than any of them--at the same time, they managed the process! Management Centers were not just a lucky idea created by hard work. Work hard they did, they also worked smart. Management Centers were the result of "self-aware" design--the founding group facilitated themselves--as they did any client group. The centers became a model (as understood at any given moment) of the society they were dedicated to create. In one organizational step the dichotomy between ideal and practical (so common to the time) was repaired.

"The most important thing about Management Centers" the Taylors said, "is that once you can do it once, you can do it again... and again. Management Centers took the accident out of innovation including their own." Through Management Centers, the Taylors demonstrated the corporate self awareness they saw so absent in contemporary organizations.

copyright 1982, MG Taylor Corporation. All rights reserved
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