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Breaking Paradigms: life-work balance, non-linear life, diversity

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Statements and questions often present decisions that have already been made for you.  Sometimes simple statements encode a way of thinking that may not be a good choice or a good way of looking at things – or even, the only way of looking at things.

The work-life balance. 

I hear this all the time.  To some, this statement is incomprehensible.  To others, the premiss is questioned.  And still to others, the implicit dichotomy of work and life is taken as an unquestioned statement of fact.  In fact, “the work-life balance” can become prescriptive as to how you see the relation of work to life – my life is not my work.  Really?  Why spend so much time on “not your life”?

Could an artist understand work-life balance?  Probably not.  If you do what you love then there is no distinction between your life and your work – it’s a false dichotomy.  Maybe anyone who can say “work-life balance”  and instantly undersand what it means has the wrong kind of job.

When will you retire?

The assumption here is that life is linear.  That is, first you work and then you retire to enjoy yourself.  Why?  If you wait until you are in your 60’s or 70’s to enjoy life (read: retire) then maybe you will be too old to really do much of anything interesting especially if that involves physical exertion.  Does life really need to be linear?  Why not “play hard” and “work hard” – but not wait until you are too old to really enjoy life.


A simple word heard in many contexts.  When I hear this in a corporate environments I take the extra time to read what “Diversity” includes and what it excludes in that particular company.  Usually, Diversity is defined in terms of ethnicity.  What about age diversity?  In any large company there are 4 generations that need to work together, be motivated, be rewarded, and form relationships. How is this accomplished across generations that may have fundamentally different values?   Shouldn’t Diversity programs include age diversity?  Or, is age diversity now more dangerous to talk about than diversity related to ethnicitiy?

Choice Architecture

All of the above can be seen as forms of “choice architecture”.  Choice architecture is a sort of gentle “nudge” or “shaping the conversatino”  to get you to make a decision, think in a certain way, or not question something. 

It’s a form of steering people without those people being aware that they are being directed in a certain direction.  Sometimes, it’s even unintentional but the results of both  intentional and unintentional choice architecture and steering is the same.  What if no one ever told you about “Work-life” balance as an implicit dichotomy?  Why wait to retire before you have fun?  And it seems that the challenge of “diversity of ethnicity” is now somehing that has a well-worn history in the past – working across the generations is a new challenge for many large companies.

Read a couple of articles on Choice Architecture and people who want to help you make choices in “your best interest”.

Michelle Obama and Sarah Palin at the Food Court: the Concept of Libertarian Paternalism

When Nudge comes to Push and Shove…

Read about the generations –


Written by frrl

November 14, 2011 at 2:50 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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