Improvise, Perform and Discover with Business Architect Malcolm Cawood

adaptivity agility candid craic complexity Aug 07, 2021

In this Candid Craic, we talk to Malcolm Cawood about how he crafted a career spanning five specialisms by taking an adaptive stance towards the world, looking for comfortable niches to fit in, migrating to novel places, and taking on the role of an improvisational tinkerer.

Malcolm initially spends much time trying to wriggle away from any definitions of self and work, drawing from David Bowie's lyric of "chameleon, comedian, Corinthian, caricature" to describe himself.

He then takes us on a colourful journey through the range of metaphorical, scientific and critical theories and ideas that frame how he thinks about work and organisations.

Firstly, we learn abut the overdetermined self living in a multitude of interconnected networks - social, political, organisational etc - and how this insight inspired Malcolm to discover niches of comfort in which to perform his work.

This takes us into evolutionary biology, and the drive to adapt, in which Malcolm explains how he became an organisational tinkerer restlessly looking for new organisations and specialisms to energise him. We also examine whether he feels like an outsider, and whether it is possible to live a non-tribal lifestyle.

We close with a discussion about Malcolm's consulting career, and how his urge to improvise, perform and discover (and care about) gaps and absurdities in the work being done have been central to his life and work. In essence, Malcolm lived the portfolio career long before such things were fashionable. The fluidity of identity that resulted is fascinating. NB: We almost pin him down at the end!

00:14 Hello Malcolm
02:30 Just what is it that Malcolm does? Jazz Consulting & Winging It
06:20 The Adaptive Art of Semi-Detaching Self from Work
14:10 Jackson Pollock and Entangled Relationships
19:19 Evolutionary Biology and Niche Construction
24:50 Affordances, Migrations, Opportunism and Tinkering
29:43 Valuing the Transdisciplinary Neo-Generalists - Now v Then
35:40 Malcolm in the Middle - an Anti-Tribal Life
39:52 The Jazz Consultant and the Urge to Improvise
44:15 A Soft Critique of Management
48:34 Authentically Malcolm - or a Metacognitive, Reflexively Performing Self?
55:05 The Nine Trillion Dollar Question