We strive to be able to see new possibilities wherever they present themselves. As the German philosopher Heidegger states, “In each case, [A human being] is its possibility.”1 We strive to embrace our human nature as possibility to the greatest degree we can.
In order to see these new possibilities, it is essential to be able to embrace, and exist comfortably in, the unknown.
The Indian philosopher Krishnamurti refers to this as “Freedom from the Known”. “Unless the mind is free from knowledge as experience and conclusion, there is no discovery, but only a continuance, however modified, of what has been.” 2
Such a step can be perceived to be filled with danger. An important reminder to assist one in this process is that fear “is caused, not by the fact of being…inwardly alone, but of the anticipation of the feeling of being alone.” The phrase “inwardly alone” here means not clinging to a particular body of knowledge. Krishnamurti is saying that fear is always of what might come, of the anticipated future, and never of the fact of what is. “The mind is afraid, not of the unknown, but of losing the known.”3
This idea of stepping into the unknown to see greater possibilities than we had seen before is an essential part of what technology is.
“Technology is therefore no mere means. Technology is a way of revealing. If we give heed to this, then another whole realm for the essence of technology will open itself up to us. It is the realm of revealing, i.e, of truth.”4
“Where and how does this revealing happen if it is no mere handiwork of man? We need not look far. We need only apprehend in an unbiased way….Whenever a man opens his eyes and ears, unlocks his heart, and gives himself over to meditating and striving, shaping and working, entreating and thanking, he finds himself everywhere already brought into the unconcealed.”5
Being open in our minds, i.e, not being stuck in established ways of doing things, is thus crucial to being able to see new possibilities that technology can show us, to allowing the new possibilities to become apparent to us.
It is crucial to be able to smoothly respond to what one discovers in one’s explorations into the unknown, and to be able and willing to change one’s course of action based upon the new possibilities that one has seen.
We strive to allow this openness and agility to enable us to be innovative in all aspects of our business practice. We strive to foster creativity in ourselves, and are fascinated with the suggestion that “creative originality” might well be an “essential central element” in a person being a True Self.6
Collaboration with others is an essential part of our approach. Collaboration can multiply the possibilities of creativity, allowing us to move forward in ways that are more complex and innovative than we could alone.
The specific nature of our approach to collaboration can be summed up by the idea of “the fragile we”, an idea based upon Heidegger’s philosophy. “When the participation of each [in a common project] comes out of his own freedom for himself and allows others their freedom for their own possibilities, then a shared project is authentic. We coexist authentically and so form an ‘authentic we’ when each feels that he belongs to a common project yet encourages the others to pursue the project in a way that attests to their own individuality. This keeps the group from becoming a mere collectivity in which each must subordinate his own freedom in order to further shared ends. Every ‘authentic we’ is fragile because it is composed of self-responsible members who live at the boundary of this membership.”7
In other words, an authentic community is inherently fragile, because, for each person to retain his own individuality but also fully participate in the community, each must exist at the edge of the community.
Our ideal of collaboration is one which supports each person being himself, and pursuing his own creativity and vision. Working with others in this way also allows maximum possibilities for exciting innovations and collaborative creativity.
We strive to not pigeonhole ourselves or employees/collaborators into a specific task or area. Rather, our ideal is that each person be involved in a multitude of areas of the business process.
As Nietzsche puts it, if a person “allows himself to be detained somewhere to become a ‘specialist’…he never attains his proper level, the height for a comprehensive look, for looking around, for looking down. Or he attains it too late, when his best time and strength are spent…”8
Pushing ourselves to move beyond our areas of expertise is another way of stepping into unknown territory, and can enable us to have insights and see opportunities that we may never have seen if we had remain narrowly focussed in our particular area of skill.
This approach also enables each employee/collaborator to interact more directly with the customer. Instead of being a cog in a larger corporation, many steps removed from the final product, our approach strives to allow each person to see himself in the finished product.
Although our approach is fundamentally entrenched in the capitalist system, the ideas of Karl Marx provide an excellent model for our goal here. His ideal is “to replace the detail-worker of to-day, crippled by lifelong repetition of one and the same trivial operation, and thus reduced to the mere fragment of a man, by the fully developed individual, fit for a variety of labours, ready to face any change of production, and to whom the different…functions he performs are but so many modes of giving free scope to his own natural and acquired powers.”9
Allowing each person to engage in a number of tasks instead of only developing his specialty allows each to become a fuller person, to grow as an individual. Growth of self does not have to happen outside of the workplace. The workplace itself can foster and encourage this growth.
The development of elegantly simple software, avoiding unnecessary complication, is our goal. As the American writer and philosopher Thoreau puts it, “Our life is frittered away by detail….Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity! I say, let your affairs be as two or three, and not a hundred or a thousand….Simplify, simplify.”10 The whole tone of this extended passage is that simplifying our affairs will enable us to see the essential aspects of life, and not be lost in a maze of relatively unimportant details.
We create software which zeros in on the central tasks for which it was developed, and the lack of unnecessary detail in both the product and the coding makes the finished product immediately accessible and useful.
1 Martin Heidegger, Being and Time, trans. John Macquarrie and Edward Robinson (San Francisco: Harper San Francisco, 1962) p. 68. Heidegger specifically says, “In each case, Dasein is its possibility.” ‘Dasein’ is Heidegger’s term for a human being. The German term is retained in English translations because it carries with certain connotations which convey Heidegger’s understanding of what a human being is. For example, as the kind of being that is a site of significance.
6 D.W. Winnicott, “Ego Distortion in Terms of True and False Self, (1960), in Winnicott, The Maturational Processes and the Facilitating Environment (Madison, CT: International Universities Press, Inc, 1965), p.152. Winnicott claims that “creative originality” is an “essential central element” of the True Self.
9 Karl Marx, Capital, (New York: Modern Library, n.d.), p. 534, in Leo Straus and Joseph Cropsey, History or Political Philosophy, third edition, (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1987), p. 820.
This page was written by J.P. Rosensweig, a philosopher with whom I, Paul Caswell, have taken a number of philosophy classes over the years. He received his philosophical training at Yale University, the University of Cambridge, and The University of Chicago. He is the Founder of The Philosophy Institute dedicated to “bringing ideas to life”.