Anxiety and innovation: working with the beyond of our double subjection

Title: Anxiety and innovation: working with the beyond of our double subjection
Author: Philip Boxer
Category: Submitted for Publication – not to be quoted

The internet, like the printing press, railways and the telephone, has changed the way economies work. We are in the middle of an unfolding story that is not only changing what we understand an ‘organisation’ to be, but also changing the ways in which we experience ourselves as subjects. One theme that runs through these changes is that of the loss of sovereignty, whether at the level of the person, organisation or state. We are even less able to act as if we are ‘islands unto ourselves’ than ever before, as we encounter complex adaptive behaviours, emergence and quantum effects that challenge common sense itself. Within these turbulent environments, the ability to sustain a primary task definition of the organisation with its boundaries breaks down along with the organisation’s sovereignty. Under these circumstances, the object of psychoanalytic study ceases to remain focused on the structures of affiliation to the founding acts on which the identity of the organisation rest, extending to include the acts of innovation by which its clients are responded to one-by-one. ‘Boundary’ becomes the particular relation to the other client-patient-citizen and an object of psychoanalytic study itself. The paper proposes a return to Freud’s first model – his Project for a Scientific Psychology – as a way of considering how we are subjected to both the structure of our unconscious and to what-can-be-said that can make sense to the other. It further proposes that this double subjection has its parallel in the double subjection that follows from an affiliation to an organisation, through the valencies by which it lends support to our self-identification. This enables us to understand an organisation to be the social formation that rests ultimately on the structures with which it is identified and through which it interacts with the ‘others’ in its environment. To those identified with such an organisation, anxiety comes not only to warn them of possible failures to perform, but also of the possible failure of the structures of affiliation themselves, giving rise to the potential annihilation of support to their self-identification. Freud’s first model provides us with a way of approaching these two dimensions of anxiety, the potential for annihilation presenting a gap, in relation to which come opportunities for innovation. The paper draws conclusions about the forms of governance that can balance the defences against anxiety with the opportunities for innovation, and about the demands this places on leadership.

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