Ideal workplace

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Roger
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Ideal workplace

Post by Roger » Mon Mar 11, 2019 11:44 am

The article about creativity in the CIA was well timed as I'd just finished watching Condor. I always thought the intelligence analysis centres in Three Days of the Condor and Rubicon looked like the most interesting, amazing places to work. To the point where I'd have been happier if the whole film or series had been about their normal work, without any of the conspiracy plot. I had a similar reaction to the investigative journalism team in Spotlight.

Almost everything about how those places are presented seems designed to appeal to most or all the personality traits Third Factor discusses. If you've seen any of them to compare it with, are they anything close to what it's really like?

In another article you said construction was one of the most satisfying jobs, and as you can probably guess from my new avatar, I agree. That was taken when I pulled my bedroom ceiling down and ended up looking like I'd been working down t' pit. Fortunately the renovation is now complete and I am no longer sleeping in the kitchen.

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Re: Ideal workplace

Post by Jessie » Tue Mar 19, 2019 2:14 pm

Hi, Roger, and welcome! Great to have you here at the board.

I haven't seen those movies, unfortunately, so I can't comment on their analysis centers. But I imagine it overlaps at least a little bit with reality, especially since you liked the center rather than the conspiracies. What are the traits you have in mind that you link with both Third Factor and with intelligence analysis centers? I'm extremely curious. :)

Compared to investigative journalism, the thing about an intelligence agency is that analysts break that down, and collectors (whether in HUMINT, SIGINT, or whatever) do the part that most people would associate with the "investigation."

As far as construction work goes, that's quite the opposite end of the spectrum. As much as I have always loved writing and making web sites, sometimes I just want to get away from pushing symbols around on a screen. I have taken to baking lately, which I think is a common, low-barriers-to-entry activity of this sort. People got very excited about a GF almond Bundt cake I made for a gathering this past weekend. Cooking was always my sister's thing (you know, an MBTI "sensor" activity; she is the sensor queen) but I guess I can activate those genes too, if I try really hard.

And in exciting news: we are moving to a house next month, out of a tiny apartment, so there will be opportunities for construction and other concrete creating activities at a higher level!

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Roger
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Re: Ideal workplace

Post by Roger » Wed Mar 20, 2019 11:57 am

I think part of the appeal of intelligence analysis was I discovered it as a concept later in life and it was different from what I spent my youth thinking were suitable things for gifted people to do. I was conditioned by cartoons and films to think the appropriate jobs were things like a scientist in their lab (many sources), doing advanced engineering (Knight Rider, Towering Inferno, Juggernaught, the Airport movies, Short Circuit), or computing in a hacker's lair (Knight Rider again, War Games). As appealing as any of them are, they're all on the concrete end of the spectrum. Analysis was the first job I remember seeing on the abstract end of the spectrum.

It ticks some of the OE boxes as well. It looks like a phenomenal intellectual challenge that you could really use to test yourself to the limit. If you really believe in the cause it's got emotional OE covered as well. Creativity as well - some of those films and series have montages that show the characters going into that kind of creative fugue where you forget to eat until you get the breakthrough. I don't think I've ever been so into something I forgot to eat. Sensual OE less so, but the offices in Three Days of the Condor were depicted as very comfortable, nice chairs, well lit, lots of plants, and bookcases everywhere. For physical OE you'd probably have to make do with running from the black ops liquidation team once you knew too much. :o

The other common factors are the need to be around people like yourself and have your capabilities recognised. One of the characters in Rubicon wrote a book called Opposites Attract: Towards a Unified Theory of Human Dialectics. I wanted to read that book and work with people like that (and apparently I'm not the only one - a lot of people have searched for that book). All the characters were portrayed in similarly appealing ways. Plus there is the external validation that if you work there, you have been chosen. Someone saw something in you, saw your potential, and gave you a chance to make a difference while making the most of yourself.

Talking of creativity in intelligence, I've read one instance where it was portrayed as a very bad thing. There's a blog, named after the same Sherman Kent those CIA buildings are named after - Kent's Imperative http://kentsimperative.blogspot.com/. Among other interesting things, it makes the claim that lawyers shouldn't be allowed to work in intelligence. The justification is that a good trial lawyer is essentially a professional storyteller and if they can tell a convincing story, in the context of a court, it might as well be true. But out in the real world, where the enemy gets a vote too, they can tell the politicians very convincing, but very dangerous stories that bare no resemblance to the actual situation.

We used to bake bread. There's nothing quite like the smell and sensation of handling dough. Looking up Bundt cake reminded me of those Americans who love The Great British Bake Off because it distracts them from the state of the world. That may be a new metric for the collapse of civilisation - Western civilisation falls the day Bake Off goes off the air for the last time. If you're going to be doing work on your new house you'll be doing literal 'concrete creating activities'. Once you learn how to mix cement, it becomes the solution to all problems. Our Christmas tree was unsteady on it's original base, so now it sits in a biscuit tin full of cement.

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Re: Ideal workplace

Post by Jessie » Mon Mar 25, 2019 10:32 am

Thanks for that good implicit feedback on my notion of "abstract-intensity," Roger, by pointing out the concreteness involved in jobs like science and engineering. It occurs to me that those are still distinguished by having significant abstract components in the research and design as opposed to, say, construction and carpentry, or many applied STEM jobs. But you're right: analysis is almost purely abstraction. Most analysts are far removed from the situations they're describing -- even as they are totally mentally immersed in them. It's quite strange, and may be why I suddenly became all "rah rah concreteness!"

Your comment about sensual OE reminded me of something. CIA has a decent (and unclassified) cafeteria, and apparently some people thought it would be funny to FOIA the comment cards that we employees put in the cafeteria suggestion box. Then NPR's news-based comedy show "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me" got ahold of the FOIA'd comment cards, where some employee was complaining about the "Jazz Salad," a fancy salad that changed every day. On one of the cards, someone had written (and was read in an affronted voice by the NPR host), "The Jazz salad was supposed to have grapes on it -- but there were no grapes!" The host then followed up with, "Do you get the feeling maybe these people aren't as tough as we think they are?" I was driving when I heard that on the air and I had to pull over because I started laughing so hard. I sent the clip to my dad and he said, well, it's kind of funny, but not pull-over-in-hysterics funny; I figure it's only that funny if you actually work there and you know the difference between Real CIA and Movie CIA.

(But as for forgetting to eat, no, but sometimes you have to get something written RIGHT AWAY and you don't get to eat until it's done...!)

Oooh. Thanks for the link to Kent's Imperative. Just based on the title it seems like a worthy read. The notion of laywers not being allowed in intelligence is intriguing, and may speak to why I ultimately opted out.

I think the notion of the Bake Off keeping civilization afloat is uncomfortably close to reality! Something to explore in fiction, perhaps. It would really help convey what's weird about Washington, DC; this town is so friggin' abstract-intensive that I've been tempted to get a serotonin molecule necklace and use it as a conversation piece to get people to remember there is more to life than abstracting and pursuing future status and glory. Even though I otherwise am a dopaminergic type myself. I was at a housewarming party on Saturday (from which there was a nice view of the Capitol off the balcony) and some guest I had just met was talking about how a friend of hers was moving to Detroit of all places and why would she do that. Obviously for me, them's fightin' words, and I went on about how Detroit is a better place to live in a lot of ways, including first and foremost that it's not so career-focused that, while loneliness is a problem everywhere these days, it's not nearly so soul-crushing there as here in DC because most people don't live to work and actually take time to form meaningful relationships. Though I think I ticked off the woman I was speaking directly to, people had formed a circle around me listening to me expound on the wonders of Detroit and everyone started nodding about how DC is the epicenter of dopaminergic loneliness. That's a particularly good setting for a baking club keeping civilization afloat, I think! Anyway, it really is all relative.

Glad you have migrated over here from CounterNarration, Roger! That was a great stream of consciousness that you got me going on there. :D Now I have to run because a steamroller of urgent obligations is right on my heels, but I'll be back soon.

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Re: Ideal workplace

Post by Roger » Wed Mar 27, 2019 10:57 am

I've just remembered a combined Detroit and workplace canteen story. Back in the 70s, one of the big Detroit newspapers had a canteen that was considered equal to some of the best restaurants in the city. When the owners were asked why they provided such luxury to their staff, they replied that once journalists leave to go looking for food, it's very difficult to get them back on the premises (the implication may have been 'drunk in a ditch'). There's a similar story during the construction of the Empire State Building when some of New York's top chefs were contracted to set up kitchens on three seperate levels of the tower to keep the workforce fed. They're both held up as examples of when employers treated their workers right.

I'm still conflicted over the questions of abstract vs concrete and dopamine vs every other neurochemical. We may experience them quite differently. I'll try to make some sense of it.

What would you consider the boundaries to something being concrete? You said one test was event planning. I know I don't have that kind of planning, scheduling and logistics skill. Once I was talking to a friend who works in the chemical industry about what their logistics experts do. We both agreed they could do things we could barely comprehend. But I can do the things that require a more kinaesthetic sense of myself and the world. I know how to rope and cut a tree so it lands exactly where I want it. When we were moving furniture between relatives' houses, I figured out the most efficient way to stack it and wrap it. The two guys I was working with, who are very mechanically-minded and capable themselves, were looking at me like people look when they first step into the Tardis. :shock: Yesterday while exercising I came up with a new isometric stretch that I think will help me get back to full splits. (Also good news - the shoulder problems I've had for about three years has now totally cleared up and I'm back to proper strength training again. I've also booked on an introductory canoeing course.) While these things may have very abstract principles behind them that make them work, I'm not really aware or thinking of them at the time, so does that make it all concrete?

While I know dopamine very well, I also know I have the capacity to turn into a puddle of relaxed squish, if certain preconditions are met. The first intellectual satisfaction, to have got to a state of at least temporary satisfaction with whatever I'm doing. But I also need to be in a state of considerable exhaustion, from lifting weights (but not overtraining or I become agitated and can't sleep) and working outside (so melatonin may also be a factor). If that has happened I can become so relaxed and content I look like pigs do when they're lounging and sleeping. Although a lot of other things can keep me out of this state, I've also found it's the best condition for socialising in. A good memory from high school - everybody stretched out on the comfy chairs in the library after playing rugby. Enough energy for the conversation to be funny and interesting, too sleepy to be stressed or on edge. Do you ever get this kind of contented state of flop?

Maybe this all points to an ideal of everyone having two jobs, a trade and a profession - say intelligence analyst in the morning, then in the afternoon go be a navvy and build a railway. Spend time with friends in the evening. They've done research thet shows people are more productive if they do four hours of mental labour and four hours of physical labour than they could be doing eight hours of either on its own. They generally say mental in the morning, but afternoon heat and just wanting to relax later, make morning physical better for me. It'd probably be best to start with whichever you find most stressful and finish with the more relaxing one.

Now you're moving to a house you'll have space and won't be shoehorned into any available corner with a cat staring at you. Do you have plans for what your home library / study / reading nook / writing den is going to look like? Reading Alberto Manguel's The Library at Night and looking at photos online give so many possibilities to drool over... :P

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