The Magnificent Compression Machine describes the legacy industrial model, which is the context in which we live and work.
Why is it a legacy model? Because it uses an assumption about what it means to be human that is centuries old. It was solidified during the Industrial Revolution and still in place today – that humans are replaceable cogs in a wheel.
Over time, through repetition, the assumption that we humans are only as good as our results becomes embedded into our subconscious mind. It sits there without our awareness — like a habit we do not notice we use.
The Different Blocks in the Magnificent Compression Machine
The magnificent compression machine is made up of four influential, yet invisible blocks that squeeze us into smaller versions of ourselves. Each block is equally powerful in keeping us in a reactive mode, even when we try to be responsive. At the same time, each block is weaponized with the use of reward and punishment and CJB (criticisms, judgement and blame), which are used with the hopes of ensuring high-quality work, yet “keeps us in our place” within a hierarchy that promotes fear.
Success = Money
The block that equates success to money focuses our attention on one metric that has become equated to our survival. While most of us seek health and happiness, success metrics do not measure those; we often get sidetracked as we pursue money for personal or organizational success. Nothing is wrong with success or money unless we pursue it at all cost. For instance, we work long hours to earn as much money as possible, but get sick in the process. This is not wise behavior, yet what’s expected by the magnificent compression machine.
The labels block tends to limit the ways we see ourselves and each other. The labels were created by people in past centuries and help keep the hierarchy intact. Yet they also keep us in smaller versions of ourselves — especially when our age, gender, skin color or sexual preferences, which are natural aspects of us, are held against us characterizing us as “not good enough.”
In addition, we tend to equate ourselves with our formal education or professions, which after a while, makes it seem that we’re only as good as our titles or jobs. There are a wide range of labels about our personhood such as smart, stupid, incompetent, lazy, generous, quick witted, white, black, tall, short, slim, obese and it goes on and on — all with the intention of reminding us where we stand in the social pecking order. While labels are not good or bad on their own, using them makes us see ourselves in a static way when the truth is that we are always changing.
On top of that, even the use of positive labels can limit our freedom of expression. For example if we are labelled as “smart,” we might feel good because smart people are respected more in society than not-so-smart people. Yet, this label also pressures us to continually prove our smarts, which becomes a never-ending endeavor that depletes our energy and leaves us feeling uncertain about ourselves. And who decides what “smart” is and how much smarts is enough?
Humans = replaceable costs or cogs in a wheel
The next block is the only one that is deleterious on its own: seeing humans as replaceable costs or cogs in a wheel. It’s downright inaccurate and makes us feel disrespected. As a result, we react defensively to any CJB that feels like an attack to our image/brand or safety. This assumption is a legacy thought that became embedded into our thinking — through our socialization process that started during the Industrial Revolution. Since then, this idea has been drilled into us through repetition at school that our achievements are preeminently important.
The focus on external goals continues to be rewarded throughout out lives and any deviation is punished. That’s why we tend to go with what’s rewarded without any consideration to what we feel, need, want or who we are. Over time, we subconsciously assume that we humans have no inherent value and must prove our worth with visible achievements. Add on top of that that we are not supposed to show our emotions, which cuts out a big part of what makes us human. All in all, we end up compartmentalizing important parts of us to fit into warped societal norms.
The remaining block is the hierarchy that we use in our organizations and communities. While nobody said that a hierarchy has to be negative or aggressive, we seem to use it as a weapon toward each other. We use hierarchies to determine which of us is more or less valuable according to the position in the hierarchy and our narrow definition of success. A pecking order is maintained with labels that we often accept, sometimes without even thinking too much about it.
Reward & Punishment plus CJB
Each block is intensified through the use of reward and punishment and CJB, which threaten our sense of safety. We humans are social creatures, so we know at a deep level that we need each other to survive and thrive. So any punishment or slap of CJB can make us feel at risk of our livelihood. As a result, we react to defend ourselves and keep our heads down in self-preservation. This inadvertently undermines the collaboration and creative engagement we often crave.
We Can Do Better
It doesn’t need to be this way.
The challenge is to work within the magnificent compression machine and above it. This means that we acknowledge the pressures, yet also use a mindset from which we respond instead of react. This allows us to transform the positive impact we can make on our own and in co-creation with others.
This is an on-going discussion on our Human-Centric Leading website, so this is just the start. To learn more, join the movement! It’s all about transforming the Magnificent Compression Machine for the good of 100% of humanity. One person and one conversation at a time.