I took the Chooks away last weekend, down the coast a bit. We did next to nothing while away. There was lots of Dr. Who, Sea Devils & Warrior’s Gate; treaty chocolates; a few beach trips with water spitting competitions; scrabble games in which no-one scored more than 100 points; a slow, earnest engagement with Jared Diamond’s Collapse (mindful of the risks at play in such anthropological metanarratives); BBQ chicken and mayo on white bread sandwiches; and a wander around a weather-harassed market with my Mum.
On Saturday night I sat out on the deck, watching the lighthouse spin around and letting myself notice how quiet it was, how but for the wind there would be nothing to hear. It was an uncomplicated weekend, for the most part. The contrast between the weekday and weekend was slightly alarming. The differential made my head spin; I felt my pulse rate quicken, quicken enough for me to hear it above the wind. It was clear to me, out on the deck, how the tension between compliance and innovation has come to dominate my professional life and structure my days.
Compliance and innovation have become affects that all of my activities are directed toward. I must manage myself in such a way as to ensure orthodoxy, compliance with expectation and review. And I must manage myself as to enable the possibility of improving the action of that orthodoxy. I am compelled to constantly analyse my place within the system to ensure the efficiency and efficacy of the system.
Compliance is a practice of control, holding close to a priori ways and means. To innovate from this position is to manage a transition from gamekeeper to poacher to gamekeeper, to thieve control from the system and then reintegrate that theft into the system. Innovation is practice of adaption to control. Innovation is not bright shimmery newness. It may be creative or clever or gobsmackingly smart but it is not separate, it is not distinct from what was before.
Yet compliance and innovation are often posited as the pincers by which outcomes are produced. Compliance makes sure we don’t go backwards, and innovation ensures we’re not left behind the present. This is a very limited scope. We do the thing we do like we did it last time, but better. Innovation is an internalized custom. Innovation is of the system. It is within. Innovation is simply a pivot by which compliance is re-established.
Sitting on the deck considering this in the dark and silence last weekend it was clear to me that there is nothing hopeful about innovation, nor is there anything redemptive about compliance. No way forward through the constraining coherence of organization, no fresh wind to clear the clouds and reveal new light. Where we seek innovation we exclude the possibility of alterity. There is no other world, there is no other way. No space for dark and silence.