School teaches us to be good factory workers. We are trained to memorize the facts that our systems want us to believe. We interview for jobs that seek simplified versions of our complexity to approach tasks that have often been boiled down to repetitive systems that can be measured.
Sometimes, this is great. I would love all medical professionals to have a high level of predictability in their practices, as a baseline. I would love all airline pilots to have a very similar training level. There are many other situations where it’s nice to have that predictable arc.
But Are YOU A Cog?
Is it fun to be part of a machine? It’s hard to say. Sometimes, there’s something great about that sense of belonging, that rhythm, that knowledge that you’re contributing to something bigger. Those are the great feelings that can come from a collective experience.
The parts that are dull and grey, we all know and feel already, so I don’t have to explain them.
Where Cog Behavior Bugs Me
It’s when people act like robots at the human interface level that it bugs me. I noticed that my local CVS drug store was suddenly very into using my name at the pharmacy. “Did you have any questions for the pharmacy, Mr. Brogan?” “Welcome back, Mr. Brogan.” That felt great until I saw a badge that said, “If we don’t say your name, we will give you $5.” Pop.
Customer service is often burnished down to a cog situation. “I’m sorry. The policy says… ” and that’s where your customer tends to make a decision based on his or her own internal policy of not dealing with robots.
Cog behavior bugs me when I notice it in myself. Wake up, pee, check Google+ and Twitter. Read email. Do all kinds of scripted things. Oh, and then do something productive. That’s robot stuff. Those kinds of habits are just echo-habit-code-execution functionality bits. Hint: it’s not especially useful to have those kinds of things programmed.
I’m about to write a new program, new lines of code for myself. It starts with meditation, and then fitness, and then I’ll touch the digital world, starting with my calendar, then important work, then correspondance and social media. This is a simple and finite example, but it’s also me refusing to keep the little gears engaged without thinking about them.
My work life is already non-cog. There’s not one day that resembles the last and I like it that way. My clients and customers are that way. They are all unique and beautiful snowflakes. I can’t repeat. It’s built into my universe to work on new and interesting challenges.
What time do you wake up? When do you go to sleep? What do you have for breakfast? How do you answer people when they say hello or how’s it going? There are SO MANY little bits of cog behavior in all of us. Some of it is fine and doesn’t really matter. But what if you looked at it all?
What would you change? What needs to stay?