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Reorganising chaos

A book looking at man’s ability to make sense of apparently random data

A lack of references, a constantly changing backdrop, and a need to respond quickly to unforeseeable demands. These are just some of the conditions business owners have to contend with nowadays. In such a context, it is important to be able to turn to new business management concepts. One way to do so is by reading Lavorare nell’azienda liquida utilizzando l’apofenia. La capacità di riconoscere le connessioni nelle situazioni complesse (Working in Liquid Companies Using Apophenia: The Ability to Recognise Connections in Complex Situations), edited by Massimo Bornengo, Ezio Civitareale and Gianpiero Tufilli.

The book’s assertions are based on an environment – the business sector – in which there are no longer any certainties. Technology, planning and organisation increasingly blur the boundaries of skills and tasks. The workplace increasingly feels like an evasive, amorphous, constantly changing environment. To summarise this state of affairs, the editors borrow Zygmunt Bauman’s concept of liquid modernity and come up with their own concept of the liquid company.

But how do we deal with this situation? Bornengo, Civitareale and Tufilli suggest a new approach, based on two terms still foreign in every-day modern life: apophenia and pareidolia. They describe a characteristic of the human mind, namely its ability to recognise patterns or connections in random or seemingly nonsensical data. In other words, the editors explore an intellectual activity that has always been practised by human beings but which until now has not been subject to in-depth analysis. It is the process of making the incoherent and diverse simple and legible. Essentially, it is natural and normal for our minds to ‘put together’ things that are separate, and attribute meaning to things that have none. Apophenia, applied to the world of work, helps us to solve problems, find solutions, simplify and facilitate interpersonal relationships, and hold meetings.

The book therefore begins by summarising the nature of liquid modernity and liquid work, before moving on to addressing the possible future of work. Having laid the foundations, Bornengo, Civitareale and Tufilli analyse the concepts of apophenia (i.e. the ability to recognise patterns or connections in random or nonsensical data) and pareidolia (i.e. the ability to interpret random notes, objects or profiles as something else) from a historical and then from a practical point of view. The book is further enriched by a series of contributions from sociologists, lawyers, journalists, university professors and managers who touch on aspects like union relations, the job market, associations, logistics and corporate organisation.

In short, this book by Bornengo, Civitareale and Tufilli is an interesting and useful way of portraying a changing business culture that adapts to the changing circumstances in which all business organisations have to operate. The three editors write: ‘We believe that, as has always been the case throughout history, it will once again be man’s intellectual capacity that helps us to reorganise chaos and give form to liquidity.’

Lavorare nell’azienda liquida utilizzando l’apofenia. La capacità di riconoscere le connessioni nelle situazioni complesse (Working in Liquid Companies Using Apophenia: The Ability to Recognise Connections in Complex Situations)

Massimo Bornengo, Ezio Civitareale, Gianpiero Tufilli (editors)

Franco Angeli, 2019