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A humanist in remote working: changing perspectives

Why philosopher Luc de Brabandere believes in reinventing the remote working revolution – new Philosophy Magazine article

An engineer turned philosopher, Luc de Brabandere, recommends approaching the digital revolution with more logic … and excitement! His approach will be the subject of a new leadership programme at CEDEP.

According to surveys published earlier this summer by the French National Agency for the Improvement of Working Conditions, the majority of employees want to continue remote working, at least part-time. But many do not always know how to proceed. 

“You can’t conduct a brainstorming session by video as you would in person,” says business philosopher Luc de Brabandère. “Filming a meeting and broadcasting presentations just doesn’t work.” 

For this engineer by training, who became a philosopher and then a fellow at the Boston Consulting Group, the issue is wrong from the start. “We talk about digitalisation, but this is a misleading expression. The problem is not to virtualise your work, but to reinvent it in a world that has become different – more digital, certainly, but not only that.” 

To approach this change solely in terms of transferring how we work from one medium to another would be a mistake, as the real issue is to rethink real and virtual spaces. “As long as the white plastic rectangle that opens a hotel room door is called a key, we risk missing out on the possibilities offered by this technology,” he adds in Petite Philosophie de La transformation Digitale (Manitoba, 2019).

Changing perspective

New remote working tools exploit virtual data, but they also require algorithms, software and hardware to function. And they are nothing without the men and women who develop them, manufacture them, maintain them, use them. “The reinvention of humanism, therefore, requires a twofold awareness,” says the philosopher. “On the one hand, understanding that it is possible to take the best of both worlds and on the other hand, that we must remain master and possessor of the machine.” 

According to Luc de Brabandère, this is a non-negotiable philosophical position: humanity should never bend to the constraints a tool seems to impose but always put it to the service of its own needs and projects. This would also be the best way to discern fashionable and sometimes gadget technologies from long-term transformations.

“Changes are best seen from a fixed point,” he explains. “If you let yourself be carried along by the continuous flow of innovations, you will never be able to take the time to appropriate the tools and evaluate their real interest on a case-by-case basis.”

Crossed perspectives

This approach will be the subject of a day of exchange at CEDEP Global Executive Education Club as part of the Management & Philosophy programme. Luc de Brabandere will speak in tandem with Jean-Philippe Courtois, Executive Vice President and President of Sales, Marketing and Operations at Microsoft (International). 

This will be one of ten sessions led by a philosopher and a business leader between January and October 2022. “Reflections on the place of the human being in an organisation and in particular digital technology are at the heart of CEDEP’s concerns,” emphasises Muriel Larvaron, who is co-developing this programme.

“Our approach has always been to put the meaning and role of the leader at the forefront. But, more generally, the programme aims to help managers and leaders use philosophical questioning to change their outlook and build their thinking.”

This theme will be examined in full during one of the 10 mind-expanding Management & Philosophy (M&P) programme sessions commencing at CEDEP in January 2022. Luc de Brabandere will speak in collaboration with Jean-Philippe Courtois, Executive Vice President and President of Sales, Marketing and Operations at Microsoft (International).

For more information about CEDEP’s Management & Philosophy (M&P) programme, please contact muriel.pailleux@cedep.fr or click here to read the programme description.

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