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Management and Anticipation Lesson 1: The Virtual

Virtu: taste for works of art.
Virtue: power, influence, efficacy, conformity to moral principles … high merit of accomplishment, valour (from vir, man)
Virtual: what is in essence or effect(The Oxford Concise Dictionary of English Etymology. Oxford: Clarendon Press.)

It is not a difficult to see a link between virtual and virtuosity, especially when considering anticipation. Great football players, for example, are able to anticipate what is going to happen next before their opponents do. This gives them the advantage of both moving themselves into the best position, as well as giving them a head start in thinking about the next move. It is even easier to see that great chess players are masters of anticipation. They anticipate what the chessboard will look like many moves ahead of the one they are in at the moment of anticipation. Likewise management also relies on a lot of anticipation. One needs to ‘see ahead’ in order to ‘manage’ the contingencies of complex being. And this needs to be translated into making the right moves ‘ahead of time’ so that all is in place when the event comes into being.

In football, anticipation is a skill or better: a combination of skills, a particular kind of virtuosity. The skills of anticipation in football are a combination of physical, tactile comportment and perception c.q. ‘insight’. These can be trained, no question about that, but they do come to some players more naturally than to others to an extent that most insiders in the football industry would define it as a ‘talent’, as something that is more implicit and instinctive. One could redefine this as an economic issue: it is more costly to train someone without talent to achieve the same level as someone with talent.

In chess, however, anticipation is a bit more explicit. It is tied to intelligence and logic; it is mathematical. It can be trained it can even be taught, even if there remains a substantial element of contingency related to the psychological nature of strategic gaming. Of course, being a great chess player also requires talent, lots of it, in the same way that not everyone can become a successful mathematician. However, this talent needs to be cultivated in a different way than that of a footballer. A footballer has to cultivate an instinct of anticipation; a chess player needs to master its logic.

Management is neither football nor chess. Being neither fish nor fowl, it sits rather uncomfortably between instinct and logic. The management literature may speak of management styles: some being more ‘hands on’ others more ‘visionary’, some more relying on instinct and impulse, others more on information, analysis and deduction. But in all of these forms, they are simply modalities of labeling specific arrangements of settings, actions and associations (Law, 2004).



  1. Barret wrote:

    I was just looking at Deleuze’s essay called ‘The Virtual’ in Difference and Repetition. In there, I noticed once again the distinction between differentiation and differenciation. I remember discussing this in your virtual course a couple of years back. Now, is there much to this double sense of differentiation? It seems to enable Deleuze to make a distinction between ‘sufficient reason’ or ‘progressive determination’ (differentiation) and the differentiation of singularities (differenciation). The point seems to be that the virtual is split between the ‘Idea as a problem’ and local actualization, at least if I am reading it correctly. So, I wonder in what sense these management strategies that you speak of are not ‘simply modalities’ but something more profound, albeit detailed working at the level of differencation, the level of the local (‘distinct parts actualizing the singular points’)? Just a thought…

    Sunday, March 22, 2009 at 21:59 | Permalink
  2. Pablo Markin wrote:

    The three paragraphs above bring to my mind a by now purely historical book on economic policy and management on a governmental level. The account was produced in the first person. The writing style hardly accessible. The basic ideas well known. However, what did stand out was the overwhelming clarity of the frame of conceptual reference that held the fifty pages of so of the book I have read together. The proposed thesis brought action, data and knowledge together in a form that contrasted very badly with the management periodicals of today. The author is held historically responsible for one of the more spectacular cycles of wealth and welfare creation. The language was German. The author Ludwig Ekhard. The country post-war West Germany going through a literal economic miracle.

    Friday, March 27, 2009 at 11:04 | Permalink