The Archeological Approach to Self Knowledge – Digging for Understanding

Tom GibbonsOrganization DevelopmentLeave a Comment

The dominant approach in the West for gaining higher levels of self knowledge is all about digging inside ourselves until we find something of value (either diamonds or detritus) and then reflecting on our find to better understand ourselves.  What we do with that understanding hopefully improves us.  This archeological exercise is pretty much the only way we can imagine finding out more about who we are.  Are there other ways?  Certainly……

At the heart of the archeological approach is the powerful belief that we are completely independent individuals.  That we have a core and unassailable thing called ‘us’ and that ‘thing’ is who we are, it is our identity and it is consistent over time.  It is discreet and separate.  And that it exists somewhere waiting to be found.

What if the ‘us’ of us was not a ‘thing’, but indeed a flow or a process; a malleable, elastic and changing process that still maintains its sense of identity.  Physiologically this is what our bodies do all the time.  We change most every cell in our body countless times during our lifetimes but we are still ‘us’.  If we think of ourselves as developing in a continual process then we can add an approach to developing self knowledge that is social and emergent in nature and not solely an archeological – and somewhat static – search for things.

And yet every day we experience social interactions. We are different in each one of them and changed by many of them.  It gets harder and harder to hold on to this notion of ourselves as separate and distinct, yet we just cannot seem to let go.  If we were just willing to acknowledge that in every interaction lies the possibility of a change in who we are and yet not lose who we are, we could let go, at least a little bit.

The development of assessments such as those in the Team Management Systems’ suite is largely based on the conviction that self-awareness or … self- knowledge … is a foundational attribute – perhaps now even a pre-requisite – for effective performance at the individual,  team and leadership levels.  This shift from viewing self-knowledge as a ‘nice to have’ to self-knowledge as a core competency is at least partially driven by our ever-evolving information age and the documented bottom-line impact of poor relationship skills.   

Yet, there is a risk of lost opportunity in the use of preference tools – such as the Team Management Profile.  They can easily be interpreted to label an individual as a ‘thing’.  You are a Creator Innovator or a Thruster Organizer.

This is why we emphasize so strongly the need to take the ‘data’ of the Team Management Profile and bring it forward into discussion with yourself and others.

We can use the preference information as additional self knowledge data to inform the quality of the interactions we have. We can remain open to the possibility that the ‘us’ of us is indeed a malleable, elastic and changing process.  And that we may change in small or even big ways depending on the context, people, situations and needs that are present and still maintain our sense of identity. We might find ourselves more aware and able to be fully present to the opportunities – diverse perspectives, challenging questions and new information – presented in every interaction.

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