The original version of this saying of course had to do with the Buddha and I was reminded of this saying just a little while ago in a brief Twitter exchange.
The exchange was with a very well known management guru (unless they use a ghost tweeter) who was posting about 4 steps needed to get the culture you want in your organization. Without expecting a response and pretty much sick and tired of ‘4 steps to get anything you want’ programs I simply posted something like…”So if we follow these steps and don’t get the culture we want does that mean we’re incompetent?” Well I actually got a response back – “Not sure about ‘incompetent,’ but yes, if you pull those 4 levers effectively you will create the culture you want.”
Here are just a few of the things that I found problematic with this:
- So if not incompetent, then ineffective. Not much difference is there; simply another word to express some level of not measuring up or failing.
- How do these gurus get to this place of being experts in just about everything? No one has yet been able to create the ideal culture they want but now by following these 4 steps of this particular guru you can! Perhaps by us buying millions of their books they believe themselves. For those of us that can’t make it work, well we’re just ineffective; it can’t have anything to do with the steps or the assumptions they are founded on.
- Such a great example of the assumption that certainty can be created. This assumption is the foundation of so much mainstream thinking and action in organizations today. And there is very little evidence that this assumption is accurate
The idea of the saying above had to do with taking our own accountability for our growth and enlightenment. Taking accountability for our own pathways and lives. To not blindly and without question rely on the so called expertise of gurus and experts.
When we do this however, we run the risk of failing and having no one to blame for it. Blame is a convenient escape from accountability.
However, if we cast aside this assumption that certainty can be created, the possibility of failure is quite a natural occurrence. We needn’t feel the excesses of incompetence or ineffectiveness we now feel when we fail. We may not feel wonderful either but much of the guilt, shame and blame that is now handed out so liberally can be cast aside as well.
And when we succeed we needn’t puff ourselves up as if without us it never could have happened. The excesses of hero worship can be cast aside to make room for consideration of the context and of others that helped create such success.
Blame and hero worship tend to focus very much on individuals. If we are going to seriously question the assumption that certainty can be created, then I think we will need to find a balance in understanding our organizations as being constructed as much by interaction as being built by individuals. The balance today lies heavily towards individuals.
Finding a different balance does not seem to be easy. But if we take our interactions seriously, each one of them and realize that it is through these interactions our organizations emerge we can make a start. Tomorrow you can close the book of one of those gurus and really be present to the interactions you are having and try and understand what is emerging through those interactions.
It’s just about as good as killing the guru you see on the road.
Author – Tom