In the past several months, we’ve considered here the question of intellectuals and idiots, and their role in the theory and practice of management, as well as in society in general. Most recently, we discussed the symbolism of the never-too remote noble’s castle overshadowing the pliantly quaint life of the village. This week, we will spend a little time trying to put all this together to see why it might be important for us, as managers, to appreciate its real or potential influence on us, and on how we learn and work. . .
A tradition in Egypt has it that you should treat madmen you encounter with tolerance and generosity. After all, it may be that they were struck mad by a glimpse of God, an experience the unimaginable majesty of which they could not withstand. Indeed, perhaps their very presence among us is a caution to avoid venturing to discover truths beyond our natural capacity. This approach to understanding and dealing with madmen – and even the truth – while far from universal, is less unique than it might seem. . .
The tradition from which come today’s presumptive intellectuals suggests that there are people who inherently know better, and people who inherently do not. To claim membership of the former group requires that one believe in the existence and humble condition of the latter. Moreover, it demands that they interact with each other in a contemporary reflection of their historic relationship. The result is the modern progressive movement. . .
As we’ve seen, the progressive movement is inextricably rooted in obsolete, essentially feudal, tradition and exclusive elitism. The irony is that this places it in irreconcilable conflict with the glorious millennium toward which it presumes to be the pathfinder. The reason is that the core feature of contemporary and future life and work, is the increasingly widespread location and seeking of everything from insight to sovereignty in everyone, rather than in a narrowly prescribed ruling or leading class. But they aren’t going down without a fight. . .
I was having a conversation with a market analyst. He specialized in providing assessments of competitors, their capabilities and intentions. He was weary of justifying his conclusions to those of us in strategy and operations, viewing us as essentially lay-people with limited preparation and capacity for comprehending the complex and precise intricacies of his field’s methodology. “You know,” he said, “when one of us comes in and presents an evaluation of a competitor, you all could save yourselves a lot of time and trouble by simply accepting it uncritically as fact . . .”
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