Management theory is reconsidering is philosophical rots
Posted April 7, 2010on:
Offer your problems to God, and they may open opportunities that you never imagined.
I am not religious, and if they haven’t clicked away already, my friends who are ‘evangelical atheists’ will think I’ve taken leave of my senses
Management theory is reconsidering its philosophical rots
[Yes, I did mean roots but the typo is apt.]
I heard the idea of presenting one’s problems to God from a Rabbi on Radio 4 today and it is an idea that has been forgotten by management theorists for a long, long time. It is being actively and vigorously revived though, and if you want to be involved in modern management education, “opening yourself to the imagination of the universe” is an idea that you have to get you head around.
Old school management sucked the life juices out of us
“Old school” management is goal-oriented, and fundamentally arrogant and negative. It goes like this. “I define the goal and until you have completed it, you are not up to scratch.”
We might even say that old school management is evil. It is even evil even when we are setting our goals for ourselves and not others. It’s arrogant to believe that we know what is right, not only for today, but for tomorrow whose shape we barely know. It is very arrogant to believe that we know and the other does not. It is evil to undermine the worth of other people and to daily put ourselves and others in situations where we are not up to scratch.
But how do we open ourselves to the imagination of the universe?
For all my exploration of modern management theory, I am still a psychologist and I want to know “what am I going to DO?
“offering a problem to God”, as I understand it, does not mean letting go. It means beginning where we are, with our sense that the present does not meet our sense of what is right and wrong. We begin by accepting our negative evaluation, our arrogant assertion that on this matter we believe we are right, and our overbearing willingness to judge others. We accept that this is ground we stand on at this moment. This is our reality at the minut.
Then, we put this evaluation on the table, probably privately, it is offensive after all. And at last, we listen to what the universe has to say. What does the universe have to say about this problem?
We’ve raised the flag. We’ve said we will hear. Now we listen!
But are we predisposed to listen?
The difficulty is though, that in this mood, when we feel the world is wrong, and we are right and that we are allowed to tell others they are wrong, in this mood, listening to anyone is far from our minds.
Positive psychology, an overlapping school of positive organizational scholarship, kicks in now and has a lot to say on how to reach a point that we can listen and hear.
We begin by reminding ourselves that it is quite natural, housed in a human body, to feel alarmed when we notice something is wrong. Our biology is programmed that way. It is natural . . . well . . . to exaggerate. When times are rough, and we reel from trauma to trauma, or just from hassle to hassle, it is not long before we begin to shut down and focus solely on what threatens us, or simply annoys us.
Positive psychologists help us stay out of this zone of despair, cynicism and negativity. We look to them to keep us in that positive space where we can notice that something is wrong (or a least not to our taste) and listen to the universe. It is a tough balancing act.
Positive psychologists are not our only resource, though. Most world religions have rituals to manage this emotional housekeeping. Balancing our ‘alarm systems’ and listening to others is such an important skill that all cultures have ways of explaining the challenge. What is saying a brief prayer before a meal but a momentary regaining of balance where we take stock in an appreciative not panicky way?
In our secular world, we explain every thing more wordily but we are not necessarily wrong. Just ploddy. Two other very important factors in maintaining ’emotional tone’ are exercise and friends.
The contribution of positive psychologists
Positive psychologists advocate a simple ritual of a gratitude diary. A few brief notes at the end of each day makes the difference between believing that we have to solve every problem ourselves and “hearing” what the universe has to offer.
Offer your problems to the universe and allow yourself to be delighted by opportunities you never imagined.
And to my evangelical atheist friends, if you are such an objective scientist, try it before you knock it.