I recently started reading “Intellectuals and Society” by Thomas Sowell, and like any good book I didn’t even make it out of the preface before I found things I wanted to write about. Unlike most good books, I’m actually writing them! Sowell quotes from Mark Lilla’s “The Reckless Mind” about what it takes to “write an honest intellectual history”:
… But he will need something more. He will need to overcome his disgust long enough to ponder the roots of this strange and puzzling phenomenon.
This struck me very powerfully because it resonates with a lot of the coaching I do in large companies. I see a lot of things that go very strongly against my “agilist mindset”, against everything that strikes me as good common sense and effective. Some of the policies and approaches I see approach inhuman in the way they treat people, and the disempowering language occasionally kills off small pieces of my soul. Occasionally I go far beyond “I wouldn’t want to work here” to “I can’t understand why anybody would ever willingly come to work here.”
And then… every time, I start to see. I move beyond my reactions, and I feel glimmers of what makes those companies great. I feel a sense of promise and desire. I feel the amazing power of human passion bubbling just below the surface. I see a wonderful group of people striving mightily against a system that was originally set up to serve them, but has now become their master.
I open my mind to understanding the real environment. I respect the many highly intelligent people working in the environment. I recognize that all of the policies arose for a reason. I see that the language is meant to be efficient when it loses the people. I remember that everybody is doing the best they can at the time they do it. I appreciate vision for changing the world and improving lives.
I start to believe.
Then, and only then, I can help create a better world…