Labouring under the illusion of knowledge


We have just had our annual Potentia conference.

Each year we step it up; looking forward ten years, I wonder how we'll manage to keep this up! This year we were lucky enough to have Corporate Anthropologist Michael Henderson who is an in demand keynote speaker and author of Mastering Company Culture. Over the past 30 years, he's worked with various organisations, businesses and sports teams to enable them to tap into the power of their culture. He knows his stuff…

Being an enthusiastic learner, over the years I've read about a lot of things as I love picking up knowledge. Culture plays a vital role in every organisation and remembering I've spent my career building organisations, I've done a bit of reading here, and I thought I knew it pretty well. Turns out I don't. I'd been labouring under the illusion of knowledge for a few years. Sheesh.

Luckily, it turns out that what I thought I knew but didn't, was more of a misalignment than fundamental stupidity. At least that's what I've consoled myself with. What is it? Well, I had understood that personal values are the things that we build our lives on, they guide our decisions and experiences and how we live. Then stacked on top are beliefs and ultimately behaviours.

Turns out, I was wrong. It is the other way around.

Beliefs are the core of us; they shape how we view the world. How we define ourselves, and those things that are important to us. They're not likely to change, unlike values which change over time or following large events in our lives.

I had developed this knowledge through what Michael respectfully called pop psychology, i.e. all the books I'd been reading up to that point. Dammit. Lucky I met Michael and have been corrected by axiology (the branch of anthropology that studies values, you’ve gotta love good science!).

Anyway onto my point. For a few years now, I've been working and communicating on the basis that what I knew to be the case was fact, and I was wrong. Again luckily, that error didn't hurt anyone or knowingly damage my business, but it has lead me to ask “What else have I been wrong about?”

I'm old enough now to know that I don't need to know everything and the ego doesn't need appeasing by my previous pathological need to be right. This is a relief.

Onto the moral. Have you been labouring under an illusion? Are you certain of something that just possibly may not be right?

A last takeaway for you;

  • One person is a personality
  • Two people is a relationship

Three people or more is a culture. You can’t make that culture, it will just happen. It will grow organically and turn into something awesome, or awful. Just watch it.