Home Concepts Decison Making & Problem Solving In Over Our Heads: Living and Learning in the Cave

In Over Our Heads: Living and Learning in the Cave

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Second, it is critical to note that the expert is confronted with a complex and often contradictory set of images inside their client’s cave. There are images swirling all around the cave. Flames are flickering and the analyses that the expert can offer must always be tentative and contingent on events and processes that are often volatile and turbulent (Bergquist, 2021). Anxiety pervades the cave during uncertain times, and the expert’s observations and recommendations can be easily misunderstood or mis-used by their anxious client (Bergquist, 2020).

Third, the expert is rarely the only voice in the cave to which their client is listening (or potentially listening). Expertise is a highly competitive enterprise – with high financial rewards and societal expertise often being at stake. With this being the case, an expert might be expected to spend considerable time on matters of marketing rather than matters directly related to updating and revising their own domain of expertise. They look themselves for expert advice – but now from those who purport to know how best to get one’s voice heard in a quite cacophonous cave.

With these opportunities and challenges in mind, a cave-dweller might wish to obtain the services of a professional coach to help them sort through the many voices and images of expertise they are confronting in the cave. The professional coach can assist in helping their client identify the biases inherent in any advice being offered by experts (hopefully including the biases of the coach themselves). As I already noted, the coach can be of particular value in helping their client gain greater awareness of the distance between their theory-in-use and espoused-theory.

A professional coach can also assist their client in reducing levels of anxiety and finding a “container” for the anxiety that they do experience (Bergquist, 2020). Though the professional coach is not a therapist, they can provide support for their client in finding ways in which to relax in and with the expert perspectives and recommendations they are receiving, so that this expertise is not misunderstood or misused. Finally, the professional coach can become something of a consumer-guide for their client—helping them determine which source of expertise might be not only most credible but also most useful. The occupants of every cave should appoint at least one professional coach!

Returning to the Cave

I travel back to Plato’s Greece and ask an important (and often troubling) question: can anyone come back to the cave and what would the “enlightened” person say to those still in the cave? How would the dwellers take in this radically different perspective? The cave dwellers don’t know what to do with the returning unchained “revolutionary” who talks about a different reality. What happens when this person returns to the cave? Would this person be considered a “philosopher” (as Plato suggests) or would they be identified as a “fool” or as a person who is “mad”? The former prisoner’s experiences terrify compatriots. Our protagonist realizes that they cannot remain in the cave. They would stagnate. Other cave dwellers will not change or move forward. They perceive our protagonist as dangerous.

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