Home Concepts Organizational Theory Professional Coaching, Plato’s Cave and the Sociology of Knowledge

Professional Coaching, Plato’s Cave and the Sociology of Knowledge

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William Bergquist, Selvakumar Simon and  Kristin Teresa Eggen

In this essay we wish to apply a sub-discipline of the field of Sociology (called the Sociology of Knowledge) to the practice of professional coaching. We don’t provide answers or even guidlines for coaches, but we do engage the sociology of knowledge to identify a host of critical and challenging questions to be addressed by the coach–and the coach’s clients. We focus on two dimensions of the sociology of knowledge that hold profound implications for the practice of professional coaching. Three events precipitated this article on the relationship between the sociology of knowledge and coaching.

The first event was an interview which one of us conducted with Julio Olalla in an issue of the International Journal of Coaching in Organizations (IJCO) (Olalla and Bergquist, 2008). Olalla has played a major role in bringing an ontological perspective to the field of coaching, with emphasis being placed on the nature of being and the way we situate ourselves (individually and collectively) in our world.

The second event was a meeting between two of us in Oslo, Norway. During a symposium conducted by the International Consortium for Coaching in Organizations (ICCO), the two of us had a chance to walk and talk together on the roof of the new Opera House in Oslo (a remarkable architectural feat). We discovered that we shared much in common about the interplay between philosophy and coaching, as well as about the challenges of thinking in new ways to meet the unique features of 21st century life. The outcome of this ongoing conversation was an article (Bergquist and Eggen, 2013) prepared for the same issue of IJCO as the Olalla article. It was later republished in the Library of Professional Coaching. At the heart of this article was the allegory of the cave offered by Plato. We focused in particular on the way we (as inhabitants of the cave) are influenced by and construct our reality around the shadows cast on the walls of the cave.

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