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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The cave dwellers are offered an opportunity to be liberated from the cave by the prisoner who escapes and discovers the “real” world — or at least a different world. The cave dwellers are given the opportunity to discover that the world beyond the shadows of the cave is richer, more complex and perhaps more rewarding. The prisoner has escaped TO freedom and invites her colleagues to also escape to freedom. However, does the escaped prisoner (and the other cave dwellers) soon wish to escape FROM this new freedom? (Fromm, 1941;Bergquist and Weiss,1994) Do they long for a world (inside the cave) that seems simpler, more clearly defined and ultimately less challenging? Do they blame the escaped and returning prisoner for their new-found anxiety? Like the Executive Director of St. Vincent DePaul, does the visionary suddenly become an uninvited outsider who wants to cause pain, confusion and uncertainty? How does a coach help this visionary, but challenged, leader to work with those still dwelling in the cave?

To better frame (and gain clarity about) this set of challenging questions regarding the nature of effective coaching with leaders who are returning to the cave, we must turn away from a sociology of knowledge that is based on an objectivist perspective to one that is based on constructivism. In doing so, we return to the four-fold model we offered at the start of this essay. Specifically, we describe the two remaining options in this model: static constructivism and dynamic constructivism. These two options are closely aligned with the more fully expanded version of Plato’s allegory.

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