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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We can expand beyond the dynamic construction of self to the dynamic construction of reality in groups and organizations. More than ever, our work groups and organizations are based on and dependent on these dynamic interpersonal conversations and shifting, context-based narratives. Most people, resources and attention in present-day work groups and organizations are devoted not to the direct production of goods or direct provision of services, but instead to the use of verbal and written modes of communication about these goods and services. Given these conditions, story-telling and narrative are central to 21st century leadership. Stories are the lifeblood and source of system maintenance in both personal and organizational lives. The construction of stories about person, group and organizational successes and failures is critical to the processes of change and transformation at any of these three levels.

Several questions arise from thie dynamic constructivist sociology of knowledge. In what way(s) do the personal, group and organizational narratives and images influence or alter one another? Is there a shift in the work group or organization’s narrative when a new manager is hired, or when the team or organization itself is restructured? What happens when the Executive Director of a human service agency, such as St. Vincent DePaul, begins to advocate change and begins to conduct training programs that encourage a changing perspective on work in the organization? From the perspective of the coach, there should be major concerns with regard to the nature of narrative and the identity that is being conveyed in particular by the person receiving coaching services.


So what does this all mean? The sociology of knowledge provokes many questions, but might not be fully satifying in that it provides very few answers. As participants in the profession of coaches, we must find the answers ourselves. The movement from an objectivist to a constructivist ontology and from a static to a dynamic ontology requires commitment and courage—particularly courage. Our sense of self and reality is always in flux. How do we live with this uncertainty? The remarkable theologian, Paul Tillich (2000) has written about the existential (and theological) “courage to be”—the courage needed to acknowledge one’s being and one’s becoming in the world. If human beings are minds, and not just brains, then they are also inherently spiritual in nature or at least there are spiritual demands being made on them as they confront the challenging universe in which they live. Either our cave is expanding or we are forced to leave it and perhaps return as a leader who challenges the existing mind-set. Or perhaps the caves no longer even exist (if they ever did). There is only narrative and dialogue — not a permanent reality.

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