Saturday, May 7, 2011
Change management and Kant’s four questions – part 2
18th century German philosopher Immanuel Kant tried to answer four questions in his philosophy:
1. What can I know?
2. What do I have to do?
3. What can I hope for?
4. What is the human being?
In my previous post I addressed the first of these questions as I am applying these questions to change management in a practical manner, so as to possibly get you thinking about change management from a different perspective. Because isn’t that what management, leadership, and life is all about: being able and willing to see, appreciate, and use different perspectives to your advantage, to broaden your vision, to think outside your box, and to seriously consider what appears to be impossible?
Question 2: What do I have to do?
There are two words I suggest replacing in this question. I’d like to change “I” into “We” and I’d like to change “do” into “be”. I could leave it here, this might be enough to think about, but I’ll explain my point of view in a little more detail.
The “I” has never worked very well I think, except for when you or I are reflecting, meditating, or performing similar activities. In all other cases, the “we” has many advantages. It takes a team to win a soccer match, it takes a team to go to the moon, it takes a team to clean up the Deepwater Horizon spill, and it takes a team to run a family, a business, a school, a nursing home etc. Notwithstanding the importance of inspiring, engaged, purpose-based leadership, without fellow leaders and followers and without a team there is nothing much to lead. Everyone counts and is important is not just a nice, encouraging phrase to motivate employees, it’s a reality that many of us do not realize and act upon to its fullest. Without the so called work bees no accomplishments nor change, just as there probably wouldn’t be without leadership. Everyone plays his and her role in the process of bringing about change, and everyone needs to be ‘on board’.
The second change to the question is from “What has to be done?” to “Who do I have to be, who do I want to be, who can I be?” as a person, as a leader, as a change manager. 20st century German-American social psychologist and philosopher Erich Fromm titled one of his books “To have or to be”, which I think is a wonderful title and question. It touches upon what really matters in life, and on your purpose, values, and goals in life. It is my belief that the doing stems naturally from the being, which makes the being first in the hierarchy and therefore more fundamental. With ‘being’ I think of your personality, the purpose you formulate in and for your life, the values that you adhere to, and the whole range of influences from upbringing to experiences, the latter being something that you can influence greatly, of course, since no person is a fixed entity and since you have the freedom (and the obligation) to choose your own attitude and your own actions, whether it be according to a well-thought plan or not. No effective leadership and change management (or anything really) is possible without knowing who you are, why you do the things you do, and why you choose the attitudes (yes, you do choose them!) and goals that you choose.
So I didn’t really address Kant’s question as I’m sure you had already noticed, but I did use his question to expand my thinking and to further explore my thinking which I hope is what it does for you: providing you with some gourmet food for thought.