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The Necessary Role of the Arts in Education and Society: Finding the Creative Power Within Us to Control Our Lives and Shape Our Destinies


by Eric Oddleifson, Chairman, CABC



Table of Contents 


The world we live in, including the experience of our bodies, is completely dictated by how we learn to perceive it. If we change our perceptions, we change the experience of our bodies and our world.
- - Deepak Chopra, MD

Many biologists believe that intelligent behavior is inextricably linked to some kind of sensory perception.
- - The Economist, May 18, 1996

The arts are organized perception.
- - Leonard Shlain

One could argue that the apotheosis of work in any symbol system is its high artistic achievement. The educational implications of this view are profound.
- - Elliot Eisner

I have argued that arts can form the basis of school norms and work in a manner which is incredibly powerful.

- - Ron Berger, sixth grade teacher

The aesthetic education of man is his one true preparation for rational life, and the foundation of any ordered politics."
- - Schiller

The three year study indicates that using arts processes to teach academic subjects results not only in improved understanding of content, but in greatly improved self-regulatory behavior. This answers our key question: whether skills from the arts transfer to other areas. Using arts processes proved extremely powerful.
- - Horace, May 1996

The ultimate motive power in education and life is the sense of value, the sense of importance. It takes the various forms of wonder, of curiosity, of reverence -- of tumultuous desire for merging personality in something beyond itself. This sense of value, of importance, imposes on life incredible labors, and apart from it life sinks back into passivity, and apathy.

The most penetrating exhibition of this force is the sense of beauty, the aesthetic sense of realized perfection. This thought leads me to ask' whether in our modern education we emphasize sufficiently the function of art.

We cannot without great loss, ignore in our inner lives, in the life of the spirit, so great a factor as art! Our aesthetic emotions provide us with vivid apprehensions of value. If you maim these, you weaken the force of the whole system of inner awareness and progress and of spiritual apprehensions.
- - Alfred North Whitehead

The real cognitive potential in the arts inheres in a twofold disclosure of the hidden dimensions of self and world, and of their interconnectedness.
- - Douglas Sloan


The Power of Balance, and Wholeness and the Interrelated Roles of Art, Science, and Business

We need to deepen our capacities for intelligent thought and action. We rely primarily on analysis and reason, and seek little understanding from our perceptions, intuitions, insights, feelings, and emotions. Yet there is a power in balancing reason with perception. Capacities emerge, useful in shaping our destinies, and the world we live in. Once we discover how to access these inner strengths, each and every one of us gains control over the events that influence our lives.

A number of professions seek to understand this power better. Academics such as Harvard's Howard Gardner and David Perkins, Yale's Robert Sternberg, and Stanford's Elliot Eisner have significantly advanced our understanding of the nature of intelligence and how knowledge is constructed. Economists now focus on human knowledge and skills as vital "factors" of production causing economic growth. Some scientists seek a more humanistic, integrative science. Mathematicians claim aesthetics as the grounding for their discipline. Educators now understand that intelligence is multifaceted, complex, and not easily measured -- at least with existing tools. The business community, seeing the ability to construct knowledge as a competitive advantage, is attempting to understand the phenomenon of organizational learning and is addressing the problem of assessing/measuring the qualitative aspects of human development.

The coming decades will see a growing interest in the relationship of the inner man to the outer world, and qualities as expressions of subjective truths. Deeper capacities for intelligent thought will provide us with the tools to improve the world and our individual positions in it. The law of "intention and desire" (as described by that now famous Indian doctor Deepak Chopra), as well as the power of the imagination, and intentionality in perception (as noted by the quantum physicist Stephen Edelglass), will become the basis of a new renaissance in humanistic thought and action. As unlikely as it may seem, we predict this renaissance will be led by business, and fed by a merging of the arts with the sciences.

The sciences, together with their "symbol system," mathematics, will not, by themselves, yield ultimate, irreducible truths, despite scientists fervent desire that they do so. Our continuing hope that science, with its focus on understanding and controlling the natural world, will save us from ourselves, and bung peace, love, and harmony to the world, is misplaced. We must either look beyond science, or better understand its true nature in order to gain a more comprehensive understanding of the world and man's relationship to it.

Science is a continuing process of discovery. Joseph Campbell described science as the process of developing new thoughts, new things, and continuing transformation.

For the really great and essential fact about the scientific revelation - - the most wonderful and most challenging fact -- is that science does not and cannot pretend to be 'true' in any absolute sense. It does not and cannot pretend to be final. It is a tentative organization of mere 'working hypotheses' that for the present appear to take into account all the relevant facts now known.

And is there no implied intention, then, to rest satisfied with some final body or sufficient number of facts?

No indeed! There is to be only a continuing search for more as of a mind eager to grow. And that growth, as long as it lasts, will be the measure of the life of modern Western man, and of the world with all its promise that he has brought and is still bringing into being: which is to say, a world of change, new thoughts, new things, new magnitudes, and continuing transformation, not of petrifaction, rigidity, and some canonized found 'truth.'

And so, my friends, we don't know a thing, and not even our science can tell us sooth; for it is no more than, so to say, an eagerness for truths, no matter where their allure may lead.) 1

We predict that business will become as active as science and the arts in seeking truths about man's intelligence and relation to the world. The reason -- the dramatic slowing in the past 25 years, of economic productivity in the western world. There is a pressing need to fully understand the root causes of this slowdown, as well as the apparent failure of technology, despite massive capital infusion -- to reverse it. Business needs to broaden its understanding of the factors of production, which in neoclassic growth theory, with its law of diminishing returns, includes land, labor (as a cost) and financial capital. Technology has, historically, been excluded from the model, as has the benefits of added knowledge (most likely because of the difficulties inherent in its measurement).

New economic growth theory suggests that growth can continue indefinitely, even without technological progress, if human capital (i.e., the knowledge and skills embodied in the workforce) is included as a factor of production. The old law of diminishing returns on financial capital, without added technology, may not apply. Attention to human capital can yield increasing, not decreasing, returns to financial capital.

A second strand of new growth theory seeks to put technological progress explicitly in the neoclassic model as well, and begins to examine the relationship between human learning -- the addition of knowledge and skills -- to enhanced technology. This line of inquiry suggests the need to properly measure employee learning, and R&D, within the business firm. The accounting profession, long focused on purely financial measures of performance, is responding to this need in providing tools to measure more qualitative aspects of productivity and growth -- an example being "The Balanced Scorecard," devised by Robert Kaplan at the Harvard Business School.

Business also realizes that our perceptive capacities may be more important than we had ever imagined. Our leading business management writer, Peter Drucker, argues that mankind is in the midst of evolutionary transformation from analysis as the organizing principle of life to one where perception is at the center. Information based societies are organized around meaning, and meaning requires at its heart common perception. He says,

In governmental and business planning we increasingly talk of 'scenarios' in which perception is the starting point. And, of course, an 'ecology' is perception rather than analysis. In an ecology, the 'whole' has to be seen and understood, and the 'parts' exist only in contemplation of the whole.

Contemporary philosophers deal with configurations -- with signs and symbols, with patterns, with myth, with language. They deal with perception. 2

Drucker observes that by teaching the arts as the rigorous disciplines they are, we could enhance our perceptive capacities -- but we fail to do so.

In the world view of many mathematicians and philosophers, perception was 'intuition' and either spurious or mystical, elusive, mysterious.

Science did not deny its existence (though a good many scientists did). It denied its validity. 'Intuition' the analysts asserted, can neither be taught nor trained. Perception, the mechanical world view asserts, is not 'serious' but is relegated to the 'finer things of life,' the things we can do without. We teach 'art appreciation' in our schools as indulgence in pleasure. We do not teach art as the rigorous, demanding discipline it is for the artist.

In the biological universe, however, perception is at the center. And it can -- indeed it must -- be trained and developed.3

And what of the arts in all this? Arts advocates shout, "we have the answer," but are largely ignored. They are hampered by the three centuries old "mental model" of Enlightenment thinking, which denies their validity as legitimate and necessary functions of the intellect, and mind.

The arts are seen by many as pure emotion, with no cognitive base. Yet recent research into the functioning of the brain reveals that the senses (sight, hearing, touch, smell, and taste) are forms of cognition, or understanding, as powerful as pure reason can ever be. And the emotions themselves are now seen as underpinning our capacities for constructive thought. Daniel Coleman, science reporter for the New York Times, in his book Emotional Intelligence, reveals new understandings of the emotions as another cognitive system hardwired into our brains. Coleman suggests that emotional intelligence is a master intelligence, or "meta-ability," governing how well or poorly people are able to use their other mental capabilities.

How critical the arts are to these new understandings is found in one definition of the arts as "emotion, wrapped in intelligence."

Yet the arts also suffer from being narrowly viewed as music, dance, theatre, and visual art, rather than "an eagerness for truths" expressed in "symbol systems" other than those used by science (words and numbers). As expressions of an "eagerness for truth," they are identical to the scientific process of discovery and represent an equally powerful measure for exploring the relationship of man to nature. The arts awaken the "craving to comprehend" -- as does scientific exploration, with its continuing revelations of interconnectedness. This craving is the motivating force behind all learning.

Because the arts deal with qualities, not quantities, science has labeled them "not real" -- with growing, and potentially disastrous consequences for the western world. Needed is a new paradigm, a new mental model to encompass the discovery process of both science and art.

Schiller noted many years ago that the aesthetic education of man is his one true preparation for rational life, and the foundation of any ordered politics. A way to link the aesthetics of both science and art has been suggested by author Robert Pirsig, with his Metaphysics of Quality (found in his book, Lila -- An Inquiry into Morals). Pirsig, author of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, suggests we view the arts as high quality endeavor. Even motorcycle maintenance can be art if performed to the highest standards. He suggests we apply our broadened understanding of what constitutes art in education by teaching all academic subjects more artistically (including the individual arts disciplines, which are academic subjects in their own right).

Douglas Sloan, Professor of History and Education at Teachers College of Columbia University, argues the same point. He writes,

Making the arts in this sense the center of education means above all summoning up the image of the whole of education itself as involving an artistic approach and sensitivity. It then becomes more accurate to describe education as an art than to speak of the arts in education. In this conception there is no place for that separation between the arts and the rest of the educational curriculum. . . 4

Education's Mission

This then might become schooling's new paradigm. As unlikely as it may seem, there is a small, but growing cadre which recognizes that the arts, representing different ways of seeing and experiencing the reality of the world, of strengthening our various intelligences, and as the practical way to access the power of the aesthetic, in support of Schiller's view of its importance, should indeed guide all we do in school (and in our lives as adults as well).

Ron Berger, a sixth grade teacher in Shutesbury, MA, writes,

My position has been that arts are not just important for the 'carryover effect,' of energy and interest which occurs in artistic schools and which fuels academic growth, but because they can be at the core of a culture of high standards in a school. It is not a carry-over of energy, but rather an entire structure of creating, critiquing and sharing all academic work within an aesthetic model. I have argued that arts can form the basis of school norms and standards for work in a manner which is incredibly powerful. Student work is strong not just because they have more energy for it, and not because there is a clear transfer of intelligences, but rather because academic work is embodied in projects which are viewed artistically at all points in their creation. 5

Leading educators embrace this idea. The arts, as forms of language, are at the core of the late Ernest Boyer's Basic School curriculum. An article in support of the arts appears in the May 1996 edition of Horace, the newsletter of the Coalition of Essential Schools. It comments on recent research sponsored by the US Department of Education, which found that skills from the arts can transfer to other areas -- a proposition long denied by most educators. The article goes on to say,

But we also found that this transfer cannot occur unless teachers change their classroom structure- their use of time, grouping instructional strategies, active and participatory learning for all kids -- to allow those skills and abilities to come out and be used.

For students who struggle in schools with curricula based primarily on verbal proficiency, the study found, using arts processes proved extremely powerful. We saw huge changes for those with more kinesthetic, musical, and artistic tendencies. 6

Our challenge then as business people, scientists, educators, and parents is through policy, to allow teachers to change their classroom structure, and at the same time, to provide them with the tools to effectively teach within this new classroom environment. In this fashion, education itself can indeed become an art, with the arts embedded at the core of the curriculum.

Educators are getting serious about professional development. It is up to community stakeholders (parents, businesses, service agencies, and taxpayers) to support them in their efforts in making education an art. There can be a big payoff -- much more effective education, at little if any added cost, as the townspeople in Shutesbury, MA, have discovered. Indeed, we believe a classroom centered in the arts, as Ron Berger describes it, is the most effective way both in pedagogy and cost, for all children to meet the internationally based academic performance standards under development by the New Standards project of the Center for Education and the Economy, (and others). Berger writes,

It would be possible to attend an educational conference on High Standards in Learning and never hear the word art mentioned. During times of 'educational crisis,' art is the first thing discarded from schools. Interestingly, in the teaching approach I embrace, art is at the core of standards.

In my classroom, I have tried to build an environment where art is more than a decoration or supplement for work, but rather a primary context in which most information is learned and shared. The infusion of arts has had, I believe, a profound effect on student understanding, investment, and standards.

This classroom approach is not an easy one. It demands of teachers a willingness to abandon textbooks as much as possible, to gather and create resources themselves, and to work together. It demands of administrators a willingness to sanction and support teachers in doing this. It demands of everyone in the school the courage to trust children with a great deal of responsibility and autonomy.

Though this approach is different, the school staff where I work has won over the hearts of a fairly conservative town community through their dedication, and through the extraordinary success this approach has had with the town's children. As a whole, students not only do well on standardized testing measures, but importantly and demonstrably do well in real life measures of learning. They are capable and confident readers, writers, and users of math; they are strong thinkers and workers; they treat others well. 7


Reason and Analysis, by Themselves Are No Longer Sufficient

Until the Age of Enlightenment we felt ourselves to be at the mercy of the forces of nature. With the discovery of patterns in nature's behavior, combined with our ability, through mathematics, to measure and relate them, we experienced the exhilarating feeling that we were no longer at the mercy of mysterious and random forces.

As indicated by The Economist,

The power of Newton's great work was that it demonstrated (or appeared to demonstrate) the staggering power of science and the susceptibility of the physical world to human understanding. In that way, Newton inspired later thinkers to demand ever more of reason. If the intellect could comprehend the universe, in its seemingly limitless complexity, then surely it could also comprehend justice, authority, right and wrong.

Through reason, man would master nature and himself; through reason, men everywhere, regardless of culture or tradition, would discover the universal rules by which they should live their lives. 8

Enlightened, or rational thinking is now, however, under attack. The Economist asks, "Are these ideas mankind's finest intellectual achievement -- or, as it is once again fashionable to argue, a catastrophic error?"

Is a new balance needed, as The Economist indicates, between the analytic part of the human mind and the instinctive part, between rationality and feeling, so that man can address the world more steadily? Have we ignored, or at least minimized, a whole chunk of our inherent capacity? Deepak Chopra describes "the space beyond reason," or the non rational part of our minds, as a huge region unknown by science, with its materialistic bias. He writes,

The rational part of our minds is generally quite fearful of the non rational part. But the threat has been greatly exaggerated. We spend much of our lives in the space beyond reason. If I say, 'I love you,' the sound waves from my voice bounce against your eardrum, setting up a vibration that the inner ear turns into an electric signal. This impulse is passed along the neurons to the brain's speech center, and you look pleased.

Reason knows all about this journey, except for the last step, which is the most important. Why are you pleased that I love you? Why do those electrical impulses in the brain have a meaning? If I say a different sentence, "You have terminal cancer,' the same physical impulses carry my voice to your brain's speech center, but now you are devastated. Scientifically, the signals are all but identical, yet the results they produce could hardly be more different. An EEG cannot decipher the meaningfulness of brain activity; the squiggles on the readout have nothing to say about what distinguishes love from hate, joy from sorrow, inspiration from tedium.

Meaning slips through the fingers of science. The materialistic bias of science leads it to shun things that cannot be directly contacted by the senses. Yet nature has reserved a huge region set apart for things that cannot be seen, touched, or weighed. If you have ever observed a flock of swallows flying at dusk, you have seen them wheel and turn together, veering off at impossible tangents in the blink of an eye. How does each bird know to turn at the precise instant the others do? Scientists have established that there is no bird acting as leader -- the impulse is somehow shared by every bird at once. The magic lies in each one but also in between, over, and around them. It is fluid and invisible, like the air, but more so. 9

Ned Herrmann, both a successful sculptor and painter, as well as, for many years, Manager of Management Education at General Electric Company, suggests we can better access the space beyond reason by developing our right brain capabilities. He writes,

Modern Western society -- the 'developed' world -- has increasingly demanded and reinforced left hemispheric skills. As industrialization replaced agriculture, our civilization focused its attention on behaviors that served the interests of a production oriented, business-centered, financially driven style of social organization. It rewarded the left-brain cognitive mode orderly, replicable, and verbal -- which serves these interests better than the spontaneous, less structured right modes.

Although it emerged later, the left brain's cognitive focus on fact, rationality, and verbal communication eventually earned it a position of power over the quiescent modes of the right brain. It has done so within each of us, within most of our social institutions, and in all of our business organizations. The left-brain modes have become especially entrenched in our educational system, which typically emphasizes the 'three R's' and neglects -- or even attacks -- the cognitive capabilities of the right brain, such as art, intuition, music, and dance.

There have been unfortunate -- even devastating -- consequences to this rigid emphasis on the left brain. Well-meaning parents unknowingly constrict their children by failing to recognize and honor right-brain as well as left-brain gifts with respect to education and career choices. Well intentioned teachers take their students down the wrong learning path because they don't know how to discern and use the preferred learning style of each student. Dedicated spouses and managers reduce the performance of family members or associates because they are taught to discount rather than appreciate precious differences. As a result, our right-brain capabilities remain latent at best, and often atrophy, at great cost to our personal satisfaction as well as our effectiveness as problem-solvers.

The easily dominated right brain needs all the help it can get to reclaim improved status in the Western world. Until it does, we will experience a high degree of internal conflict and a dissatisfaction in our society.

In terms of thinking style preferences, research has shown that the right and left brains are in a constant state of competition. Our two minds tend to be divided against each other.

I believe it is human destiny to move beyond this mental conflict to a more integrated wholeness, reflecting a smoother collaboration among the specialized parts of the brain. However, we will need to become far more aware of how to handle thinking preferences than we are now. We need to emphasize all the mental skills people favor, so our repertoire of potential behavioral responses can develop fully. This will give us powerful advantages in dealing with life's problems -- both personal and professional. 10


The Individual as a Creative Power

We argue in this paper that a balanced mind, or whole brain is vastly more powerful than even Ned Herrmann indicates. Such minds, or brains, have the capacity to constructively enter the space beyond reason, and in doing so, they directly alter the circumstances and events that shape lives.

Through balance, not only will we be able to address the world more steadily, we will change it. James Allen a 19th century Englishman, recognized that we ourselves are creative powers. We become, literally, what we think;

Every man is where he is by the law of his being; the thoughts which he has built into his character have brought him there, and in the arrangement of his life there is no element of chance, but all is the result of a law which cannot err. This is just as true of those who feel 'out of harmony' with their surroundings as of those who are contented with them.

Man is buffeted by circumstances so long as he believes himself to be the creature of outside conditions, but when he realizes that he is a creative power, and that he may command the hidden soil and seeds of his being out of which circumstances grow, he then becomes the rightful master of himself. 11

Deepak Chopra subscribes to the idea that we have complete control over ourselves and our world. According to Chopra, that control is a function of how we perceive the world (perceiving being the function of gaining knowledge, insight or intuition through the senses). He writes,

Perception appears to be automatic, but in fact it is a learned phenomena. The world we live in, including the experience of our bodies, is completely dictated by how we learn to perceive it. If we change our perceptions, we change the experience of our bodies and our world. 12

Stephen Edelglass, who teaches science at Green Meadow Waldorf school, supports Deepak Chopra's views. He writes,

An integrated art and science curriculum is a very powerful idea. Training perception is, for me, the ground of science education. A phenomenological epistemology explores the role of intentionality in the act of perceiving what we perceive and also intentionality in the quality of how we perceive.

The knowledge gained through intentionality in perception says something about the world; it is not solipsistic. At the same time inner experience can be included within what is known scientifically.

When a student is able to move from the phenomenon (percept) to the concept, she becomes filled with an experience of content -- and she begins to experience herself. She becomes confident in her own thinking, in being able to comprehend, and in that comprehension, master her own life. 13

Related to the power of intentionality in perception is the power of the imagination. We also realize that the effort to imagine something, or make it up in one's mind, may be the root cause of its happening in the outside world. This is how one "commands the hidden soil and seeds of one's being out of which circumstances grow."

Successful companies have gone beyond simply making a profit to imagining the future as the path to achieving it. We also realize that it is the spirit of inquiry which drives us towards the good, and which creates the future. Cultivating this power is the combined role of the arts and humanistic sciences. As processes of discovery they embody the spirit of inquiry, and spark the "craving to comprehend" which can animate us all. And, at least in our opinion, putting this power to work for the good of mankind is the newly emerging role of business.

The inelegant expression, "what goes 'round, comes 'round" succinctly summarizes the point -our experience in the world is directly related to how we view it. This is the law of our being. The thoughts we have directly shape our experience. As James Allen observed, "to desire is to obtain; to aspire is to achieve." He goes on to write;

And you, too, youthful reader, will realize the Vision (not the idle wish) of your heart, be it base or beautiful, or a mixture of both, for you will always gravitate toward that which you, secretly, most love. Into your hands will be placed the exact results of your own thoughts; you will receive that which you earn; no more, no less. Whatever your present environment may be, you will fall, remain, or rise with your thoughts, your Vision, your Ideal. You will become as small as your controlling desire; as great as your dominant aspiration. l4

Business -- How We Think and Interact

The MIT Center for Organizational Learning -- sponsored by eighteen of the nation's largest corporations -- is exploring the power of individual transformation, encouraged and supported by corporate learning infrastructures. Learning organizations view their people as assets (rather than costs), where self-knowledge and personal growth are formally recognized as vitally important to the success of the organization.

As Peter Senge, the Director of the Center, indicates, individual transformation requires dissolving frozen patterns of thought (or mental models). He writes,

We have drifted into a culture that fragments our thoughts, that detaches the world from the self and the self from its community. We have gained control of our environment but have lost our artistic edge. We are so focused on our security that we don't see the price we pay: living in bureaucratic organizations where the wonder and joy of learning have no place. Thus we are losing the spaces to dance with the ever-changing patterns of life. We are losing ourselves as fields of dreams.

We argue that the main dysfunctions in our institutions -- fragmentation, competition, and reactiveness -- are actually byproducts of our success over thousands of years in conquering the physical world and developing our scientific, industrial culture. These dysfunctions are not problems to be solved -- they are frozen patterns of thought to be dissolved. l5

Peter Senge takes a humanist view of organizational change. He describes the disciplines to be practiced by individuals interested in effecting change (systems thinking, personal mastery, mental models, building shared visions and team learning) as more like artistic disciplines than traditional management disciplines.

After decades of focus on "the bottom line" or increasing owner/shareholder value at all costs, is liberal capitalism beginning to move beyond its narrow focus, towards an interest in human development? This move stems less from a sudden interest in social responsibility, but from a search for higher quality performance. Managers now understand that attention to individual and organizational learning increases productivity and ultimately enhances profits.

The Harvard Business School's Gerald Zaltman encourages individual growth, organizational learning, and better managerial performance by drawing on recent work about the nature of mind, knowledge and intelligence. Describing his underlying premises he writes,

Most social communication is nonverbal. Eighty percent of all communication is nonverbal. This is consistent with the finding that two- thirds of all stimuli reaching the brain are visual, with the balance being conveyed through sound, taste, smell, and touch. Nonverbal communication includes paralanguage, or the tone, pitch, and other speech qualities that determine whether we literally mean what we say.

Thoughts occur as images. Having thoughts and expressing them can be quite different. This raises the question, "What is it we have when we have a thought?" Thoughts are images, and only infrequently verbal images. l6

The point that language is not required for human conceptual thinking but is only one of several "symbol systems" used to express intelligence is beautifully made in Post Captain by Patrick O'Brian. In describing the thoughts of Dr. Stephen Maturin while listening to a concert in London in the year 1803, he writes,

A foolish German has said that man thought in words. It was totally false; a pernicious doctrine; the thought flashed into being in a hundred simultaneous forms, with a thousand associations, and the speaking mind selected one, forming it grossly into the inadequate symbols of words, inadequate because common to disparate situations -- admitted to be inadequate for vast regions of expression, since for them there were the parallel languages of music and painting. Words were not called for in many or indeed most forms of thought: Mozart certainly thought in terms of music. He himself at this moment was thinking in terms of scent. l7

Zaltman continues,

Metaphors are central to cognition. A consensus has emerged across many disciplines in the past two decades that metaphors, the representation of one thing in terms of another, is fundamental to thinking and knowing.

Metaphors actively create and shape thought; we cannot know anything unless it is perceived as an instance of one thing and not another. Thought is more inherently figurative than it is literal.

Cognition is grounded in embodied experience. This premise, although supported by research in many fields, is less widely known. It states that abstract thought is shaped by perceptual and motor experiences. Perceptual experience includes all sensory systems, not just vision. Basically, metaphorical understanding and associated mental models are grounded in everyday bodily experience.

Thus, viewing the body as a multimedia system which shapes our thinking suggests that the various subsystems such as the visual subsystem are important technologies to use in "getting the inside out."

Reason, emotion, and experience co-mingle. Human thought involves both reasoning and emotion; effective decision making, whether by customers or managers, requires both. Therefore, it is necessary to consider emotion, logical inference, and embodied experience as mutually dependent and inseparable dynamics. 18

Organizational learning, which is now capturing the attention of the best business managers, must be grounded in these new understandings about how we think, and communicate. Many managers also understand that the entire "ecology" of the business organization is changing. The former CEO of Hanover Insurance, Bill O'Brien, describes his view of these changes.

Work is viewed as a platform on which people mature and achieve happiness by developing their competencies as well as contributing to the Gross World Product. As an employee, a person is first a human being and second an instrument of production. When workers sense this fundamental order in a company, they will devote considerable energy to achieving the company's business goals.

Corporate Ecologies based on values and visions (aspirations) will generally outperform command-and-control corporations.

Learning exclusively through the mechanical, reductionistic model has served business well up to now. But it must be augmented by systemic understanding of the enormous interconnectedness in our world.

Leadership in a vision-driven, value-guided organization has a high component of service, learning, and love. It is about building character and advancing learning throughout the organization. 19

As business continues to explore the need for imaginative, perceptive (i.e. systems) thinking -- not only in its leaders but throughout the organization - - greater appreciation for training in the arts, and an aesthetic approach to education will follow.


Changing What We Mean by Science

As Peter Senge has described it, our current societal dysfunction is the result our scientific success. David Bohm, a scientist, would agree. He writes,

The prevailing attitude in science has been to put the major emphasis on analysis and on splitting off the key factors of each situation. Scientists hope that this will enable them to extend their powers indefinitely to predict and control things. In fact, this spirit is now spreading beyond science, not only into technology, but also into our general approach to life as a whole. Understanding is now valued as the means to predict, control, and manipulate things.

We're beginning to realize that the cost of progress is more and more specialization and fragmentation to the point where the whole activity is losing its meaning.

I think we need to change what we mean by 'science.' 20

Robert Root-Bernstein, Associate Professor of Physiology at Michigan State, and a MacArthur Fellow, sees many similarities between science and art. He views science as a process of discovery, and believes that creative thought, or transformational thinking, is the ability to conceive an object or idea interchangeably or concurrently in visual, verbal, mathematical, kinesthetic, or musical ways. He suggests that we use what he terms "tools of thought" to give meaning to facts and to facilitate creative or transformational thinking. These tools, most of which are embodied in the arts, include analogizing, pattern forming and recognition, visual and kinesthetic thinking, modeling, playacting, manual manipulation, and aesthetics. He believes that the mind and senses alike must be trained equally and in tandem to perceive and to imagine, and points out that few, if any, of these tools of thought are in our standard science curricula.

David Bohm and David Peat, in their book Science, Order, and Creativity, broaden the idea of imagination, finding in it the beginnings of a new, more comprehensive science. 

Literally imagination means 'the ability to make mental images,' which imitate the forms of real things. However, the powers of imagination actually go far beyond this, to include the creative inception of new forms, hitherto unknown. These are experienced not only as visual images, but also through all sorts of feelings, tactile sensations, and kinesthetic sensations and in other ways that defy description. The ability of Mozart and Bach to sense whole musical works all at once could be regarded as a kind of musical imagination. The activity of the imagination does not therefore resemble a static-picture but rather it is closer to a kind of "play" that includes a subtle orchestration of feelings, as well as a sense of intention and will. 21

To my mind, what Bohm and Peat describe is the aesthetic impulse itself It also seems to be another way of describing Deepak Chopra's law of intention and desire, as well as the workings of Stephen Edelglass' intentionality in perception. Certainly, the exercise of the imagination lies at the heart of the creative process and carries with it transcendent power. The process of imagining the future has much to do with bringing it into being.

Craig Holdrege, a science teacher, observes;

Humankind needs a science in which the scientists consciously include the active human being as a part of the reality they strive to understand. This means taking concrete inner and outer experiences much more seriously. It means overcoming the habits of mind which lead us to treat consciousness as a mere epiphenomenon of underlying neural processes, and sense experience as a subjective, (i.e., inaccurate) picture of an underlying 'real' world of matter and forces. 22

The Metaphysics of Quality -- A More Inclusive Mental Model

Robert Pirsig proposes the Metaphysics of Quality as a way to reunite man, nature. He writes that the scientific mental model is based on the assumption that the universe is composed only of subjects and objects, and anything that cannot be classified as a subject or object is not real.

While introducing us to the Metaphysics of Quality in Lila -- An Inquiry into Morals, he suggests that there is no empirical evidence for this assumption at all. He believes instead that there are many sets of intellectual reality in existence with varying degrees of quality. His Metaphysics of Quality supports encompasses David Bohm's belief that different kinds of thought and different kinds of abstraction may together give a better reflection of reality.

The Metaphysics of Quality subscribes to what is called empiricism. It claims that all legitimate human knowledge arises from the senses or by thinking about what the senses provide. Most empiricists, however, deny the validity of any knowledge gained through imagination, authority, tradition, or purely theoretical reasoning. They regard fields such as art, morality, religion, and metaphysics as unverifiable.

The Metaphysics of Quality varies from this by saying that the values of art and morality and even religious mysticism are verifiable, and that in the past they have been excluded for metaphysical reasons, not empirical reasons. They have been excluded because of the metaphysical assumption that all the universe is composed of subjects and objects and anything that cannot be classified as a subject or an object is not real. There is no empirical evidence for this assumption at all. It is just an assumption.

It is an assumption that flies outrageously in the face of common experience.

This may sound as though a purpose of the Metaphysics of Quality is to trash all subject-object thought but that is not true. Unlike subject-object metaphysics the Metaphysics of Quality does not insist on a single exclusive truth. If subjects and objects are held to be the ultimate reality, then we are permitted only one construction of things -- that which corresponds to the 'objective' world -- and all other constructions are unreal. But if Quality or excellence is seen as the ultimate reality, then it becomes possible for more than one set of truths to exist. Then one does not seek the absolute 'Truth.' One seeks instead the highest quality intellectual explanation of things with the knowledge that if the past is any guide to the future this explanation must be taken provisionally; as useful until something better comes along. One can then examine intellectual realities the same way he examines paintings in an art gallery, not with an effort to find out which one is the 'real' painting, but simply to enjoy and keep those that are of value. There are many sets of intellectual reality in existence, and we can perceive some to have more quality than others, but that we do so is, in part, the result of our history and current patterns of values.

The Metaphysics of Quality provides a better set of coordinates with which to interpret the world than does subject-object metaphysics because it is more inclusive. It explains more of the world, and it explains it better. 23


Awakening the Craving to Comprehend

If the values of art and morality are experienced (and therefore verified) through aesthetics, it would suggest that beauty is the basic law or principle from which all others are derived. Kant described aesthetics as the branch of metaphysics concerned with the laws of perception. What is it about aesthetics that awakens "the craving to comprehend," as Herman Hesse describes it in The Glass Bead Game?

It draws together our analytic, perceptive, and emotional capacities to deepen our understanding, building the only true and lasting foundation for rational life, as Schiller suggests. Perhaps the best definition was provided by Keats, when he wrote, "Beauty is truth, truth beauty."

Robert Scruton provides us some insights in his new book, Modern Philosophy. He believes that it is through aesthetics that we can reconnect with the world, and others -- the connection that has been denied us in the exercise of pure "rational" thought uninformed by our senses or emotions, as Plato would have it. Kindergartners offer us a glimpse of early aesthetic behavior, as they are not yet disconnected from the world, as Ron Berger points out. Scruton writes,

Disinterested contemplation of the world means contemplation of the world in relation to the self, and contemplation of the self as part of the world. Such a view would explain why aesthetic experience is so gripping: we are seeking for our home in the world: not the home of the body and its appetites, but the home of the self. The endlessness of aesthetic interest reflects the fact that we can never find that home: the self is not in the empirical world but lies at its limit.

In the "Aesthetic Attitude," we seem to have discovered a special kind of rational interest; interest in something for its own sake, and without reference to our empirical desires. What is the value of such an interest, and what does it tell us about our condition?

It is an interest in the phenomenal world, as Kant would put it: that is, the world as it appears. The object of aesthetic interest is perceived through the senses, and the element of experience seems to be essential. You respond to the look of the landscape, the sound of the birdsong, and the feel of the wind against your face. The term 'aesthetic' derives from the Greek word for perception.

Aesthetic judgment is a part of practical reason, and our truest guide to the environment. It is by aesthetic judgment that we adapt the world to ourselves and ourselves to the world. Schiller argued that the 'aesthetic education' of man is his one true preparation for rational life, and the foundation of any ordered politics. 24

Stephanie Perrin, the head of Walnut Hill, a private school for artistically inclined students, describes the school's educational principle as supporting a process of integration, not only of the arts and humanities with the sciences and math, but more importantly, spirit and matter, soul and body.

The aims of both systems of education at Walnut Hill are to produce young people who, in addition to being knowledgeable and well trained in the specifics of both the arts and the liberal arts, are also able to think critically; to make judgments; to be self-aware both in terms of their feelings and their ethical and moral stance; to be aware of others and able to work with them; to gather and assess information; to have a sense of agency and control in the world; and to be able to generalize and adapt a variety of skills and attitudes to meet whatever challenges life presents. The aims are simply to be able to keep on learning.

These higher order skills and attitudes can be developed in either of the systems. They can be taught through the study of music or the study of biology. It is at this level of functioning that the systems can be said to share an outcome: the creation of the educated young person.

We try to support that process of integration, that rich understanding that incorporates spirit and matter -- soul and body -- that will allow our students to move toward their future with the tools to engage in this world with full intellectual, emotional and moral understanding and the courage to act on that understanding. 25

This passage describes precisely the "balance" we need to deal with the world more effectively, as called for by The Economist. It is a balance between head, heart and hand. It develops "perceptive reason, informed by aesthetics," which is the mental model we propose as a response to Enlightenment thinking, with its adulation of rational thought, uninformed (and thus limited) by the absence of trained perceptions and controlled emotion.

The Power of Imagination

Elliot Eisner observes that educators' indifference to the refinement of perception and inattention to the development of imagination have limited children's cognitive growth. Conversely, those trained in the arts have educated imaginations and developed cognitive capabilities.

The arts community has much to teach us about educating the imagination, or developing the spirit of inquiry, which guides and informs the creative process. Robert Fritz believes that the secret of the creative process is understood intuitively by artists, but that the idea is so simple artists have never made it explicit. In his book, The Path of Least Resistance -- Learning to Become the Creative Force in Your Own Life, he writes:

A common mistake people make when first entering the orientation of the creative is to seek to 'find out' what they want as if it were a deeply hidden treasure to be discovered and revealed.

They are looking in the wrong direction. Creating what you want is not a revelatory process, nor is what you want something to be discovered.

If not by revelation or discovery, then how do you derive the what in the question What do I want? The answer to this question is known, either rationally or intuitively, by those who are actively involved in creating.

The answer to this question permeates all creative acts, from creating your life the way you want it to be, to designing the latest technological advances in computer science.

Our educational tradition unfortunately has had a tendency to belittle the power and significance of this answer. And yet, once you begin to use it, new creative power and flexibility are available to you.

How do you create the what in What do I want?"


Please do not miss the point. This is truly a remarkable insight into the deeper nature of the creative orientation. If not by need, and not by the demands of the circumstances, and not by revelation, then how do you conceive of what you want? Simply by "making up" the results. 26

Business is beginning to understand that the ability to imagine the future actually bring it about. In Competing for the Future by Gary Hamel and C. K. Prahalad, the authors observe,

The goal of this book is to help managers imagine (or make up) the future and, having imagined it, create it. There is not one future but hundreds. There is no law that says most companies must be followers. Getting to the future first is not just about outrunning competitors bent on reaching the same prize. It is also about having one's own view of what the prize is. There can be as many prizes as runners; imagination is the only limiting factor. Renoir, Picasso, Calder, Serat, and Chagall were all enormously successful artists, but each had an original and distinctive style. In no way did the success of one preordain the failure of another. Yet each artist spawned a host of imitators. In business, as in art, what distinguishes leaders from laggards, and greatness from mediocrity, is the ability to uniquely imagine what could be. 27

James Allen writes that developing an independent point of view -- or vision -- indeed brings it into being.

He who cherishes a beautiful vision, a lofty ideal in his heart, will one day realize it. Columbus cherished a vision of another world, and he discovered it; Copernicus fostered the vision of a multiplicity of worlds, and a wider universe, and he revealed it; Buddha beheld the vision of a spiritual world of stainless beauty and perfect peace, and he entered into it.

Cherish your visions; cherish your ideals; cherish the music that stirs in your heart, the beauty that forms in your mind, the loveliness that drapes your purest thoughts, for out of them will grow all delightful conditions, all deeper in heavenly environment; of these, if you but remain true to them, your world will at last be built. To desire is to obtain; to aspire is to achieve. 28

This is, perhaps, the reason Albert Einstein observed that imagination is more important than knowledge. Imagining something, or creating something, is so obvious to artists, whose stock in trade is the creative, that they do not see their own capacities -- as the fish do not see the water.

The late James Rouse, real estate developer and community builder, understood the power of a vision. He wrote:

Visions describe what best should be, could be -- if and when mankind has the will to make them real...I don't think people understand the power of visions. That erecting a vision of what ought to be under a given circumstance, and then believing that it can be accomplished because it ought to be, generates power; generates action by people; generates energy; generates the capacity to fulfill it, because it is held up. I believe that whatever ought to be done, can be done. 29

What motivates a creator? Why bother to imagine a picture, a dance, or the future of business? Robert Fritz observes,

The desire for the creation to exist -- not for a return on investment, not for what it may say about you, but for the love of the thing, the creation, itself One creates music because we love it enough to make it happen. The reason you would create anything is because you love it enough to see it exist. 30

The Better Alternative -- Perceptive Informed by the Aesthetic

This brings us back to the power of the aesthetic impulse -- a blend of reason, emotion, and the senses which is "a special kind of rational interest, interest in something for its own sake which could lead to clues about the meaning of life itself," as Robert Scruton observes.

This perhaps is the ultimate energizing power of the aesthetic -- putting purpose and meaning into a world which appears to have none. The aesthetic delivers sense of purposefulness -- of Mind, as Herman Hesse describes it. It provides balance between the rational and the emotional/intuitive parts of our being. It allows us to view and experience the world more steadily, and as a participant. Guided by the aesthetic impulse we begin to understand what it means to be a part of the world, and not an enemy of it. It underlies a more humanistic science, and resolves the dilemma of man's place in the world ("inside-out" versus "outside-in").

It provides purpose to liberal capitalism, where investment in the personal growth and development of the employee while providing needed goods a services leads to financial profit. It is the shore on which Elliot Eisner stands calling to those of us in the rowboat, lost offshore in the fog. It is the force which moves mathematicians. It is "the structure within which to create, critique, a share all academic work, forming the basis of school norms and standards for work in a manner which is incredibly powerful."

Creating, critiquing, and sharing all academic work within an aesthetic model deepens our intelligence. It is the educational response to the need for a better alternative -- called for by The Economist -- to the philosophy of the Enlightenment which has shaped western thinking the last three centuries. It supports David Perkins' contention that intelligence is not fixed, but can be taught.

Great teachers, such as Ron Berger, Stephen Edelglass, and Karen Gallas, a first and second grade teacher in the Brookline, MA school system, teach perceptive reason. We must find ways to help others emulate them. In this way our young people can better adapt themselves to the world, and each other. As Rob Scruton observes,

By recognizing, through aesthetics, the sublime purposefulness that flows through all things, even though as free beings who are compelled at every moment to see themselves as apart from nature we can find our home in the natural order. 31

Developing a culture of high standards through an aesthetic model leads to order of magnitude increase in school effectiveness. This can be done at little any, extra cost -- but only when parents and taxpayers recognize the power inherent in the practice of education within an aesthetic model -- and demand the arts in both curriculum and pedagogical practice.

As our awareness of both our inner strengths and our connectedness to the world and to each other increases, we predict a great renaissance in both the practice, and the teaching of the arts in schools. There is a power here that, while difficult to measure, nevertheless exists. As we develop better assessment tools, and as our understanding of the nature of intelligence continues to grow, our appreciation of this power will increase, leading to the positioning of the arts at the core of the curriculum. 




The Worldwide Business Community in the 21st Century -- Providing the Balance Between Universal Morality and Individual Freedom

Phaedrus began to see for the first time the unbelievable magnitude of what man, when he gained power to understand and rule the world in terms of dialectic truths, had lost. He had built empires of scientific capability to manipulate the phenomena of nature into enormous manifestations of his own dreams of power and wealth -- but for this he had exchanged an empire of understanding of equal magnitude; an understanding of what it is to be a part of the world, and not an enemy of it.

Robert Pirsig


Until the Age of Enlightenment we felt ourselves to be at the mercy of the uncontrollable forces of nature. With the discovery of patterns in nature's behavior, combined with our ability, through mathematics, to measure and relate them, we experienced the exhilarating feeling that we were no longer at the mercy of mysterious and random natural events.

As indicated by The Economist,

The beginning of the Enlightenment can plausibly be dated at 1687, when Newton published his 'Mathematical Principles of Philosophy.'

Newton's universal law of gravitation, the basis for a comprehensive mathematical description of the universe, constituted an intellectual revolution in its own right.

The power of Newton's great work was that it demonstrated (or appeared to demonstrate) the staggering power of science and the susceptibility of the physical world to human understanding. In that way, Newton inspired later thinkers to demand ever more of reason. If the intellect could comprehend the universe, in its seemingly limitless complexity, then surely it could also comprehend justice, authority, right and wrong.

Through reason, man would master nature and himself; through reason, men everywhere, regardless of culture or tradition, would discover the universal rules by which they should live their lives.

Enlightened, or rational thinking is now, however, under attack. The Economist asks, "Are these ideas mankind's finest intellectual achievement -- or, as it is once again fashionable to argue, a catastrophic error?"

The argument against science, rationality (and its offspring, liberal capitalism) is found in the work of Theodore Adorno and Max Horkheimer, Dialectic of the Enlightenment, published shortly after the Second World War. According to The Economist,

They asked why mankind, far from advancing to an ever closer harmony, had sunk into an abyss of hitherto unimaginable barbarism; why science, far from serving its Enlightenment purpose of enlarging human understanding, had only served the cause of human cruelty. Their answer was that the Enlightenment had been doomed all along to serve totalitarian goals.

The exaltation of rationality, they argued, could have led nowhere else. Since the one, true rationality does not exist, the Enlightenment project was futile -- but, tragically, not just futile. By rejecting all authority but reason, the Enlightenment left wickedness unchecked. By seeking to justify morality exclusively in terms of reason, man divorced ethics from knowledge, and subordinated the one to the other. He once sought to be wise, now he sought only to know. He worshipped not God but technology, and sacrificed his fellow man to it. Industrial dehumanization, concentration camps, atomic bombs, these were the fruits of knowledge without morals.

The Economist, on the other hand, argues that the Enlightenment has produced one of the best and most hopeful episodes in the life of mankind.

It ought to be obvious, but evidently it needs saying: to the everyday lives of hundreds of millions of people, western liberalism has brought standards of material and emotional well-being unimagined in earlier times. The daily portion of all but the rich was once ignorance, injustice, fear, pain, and want. On every dimension -- health, education, physical security, economic opportunity -- conditions of life have been utterly transformed, and for the better. As catastrophic failures go, the Enlightenment has served mankind quite well. At a minimum, the burden of proof lies with anti-liberals to propose a better alternative something they have conspicuously failed to do.

In an article titled "Looking Back from 2992 -- A World History," Chapter 13: "The Disastrous 21st Century," The Economist suggested we may be headed for trouble if we don't find this better alternative.

The collapse of communism brought universal agreement that there was no serious alternative to free-market capitalism as the way to organize economic life . . .

In AD 1991 the central idea on which the remaking of the world could have been based was the belief in every man's right to political and economic freedom.

The remaking never happened, for reasons that modern students of history can understand better than the people of the time did. The 21st century became the 'century of disasters.' The post-1991 failure happened because of a failure of clear thinking, a failure of imagination, and a failure of will.

It was time for a readjustment. A new balance was needed between the analytic part of the human mind and the instinctive part, between rationality and feeling; only then could man address the world more steadily. And a new bargain had to be struck between the claims of individual freedom and the claims of a universal morality; only then could law and liberty swing evenly on the scales. Because they did not tackle these problems in time, the democracies marched straight from the climax of their 20th century victory into anticlimax. They did not know what to do next.

After decades of focus on "the bottom line" or increasing owner/shareholder value at all costs, liberal capitalism is beginning to move beyond its primary interest in science, technology and analytic thought, towards a concern with human development. This move stems less from a sudden interest in social responsibility, but from a- search for higher quality performance. Managers now understand that attention to individual and organizational learning increases productivity and ultimately enhances profits.

The Economist describes current business thinking this way;

But do companies really have social responsibilities? Management theorists broadly divide into three camps on the question.

The first takes as its motto Milton Friedman's injunction that the business of business is business. Its most influential exponent, Michael Jensen, a professor at Harvard Business School, argues that management's overriding obligation is to increase value for shareholders. He is a champion both of takeovers (which allow shareholders to kick out bad managers) and of downsizing (which can lead to a more efficient allocation of resources). If companies try to pursue the social good directly, they will impoverish society by taking bad decisions, he argues.

A second group of theorists takes the opposite view: that a company's primary responsibility is to its 'stakeholders,' principally its employees. Both Peter Drucker and Charles Handy argue that stakeholding makes commercial sense, because an ever-larger proportion of a company's value is in the brains of its staff. Mr. Handy would like companies to become 'membership communities,' with shareholders forbidden to sell the organization over the heads of employees.

The third camp, which seems to include most business people, is somewhere in the middle. Managers feel that they cannot reasonably offer their workers job security at a time when the average life of companies is shorter than that of their employees (and is shrinking). Stakeholding in Germany and Japan has forced up costs and prevented companies from hiring young talent. A job for life, says Jack Welch, chairman of General- Electric, provides nothing more than a 'fuzzy kind of loyalty.'

On the other hand, many bosses are also uneasy about an uncompromising Jensenite commitment to shareholder value. A firm's share price may be the best measure of a management's success. But part of being successful lies in creating ties with both your workers and your customers. In a world in which many consumers make decisions for noncommercial reasons (the environment, human rights) and good staff are hard to find, managers need to market their reputation for social responsibility as vigorously as they market their products.

The nice fuzzy concept around which the third camp has gathered is 'employability' -- the idea that companies may not owe their employees a job for life, but they do have a responsibility to train workers so that they have a better chance of finding a new job if the company sacks them. Sumantra Ghoshal, a professor at London Business School, argues that this arrangement also reflects a revolution in the organization of firms. Once bosses did the thinking and workers offered them blind obedience in return for job security. Now everybody is responsible for adding to the company's human capital and so improving its competitiveness.

The corporate world seems to be taking to the idea of employability.

Over the long term there may be little difference between the Jensen and the Drucker/Handy positions. Shareholder values will come out better in the end through attention to employee learning, not simply to train workers so they can find a new job if they are laid off, but to increase the productivity of the company.

Employee learning is embodied in the developing idea of companies as learning organizations. Introduced by MIT's Peter Senge in the book, The Fifth Discipline, the concept expands the idea of human "capital" as essential to economic productivity and growth. Senge describes the disciplines to be practiced by individuals interested in organizational learning (systems thinking, personal mastery, mental models, building shared visions and team learning) as more like artistic disciplines than traditional management disciplines.

The Economist Intelligence Unit writes, Fortune magazine has called Peter Senge the 'intellectual and spiritual champion' of the learning organization. Indeed, Mr. Senge's contribution has evolved from his belief that business should pay more attention to the conditions that motivate people to do great things for themselves and for their companies. He writes: 'The central message of The Fifth Discipline ... is more radical than 'radical organization redesign' -- namely that our organizations work the way they work, ultimately, because of how we think and how we interact. Only by changing how we think can we change deeply embedded policies and practices. Only by changing how we interact can shared visions, shared understandings and new capacities for coordinated action be established.'

Organizational learning encompasses knowledge creation, which is now being seen as an essential ingredient of survival in the coming century.

We in the West tend to view knowledge as necessarily explicit -- formal and systematic; expressed in words and numbers, and easily shared in the form of hard data, scientific formulas, codified procedures, or universal principles.

Most of our knowledge may not be explicit at all, but instead is tacit -- housed in our perceptions, intuitions and insights. The authors of The Knowledge Creating Company , Ikujiro Nonaka and Hirotaka Takeuchi, write,

Japanese companies, however, have a very different understanding of knowledge. They recognize that the knowledge expressed in words and numbers represents only the tip of the iceberg. They view knowledge as being primarily 'tacit' -- something not easily visible and expressible. Tacit knowledge is highly personal and hard to formalize, making it difficult to communicate or to share with others. Subjective insights, intuitions, and hunches fall into this category of knowledge. Furthermore, tacit knowledge is deeply rooted in an individual's action and experience, as well as in the ideals, values, or emotions he or she embraces.

At the same time, tacit knowledge contains an important cognitive dimension. It consists of schemata, mental models, beliefs, and perceptions so ingrained that we take them for granted. The cognitive dimension of tacit knowledge reflects our image of reality (what is) and our vision for the future (what ought to be). Though they cannot be articulated very easily, these implicit models shape the way we perceive the world around us.

Besides ideals, values, and emotion, tacit knowledge also embraces images and symbols. These soft and qualitative elements are crucial to an understanding of the Japanese view of knowledge.

As business further develops its understandings of what constitutes knowledge, the importance of our perceptive capacities, and their development, will become increasingly clear.

Can the coming revelation in business thinking, with its attendant interest in personal transformation and organizational learning, be considered an awakening to moral behavior? Many believe that business is quite the opposite. Indeed, immoral behavior appears to be encouraged when profit is the sole motivation.

Morality is described as "a sense of right and wrong, being or acting in accordance with standards and precepts of goodness or with established codes of behavior, in use to regulate behavior." Morality is uniquely human, attending to the "inside-out." Because of the enormous success of enlightened, reasoned, scientific thinking, which is viewed as value free (neither moral nor immoral, in its pursuit of truth), attention to moral behavior is now essential. The growth of the Christian right is testimony to our interest in better understanding that which influences moral behavior. Tom Mahon, writing in the January 12, 1996, Wall Street Journal about "The Spirit of Technology," observes,

Coincidentally or not, our nation's spiritual crisis has paralleled a remarkable explosion in technological prowess. I would like to offer an observation about the connection between the two fields.

We are the first generation to experience the full effects of the three centuries-old decoupling of the physical landscape (as understood by science, manipulated by technology and capitalized on by business) from the moral landscape (as taught by our religious institutions). It's little wonder we are witnessing a global moral meltdown as the rise of religious fundamentalism wars with an increasingly pervasive technology. We have lived so long in this two-truth universe that we may figure it was always this way. It wasn't.

Throughout most of history, people's work world and spiritual world interacted. When the enslaved Hebrews of Egypt, the downtrodden slaves of imperial Rome, the dispossessed widows and orphans of 7th-century Arabia, and the 'untouchables' of Siddhartha's India were suffering in mind and body, they evolved a spiritual response appropriate for their time and circumstances. And from those experiences come a body of literature written between about 1300 BC and AD 650: the Bible, the Koran, the Vedas, the Gita, the Tao te Ching, and the teachings of Confucius and Buddha.

To a world that was flat, static, agricultural and largely illiterate, those books were, literally, a godsend. They served their times exceptionally well. Unfortunately, the core teachings were set in cultural contexts that have been largely superseded. The religious traditions of antiquity are hard- pressed now to guide us in a brave new world that was never foreseen by their authors.

With the atom smasher, the gene machine, the digital computer and psychoactive drugs, we manipulate matter, life, mind and mood today in a way we thought only God could do 50 years ago. Yet we attempt to exercise these abilities in a 'value-free' context, with no generally accepted moral code appropriate for our new power. Who is to teach us? I have not found one school of divinity that offers courses in science and technology as part of the core curriculum, yet every religion recognizes that 'God is manifest through nature.'

Reflecting the lack of spirituality appropriate to our time, and the hunger for such, is the popularity today of medieval plainchant and Renaissance angels, a flight to the past, or a loopy New Ageism that lacks any rigor, discipline or spine, holding that all values are of equal value (and hence of no value).

Until such time as the leaders of the world's religious traditions can transcend their cultural and dogmatic differences, it falls to individuals and communities of like-minded people to evolve a spirituality appropriate for our time. This isn't heresy. Every great religion originally appeared as a response among people desperate for comfort and solace during troubling times. And the irony is that in this exercise today, we can actually combine what we know about science with our need to get closer to our spiritual core.

Science and technology deal with things: atoms and galaxies, levers and microprocessors. The life of the spirit, on the other hand, deals with connections between things: mercy, justice and love. We have become very good in the age of science and technology at knowing about things, but we're not really as wise as we should be at making connections.

The great naturalist John Muir once said, 'I find that if I touch anything, it's connected to everything else in the universe.' True spirituality is an exquisite awareness of the interconnection of all things. And the connection of connections, the network of networks, the bond of all bonds is the phenomenon we call God, an old English word meaning 'the good.'

Instead of picturing God as a medieval monarch on a marble throne, imagine God as the living awareness in the space that makes up about 99.99% of the universe. Thinking of God that way gets us past some of the great theological divides of the past. Is God immanent or transcendent, internal or external, composed or compassionate? Like the question of whether the atom is wave or particle, the answer is: yes.

The 17th century gave us the Scientific Revolution. The 19th century spawned the Industrial Revolution. So perhaps the 21st century will give us a Spiritual Revolution to tie it all together. But only if each of us -- individually and collectively -- makes it so.

Is it possible that the interest in individual transformation developing in the world of business could lead to a resurgence of moral values, and indeed form the basis of a Spiritual Revolution? Perhaps. Certainly the connectedness of things referred to by Mahon is reflected in the concept of "systems" thinking pioneered by Senge and others.

Business is also well-positioned to reestablish the spirit of inquiry, which has all but disappeared according to Sam Swaminathan. Writing in the Khaleej Times he observes,

Progress doesn't come easy. But everyone wants it to come real easy. History teaches us that human progress has hinged on a handful of brave persons who had the indomitable spirit of inquiry. Why is the spirit dying?

The reasons are many. Just take our educational systems. The focus, (depending upon the system adopted), is on cramming stuff, both relevant and irrelevant, and reproducing it periodically at given points in time, only to hurriedly forget most of it immediately thereafter. Other systems tend to develop the analytical skills to such an extent that students become experts at analyzing any and everything, while losing the ability to see the bigger picture. They are a sort of digital version of one-dimensional man.

No importance is given to reflection and intuition. Net result -- persons with superb reactive problem-solving skills, and zero proactive problem avoidance skills. The ability to generate ideas does not stem from problem solving instead it is the direct outcome of curiosity and a childish eagerness for exploration.

The desire to explore and inquire is born out of curiosity. Knowingly or unknowingly, homes, school, and corporations systematically destroy this great gift of nature freely and equally given to us all. Cast your mind back to the teaching of phrases at schools. The teachers says, 'He felt like a fish out of water.' Children learn to use the phrase, and begin to use it quite well. But a great deal more attention is required to helping children understand the power of analogies and metaphorical thinking, than the phrases themselves.

Think of the wondrous word 'why.' The one great difference between the manager and the leader lies in the questions each asks. While the manager asks how and when, the leader asks what and why? There perhaps isn't a more powerful word in the lexicon as far as idea generation and imagining go. Why is how new ideas are born. Without why there wouldn't be much progress and development.

Let us learn to bring back the spirit of inquiry, which required the ceaseless use of why. The spirit of inquiry requires megatons of why. But what happens in real life? How often have you heard this as a child from an elder, as a student from a teacher, and as a subordinate from a superior, 'Listen, don't ask why. Just get on with it and do as you are told, if you know what's good for you.'

Gee, I haven't seen worse behavior on the part of supposedly responsible people. The effect is so devastating and compounding that it ripples right through corporations and communities. And the few who venture to defy this edict are marked as mavericks, the do-no-gooders, who should either not be hired, or watched closely until they have given up their curiosity.

If Intel didn't have a Gordon Moore, if PepsiCo didn't have a Roger Enrico, if Apple hadn't had the two Steves, if ABB didn't have a Percy Barnevik, if Rubbermaid didn't have a Wolfgang Schmitt, (I wish the list were longer), these corporations wouldn't be where they are today.

Do you know how McDonalds began? The only reason McDonalds exists today is the curiosity of a salesman called Ray Kroc, who couldn't simply stop wondering why a small unknown mom and pop outfit would want so many of the multimixers he sold. His curiosity took him to this couple, the McDonalds, and the rest is history. So many managers, teachers and parents eat at McDonalds today, but so few pause to ponder how it started. If they did, they would go back to their drawing boards and get their charges to start asking 'why' as often as Ray Kroc did.

In fact, corporate performance appraisals should mandate measurement of the spirit of inquiry among its staff. I can hear human resource managers sneering and saying, 'Rubbish, because you can't measure it.' Well, my reply is simple, 'You can't measure the best things in life, pal.' Tell me, do you guys measure leadership or not? Those who seem to have greater leadership are sent spiraling up the ladder, right? So don't tell me you don't measure qualitative items. The problem is that the measures are woefully inadequate since they exclude the real issues. And that's why there aren't enough great guys at the top. Sure, the hard stuff is important, but for heaven's sake don't forget the soft stuff. Because it's the soft stuff, that everyone cares about. Remember, Soft is hard -- Hard is soft, meaning the soft stuff is hard to measure and so we make excuses and don't measure it, while the hard stuff is easy to measure and so we go about over measuring it. And that's just fine, because everyone is busy doing something, even if that something is awfully insufficient.

And this should come as no surprise. Just learn from nature, dammit. Take a fruit bearing tree. The hard stuff comprises the fruit that is eventually sold to make money, right? Well, step back for a moment, and try figuring out what factors are involved in the fruit being finally borne. The list goes something like this:


  • the farmer's knowledge of the business

  • his/her understanding of the soil conditions

  • his intuition about the amount of chemicals required

  • his ability to look at the leaves and decide that the chemical characteristics of the terrain need modifying

  • his zealous devotion to farming and his farm


I could go on adding to the list. Imagine you are his boss, and are about to evaluate him. Just try and put some numbers against these parameters. I can hear some say, 'I ain't stupid, why would I do that? I would simply wait to see the results of the harvest.' Well, this wouldn't work unless you saw results over a long period of time. The guy could simply be killing the golden goose for great short-term results (a legion of CEOs do precisely that, and sadly enough get away with it), with untold long-term negative consequences. If, on the other hand, you got a handle on the soft stuff, you could estimate more meaningfully what the long-term results are likely to be. Isn't it time people in charge got back to basics and get the spirit of inquiry back at home, school, and the workplace?

Indeed, as writers such as Gary Hamel and C. K. Prahalad now believe, it is the spirit of inquiry, together with the ability to uniquely imagine what could be, that differentiates the highly successful business enterprise from the laggards.

In our view reviving the spirit of inquiry is the joint responsibility of the arts and the sciences. Attempts to agree on this as their combined mission might foster a deeper dialogue between the two than has been yet the case. And, the insights developed by this enterprise should be the ones that guide the worldwide business enterprise as it seeks its moral and spiritual role in the world.


About the author

Eric Oddleifson is Managing Director of UBS Asset Management (NY) Inc., and Chairman of The Center for Arts in the Basic Curriculum.




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September 1996

Copyright © 1997 CABC
Center for Arts in the Basic Curriculum

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