I’m reading a book referred to me by my colleague, one which tends to affirm my own experiences in organizational strengthening. In it, organizational methodologies such as open book management, transparency, broad participation, continuous improvement and other member-centric initiatives are presented as elements to make organizations stronger, better-performing and more stable. (I seem to like writings that affirm my own beliefs.)
But I also noticed in the “Reader Comments” section of the book source website one reader’s opinion about the work: “Everything is so obvious…. There are some useful items that managers could use for improvements, but they probably won’t read this book, which defeats its purpose.” That comment got me to thinking about the expressions of truth and how we react to them.
Truth. It’s one of those ephemeral notions that’s hard to get our arms around, because it changes its shape, is sometimes conditional, and frequently personal. Often, truth is a matter of one’s experiences and worldview. Laws of physics and biology aside, truth is often a matter of our perception, and thus something into which we may grow over time.
But the idea expressed by the unimpressed reader at the website suggested something quite dangerous, I think. In essence, his response to material which he characterizes as “obvious” is that it’s a wasted effort, because the people who need it won’t read it. In other words, sharing the truth as the author sees it and experiences it, is only worthwhile if the “right” group of people will access it. Apparently, truth for its own sake and as an invitation to educating oneself to a new point of view is of no value.
In considering that perspective, I wonder how to regard something like law. Under this way of thinking, presumably laws are not worth publishing because those who are inclined to break them won’t read them anyway, and we needn’t worry about those who already tend to be law-abiding. (I wonder how they might have come to an understanding of those laws?) Or what about works such as The Bible, The Koran or other sources of religious belief? Presumably those disinterested in spiritual tenets won’t read the tomes anyway and those who are “good” people are already good people even without written works of faith. So what’s the value in such works?
Truth is actually hard to come by. Governments routinely provide its citizens partial or non-truths to suit their agendas. Economic enterprises often withhold the truth of their businesses from members and partners in a condescending, paternalistic effort to control independent thought. Advertisers come right out and misrepresent the realities of products and services in order to dupe potential customers into buying a lie. Sometimes even family and friends wade into the distortion of reality, whether for protecting someone’s feelings or for self-aggrandizement. As a result, we constantly seek truth from behind whatever subterfuge has been scattered along our way.
Thus, sharing the truth is always worthwhile for its own sake. People may agree or disagree with what is shared, but the opportunity to hear for oneself is paramount to discerning the parameters of essential truth. The author of the book in question is not defeated in her purpose just because certain readers-in-need choose not read. It is the very act of writing for those who have not understood her truth that makes her work worthwhile. She has put forward her truths about organizational health and therein provided seeds to be sown, even if only in one fertile field.
Our collective and individual truths are discerned through life’s lessons, both our own and those of others. We need others’ truths as a means of validating or rejecting our own, of testing what we think we know as the truth against what others have perceived.
The danger inherent in censorship, whether it has been imposed externally or from our own self-surrender, is that we are left only to our own limited observations of what truly is. The idea that a strategy or initiative is not worth airing because of limited audience exposure is perilously close to shutting the door on any new discovery. How many readers found interest in the initial dissertation about application of personal computers?
Writing essays each week here is an exercise of self-indulgence of sorts, a pretentious offering up of perspectives as if they hold some important elements of truth that might be of value to someone else. I only seek to articulate the sometimes convoluted observations encountered day-to-day, as a contribution to my own understanding of the truth and of my life, and in the process perhaps contribute to those who might chance to stumble across these meager thoughts. They are my truths as I have experienced them, but I also wonder what others know as their truths.
The real value in offering up our truths is in their presentation and an offering to share. If the “right” people access the words, it’s a bonus. If only those in agreement embrace them, then we are at least affirmed. But truth relies upon the energy and courage to say it as we know it. And when that happens, its purpose will never be defeated….