Smart Moves: Knowing me, knowing you

Promoting self-awareness is the key to running a good business, says Jackie Townsend
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The Independent Online
BUSINESS is the dominant institution in our society and has to survive financially, or preferably prosper, in order to continue to exist, and therefore it finds ways to adapt to change very quickly. It learns to adapt and the standard of living of most of us continues to rise.

Children go to school and learn to read and write in books that do nothing to stimulate the imagination or to nurture the inner life of the child.

They follow the National Curriculum, which has very little time allocated to physical exercise or creative and artistic endeavour. School is about passing exams and fitting into the system.

Those who go on to further and higher education will probably find more of the same, with some emphasis on responsibility and self-discipline to get the work done.

What is needed in the workplace, in business, is people who are able to create an environment around them, in or out of the workplace and with or without a company structure, that suits and even enhances this process of change, not in an aggressive or dominating way, but as part of their being.

This is the kind of creativity that comes from self-knowledge and self- awareness.

Knowing and understanding yourself is the key to knowing and understanding your society and environment, and thus being in a position to make a contribution.

Peter Drucker says in his book, Managing in a Time of Great Change: "More than anything else, the individual has to take more responsibility for himself or herself."

The system and the society that we have created no longer fits. Many people are having to adapt to a society of which they do not appear to be a part, and they find ways and means of surviving.

It follows, then, that the systems that we have established for education are inadequate and simply don't fit any more partly because the students no longer fit.

And the career structures and work systems that students are supposed to step into at the end of their formal education are disappearing as companies choose instead to change their approaches to hiring and retaining staff.

There are different kinds of knowledge. There is intellectual knowledge, which is mostly passed down from other people, what they teach us, and what we read in books.

There is knowledge that we acquire ourselves, from our experimentation and our experience of life. There is the experience of interacting with other people, experiencing how other people respond to us and our ideas, experiencing relationships of all kinds.

All of these kinds of knowledge are increasingly called for in the workplace, and in the society in which the workplace plays such a large part. It could be said that business has a responsibility and also a huge opportunity.

Business demands all kinds of personal strengths and skills that the average person's education and previous employment simply has not allowed for, such as the self-knowledge and personal responsibility that only come from making your own choices, rather than being told what to do.

It could adopt a more creative and braver approach to getting its needs met by widening the parameters of accepted ability and inviting in a much wider spectrum of knowledge and ability and, indeed, age.

In this way it would begin to create a seedbed for a really creative and innovative response to ongoing change, which has adaptation built into it because it becomes part of each person's life experience and working experience.

Frameworks are continually provided, used and discarded as they become irrelevant, because the creativity needed is already there.

The workplace becomes a more stable and more nourishing environment; not necessarily secure, because there really is no such as thing as security - read Alan Watts' The Security of Insecurity - but definitely not static.

At the moment many people in the workplace suffer from fear and anxiety as well as physical ills brought on by feelings of not being able to cope, and fear of the future. Fear and anxiety are debilitating and inhibit the ability to be creative and to adapt.

Those businesses that survive and flourish, I feel, are and will be those that adopt a less defensive stance and, instead, look at the resources they already have and those around them, see what's really on offer and get stuck in.