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What six blind men can teach us about change


Last summer I wrote about the social business landscape as I saw it.  Since that time, ‘social business’ as a concept seems to have merged into ‘the future of work’, but I suspect the morals remain much the same.

The blog spoke about the many different ‘factions’ that were largely approaching the question of a more social workplace in their own way, but seldom seeming to meet up and compare notes, much less work together on the challenge.

So enterprise social people would seldom speak with social learning folks, who would seldom speak to crowdsourcers, who would rarely encounter people from the sharing economy, and so on.

We’re seeing similar friction arising around future of work type discussions, with facilities folks rarely speaking with HR, IT people seldom speaking to finance, and so on.

It all brings to mind the fable of the six blind men and the elephant.  The story sees six blind men enter a room with an elephant in it one after the other.

The first enters, and upon grasping the tusk of the elephant returns to his comrades and shares how sword like this elephant is.

The second man enters and chances upon the tail of the elephant, and thus assumes it to be of snake like proportions.

The third encounters the ear of the elephant and regales his chums with how the elephant is like a fan.

You probably get the message by now (the full story is in the video at the bottom of this post).  Each man is certain in his belief of what the elephant is actually like, and spends the rest of the night trying to convince his friends that his version of reality is the truth.

Only if they worked together would they ever find out the real truth of what form the elephant takes, but because they don’t work in this way, they never do.

It seems an apt story for some of the discussions around the future of work.  There are many different strands to the story, each with their own perspectives.  Only by bringing them together will we achieve what we hope to.

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