Monday Musings – Chicken or Egg – Aristotle style.
Apparently it was Aristotle who said something to the effect “Act virtuous and you shall be virtuous”. It is not lost that he did not say “think virtuous and you shall be virtuous”. I find this interesting enough to muse about it.
At the cost of over simplifying Aristotle, what he might be saying is that behave good and you shall be good. It does not matter what you think but as long as you are behaving right the result is the same. So what it would mean is that if a criminal does a good, he is good to the extent of this specific action. Cut to the organizational context – as long as a leader is behaving right, nothing else matters. One can always argue that he will not behave right as long as he thinking is not right. I will deal with this subsequently but at this stage what it would mean is that if by some way we create a template of agreeable behaviors or desirable behaviors and there is a strong governance around that, so much less energies will be spent trying to ‘change the thinking’ of folks. (As I am writing this, I cannot believe this line of thinking because it goes against the grain of everything that I have learnt so far – but why argue with Aristotle – the bloke was a genius!)
In the line of work I am in generally and otherwise too, we hear so much about the need to ‘change the thinking’. The underlying algorithm is that behavior is governed by thinking and hence if thinking can be improved, changed or modified then behavior can be changed and hence someday this change can be seen in results. A slight modification to that is also that thinking comes from feelings and that comes from our beliefs and so on and so forth. There is so much scream on this subject all around. Most behavior transformation programs without fail begin with attempting a reflection on understanding our own wiring and how that wiring is governing our behavior. It is no one’s guess how much this effort is yielding fruits.
May be we should listen to Aristotle. May be the answer is to shorten the path and focus only on action or behavior. Thinking is like sedimentation rocks, layers get created over so much time and events that the whole pursuit of wanting to change it might be annoying at best and frustrating at worst. A leopard rarely changes his spots! Why not tell the leopard to behave in a certain manner and lo behold we have a cat instead! A leopard is a leopard because he is violent and prone to attack all and sundry. What if he is told to behave himself, which in the beginning he is unlikely to agree to, but on suitable carrot and stick based taming I am sure his ‘actual behavior’ can be controlled – although I must admist his basic instinct might remain the same. I am sure that is how the lions are tamed in circus. Imagine all the wild beast we see in the circus or say whales who respond to instructions were put through ‘thinking changing’ programs. How ridiculous. Cut the chase – focus on behavior – what you think be damned. I am beginning to see the brilliance of Aristotle!
Is it really that simple? Not sure. All I know is that this bloke Aristotle cannot be ignored so easily.