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The Ropes to Skip and the Ropes to Know

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When do the problems of organization become the concern of the individual?  What, precisely, creates a perception for individuals to engage in protest about causes that do not directly affect them? In The Ropes to Skip and the Ropes to Know, the basic theme of all the chapters is about doubt and the problem of its importance within the organization. It is a problem of and for modern belief with human perception as the measure of what can be known within an organization (see the prologue).

It is an intriguing paradox of our present Western culture that, while the dream of a unified system of scientific knowledge has never been more alive, there is always an increasing doubt that any universally valid knowledge may ever be possible. They argued that each member, upon arriving an organization, faces the problem of gaining “entry into men’s hut” (see Chapter 4), that is, gaining access to the basic organizational secrets. Sometimes this occurs through a rite of passage. The overall lessons given in these chapters enable me to assimilate the values of the organization and embody what the organizational behaviour is about. Individuals eventually internalise norms and values in a process known as acculturation (socialisation and indoctrination) and the organisation or professional ethic becomes part of the member’s identity. In fact, so ingrained are these that sometimes some serious “unfreezing” or “unlearning” is required to initiate change within the Company.

How might the sceptic’s reasoning led to an entirely amoral politics to affirm that ‘everything is permitted’? The arguments tying doubt to belief, that doubt corrodes beliefs that are necessary to sustain liberalism. Scepticism undermines belief in the value and justifiably of a liberal democratic way of life as well as the ability to defend it against those within an organisation who oppose it.

Something parallel applies to this as a traditional theoretical inquiry aimed at understanding, with generality and depth, the nature, conditions, and extent of human belief. Here again, reflection so aimed need arise from any real doubt that there is any such belief (p. 31). Such reflection might spring only from that familiar source of theoretical inquiry: sheer curiosity. Insofar as any doubt might naturally accompany such curiosity it would be doubt about the nature and conditions of human belief, and not necessarily doubt about its extent. Moreover, the same holds true when the scope of the inquiry is restricted, for example, to framework commitments about the external world, other minds, etc.

I do not see a unique role for the traditional/organizational psychologists, but what I have learnt is to see a great potential for psychologists to work as a team member with colleagues who are more ethnographically oriented in all these chapters. The particular skill that will be needed on the part of the psychologist will be knowledge of organisations and how to work with them (see Chapter 7). Organizational culture is a complex phenomenon, and we should not rush to measure things until we understand better what we are measuring.

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