Posts Tagged ‘syllogism in grass’

In one of the Personal Development workshops I run we spend some time discussing a quotation from Henry Mintzberg’s 2004 book “Managers, not MBAs”, in which a criticism of business schools is raised. The quote is:

“Conventional MBA classrooms over-emphasise the science of management, while ignoring its art and denigrating its craft.”

I use this quotation to foster a discussion in the room on the “science”, “craft” and “art”, what they are and – importantly – in what ways are they different from each other. Of the three, the most interesting and, to my mind, most important is the art of management.  The science and the craft of management seem to have a logic that most managers can get to grips with, but what is the logic of the art of management? Does it have one? Does it matter?

It matters, I think, because it’s only the art of management that can connect to the purpose of business. The purpose of business is not such a simple question as, unless you subscribe to the empty notion that the purpose of business is only the production of profit or – worse – the circular notion that the purpose of business is the continuation of business, it tends to touch on systems of values (moral ones, not financial ones). The purpose of business must address the “why”, not the “how” or the “what”. The why is a matter of values. Values do not translate too well in the literal logic of science, but can find expression in the logic of metaphor. By the logic of metaphor I mean understanding how the following syllogism makes sense:

Men  die/grass dies/Men are grass.

This is Gregory Bateson’s syllogism in grass, and although it appears to make no logical sense it actually demonstrates how we think much of the time, and certainly how we communicate one thing by referring to another. By linking the object “dies”, and not the subject(s) we reveal a truth which is not part of the “logic of logic” but which is nevertheless extremely profound since it reveals something about the nature of the way that the world is relational.  It might help to think of this example:

The Coca-Cola corporation has individual rights under law/Citizens have individual rights under law/The Coca Cola corporation is a citizen.

This is not a simile (it doesn’t say that the Coca-Cola Corp is like a citizen), it is working at another level, one that says something about our concept of the idea of Coke and the idea of the citizen, and this could explain much about why that organisation does the things it does.

The confusion this can cause is the source of meaning in art, in drama, in poetry, in play/games, and in humour.  For example, the premise behind the film “Being There”, starring Peter Sellers, also relies on the logic of metaphor for its power as a piece of drama.

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