A taxi driver’s questions

Abdul, my taxi driver, asked me a really good question today.

He picked me up from Cranfield Centre for Management Development and we got talking. He asked what I’d been doing, since I hadn’t been there long (he’d dropped me off an hour or so before). I told him I’d be popping in to see an old friend, a professor there.

Abdul asked whether I was a professor too, and I said well yes, I had been until recently. We talked about the field, and I said I specialised in leadership in systems, and how leaders could make better decisions in uncertain times.

Then Abdul said he found this very interesting.

He wanted to ask me a question, he said.

And so he did.

“With all of this management development” he said, “and all of these leaders learning how to make better decision, why is it that the world seems to be getting worse and worse?”

What a brilliant question.

Abdul’s view was that our technological ability had run ahead of our ethical compass. He said that all our ability to build smarter stuff would lead to nothing unless we had the wisdom to use the technology wisely. He saw little sign that all of our educational advancement was leading to better governance, better decisions or a better world for most people.

Gregory Bateson, the polymath thinker across many domains, once said that if you have an advanced technology but you don’t have an advanced world view, you’d put at risk your very survival. I think Abdul hit this right on the head.

It’s an observation we can all benefit from in our organisations.

I suspect most of us spend more time and money invested in our systems and technologies than we do in our ethics and wisdom.

Maybe it’s time to apply the wisdom of Abdul. Are we wise enough to use our technology well? How do we know that our learning and advancement is leading to better outcomes?

Great questions for leaders everywhere.

Thanks Abdul for the conversation.