I recently had a very interesting discussion with a friend about challenges companies have as they transform and the difficulties they must act at the cultural level. My friend brought up the subject of Plato’s Allegory of the Cave which made me think about how relevant this allegory is these days.
Plato’s Cave summarized
This story is often used as a trigger to make points about the effects of education. To summarize: the story is about the inaccurate perception of the world one acquires within a restricted environment—in a cave in this case—and one person’s quest to discover the beauty of the real world.
During this journey, the traveler faces many unexpected challenges. The very foundations of his world will be challenged, as will a series of new false beliefs and perceptions, which will be challenged again. And through all this, he will suffer… all for the good of discovering the real world and its true beauty. In this allegory, after discovering the reality of the world, he could go back to the cave and try to convince others of the value of going through the same journey.
This can apply to all of us. After some years of learning how to do our jobs the best way possible, we can deliver and demonstrate our know-how.
However, the world is changing, companies are changing and
we are changing. We need a strategy that is right for a company that is also right for people. To make this happen, it may require us to question our perspectives even if most of us are already challenging ourselves and continuing to learn new things.
We may need to stop using ponies and start looking for dogs. Unfortunately, it’s also often that our “too busy to stop” day-to-day tasks are acting as if we are the ones chained in the cave. Consequently, we could find it difficult to stay engaged and aligned with the environment around us. When this happens, companies experience a disengagement from their employees and a leak of critical talents.
The fire then the sun—breaking the walls
I believe that we are all living in our “cave” with only a partial understanding of what is going on inside our company and outside in the corporate world. We experience pain when we encounter resistance or friction. When we share our perceptions with others who see a different view from their cave.
Most of these frictions are due to a lack of communication and understanding of our inability to grasp what drives and constrains those around us. During a project where different teams are involved, it is not unusual to discover how much we are using wrong assumptions and then how much we need to adjust our vision. Like the person in his journey out of the cave, at first, it seemed the fire was the sun until finally coming out of the cave and then understanding the mistake only when he saw what the sun looked like.
We are all leaders
When engaged in digital transformations and when fostering innovation, a big part of the success of a company strategy must rely on people and culture. It especially relies on their curiosity, creativity and their level of engagement.
What is needed is the ability for everyone in the company to feel free to contribute to the strategy while being able to happily develop his capabilities and become a leader for others.
At Axway, we are not only aligned with this vision, but we are encouraging it!
The Axway Open Up program aims to offer an opportunity for employees to continue in their “journey to the sun.” It breaks the silos and foster teams to “infuse” each other. Everyone in the company can apply for an internship anywhere else in the company. Teams don’t need to wait for individuals and can also propose internships on their own.
The program’s main goal is to develop a culture where every employee can be an actor and can decide to go further in his own development and understanding of the real world. Each one is then using his new knowledge to provide a positive impact on their respective teams, becoming a transformation agent who accelerates the changes which are constantly happening within the company. In the process, they will also provide richer interactions with Axway’s customers and partners.
Learn more about Axway and its solutions.