For modern management: on Heidegger and the importance of walking your dog
In his memorial address to the 175th birthday of composer Conradin Kreutzer in 1955 , the German philosopher Martin Heidegger points out:
“Thoughtlessness is an uncanny visitor who comes and goes everywhere in today’s world. For nowadays we take in everything in the quickest and cheapest way, only to forget it just as quickly, instantly. […] there were at no time such far-reaching plans, so many inquiries in so many areas, research carried on as passionately as today. […] but it also remains true that it is thinking of a special kind […] whenever we plan, research, and organize, we always reckon with conditions that are given.”
Heidegger calls this type of thinking “calculative” and goes on to say:
“Such thinking remains calculation even if it neither works with numbers nor uses an adding machine or computer […] it computes ever new, ever more promising and at the same time more economical possibilities. Calculative thinking races from one prospect to the next. Calculative thinking never stops, never collects itself.”
In order for thoughtlessness not to reign supreme, Heidegger posits that another form of thinking is necessary:
“meditative thinking is what we have in mind when we say that contemporary man is in flight-from-thinking […] meditative thinking does not happen by itself any more than calculative thinking. At times it requires a greater effort. It demands more practice. It is in need of even more delicate care than any other genuine craft. But it must also be able to bide its time, to await as does the farmer, whether the seed will come up and ripen. Yet anyone can follow the path of meditative thinking in his own manner and within his own limits.”
We can all agree with Heidegger that in order to become successful in ones endeavours, both kinds of thinking is necessary. However, we are, perhaps even more now than in 1955, obsessed with organizing for and reward calculative thinking. It may indeed be argued that there is very little room for meditative thinking in the day-to-day operations of any company. The meditative thinking is relegated to the higher echelons of the organization, to consultancy organizations and to workshops and meetings notorious for not being applicable to the ordinary operations of the company, or the results of which never gets implemented.
Today’s constant wash of information, makes it hard to keep up with and even harder to get a perspective on developments in almost every field. Consequently, it is even harder today than when Heidegger’s spoke to find the time and peace of mind to meditate on ones operative efforts and results of calculative thinking processes.
For managers of information and knowledge intensive firms, it is paramount to create opportunities for the employees to regularly “put their feet on their desks” and engage in meditative thinking. Professionals must be allowed to reflect upon and find opportunity to improve on their way of engaging in calculative thinking or performing day to day thinking operations. Most people are not used to, and not trained to, meditate and one way of forcing it upon them is to make them allocate time for it. We have found walking your dog to be an excellent way of taking our minds of the daily grind and open our minds to meditative thinking, thus many times coming back from the park, brimming with new ideas and suggestion for the solution of apparent conundrums.