Empowerment LO26273

From: Richard Karash (Richard@karash.com)
Date: 03/05/01

Replying to LO26260 --

Malcolm's message stimulates me to add just a bit more...

I wrote in LO26251:

>I am very conscious that my definition is contrary to the primary
>dictionary definitions and general use.The dictionary and the general
>usage are basically that one person empowers another. I just don't think
>the definition in general use makes any sense. We spend a lot of time
>talking about "How to empower.." when that's, in my view, not possible.

Malcolm raised the question of the authority of the dictionary.

I add this thought: Just because a word has an accepted meaning does not
assure us that the meaning can be realized. Consider "alchemy" or
"astrology"... These words have clear meaning, but cannot be done. Same
for empowerment. Just because the word has an accepted meaning as a
transitive verb (one person empowers another..) doesn't mean it can be

So, the crux of our question is not what the word means, it is whether the
proposed action is achievable.

I apologize for taking us down the track about definitions.

Another thought: My earlier comment was pretty black/white. Thinking about
it a little more, my point is not that it's impossible... But that the
question "How to empower?" takes us down an ineffective path.

Suppose Alice wants Bill to be empowered in some domain. My point is not
that it's really impossible for Alice to achieve this, but that it depends
more on what is Bill's internal state than on what Alice does. That's my
objection to the mindset which uses "empower" as a transitive verb as
though it's primarily or entirely up to Alice.


One more: Bill raised the question of origins.

Where does the errant meaning come from? I think it comes from a boss's
mindset, a hierarchical mindset. An ex-cathedra mindset. "Well, we need
these people to be empowered.. Hmm... I guess I'd better get started!"

This takes us back to a fundamental point: Can one human being reliably
cause another human being to do *anything* that's significant? I don't
think so.

We have influence over others, but not control. I think the errant meaning
comes from a mindset in which control over others is seen as a practical,
everyday tool. To me, that's a fundamental error.

In starting down the path towards a learning organization, an early step
is dropping the notion of control.

   -=- Rick


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