“That stretched distance between ideal and reality” – Maybe the True Knowing-Doing Gap (Insight from The Seventh Sense)

I am fully into my reading of The Seventh Sense:  Power, Fortune, and Survival in the Age of Networks. In it, the author Joshua Cooper Ramo described struggles that consumed Plato, andThe Seventh Sense the issue of all issues. This brief excerpt from the book captures it:

An amateur philosopher might dream of a perfect Syracusan government: literate, open to foreign ideas and trade, careful to balance the privilege of power with its still heavier obligations. The reality: a homicidal king. It is that stretched distance between ideal and reality that Plato and Socrates thought philosophy must fill.

In Plato’s and Socrates’s age, it was only natural that their focus was on the education of kings. It was the most decisive element: Is the ruler good or bad?

What will decide our future, I think, is not merely our rulers…

In business, especially in pursuit of successful execution, we know plenty about the “knowing-doing” gap. We know what to do, but we do not “do” what we know to do. We do not execute, we do not successfully deliver on what we promise, on time, with full quality!

But this is about a different level of the knowing-doing gap. This is about what underlies all of our actions. This is about our very foundation, the true “know your why” concerns for leaders.

This is a call to know the ideal, to consider the ideal with full weight, before any and every decision.

This is a call to never abuse an ounce of power.

Maybe that is why this book showed up more than any other on the summer reading lists of CEOs (read about it in this compilation from McKinsey: What CEOs are Reading).

“That stretched distance between ideal and reality.” Who will champion and deliver on, and always remember and consider, the ideal?

The Seventh Sense is my selection for the August 5 First Friday Book Synopsis.


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