"It is not the flesh that is real, it is the soul. The flesh is ashes, the soul is flame."
The Invisible Part of the Educational Organization
When working in a training organization steeped in history comes the time when one of the members, often the leader, talks about the "soul" of that organization. The first time I heard about soul was at CESI, an engineering school created in 1958. The engineers in training described it to me as a sacred reality. They evoked with deference pedagogical principles, a posture and a very particular professional ethic.
Organizations would thus have a soul, something that holds a flame and seems carried by an invisible breath.
The moment when we speak of soul often coincides with some major changes that disturb the implicit arrangement of action benchmarks, a habit deposited in the organizational culture by the founder or a succession of practitioners. Principles of action, a logo, the birthplace of the structure, a strategic line or a flagship service or even values that leave the collective unspoken.
The more unspoken and implicit part attaches to this soul, the more it seems to occupy a large space in the minds of the collaborators and influences their professional conduct. Therefore, no one can act with impunity against the soul of the structure. Disturbing occult forces is costly for the desecrator. For it is a desecration to touch the invisible forces that hold together what has made a training enterprise successful.
There is tangible evidence of the existence of an educational soul. The pedagogical soul supplement occurs when different people or roles invite themselves into closed education centers (Sallee 2014). In a rigid setting it is a supplement of joy, a contribution of meaning, questions and perspectives. An essential that carries an intention activating desire. For the soul goes beyond the rational arrangement of architectures and programs. It takes one further than what is visible. Moreover, comparative studies of educational systems or schools, when they stop at the surface of descriptive elements, fail to capture the circulations of imagination, energies and affects. The soul is a supplement to the functional body of the educational enterprise. It is when it withdraws that we perceive its full importance.
Soul in motion
When it is necessary to change markets, approaches, techniques, the task is sometimes entrusted to a manager, but does he or she always become aware that he or she is also the conductor of the movement of the soul of a place, an approach or a tradition? Is he or she aware of the informal organizational charts to the conductorless orchestrations that vibrate and run through the teams?
There is almost an unsung religious element to the art of guiding the soul of a training organization when it is more than a rational, economic formal structure. There is psychopomp (soul conductor) in the leader who by the vision he espouses evokes a future, a transcendence that connects. For the pedagogical soul has this function of linking learners, trainers, methods, objectives and creating inter-linkages with the life of each. The soul is more than culture it is a breath, a momentum of life.
Metempsychosis or migration of the soul
For Plato, the soul is what moves itself it is the cause of vital movement in living beings. Just as a human being is endowed with movement, an organization moves. It is even a meta-organism kneaded with dreams, cultures, traditions, able to travel in time, in space in ideas, able to draw resources from its environment to develop.
The organization develops behaviors to adapt to its environment. When it draws consequences from its actions, it learns and improves its work processes. Organizational metempsychosis is the particular observable moment when changes are repeated, intense, massive, and a leader steps up and perceives that the very reason for being and the very breath of life are affected. He then seeks to lead the soul of the company towards shores favorable to its development. He seeks to keep the initial energy of the founder by preserving the future. This is much deeper than "leading change" and crossing the "death valley" promised to those who resist change. This involves a reception of the legacy and a moment of reflection on the gains received.
Recently we experienced with colleagues the passing of a great leader, Pierre Bellon, founder of Sodexo a group of services to communities, but also, of the Association for the Progress of Management . These were thousands of well-wishes from all those who knew him and testified to the affection they had for his person and for his work. These marks also attest to that something more that a person, a founder slips into the original intention. Something magical that the heirs want to preserve. Because when thousands of learners have enjoyed themselves, learned from each other, transformed their lives, tasted the challenge of learning that the founder bequeathed to them, it is as if a soul is still present and it is the duty of all to preserve it. Mixes in a bit of the creative genius and his work.
Long live the educational soul that is shared throughout a community is defended by it and prevents the lessons of the past from being forgotten.
Wikipedia metempshychose https://fr.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/M%C3%A9tempsycose
Sallée, N. (2014). So far, so close to prison: closed educational centers for young offenders. Revue française de pédagogie. Recherches en éducation, (189), 67-76.
Groux, D. (1997). Comparative education: current approaches and prospects for development. Revue française de pédagogie, 121(1), 111-139. https://www.persee.fr/doc/rfp_0556-7807_1997_num_121_1_3007
Wikipedia metempshychosis https://fr.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/M%C3%A9tempsycose
CNRTL Psychopompe https://www.cnrtl.fr/definition/psychopompe
Islean Death Valley https://islean-consulting.fr/fr/transformation-digitale/vallee-de-la-mort-projets-transformation/
Le Monde Sodexo founder Pierre Bellon has died at the age of 92 https://www.lemonde.fr/disparitions/article/2022/01/31/le-fondateur-de-sodexo-pierre-bellon-est-mort-a-l-age-de-92-ans_6111764_3382.html
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