Monday 7 January 2019

Thought Picnic: How hubris leaves essential cornerstones off buildings

Stones and bones
“The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.” Psalms 118:22 (New International Version)
“The cornerstone (or foundation stone or setting stone) is the first stone set in the construction of a masonry foundation, important since all other stones will be set in reference to this stone, thus determining the position of the entire structure.” [Wikipedia]
The biblical reference to the cornerstone though indicating lifeless stones pertains to people, the stones are set in place by builders, yet, in the art of masonry, there has to be a stone in the construction of the building that becomes the reference point of the other stones, without which the building risks looking like a work of amateurs and consequently it might collapse upon the occupants who eventually occupy it.
Hubris guides rejection
The cornerstone as a metaphor in many contexts in relation to people could in organisations refer to who runs the organisation or who manages projects, in institutions, it might be the experts whose knowledge is necessary for processes or operations to work.
There are cornerstones everywhere in different guises, the people who teach, the people who mentor, those who provide guidance, those who must be consulted on ideas, issues, events, circumstances, plans or status before major decisions are made.
Yet, as history shows from even the early biblical times, there are linchpin people who have not been recognised for who they are when decisions or actions are taken by those who have position, power, authority or influence and during implementation it dawns on those who were somewhat wise in their own conceits that the consultation and arbitration should have included the people they had heretofore ignored.
Rejection is myriad
Ignoring such people is exemplified in overconfidence, hubris, narcissism, the abuse of power, the denigration of personalities, the belittlement of persons and their abilities, patronising attitudes to contemn expertise, the removal of protection of rights and privileges, discourtesy, rudeness, racism, discrimination, patriarchy, violence, prohibitions, and so on.
Many of these, readers would recognise at work, at play and at home. The question then becomes how the cornerstone gets recognised at the get-go without experiencing an initial or repeated rejection by those who matter.
It is a challenge I have met in a recent family situation that is calling on all inflexions and projections of language, semantics and diplomacy. It is never an easy task, but one that must be tackled.
Notice your cornerstones
For instance, in a professional situation, where essential input to facilitate change is missing, the project would fail. Unilateralism in an environment that depends on relationships, teamworking and systems presages disaster. That concept is more universal than we dare to acknowledge.
Buildings would crumble when builders reject stones that are the inherent cornerstones, not using the requisite cornerstone entertains the risk of an unstable building. You wonder what informs the decision to reject that important stone. You can extrapolate this to any situation, ignored pertinent data and your research is flawed, anything utilising the conclusions in that research would put lives, property and capital at great risk, some of which would be unquantifiable.
By extension, it also relates to the power of persuasion when the argument, idea, concept or intention is not persuasive. Without a strong basis in fact and evidence, the whole premise of any enterprise can be taken apart with sound reasoning and good questions for which answers are unconvincing. In the UK, Brexit is a good example of the Prime Minister miserably failing to persuade the majority of her grand plan.
Invariably, courtesy must be accorded to people who are needed to assume responsibility in certain matters to engage and contribute for them to feel involved and take ownership with a higher call of duty to ensure what they are called to do succeeds, else the activity harbours every indication towards failure.

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