A metaphor for business

In the 18th century, philosopher and social theorist, Jeremy Bantham, designed a new type of building called the Panopticon.

The Panopticon was a concept which would allow someone to observe (opticon) all (pan) of an institution without others being able to see whether they were being watched or not.

panopticon

Bentham described the Panopticon as “a new mode of obtaining power of mind over mind”.

Bentham was attracted to this idea for one main reason: knowledge = power.

Many people are, or have been, afraid of giving up their knowledge, of sharing it widely . Instead, we’ve seen how knowledge has become restricted within certain groups of people in an attempt to maintain powerful positions in society. Women are a good example of such a group throughout history. Even today women currently hold just 4.2% of FTSE 500 CEO positions.

It’s organisations that deploy these ‘panoptic structures’ that are getting it wrong and are losing trust their key stakeholders. These organisations are failing because essentially they’re restricting knowledge and operating in silos.

But what if the Panoptican was used as a force for good, rather than evil?

What if Bentham’s vision was about sharing power?

What if everyone was encouraged to climb the central tower to grasp the whole picture?

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