The arc of this book is the individual development journey, a journey of many stages of self-identity and self-growth which has been the subject matter of storytellers, artists, sages and philosophers through the centuries, and more recently of development psychologists.
Surprisingly, notwithstanding all this attention, it is still not well known or understood by the general population. As the author, Kate Cowie, worked with this fact in her practice as an executive coach, educator and organisational practitioner, she become convinced that there was a need to attend to this: to provide a map of the human adventure and so help individuals ‘find their way’ along their personal development pathway, an opportunity which has implications both for themselves and for the organisations in which they work.
The author had six objectives for Finding Merlin:
- To offer a summary of the different stages of the human development road, and so help individuals identify where they are now on their own pathway of growth, and what would help them to progress further.
- To describe the different challenges (intellectual, social, moral, emotional, psychological and even spiritual challenges) which present at different stages of the journey, with a particular focus on those experienced during adulthood, to enable people to move forward as a fully integrated Self.
- To describe the impact that personality has on the way in which individuals confront the challenges they face.
- To enable those who choose to press forward with their development to identify the guidance and support they need to take the difficult (meaning truly developmental) path when they encounter the next fork in their development road.
- To explain the importance of the organisation as a ‘holding’ context (an environment which may promote or stymie an individual’s development), and to offer a new proposition of interdependency.
- To provide practical suggestions to chief executives, organisational leaders, boards of directors, organisation development practitioners, human resource professionals, learning and development specialists, and talent and capability managers to help them with their responsibility for creating the conditions which will allow both people and their organisations to develop to their fullest potential.
The book is very much an integral work. The author seeks ‘the pattern that connects’ the theories of the orthodox modern, postmodern and even post-postmodern researchers to equip readers and, through them, their organisations to make their greatest contribution to the renewal of our failing global systems in our increasingly interrelated and interdependent world.
A Review of Finding Merlin
This is an important book. Kate Cowie has re-invigorated the (until now almost lost) humanistic thrust of mid 20th century organizational behavior thought leaders by integrating their ideas with contemporary emerging global awareness. She does this by re-introducing a well-researched, highly systematic, comprehensive and updated adult identity development perspective. She brings insights from both modern organizational theory and recent neuroscience to bear on the problem (and the opportunity) of human social, spiritual and moral development in organizations. She makes a hard-to-argue-with case for expanding the old paradigm of human resource development and of organizational development to include a new level of "world-centric" thinking and being.
Throughout the book she uses the evocative metaphor of the legendary magician-mentor Merlin, King Arthur's leadership coach. Each of us need help and guidance, if we are to pull the sword of wisdom out of the stone of our own being and claim our king-ship - our full human maturity. This is a problem not just of individual learning but of individual and institutional becoming. Kate shows how, by becoming Merlin to their organizations, the leaders of the future can empower their teams and others to go beyond the confined logic that passes for strategic management but has, in fact, led us to the tragedy of the commons.
She makes the business case for developing a broader, enlightened Self-interested way of thinking and being in our organizations. This mind-set is better suited to this brave new world of turbulent markets, diverse settings, and increased complexity, where thoughtful interconnectedness may hold the key to individual, group, organizational, and planetary survival.
Those of us who think about organizations and leadership needed someone to take on this challenge, whether we were aware of it or not. Kate has done it and, hopefully, a whole new practice of organizational and leadership development may follow from this achievement.