Teamwork: An Elephant in the Dark

Elephant oblique

Teamwork? Here’s a poem by Rumi, a 13th Century Persian poet. It says a lot about the difference between a bunch of well meaning individuals and a high performing team.

Some Hindus have an elephant to show.

No-one here has seen an elephant.

They bring it at night to a dark room.

One by one, we go in the dark and come out

saying how we experience the animal.

One of us happens to touch the trunk.

A water-pipe kind of creature.

Another, the ear. A very strong, always moving

back and forth, fan-animal. Another, the leg.

I find it still, like a column on a temple.

Another touches the curved back.

A leathery throne. Another, the cleverest,

feels the tusk. A rounded sword made of porcelain.

He is proud of his description.

Each of us touches one place

and understands the whole that way.

The palm and the fingers feeling in the dark

are how the senses explore the reality of the elephant.

If each of us held a candle there, and if we went in together, we could see it.

Drawn from the book I’m currently enjoying, by Elena Aguilar. A brilliant read, sharing her own worst and best experiences of leading teams, and how to build a high performing team. While the organisational setting is education, it’s highly relevant anywhere. Highly recommended. Click the image to get your copy.

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