Werner ErhardThis transcript of a conversation between theologians and est founder Werner Erhard may be incomprehensible to anyone not trained in ontological coaching. For those of us who are, Werner provides a thrilling demonstration of how to apply coaching distinctions. In this excerpt, Werner articulates one of the fundamental insights executive coaches bring to bear on their clients’ issues.

Interviewer: I want to know what problems you see, and how those changes are going to contribute to the relationship between you and your underlings in the organization.
Werner Erhard: I’m not making an issue of the words you use. I’m making the system from which the words are derived the problem. Given the system, I can’t answer the question. You see, it’s not simply the words you’re using that are the problem.

What I want to convey to you is this: In the assumptions from which you are asking the question, you allow for no truthful answer to the question. The words you use reflect your assumptions accurately, and given your assumptions, there’s no solution to the problem. One cannot solve the problem in the system you are using. In fact, that system is the problem.

Now, I’m going to answer your question, because, you know, I came here and agreed to do that, but I want to tell you the truth before I answer the question. So I’m telling you that my answer will make no sense if you listen to the answer in that system from which you asked the question.

The answer is that the organization has for several years been shifting away from a structure that has a central place or a top place from which decisions are made and passed on. We always tried not to operate that way, and over the years we’ve become more and more successful at not operating that way. The structure of just about any ordinary organization, however, is that way.

–Werner Erhard
in The Network Review
September 1983



See also, Never say, “It’s Just Semantics” on this blog.