Mêtis was a Greek god known for her combination of cunning and wisdom. For some time now I’ve become interested in the contemporary interpretation Mêtis and how this could help our understanding of people and their role in society and organisations. Detienne and Vernant (1991) described it nicely when they said that Mêtis is:
… a complex but very coherent body of mental attitudes and intellectual behaviour which combine flair, wisdom, forethought, subtlety of mind, deception, resourcefulness, vigilance, opportunism, various skills, and experience acquired over the years. It is applied to situations which are transient, shifting, disconcerting and ambiguous, situations which do not lend themselves to precise measurement, exact calculation, or rigorous logic (p3).
It irritates me when I pick up the Harvard Business Review (and similar) and I read articles of simplistic confidence with brash macho explanations of ‘how things are’. Life is just not like that. People (and me) struggle to make sense of what is going on, to decide what steps to take next and how to react to the responses of others. I am interested in stories that give voice to the characteristics above and done so with assertive humility that recognises that we are all part and parcel of the messy ongoingness we find ourselves in.
Hence Mêtis Exploration!
For more information have a look at:
Detienne, M & Vernant, J (1991) Cunning Intelligence in Greek Culture and Society, Trans. Lloyd, J, Chicago: University of Chicago Press