Where the soul resides


“Alright, children, I’d like you to point to your brain.”

The kids point to their heads.

“Very good. Now point to your knee.”

The kids point to their knees.

“OK. Now point to your heart.”

The children point to their chests.

“Good. Now point to your ear.”

The kids point to their ears.

“OK. Now point to your soul.”

The kids hesitate. A few tentatively point to their chests. A couple point to their heads. A few look around to see where their classmates are pointing. Seeing where their friends think the soul is, a few change from pointing to their heads to their hearts. A few others change from their hearts to their heads.

So, where is your soul?

For something that most of us believe exists, neither scientists nor psychologists can prove where it lives.

Ancient Egyptians believed the soul resided in the heart. Tomb paintings show Anubis with the feather of truth in one hand and the heart in the other.

Many ancient philosophers believed the soul was physical, atomic and tangible. Some said it was made of air and fire – even if they didn’t know exactly where.

Like the Egyptians, Aristotle believed it lived in the heart. Others believed it was in the stomach or the liver or the kidneys.

Some argued that the soul was where rationality resided – and therefore it must exist in the brain.

Plato described the soul as intangible – an essence that possessed bodies but resided in no particular part of the body.

Leonardo da Vinci was denounced as a heretic for dissecting brains in search of the soul.

In the early 20th century, the Hague Convention banned nerve gas not just for the horrific effect it had on the body, but because it was believed it somehow attacked the essence of who we are, our soul.

At about the same time, Dr Duncan McDougall, working on the theory that if the soul exists, it must have weight, measured the weight of patients immediately before and after death. He concluded that the soul weighs 21 grams. (You might recall a film of the same name.)

As research continues, there are many scientists who believe it’s our nervous system that accounts for our soul, our feelings. But others continue to argue that our soul is in our cranium because it’s our brain that makes sense of those feelings.

So, everyone agrees that the soul is real, even if nobody has yet been able to say exactly what it is or where it is.

Reading about the soul got me thinking.

So, whilst scientists continue to search for evidence to prove where our soul is, let’s try the classroom exercise on your organisation.

Can you point to your organisation’s brain? Do you know where the best, biggest and most original ideas come from? Do you have an R&D department that everyone turns to for new ideas? Is that the Creative Director’s domain? Do you have a Director of Innovation who directs future thinking? Does the CEO do most of the critical thinking? What are you currently doing to foster creative thinking?

What about the metaphoric knees, those parts of the organisation that allow it to move forward? Are there multiple parts that are equally important to keeping the business going? How well do they synergise? How easily is information shared between them? What do you do to encourage collaboration? What could you do better? How could processes be facilitated and accelerated?

Where is the heart of your organisation? Where’s the engine that pumps life through the arteries? What’s the critical piece of the organisational puzzle without which it wouldn’t work? How do you ensure the blood, the energy gets to the remotest parts of the organisation? How do you maintain health?

Where are your organisation’s ears? How do you hear what customers and influencers and competitors are saying about you? Where does that information go? Who acts on it?

Where is your soul? Where are your values formulated? Who is the custodian of corporate ethics? How do you share these ethics with your team? How do you bring your values to life in every facet of product or service delivery, every customer experience, every team member experience?

Every business is a living organism, a network of connected people. Businesses that refer to their people as assets fail to appreciate the organic nature of their organisation – even if it’s in the word. They can’t point to their brain, their heart or their soul – and these are the things that give businesses life and allow communication and empathy and anticipation and responsiveness.

So, where does your organisation’s soul reside?

Photo by Antonio Lapa via Unsplash

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