The continued utility of Plato’s theory of the psyche to modern managers is illustrated by its perusal in management seminars and workshops. The one-week seminar conducted by North American Publishing Company is a good example. Titled ‘Plato arrives at publishing firm’, the seminar was run by John Wyatt, a professor of classics at the University of Chicago. For this event, more than 50 executives from the publishing industry, including editors and promoters attended hour-and-half long sessions that are steeped in content from Plato’s Protagoras and Aristotle’s Poetics. It might seem odd that Protagoras is allied with contemporary management issues in the publishing industry. But the organizers of the event firmly believed that “the classics would benefit, even inspire, editors and promotional copywriters.” (“Plato Arrives at Publishing,” 1997, p.25) Seminars of this sort are by no means an exception, as similar events are organized across the year. For example, seminars about ancient Greek philosophers’ views on the art and scope of writing and deductive logic are being held. Even matters of corporate social responsibility and partnership with local community are being discussed. Similar to how pupils at Athenian libraries would have debated and discussed, attendees of modern management seminars are also discussing “clarity and immediacy in communication, the notion of a sublime piece of work, and purpose and meaning in human activity…The seminars also proved that ivory-tower concepts can find hard-nosed applications in the business world.” (“Plato Arrives at Publishing,” 1997, p.26)
Since the beginning of the industrial revolution, the advancement in technology has accelerated the process of automation. Today, the manufacturing sector is quite small compared to the services sector. The pool of knowledge workers, aided by Information Technology are growing at a rapid pace. And here too, we find the theories of Plato quite useful. To illustrate,
“For more than two millennia, trying to understand the nature of knowledge has been the key of philosophers and scientists. Seven key groupings can be seen. The discussions on knowledge start with the work of Plato and Aristotle. Plato, in the Theaetetus, one of his Socratic dialogues (Plato, 369BC) tries to answer the question “What is knowledge?” He proposes three key concepts: “Knowledge is perception”; “Knowledge is true belief”; and “Knowledge is true belief with an account”. (Grant & Grant, 2008, p.573)
Hence, in conclusion, it is fairly clear that Plato’s theory of the psyche has withstood the test of time. Even after two and half millennia of its first articulation it remains an eminent source of wisdom and counsel to leaders in various fields. Business corporations, which are the most visible symbols and dominant institutions of current times, can greatly benefit by heeding to Plato’s thoughts, especially those related to his theory of the psyche. (Lynch & Cruise, 2006, p.12) Even the process of knowledge creation and transfer prevalent in management practice today has parallels to Plato’s ideas on knowledge. For example, the three stage evolution from apprentice to journeyman to master propounded by Plato is very similar to how an apprentice graduates through skill levels in the workplace. This model holds true for both cognitive and practical skills. (Grant & Grant, 2008, p.575) Further, the parallels between Plato’s tripartite view of human psyche and Freud’s conception of the mind is testimony to the former’s veracity and importance. While a discussion of Plato in modern corporate lounges might see out of place, it is the right approach to solving key management issues.