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  • Print publication year: 2014
  • Online publication date: December 2014

7 - The intellectual shaman

Summary

The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance.

Aristotle

Intellectuals and shamans, after all

In previous chapters, we have investigated shamanism – what it means to be a shaman. If we are to talk about intellectual shamanism, however, we also need to think about what the first word – ‘intellectual’ – means and implies in a context of intellectual shamanism. Here we explore the nature of the work that intellectual shamans do within management disciplines. While the particular work would differ depending on the nature of the discipline of the intellectual, I would argue that intellectual shamanism can exist within any discipline. It can also exist outside specific disciplines, as it tends to be transdisciplinary. This chapter focuses on the intellectual aspects – the work – of intellectual shamanism as it is exhibited by management scholars.

An intellectual fundamentally can be described as someone who uses the mind creatively, or, as Wikipedia defines the term, uses intelligence in either a professional or individual capacity. A list of synonyms for the noun ‘intellectual’ comes up with numerous examples. These synonyms include, among others: alchemist, bel esprit (a witty or clever person with a fine mind), exponent (someone who interprets or explains), mentor, doubter or skeptic, synthesizer, theorist, student, scholar, thinker, creative thinker, illusionist, seer, visionary, wonderer, and wise and trusted guide and advisor. As shaman, the intellectual is a sort of alchemist – another synonym – who is, in a sense, trying to turn straw into gold. The intellectual shaman, that is, takes the straw of theories, practices, and research approaches that do not work as well as they might and attempts to convert them into something that does work, works better, or suits its time and context better.