Rosetta: Three ways of looking at good

There are three ways of looking at ‘good’. It’s important to recognise which is dominant and which might need activation.

In the year 1799, the army of Napoleon invades Egypt from the Mediterranean. How it happened exactly is not clear, but at some point, they stumbled upon an interesting looking stone. It turned out that there were three types of inscriptions on the stone and after some research they figured out in three languages the stone described a law, implemented by a pharaoh.

At the bottom of the stone, the law was written in ancient Greek, a language that was well known by scholars at the time. The middle described the same decree in Demotic script, a language that was no longer in use, but had been figured out by scientists. And the top, as it turned out, described the same law in hieroglyphic script, a language that had not been deciphered at that point in time. Many times, people had wondered about what the numerous hieroglyphic inscriptions on temples and other monuments meant, but nobody had found a way to translate them into modern language yet.

With the use of the stone, scientists eventually managed to translate the full hieroglyphic and this gave access to the full wealth of information found on ancient monuments and artefacts. The stone was given the name Rosetta, after the place in Egypt where it was found

Rosetta stone

Clearly, modern civilization needed the Rosetta stone to access the tremendous wealth of information written on ancient Egyptian monuments. Up to the time the stone was found, nobody could make out what all these beautiful symbols meant. I think we are currently facing a similar situation where a lot of valuable information is not accessible to those who need it. Therefore, I think we, especially employees in larger organisations, desperately need a modern version of the Rosetta stone.

Rosetta stone 2.0

This time, the unreadable script that needs deciphering is called regulatory script, and sometimes goes by the name of policies or laws. When we humans try to read it, we feel it probably contains valuable information, but we are overwhelmed by its complexity and unfamiliar terminology. Though the letters are familiar, as soon as they form words and sentences, they become ‘hieroglyphic’. The fact that many of us in work or general life have access to thousands of more or less relevant pages of this script only adds to the ‘hieroglyphicness’.

On the bottom, like with the ancient Greek at the Rosetta stone, we find the script most familiar to us. You could call it success script or professional or commercial in the context of an organisation. It represents the language we use on a day to day basis in our lives and jobs to get things done. It represents our default vocabulary when talking about what we plan to do or when working with a colleague.

Finally, in the middle we find the beautiful moral script. This is the script we use to describe what we feel or what we think is good or bad. Though very important, it is less tangible and concrete and therefore many of us find it hard to effectively use it.

While the professional script is by far the easiest for us to use, we know the moral and regulatory scripts are important too. For an employee there is an opportunity to become more ‘mobile’ between all three of the languages and by doing so creating a better balance between their professional, moral and legal responsibilities.


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