Unlocking Human Potential

I’ve often felt frustrated to the point of distraction when in the company of people with what I guess to be potentially great ideas, and yet no opportunity to share and explore them.

This bugs the hell out of me.

AndI don’t have any kind of solution.

That bugs the hell out of me, too.

Dream The Impossible

But I’m resolved to believe something can be done. Indeed, for the past few years, at conferences, and in other opportunities for conversation, I’ve shared my frustrations and sought others’ sentiments, opinions and suggestions.

Could an online solution work?

I’m sceptical. Worth an experiment or two perhaps, though.

If not online, then face to face?

Which raises the question of frequency of meeting up, locations, travel, people’s schedules, and that whole nine yards.

In the (shared, physical) workplace, most of those issues go away, or at least diminish.

Yet even then, I rarely see folks engaged in discovering what ideas, experiences, etc. their peers possess that might be interesting, enlightening, valuable or otherwise useful.

I guess learned helpless and the status quo both have some part to play in that.

And the sheer act of doing something, anything to help those folks who have a need to see their ideas aired can contribute to much joy for all concerned.

Are such “meaningful conversations” (as opposed to more or less idle chat) something you need? And what about your friends, colleagues and peers? Do they have similar or related needs?

Action

Is there anything you could be doing today that might help air these ideas, provoke meaningful conversations, and attend to these kinds of folks’ needs?

For what is human potential if not the latent ability to have great ideas, individually and together, and see them impact the world?

– Bob

Head, Heart And Soul

How many organisations have you come across with a heart? And with a soul? Personally, it’s been precious few. Yet for those rare encounters, it’s a palpable joy, isn’t it? Precious indeed.

I’ve been writing about Rightshifting and the Marshall Model since circa 2008. In that time I’ve explained how to bring about awesomely effective organisations. Organisations where it’s joy to come to work, and with whom it’s a joy to come into contact.

Explaining the Model

I’ve often felt that people don’t really get the model, and attribute that to my explanations coming up short with respect to their needs. Put another way, I’ve tried to describe the model logically and rationally. Perhaps that has helped some, but I’m always looking for other ways, other metaphors.

Hence: Head, Heart and Soul.

The Marshall Model posits four distinct mindsets, or memeplexes, for organisations. In order of increasing effectiveness: Ad-hoc, Analytic, Synergistic and Chaordic. Let’s leave aside the ad-hoc mindset for this post.

Let’s focus on the three relatively more effective organisational mindsets: Analytic, Synergistic and Chaordic.

Causation Not Just Correlation

The Marshall Model not only describes the observable correlation between organisational effectiveness and organisational mindset. It also claims a causation – that any given organisation’s effectiveness is a direct function of its collective mindset. Of the specific memes that comprise its current memeplex.

Head

When I look at organisations, I see many – those of the Analytic mindset – acting from the Head. Analysing, thinking, intellectualising, rationalising, using logic. Maybe it’s because us humans are spectacularly poor at this stuff (cf. Kahneman, Ariely, etc.) that the Analytic mindset is the least effective of the three we’re considering here. Oh yes, it can get the job done, just about, but at what cost to the people involved, to wider society, and to the planet? Not to mention the bottom line (that’s an appeal to the head).

Heart

More rarely, I see organisations acting from the Heart. Where people are regarded as valuable precisely because of their individuality and humanity. Where the organisation, it’s structure and rituals are geared, more or less, to creating a joyful experience for all concerned. Marshall Rosenberg might call this a Giraffe organisation. An organisation where empathy and compassion come before intellect and logic. I see it as no mere coincidence that these heartful organisations share the Synergistic mindset. Causation, indeed.

Soul

Rarer again, are organisations with a Soul. I have seen maybe one or two examples in my whole career. How does a soulful organisation differ from its (less effective) heartful cousins? I see heartful organisations focussing on people, on joyful relationships, and on compassion. Soulful organisations (those with a Chaordic mindset) remain joyful, compassionate, and empathetic. But they add something else. A sense of their place in all things. Chaordic organisations transcend a static purpose, and seek to become. To become all that they can be. To find their connection with all things. To develop an understanding of their place in the Universe. If that sounds bizarre, alien, laughable, worrying, nonsensical, spiritual, then so be it. Chaordic organisations are all those things. And so far removed from common mental models of what organisations should be like as to be rationally, intellectually and logically ineffable.

– Bob

Further Reading

Spiritual Basis of Nonviolent Communication ~ CNVC article

The Two Antimatter Questions

A couple of years ago I wrote a post about the two questions which might spark folks to consider whether they are working on the right things:

Q1: “What is the purpose of this work, from the paying customers’ (end-users’) point of view?”

Q2: “What measures will the workers choose and use to understand and improve their work?”

Since then, I have written much about the Antimatter Principle and its role in creating the kind of environment in which folks might actually want to do the right things.

So, maybe there’s some utility in framing the two original questions in terms of the Antimatter Principle:

Q1: “What needs do folks (everybody) have, that we’re going to attend to?”

Q2: “What means will we (the workers) use to attempt to see those needs met, and what measures will tell us how (relatively) effective those means are?”

Note: When I say “folks”, as ever for the Antimatter Principle, i mean everyone who might have a stake in the endeavour at hand. That means customers, and also workers, managers, executives, shareholders (probably), suppliers, users (if different from customers), the organisation(s) within which the work is being done (as collective entities), and quite probably society at large, too. I refer to this inclusivity idea as “covalence”.

A Question For You

If you took these latter two questions and applied them to your work, would you ever need to ask yourselves anything else?

– Bob

What is Nonviolence?

“Nonviolence is the greatest force at the disposal of mankind. It is mightier than the mightiest weapon of destruction devised by the ingenuity of man.”

~ Mahatma Gandhi

A whole passle of folks expressed surprise, and even consternation – at my post What Is Violence?

I guess it’s past time to look at the other side of the coin, nonviolence.

“Nonviolence is a powerful and just weapon. Indeed, it is a weapon unique in history, which cuts without wounding and ennobles the man who wields it.”

~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

Ahisma

The roots of nonviolence as a philosophy go back to at least 1000BC with the Sanskrit word and idea of Ahisma – i.e. not harming, or nonviolence. Ahisma has become a spiritual doctrine shared today by Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism.

Aikido

More recently, O Sensei placed nonviolence at the heart of Aikido.

Proponents

Famous proponents of nonviolence include Leo Tolstoy, Thomas A. Edison, Mohandas K. Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., Aung San Suu Kyi, Joan Baez, Cesar Chavez and Nelson Mandela. The therapist Marshall Rosenberg built the practice of Nonviolent Communication on the principles of nonviolence.

Core Themes

Nonviolence proposes that social change, relationships, and other interpersonal interactions flourish best when people choose to refrain from harming others.

For me, a central them of nonviolence is free will. I choose to regard coercion – through e.g. fear, obligation, guilt, duty or shame – as much a form of violence as punching someone in the mouth. I therefore prefer to use invitation (asking) in the place of instruction (telling).

Another common theme is the avoidance of moralistic judgments:

“Moralistic judgments are those built on [an ideology] that implies the human beings are very lazy, evil and violent. Therefore the corrective process is penitence. You have to make them hate themselves for what they’ve done, to believe that they deserve to suffer for what they’ve done.”

~ Marshall B. Rosenberg

Neither Passivity Nor Pacifism

Nonviolent advocates and activists reject the equating of nonviolence with e.g. peace, passivity, inaction or pacifism. Inherent in the idea of nonviolence is it’s use as a tool in protest, resistance, action and even revolution.

From The Heart

Closely associated with nonviolence are concepts such as love, compassion, non-theist spirituality and acting from the heart, out of interest in and concern for “what’s alive in people”.

“Nonviolence, which is the quality of the heart, cannot come by an appeal to the brain.”

~ Mahatma Gandhi

Invitation

Would you be willing to share what nonviolence means to you? And any questions or reservations you might have?

– Bob

Codes of Conduct

As a proponent of nonviolence, I see a lot of violence being employed in the hope of reducing the frequency and severity of interpersonal violence at e.g. conferences, community events or in team settings. This strikes me as ironic, and ultimately self-defeating.

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

I don’t dispute for one moment that there’s an issue. Folks do get hurt. Sometimes egregiously. And not doing anything is no option for me. The question in my mind is, what to do?

Codes of conduct seem to be the approach of choice for many in this situation. I reject this, and its implicit violence. Here’s my (nonviolent) contribution:

This is not a code of conduct. That’s to say, it’s not a set of rules or mandated behaviours to which we would like you to conform.

We’ve heard stories of the hurt and pain that some folks have felt in a conference environment. We’d like to do what we can to reduce the chances of that happening at our conference. We’d also like to do what we can to to provide a space – literally and metaphorically – where people can get in touch with what’s alive in each other.

We don’t believe that obliging certain behaviours, and precluding others, contributes much, in a positive way, to the kind of space we wish to provide. And actively undermines getting in touch with what’s alive in us.

An Invitation

We simply invite you to be aware, take care of each other, and to have courage in supporting each other in all things. If you choose not to do that, that’s OK, too. We don’t want to tell anyone how to behave.

Despite our vigilance, fellowship, and active participation in taking care of each other, there may be a time where someone feels hurt. We will pass all potentially criminal acts on to the relevant law enforcement bodies. And medical situations on to local medical specialist. Short of that, we invite you to take care of all parties involved in the situation. And invite you to try to find a peaceful solution which meets everyone’s needs. We have skilled mediators on hot standby to help with that, if and when you choose to call on them.

What to do if you personally feel uncomfortable or hurt

We invite you to seek support. If you’re unsure just who to ask, your conference pack contains a list of folks that you can get in touch with directly for support.

What to do as staff or volunteer

We invite you to be aware, to take care of each other and the attendees, and to have courage in supporting each other in dealing with any conflicts or other issues that may arise. If you choose not to do that, that’s OK, too. We don’t want to tell you how to behave. We also invite you to become familiar with these guidelines, and with the names on the support contact list, in case anyone asks you.

See also
Nonviolent Communication
Restorative Justice
Due Process

Maybe the hardest thing is to empathise with, and, yes, to love, those folks who we see as the cause of hurt. That requires us to change our behaviours, not mandate theirs.

“When we listen for their feelings and needs, we no longer see people as monsters.”

~ Marshall B. Rosenberg

– Bob

How To Connect With Folks’ Needs

“The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change.”

~ Carl R. Rogers

My key focus as a therapist is providing the wherewithal through which folks can conduct their own inner dialogues. That’s to say, providing an opportunity, a time, a space, for folks to each have a conversation with their own self. And in a group setting – my more common scenario – for the folks in a group or team to have conversations with and amongst themselves.

Unusual

I find that many groups and teams – and I hear this applies to individuals too – rarely have any kind of meaningful, purposeful or skilful internal dialogue. So, rarely does a group explore its needs, or the needs of its members. And even more rarely, in any kind of effective way.

Therapy

When I’m working with a group, I’m looking for opportunities to open up their internal dialogue and allow it to flourish. Assuming that’s what they want, of course. I say working, but ideally it’s not work but rather play. Playfully looking for opportunities to support the group’s needs for effective internal reflection, play, sharing, connection and mindfulness.

It’s Mostly About Them

I’m way less focussed on me understanding their needs, and way more focussed on helping them uncover, surface, explore and accept their feelings and needs, for and amongst themselves.

“The kind of caring that the client-centered therapist desires to achieve is a gullible caring, in which clients are accepted as they say they are, not with a lurking suspicion in the therapist’s mind that they may, in fact, be otherwise. This attitude is not stupidity on the therapist’s part; it is the kind of attitude that is most likely to lead to trust…”

~ Carl R. Rogers

And to myself, I generally ask: “How can I best provide a relationship through which the folks in this group or team may best connect with – and thereby attend to – their own personal and collective needs?”

– Bob

Further Reading

Attending To The Needs Of Others ~ FlowChainSensei
On Becoming A Person: A Therapist’s View Of Psychotherapy ~ Carl R. Rogers

 

 

Tech Folks Don’t Grok People Things

Geek-inside

Nor do they often grok the connection between attending to their own and others’ needs, and the grokking of people things.

Tech Folks Focus On Tech

Let’s face it, most folks in IT (a.k.a. software development) made it their career choice because they like tech. Personally, I started programming way back when because I liked making little coloured lights flash on and off at my command.

And although liking tech doesn’t necessarily preclude grokking people things, in practice it generally does.

People Things Trump Tech

Yet it’s the people things that make all the difference when it comes to non-trivial, collaborative knowledge work. Such as teams building software systems and solutions. Questions like “What accounts for the way folks behave?”, “How can we work together?” and “Why is everything so borked round here?”.

Some tech folks wake up to the primacy of people things sooner or later. And it’s rarely a pleasant awakening.

Of course, this is not a phenomenon limited to tech people. Most managers I’ve met haven’t grokked people things either. Nor politicians. Nor scientists. Nor intellectuals. Nor…, etc.

Maybe the truest irony is that people, in general, don’t grok people things.

– Bob

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