Monday, April 20, 2009

Creating a World to which People Want to Belong

This is a reprint of an article I wrote for the April newsletter of the IAF Europe.

Robert DiltsRobert Dilts
(image by Cantabrigensis
via Flickr)

"We are made wise not by the recollection of our past, but by the responsibility for our future."
George Bernard Shaw

Many years ago I had several encounters with Robert Dilts, one of the early developers of the systemic thinking school of NLP. Robert, in his kindness has left a deep impression on me with the subtitle of his book “Visionary Leadership Skills”, which serves as the title of this little article
on how facilitators can have an impact on change in organizations and societies. I hope Robert doesn’t mind.

We are living in times in which most aspects of life have become unpredictable. Will we still be in business next year? If so, what new skills will we need to serve our clients? If we are employed, will we still have a job? Will our kids be able to develop their talents and gifts? Will our organizations become better places, where the individual contribution is valued and where team work becomes a means for personal and corporate success? Will there be more or less wars,
terrorist attacks, and hunger (for food and for meaning)? And these are just the big questions – just try to write a list with two columns: in one column, jot down the things that you deem certain and in the other those which you think are uncertain. What’s your personal balance?

So: if uncertainty and unpredictability prevails, can we as facilitators have an impact or are we subject to the strong forces of a seemingly chaotic world?

I believe we can. As facilitators, we

  • help teams to develop
  • create room for dialogue
  • assist organizations to improve their collaboration practices
  • support individuals in their intent for personal growth
  • deconstruct complexity and enhance comprehension
  • understand and describe systemic patterns in groups and organizations
  • serve as role models that provide orientation
  • allow emotions and feelings to be expressed
  • identify emerging leaders and give them room to experiment
  • express our views on the good, the bad and the ugly of organizations and societies
  • act as messengers of social initiatives
  • suggest tools for improved collaboration
  • etc.

As systemic thinkers we know that every action has an effect on the system. At the end our
work boils down to one simple thing that we do: Creating space for passion and responsibility to unfold. I love to start my workshops with a simple exercise: I ask the participants to get off their chairs (which of course are assembled in a circle with no tables), and spend 15 minutes to meet other people. For these 15 minutes, I encourage them to talk about two aspects of themselves: What are they passionate about? What do they want to take responsibility for during the workshop (and beyond)? This little activity sets the tone and provides fertile ground for openness, transparency, emotional involvement and collaboration.

So, here is our contribution to a better world: let’s focus on helping to increase the global
quantity of passion and responsibility. If we commit to this as an objective for any of our workshops, then I am not worried about our impact.

There is more reason for optimism: the global web culture that has developed over the last years is an indicator showing that people do collaborate if they have the tools, the freedom to use them and nobody standing behind their backs. Gary Hamel has expressed this perfectly in an article for the Wall Street Journal (“The Facebook Generation vs. the Fortune 500“). He describes the following patterns of collaboration via social media:

1. All ideas compete on an equal footing.
2. Contribution counts for more than credentials.
3. Hierarchies are natural, not prescribed.
4. Leaders serve rather than preside.
5. Tasks are chosen, not assigned.
6. Groups are self-defining and -organizing.
7. Resources get attracted, not allocated.
8. Power comes from sharing information, not hoarding it.
9. Opinions compound and decisions are peer-reviewed.
10. Users can veto most policy decisions.
11. Intrinsic rewards matter most.
12. Hackers are heroes.

Quite a good description of how the real world should function, isn’t it? So, let’s start to build in real life what works in the Web already. I am ready to assume the hacker’s position, if wish so.

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1 comment:

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