Not all who wonder are lost

An aspect of organisational life that I have always found frustrating is the need to wrap everything up neatly into a process. To squeeze personal tragedy into a policy, to determine someone’s future potential by placing them in a grid, to recruit people by scoring systems and to describe relationships and emotions as “touchy feely”. A memorable request as a manager was when a new recruit asked in our first meeting “Please – can I have no objectives? Can we just work together on what’s important without a list?” We did that; I believe that my purpose as a manager is to serve my team, not blindly, but to be open to different approaches. Took me out of my comfort zone – but she only ever excelled. It changed how I did things.

I question why there is such a demand for evidence and proof that people who feel valued are likely to offer a richer contribution within the workplace. We don’t need proof that they are breathing, have beating hearts and the capacity for love, anger and compassion. If we enter our potential, there is no measure that can predict what they/we can achieve. We can’t map a set path because at each stage of a human’s growth and development some aspect of them that is unknown is revealed.

I’d been thinking too about what Doug Shaw wrote last week about strategic planning, and the conversation that ensued arguing for and against strategic planning. Is it mechanistic and unnecessary, or is it directional and relevant? Is it ultimately, however well it is undertaken, something that is self defeating?

I didn’t have answers for any of these questions as I could probably argue it both ways. Then – as I walked past the British Library on Friday evening, I saw they have large banners up with this line from Tolkien “not all who wonder are lost”. Got me to some more thinking.

At connectingHR conference Gareth Jones gave us “conversation is the new currency”. If we consider this, then we know are entering into uncertainty. A conversation cannot be measured, or predicted. It has to be experienced. It is an improvisation. It doesn’t mean that nothing can or will be achieved. Each person who attended connectingHR went away with ideas, friendships, stimulus, energy and hope for a different future. We had no plan, we created our own discussions, we made it happen ourselves. We will all bring renewed energy and vigour into our work, our conversations, our relationships. We will achieve more.

So this need for concrete certainty, measurement and structure – what is it doing to our creativity and humanity? Those who are wondering are seeing and experiencing more aren’t they? If they’re reading a map, they’ll just see what is on there. Conversation is the wonderer’s currency, experience is their measure and hope is their guide. Those who wonder are seeing other possibilities and opportunities and exploring them. Who knows what will happen. But not all who wonder are lost.

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