About knowing, and jamming.

I’ve been thinking about the complexity of simplicity recently, and how difficult we can make work through our attempts to “know”.  For example, where the relational aspect of work (engagement/motivation – what you will) is surveyed, becomes a project plan so that we know progress.  Or perhaps, the finance and HR collaboration to create a set of metrics so that we know how much the people initiatives are contributing to the financial/target/ – what you will, success of an organisation.

In June, I spent two days with a group of people jamming all things facilitation.   All seven of us brought something that was of interest to us, stuff we were learning/thinking about/experimenting with to share an experience.  No agenda, no list, no time pressures, simply being together and allowing our discussions to cluster around areas of interest, discomfort, exploration, energy.  A beautiful mash up of not knowingness. And yet….

Simple questions brought out complex discussions.  “What do we need from each other”….. brought out into the open the different realities we had created internally and we began to understand differences/ similarities.    Asking a “simple” question, and giving space, paying attention to what others are saying, and not saying, giving respect enabled a deeper level of connection to each that creates trust. When we trust each other – possibilities are so much greater.  It’s complex. We couldn’t know what would arise in that conversation, and I’m not sure we can directly correlate it to anything other than our amazing potential.

One of our jammers, Kev Wyke invited us to play with an idea he was experimenting with.  An idea for an activity – could be a short game, or a longer change/innovation (add what you will) workshop.  It was deceptively simple, yet hooked us into a long exploration, where there were ideas connecting to ideas, insights shared, bonds strengthening through conversation.  The idea itself belongs to Kev, so contact him here to find out more.  We played with the idea (remember, no time scales, no rules here) and found a depth of complexity in his “simple” idea.  I wonder If we had restricted ourselves in terms of our time – oh what a glorious learning experience we could have missed.

Margaret Wheatley says  “it is fascinating to notice how many interpretations the different members of a group can give to the same event____________ I am sure no two people see the world exactly the same”.

It seems to me that we spend a lot of time trying to factor complexity out of our lives,  by the systems and processes that we develop at work so that we design a concrete reality.    Yet – if we accept that we live in self created realities, making our own meaning and interpretation of what we experience around us, then our aim to simplify, make easy, will be self defeating won’t it?

Perhaps this is why appraisals are a struggle – the longest appraisal document I heard of was 24 pages long.  The shortest five questions.   No, a blank page (possibly an apocryphal story!).   A need for absolute certainty, vs a need for trusting the process?

Maybe too this knowing makes it so hard for leaders to involve and inspire their teams; there is an underestimation of the need for people to make meaning.  It’s simple – allow people to make meaning, but – we need to know how long it will take. Depending on my reality – who knows?

We put stuff out for people to agree with, to endorse, as opposed for creating space for people to explore, make meaning of and find the common ground.

A question for us all to consider when working with others:

How much time do you allow for people to make their own meaning; and how much time to you factor in to explore this and create shared meanings?