“Act yourself to a new way of thinking”
The journey to next:land continues: 21 participants explore new ways of working, leading and organizing in the one-year learning LAB next:pedition. Module 2 (of 5) in Malaga at the beautiful Centro Castillan was all about next:culture, exploring the different dynamics and cultural patterns we see in our organizations. Change is also about the individual level, focusing on different energies within ourselves and how to transform them in order to catalyse change in organisations. Our next:pedition Blogger, Leadership expert Marcus Druen, had a particularly hard time, facing fear and anger – but after 24 hours, something changed…
End of January, my adventure from now:land to next:land continued as I attended the second module of the next:pedition in Malaga. The purpose was to explore the interrelationship between the practice and the practitioner.
Accordingly, the motto was:
“You can’t think yourself into a new way of acting,
you have to act yourself into a new way of thinking”
The former is a vicious circle of being trapped in our paradigm, the latter is a virtuous circle creating possibilities. We spent the first two days on practice, listening to self-selected case owners and interviewing some of their colleagues over the phone, paying attention to our own feelings about both case and owner, and then collaborating in small teams to build hypotheses on why their culture is the way it is, and give them some advice on how to change it. An important maxim to keep in mind here is that: “A hypothesis is something to flirt with, not something to marry…” They are neither good or bad, right or wrong, they are simply a possible way of looking at things. To be honest, I struggled with this and noticed silently ‘judging’ a hypothesis to be either right or wrong. The theme of ‘right or wrong’ then continued…
A battle between ancient wisdom and my rational brain
I want to zoom into the aspect of the ‘practitioner’ which I found particularly challenging and, ultimately, particularly rewarding: the “nowhere map” by nowhere. This tool (read The Way of Nowhere if you fancy) is based on ancient Mayan wisdom, featuring 8 allies and 8 distortions. First of all, there is a set of self-assessment questions and an online questionnaire, filled out by colleagues. Let me tell you, I had an almighty struggle to engage with it. The fact is that I’m part of Western civilisation and, thus now:land, and my whole life plus hundreds of years of memes since the Enlightenment have conditioned me to favour rational, critical thinking. Suddenly, I was confronted with a model that challenged the Big 5 personality theory approach (which is of course the most scientifically validated – much more than that of Carl Jung) and which I had learned and committed to for a decade. Worse, the ancient Mayan history of it gave me a sense that it was a bit “woo woo” labelling me an “evocative leader”.
How my “internal change” happened – within 24 hours
So, the way the data was structured and presented was different to what I already knew from Big 5 models. I repeatedly said: “That doesn’t make any sense!” I had a very tough time, because shifting my energy and working with this model was necessary to move forward with the programme. I started by separating the data from the model; I couldn’t disagree rationally with the feedback people were giving me. Then, I stopped managing my feelings within myself, and decided to voice my discomfort to my colleagues, first in plenary then with individuals. This externalising, hearing myself talk, seeing people’s reactions was much more cathartic than continuing to have an inner dialogue about it. Then I made a conscious decision to put my resistance away from me; we had a fire ritual in which we wrote down and burned what we wanted to get rid of. I wrote that I wanted to get rid of my fear of being wrong (the flipside of the need to be right), and then reflected on that in silence before going to sleep at 10pm. I had crazy dreams which I recorded in my journal at 5.45am, but the content would definitively be TMI – too much information at this point…
At 7am the next morning, we did a guided meditation where we spent literally ten minutes to eat a single raisin, mindfully and slowly. That was very profound, because I felt myself to be a towering giant in comparison with the tiny raisin, which made me realise that I can sometimes be quite a critical giant, looking down on new ideas from above and dismissing them (or people) as wrong.
Coming down from my mountain of superiority
Then we left the blissful yoga retreat place where we were staying and went for an “intuition walk”. Well, me being me, of course my ‘goal’ was the top of a hill, about one hour away – ironically not giving much way for random intuition here 😉 On the way down, I spent time recording my reflections and commitments for 25 minutes on my phone, getting my self-talk out of my neo-cortex and into my whole brain and body, which was again very cathartic including a release of tension in my shoulder. I shared my intuition walk experience with a buddy, who pointed out that by getting to the top of the hill on my intuition walk I had gained a 360-degree view but also put myself in a position to look down, which resonated with the insight from one of the distortions in the map: A sense of superiority. Hah – definitively a “penny drop moment” that I could feel, not just rationalise.
We then moved to an exercise where we physically moved forward to stand on a threshold, from which we could move forward into the new desired self and move backward to our current self. Recognising that the view some people had of me was diametrically opposite to how I intend to collaborate as the “architect” of a change programme made me angry in a productive way because it made me commit to shift my energy instantly; since then, I already changed the tonality in some sections on my website.
The relationship between practitioner and practice
My personal breakthrough in this module was to leave some of that fear to be wrong on that hill in Malaga. Zooming out from my experience as practitioner and finishing with the link to practice, I can report that I have already executed a bold move with my main client and it had the desired impact, because I noticed some shift in their energy. It was a salutary reminder that change always has to come from us; we can’t change others, but through changing ourselves, we may be able to catalyse change within themselves. Letting go is hard, but if I can do it, maybe everyone can.
What energy do you need to shift, in order for you to reach your creative potential? And catalyse change in your organisation?
Want to find out more?
- Check out our photo album from Malaga on Facebook
- Blogpost about Module 1 in Vienna: “Unlearning stuff is so much harder than learning stuff.”
- Blogpost about Module 3 in Amsterdam: “On taking your mask off, roller coasters and love in business”
- Audio-Interview with the three next:guides: “How to transform yourself to catalyse transformation in organisations”
- Join our next learning LAB yourself – the next chance is in Fall/Winter 2018/19!