Safety as agent for transformation

Although I sometimes know that I need to change my behaviour, actually doing it proves to be quite difficult. Especially when there is no crisis that triggers and sustains the desired transformation process. I tend to delay until a crisis leaves no other option. And that is a pity as the cost of a crisis is usually extremely high, not only for myself but also for my environment.

How it nice would it be if I could transform myself (or my organisation) without having to go through a such a crisis. It took me a while but I have finally discovered a much more attractive and less costly alternative: creating a safe environment.

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A book that makes me feel good! It provides a clear set of practical principles (and concrete examples) of how we can evolve towards a sustainable and regenerative way of feeding ourselves.

It also makes the connection with other area’s of our daily life (oa. organisational structures) where design based on principles observed in our natural ecosystems can show us the way forward. Makes me realise once more that my preference for structured self-organisation (the principles of which are also based on facilitating complex adaptive systems, in case: ‘people working together in an organisation’) is no coincidence. And that there is indeed some coherence behind the seemingly different projects I’m involved with, which I find reassuring:

To set up some basic conditions and guidelines that will allow possibilities to emerge and evolve into a creative and vibrant organism that perfectly matches the unique conditions its specific environment ;o)

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Quality of each step

Yesterday, half way up a Swiss mountain full of snow, with snow rackets that did not prevent sinking in up to my knees at every step. I had to stop every 5 to 10 steps to recover my breath. Meanwhile feeling a  disconnect from the beauty of the environment.

At some point I realised that this was not only due to my somewhat failing physical fitness but also because I was mainly focussing on reaching the top. As I started to shift my attention to each and every step two things happened instantly. Instead of 5 to 10 I could now take 20 to 25 steps before feeling the need to pause. And I started to notice all kind of details of my surroundings such as a variety of animal tracks.

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Coherence through dialogue

Our behaviour as human race is pretty incoherent at the moment and if sustained will lead to our downfall… Based on his findings in the field of theoretical physics (see video below) David Bohm suggest that we can resolve this lack of coherence by improving the quality of our dialogues.

In this interesting little booklet he explains that if we would not only listen more carefully to each other but would also withhold our judgement for a while (holding space) we will detach ourselves from our (unconscious and limiting) assumptions and create space for the coherence we need to survive to emerge. Whereby a sustained dialogue with a group size between 20 and 40 people would be the most productive setting for this phenomenon to happen.

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Self-organisation network

In the beginning I felt drawn to ‘self organisation’ simply because I am not a very good at managing others at work (nor did I want to..). Over the years I came to realise that self organisation also appealed to me at a much deeper level. It enables people to stay connected to themselves whilst working with others. And as a consequence it makes work more enjoyable and connections to others more authentic, energetic and valuable. As a fringe benefit it also proves to be much more effective way to achieve a common purpose.

Challenge however was to find a form of ‘self organisation’ that does not end in an unproductive chaos. The answer proves to be a mix of a clear purpose, dynamic structure and an inclusive culture supported by a very clear set of principles and rules. In short it boils down to:

1. A power shift from people to ‘purpose’, resulting in a hierarchy of purpose. With alignment with that purpose as benchmark for every decisions.

2. Moving from a static to a dynamic approach to organisation structure. Structure is constantly adapted to whatever is needed at that moment to get closer to the purpose.

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Sustainable long term solutions vs conflicting short term interests

Should I resolve my shoulder pain with a quick fix operation or should I change my personal behaviour in order to resolve the source of this pain? Should I go on pushing myself or accept a drop in income now in order to create space and time to secure a more suitable and sustainable source of income for the rest of my life?

Even in such crucial topics as our own health short term interests (such as income or defending our trusted assumptions in live) almost always prevail are even when they are counter productive on the long run. And actions focused on realising what is good for us on the longer term are being pushed forward. This is not only true at a individual level but at group level (in organisations, politics etc.). In long and fruitless debates (in our mind or with others) we strongly defend our personal short term interests leaving us with the unsatisfactory feeling of knowing that we harm ourselves in the long run.

Reason for me to bring this up is that when we manage to discuss that very same topic whilst putting our personal short term interest aside for a moment (which is a challenge in itself), it very quickly emerges that we usually hold a very similar or non-conflicting views on the ideal longer term solution….. It then becomes clear that what seamed to be a difference in opinions in fact is no more then our fear of the short term consequences of that solution for our personal interests. This realisation creates room to move our energy from building defence lines to clarifying these very understandable fears and helping each other to resolve these.

Holland village, Singapore, 1996

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Purpose (version 1): Contribute to Quality of Life through enjoyable and regenerative interactions by creating an environment in which people feel save enough to open up and to connect to others through sharing of stories (without expectation) and listening (without judgement) supported by simple but delicious food and drinks.

3d QOLunch logo attempt

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