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ODNE SE region gathering report - HSBC Canary Wharf 13th June 2016

julian burton

We had a great discussion a few weeks ago at HSBC, in Canary Wharf [thanks to Tanya for hosting].

We began by sharing what was on our minds, what we brought to the space. The forthcoming EU vote came up, and how we each had different uncertainties about it. Which now have probably morphed into new ones given all that is happening!

We decided not to have one person hold the space and facilitate, which was really fruitful as by the end we had such informal, creative and stimulating conversations, it seemed to me we'd created an unstructured container that had some of the conditions for emergence, given how relaxed and engaged we seemed to feel. We then acknowledged that we were experiencing, in this meeting, having some breathing space, some time to think, share and connect. This felt to me like the wellspring of energy, creativity and connection so central to keeping our OD practice fresh, alive and moving forward. Someone mentioned that often conversations at work can be flat and lifeless and what we can do to bring energy back into a work meeting.

We shared stories of recent OD practice and experiences at work, and explored a few personal experiences and possible resolutions. We reflected on what was still resonating from the recent ONDE conference. We briefly explored what we each thought “generative image” meant, and how we could find a way to bring this idea to life and actually create ones that could catalyse community forming conversations. This subject could certainly do with a whole day for exploration!

We wondered upon the root causes of OD challenges and successes; is it quality of relationships? 

We thought it often seems to come down to the simple stuff; being together, listening and respecting, practising being present etc. Someone remarked that experiences we have in interactions emerge in the space between us, and neither party can control a two-way conversation.  Gervase Bushe’s concept of Interpersonal Mush [] was mentioned as a useful tool to help us untangle how people make up stories about each other which can get in the way of team performance.

This led to a brief conversation about a central paradox in O.D. On the one had we are individuals with free will, making our own choices acting autonomously from sense of personal identity. And yet on the other hand, if we are co-constructing our experiences together, and if we are socially constructing our realities together, we can seem not to be independent discrete individuals, more like selves-in-relationship. If conversations and human relationships are at the heart of OD work, then how we show up will influence client outcomes. Yet there are  many levels to conversations, and trying to work out cause and effect is nearly impossible. This ended with the idea that depending on how we experience ourselves and each other, we can affect how we treat each other. This would be great to explore further.

Community building was explored: we discussed how we experienced our gathering, and how was it an example of community. We reflected that we were sharing experiences and learning informally. The work of Marshall Ganz was mentioned [he successfully organized the grassroots community campaigns that Obama elected in 2008- a good example of his thinking here []. Peter Block's work on community organizing called the Structure of Belonging was also mentioned. And there were some thoughts about how we could bring these ideas to life and grow our own ODNE community.

The next SE gathering will be on 26th September in central London, drop me a note or give me a call if you would like to join us.

Warm regards

Julian Burton - 077 9000 7560