Back in the day
Now days you can't swing a cat without someone talking about meaningful conversations, participatory democracy, employee engagement, collaborative leadership, communities of practice, relationships being essential to our capacity to achieve results etc. It's out there. People are making big bucks touring the speaking circuit talking about it. The Harvard Business Review writes about it, there's books galore! You get my point.
My direct experience is that my work is more and more invited into mainstream society - public consultation, organizational change management, community lead responses to economic downturn, government responses to the incredible stress of delivering public service in rapidly changing circumstance, to name a few …
The work is going mainstream. It is just a question of whether we are ready to go with it, whether I am ready to go with it.
Getting beyond right and wrong
It is in those places that I find I learn the most about who I am and what I do. In my own personal journey it has been entering the parts of me that I am most afraid and ashamed of - the dark, long avoided parts of myself - that has helped me discover the crystal clear kernel of clarity at my centre. It is the same in my work. So many of the people, organisations, ways of working that I villified as a young man have now become my most interesting and powerful practice grounds. I am shedding all my ideas and concepts of right and wrong and working with the reality of people who are trying to figure out how to live a meaningful and productive life.
“Beyond our ideas of right-doing and wrong-doing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there. When the soul lies down in that grass, the world is too full to talk about. Ideas, language, even the phrase ‘each other’ doesn’t make sense any more.” - Rumi
I am letting go of the high expectations of my earlier ideology and meeting reality where it is at. It feels great.
The magic in the mainstream
I think it is time to get out of the fringes of community, organisations and society at large and bring the work of participatory leadership and art of hosting to the mainstream. We are not going to make change by using language that the majority of the world thinks is hokey. (Someone recently asked me why people talk about 'the work' like it is god!) All we end up doing is going round and round in re-enforcing circles of increasing irrelevance as the world moves on and co- opts something that so many of us have been a part of launching. If we want to steward and protect this work and its DNA we must find ways to follow it on its inevitable course into the heart of the very thing we are seeking to change. That means branding, sharpening language, having solid business models and making choices about what we stand for. It's not for everyone, I get that - but for me I no longer want to be embedded in something that is so diverse it is diluted and is articulated so vaguely is gains no traction in the systems it is seeking to transform.
So maybe it is now time to let go of the shore - the safe place of being the radicals leading change - and swim in the mainstream as leaders of transformation. It puts the 2001 Hopi message in a different light for me:
There is a river flowing now very fast. It is so great and swift that there are those who will be afraid. They will try to hold on to the shore.They will feel they are being torn apart and will suffer greatly. Know that the river has its destination.
The elders say we must let go of the shore, push off into the middle of the river, keep your eyes open and our heads above water. And I say: see who is there with you and celebrate. At this time in history we are to take nothing personally, let alone ourselves. For the moment that we do, our spiritual growth and journey come to a halt. The time of the lone wolf is over.
Gather yourselves. Banish the word "struggle" from your attitude and vocabulary. All that we do now must be done in a sacred manner and in celebration.
Let's do it!
I would love to hear your thoughts and comments so we can continue to talk and evolve our work some more,