Sunday, January 4, 2009

Real Work

I came across this great book called “Presence: An exploration of profound change in people, organizations, and society” by Peter Senge, Otto Scharmer, Joseph Jaworski and Betty Sue Flowers. Betty Sue, isn’t that a great southern name.

The book I picked up was well-read with corners turned, and a note stuck in page 35. I borrowed it from the public library, it’s amazing the resources you can get for $12 a year. I read the pages that were ear marked from back to front (there are researchers that have studied reading magazines back to front –they’re the ones who’ve have had at least seven jobs in the past four months and drank way too much Red Bull, front to back -accountants, and random readers -randomreadererectus) and was brought to a deeper level of thought. One of the premises is that we go through a pattern of thinking, then reactive learning happens and doing which doesn’t lead to much more than surface iterations of change or continuation of patterns. By continuing in this stream we’re unable to integrate the parts with the whole. Otto talks about the U Theory and how we most often react rather than take the time to step back and really move to a deeper level of learning to process and act differently in similar situations. Not a really new concept.

The authors talk about “presence” where the whole is entirely present in any of its parts. They found that by encouraging deeper levels of learning we are able to see the larger whole and take action to shape future evolution rather than staying in old patterns of seeing and acting. Makes sense right? How many of us are moving beyond and changing patterns, we may try something new and then due to the ‘whole’ stray back into the false patterns that face us due to our circumstance.

I think of my ‘real work’ when out traveling the world, searching for and creating new patterns of being and how that is the future of new. Or perhaps it WAS and now deeper connections are emerging as a result of the whole. How can I truly move beyond what I know?

I checked out the website for the Society for Organizational Learning, which focuses on building knowledge for systemic change. Senge reflects on his experience with a mentor who continually reminded him of the importance of the culture, “the ethos of the enterprise as a whole.” The Ethos of the organization is “the frontier”. The core purpose, practical know how and results are vital but the deeper learning is in attention to relationships, are people are enjoying learning together? If not, the ‘organization’ will struggle. This is the real work, this is the whole.

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