mad in pursuit journal


Follow the disturbance

"I'm all for progress. It's change I can't stand." Mark Twain

In 1994 I was given the opportunity of a lifetime — to rebuild a 160-year-old Institution from scratch. I've told the story many times. The Cause turned into the Corporation. Executive Egos. Psychobitches. You know...

I can lose myself rehashing all that crap. But today I have a different perspective.

dialogueDuring 1995, after a couple months of building a shared vision across the Institution, my Team of 14 spent 4 months, full time, sitting in a tight circle around a metaphorical campfire and dialogued our way into designing a new organization based on ecological principles: diversified and self-organizing, taking advantage of complexity rather than fighting it. Relationships are everything. The result was beautiful but it died a slow and painful death in the hands of administrators who hadn't sat around the campfire with us.

Our consultants for this glorious misadventure were from MIT's Sloane School of Management — Peter Senge and his band of merry Learning Organization advocates. Their conferences were directed at Ford Motor Company and Xerox Corporation. Strictly business, right?

But fast forward 10 years...

Suddenly I'm hearing these same learning organization principles discussed in spiritual terms — the transformative power of the "dynamic feminine." The Age of the Goddess. Anodea Judith is "Waking the Global Heart." Margaret Wheatley, who provided me with a wonderful frame for how quantum physics, chaos theory, and unified field theory applies to new forms of leadership ("Leadership and the New Sciences") is now referencing Tibetan Buddhism and other spiritual traditions:

Every mystical spiritual tradition guides us to an encounter with Mystery, the Unknowable, the Numinous. If spirit lives in the realm of the mysterious, then certainty is what seals us off from the Divine. If we believe that there is nothing new to know about God, then we cut ourselves off from the very breath of life, the great rhythms of spirit that give rise to newness all the time. [1]

This makes me do a double-take. I turned my back on the Institution in despair that its increasingly conventional, male-dominated leadership could ever make the changes needed. My reading switched from business books to philosophy. And here I am full circle. How is it that I got engaged with an organizational change philosophy that, without ever saying it, drew from the most profound of religious philosophies?

Continued >>>


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[1] Disturb Me, Please! by Meg Wheatley