Navigating Uncertainty: Theory + Practice = Praxis by Wendy Morris

Last month I was in London at Roffey Park Institute, a research-based center for leadership and organizational development, as part of the facilitation team for the 54th cohort of the Human Systems Dynamics (HSD) certification program. In these increasingly unpredictable and complex times, when the chaos can feel bigger than we can handle, it helps to have a solid praxis – an integrated base of theory and practice – that enables us to more effectively adapt and innovate. Rooted in chaos and complexity theory, HSD offers models to recognize patterns in the midst of the mess, and methods to act and shift systems that we can’t predict or control.

 

Our HSD Institute team convened in the UK with 31 participants from 18 countries for the foundation week of a four-month program of face-to-face and online learning. Through this program we support those in the work of making change, resolving conflict, or helping groups and individuals thrive in uncertainty.

 

A favorite aspect of my role with the HSD Institute is facilitating an embodied understanding of human systems dynamics by designing and leading experiential learning activities that draw on my background in mindfulness and artistic process.

 

Against the backdrop of last month’s UK election, and all its implications for Brexit, we addressed questions that our cohort participants were already facing on the ground back at home, questions like:

  • What does strategy mean in the context of a self-organizing social movement involving hundreds of thousands of demonstrators?
  • Given the context of our world’s shared climate crisis, how to develop responsible senior leadership among those running large, global companies?
  • How to work collaboratively across significant cultural and historical differences?
  • What are conditions to support collective innovation among polarized partners?
  • How to plan when planning no longer works?

 

I came home inspired by the people I was privileged to be with – brilliant and caring changemakers who are in the throes of wrestling down some of the most challenging issues of our time; issues that are far too daunting for anyone to think through alone.

 

One of the phrases I carried back is the British use of the word “think” as a noun, not just a verb, as in “we’ll have to have a think about that”.  There is a tone of intentionality for me in the Britishism “have a think about…” rather than the grammar that is more familiar to me, just “to think about…”.  Each time I heard the expression, “have a think”, I imagined my colleagues purposefully setting aside time to reflect, with pints or teacups in hand. I cherish that even something as simple as a tiny tweak of grammar, shifted my thinking about something as fundamental as… thinking.

 

I came back from London inspired to change.

 

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