When I left the inaugural Beyond the Basics in Columbus OH in March 2014, I immediately jotted the following in my journal:
“From beyond the basics to back to the basics….”
Although the training wasn’t about learning Art of Hosting processes 101, per se, it felt at the time that I was being re-grounded in some some fundamental lessons.
The biggest reminder I received was that training in the Art of Hosting is not really about training ‘hosts’ or facilitators - you know - those people at the front of the room, who walk around the circle describing some fancy design process that leads to better stakeholder engagement.
While those elements may be part of your practice (and they certainly are a growing part of mine), I was most struck by something Chris Corrigan told me, which was that we were training to get better at participating. At its heart, this speaks to the need to be in new (and, I would say, old) ways of relating to each other in order to effect the change we want to see in ourselves, our organizations, and the world.
How do you show up? And how do you show when the work that needs to be done depends on you figuring it out with others?
And, in the dense forest of our lives, it's easy to forget these fundamental questions.
So what do we need to do to get back to them, in the midst of complex challenges, unequal power dynamics, and the pressure to get bigger, or have more impact?
When I went back to work in my organization, this of course only generated more questions, but here are a couple of learnings I came away with and look forward to delving into a few weeks from now:
Sharpen your sense of where you are and the challenges you face. The Cynefin framework, that Chris Corrigan will be sharing, is a handy heuristic that can help to orientate you before you rush into action. Where are you in this forest? Clear-cutting your way out is not necessarily the best solution. How might better understanding the ecosystem you are in currently, inform your next actions? On this front the question that I'm bringing to this next BTB is "How does strategy jive with complexity, if our current models (relying on retroactive confirmation) will never be an accurate predictor of the future?
Get clearer on what's preventing you from showing up fully. How many times do I get hung up on an old story? Those ones that have resulted in a well-worn groove in my synapses? With the Work, Caitlin Frost, introduced me to a practice that helps bring a little more space into those hardened thought patterns and fears that so often make it difficult to act from a place of openness and clarity. What happens when we engage in this softening? How does it affect my quality of listening, to myself and to others?
This has been a important lesson, especially when there is a critical need to better understand the nature of power and the role it plays in groups and in getting things done. Power influences everything. How might you work with others to deepen the impact of the projects you are working on? How do you attend to the question of power in large scale change efforts, but not become overwhelmed in an analysis of it? As Tuesday Ryan-Hart and Tim Merry reminded me - there's still work to be done and it needs to be shared. How we tend to the relationships that will make this happen is critical.
These are some threads I've been returning to frequently in the past couple of years in my work life and my personal life. What I've come to learn is that the conversations I engaged in at Beyond the Basics, and the ones that you will be having in Kingston, are not stand alone events. Rather, they need to be returned to frequently and require regular practice if we are going to shift the ways in which we work and the results we hope to effect. So come join me in Kingston, as we get back to (and beyond) the basics!