The Narrative work is now also dancing in the world of business and organisational life. It is a dance in which the steps and movements are still being figured out, and where we, at times, step on one another’s toes…

Chene Swart, Re-Authoring the World, The Narrative Lens and Practices for Organisations, Communities and Individuals

in which the steps and movements are still being figured out?

in which the steps and movements are still being figured out?!

and where we, at times, step on one another’s toes?! A.k.a work with each other clumsily to figure it out?!

These are the realisms that I, and we (people in business, organizations and communities) continue to stoically deny. How could we confess to not knowing? In a world that requires certainty and deadlines and plans, how can we profess to still figuring out the answers when they are expected? To stepping on others toes? To making mistakes? To our need for each other?

Time and again, I hear leaders and people in organizations say they are not “allowed” to be vulnerable in these ways. The reasoning: we live and work in cultures that are intolerant of uncertainty. When we are vulnerable enough to confess and profess to not knowing in organizational life, the results are often detrimental. One might be labelled unprofessional, touchy-feely or the one that never achieves results. So we march stoically forward, working on assumptions of certainty, perfection and the human machine that we know from experience will fail us time and again, because today’s world is too fluid, too complex, too constantly moving for yesterday’s plan to work tomorrow. Yet, at the same time, I and we MUST keep moving and trying things out to keep learning at the speed of change, at the speed of life in our times. We try things, we learn, we fail, we try again. Prototyping, innovating. And my experience has taught me that I alone do not have answers to what will be the best plan. Nor do you. The best answers come when we work together, talk together, and collaborate on the most complex puzzles in our organizational lives to accomplish what no one of us can on our own.

So how can we possibly continue to deny our not knowing and need to work together?

To continue in this denial is to deny our own humanity and suppress the creativity, innovation and potential that comes from saying, “I need help to figure this out?! What would our organizations be like if we had cultures where we could more openly confess to not knowing and be willing to look clumsy as we figure out a way forward together? How can we create the psychological safety needed to be human, to be real in our organizations? It’s clear that we all want that kind of work context as the trending research and article on What Google Learned From its Quest to Build the Perfect Team shows.

On May 2, Dr. Chene Swart and I will host a workshop in Vancouver, BC on Re-Authoring Culture. We will tackle some of these questions about culture transformation and culture building using the narrative lens and principles of dialogic organization development. These perspectives acknowledge the importance of our stories, language and relationships in building the organizational cultures we have and want. These perspectives and worldviews help us to bring our humanity to complexity and work with, rather than deny the need to:

  • re-author taken-for-granted narratives in ways that help people move forward (changing narratives)
  • work with the unknown and allow new order and patters to emerge from complexity and chaos (emergence)
  • build new generative images of the future that compel people to think and act in transformative ways (generativity)

To learn more about this workshop and register please click here.