How to use the creative tension as innovation fuel?
In the past two months, @knowing-circles we were building the container and holding the space, for a two days “U” process dive, designed for a team of 6 consultants that were going to face their client, a 3200 people organization that was at the beginning of a change process.
In our two day long design, we were going to run 4 short U process dives (75 -120 min each) with the team…Oh boy, what a ride that was.
But let me start you from the beginning.
My co-partner and catalyst – (T.) was a part of the 6 consultant team, so I was literally running the “U dives” on my own.
The first U dive started with a personal inquiry on the question – “what is at the heart of your work?” and ended up in generative dialogue.
We used pretty much the same choreography in the other dives. The second one was on the question what are the values of your team (the 6 consultants team)?
The third dive was co-sensing into the big client, with aim to extract the key questions the big organization might have for their own change dialogues.
The 4th and last one, was a dive that was aiming to prepare the consulting team to face the big client. This dive was on the key question “how am I (we) best prepare, to add value to our client?
Now let me add in the mix that my approach is systemic, which means that in the room with the 6 consultants, we also held the internal dynamics of the big client. Since (T.) was part of the consulting team, I was also the lead catalyst and the only man in the circle!!!
The discomforting energy started from the first moment we sat in the room. Thanks god I begun with 15 minutes presencing exercise.
This is the pallet of what feelings dominated in the container during the first 3 dives: impatience, confusion, frustration, disrespect, anger, disappointment, not knowing, disapproval…etc. – (I refer to this mix, as a creative tension).
There were very little things that I or the group could celebrate.
I felt pressure in the head, and a coldness in my hearth. The energy in the room was low to medium. I did not want to have control over the group, and in many ways it certainly felt that I have lost it.
Deep down I knew several things.
1) I needed to stay grounded in my presence and ask the group to often come back to the short presencing practice, which they often rebelled against. In this way I was holding the container. Making frequent eye contacts with (T.) where I could recognize the shared clarity and honest intention we were holding for the past 2 months. This was also very useful.
2) I needed to relax with the feelings of not knowing, and what will come next, let go and trust the emergence of the new – I reminded my self that am not in control any more.
3) The creative tension in the room was the best possible place and energy I can have. I needed to feel all of the feelings and not react. Reacting would have taken the group back to the old knowing zone.
4) deep down in my heart I was feeling my truth and I knew I was in the right place.
Than, in the last U dive, once they completed the inquiry and journaling on the left hand side of the U, I invited the team to stay at the bottom of the U in a short presencing moment. Here something happened, which completely changed the whole system, and it’s energy. One of the consultants quite affirmative told me that she is not in the mood to do the presencing practice and that she would rather share with others her insights. I felt the energy in her, but at the same time the presence in the room felt supportive and right, so I just clapped my hands and I agreed to it.
The result was spectacular to observe. Within 5 minutes, the women (6 consultants) started to sing together, and I could see all of them smiling and enjoying. The light in the room seamed to increase and the clarity was palpable.
The energy was strong but light and relaxed at the same time. It seamed that the team got aligned and in flow. Within the following 90 minutes I was out of work, just observing a creative team agreeing with ease on everything.
So what’s the formula for this alignment & breakthrough, you might ask?
The answer is, in the new leadership practices and models:
1) Container building – preparing and holding the container, allowing creative tension and all the feelings inside.
2) Identifying and asking key questions as vehicle for the dialogue.
3) Feeling the not knowing and staying comfortable and present with it.
4) Running generative dialogues
5) and perhaps the key ingredient is practicing and staying present
You may experiment with this on your next business or community meeting, however I need to put a sign, that this work requires catalytic experience and lots of practice and preparation.
RELATED & RECOMMENDED READING
Large group Interventions, Engaging the Whole System for Rapid Change, Barbara Benedict Bunker
Path of Least Resistance: Learning to Become the Creative Force in Your Own Life, Robert Fritz
Riding the creative rollercoaster – How leaders evoke creativity, productivity and innovation, by Nick Udal, Kogan Page 2014
Humble Inquiry, by Edgar H Schein, Paperback 2013
Dialogue and the Art of Thinking Together – A Pioneering Approach to Communicating in Business and in Life, by William Isaacs, Doubleday 1999
Theory U – Leading from the Future as It Emerges, C. Otto Scharmer
The Unfolding Now: Realizing Your True Nature through the Practice of Presence, A.H. Almaas