Archive for November, 2016

Deep Democracy

Sunday, November 13th, 2016

Expertise has expanded and become so specialized, that people from different professions or educational backgrounds are having increased difficulty communicating, let alone innovating together.

Most new knowledge today is created in “the spaces in between,” or in multi-disciplinary groups. Especially when organisational structures tend to align with functions or professions, there is risk that new knowledge can’t be created, or that new ideas don’t get to take hold. We need ways to bridge these gaps, uncover ideas, and provide a home in which to hone ideas into innovation and results.

In some cases, expertise lies in unexpected places, and we need ways to find it.

If you agree that teams can be seen as systems, then you can see why we need ‘deep democracy’. We need every voice on the team to be heard because each part of a system offers correct but limited solutions. Critical ‘know-how’ is often embedded in social networks within organisations.

The knowledge that would help discuss most issues can be both wide-ranging and specialized, simultaneously.

We might assume that there is ‘neutral’ knowledge on a topic, and that the experts’ job is to present this to us. But knowledge is not some ‘black box’ that you either do, or do not have. Expertise is narrowing and deepening, so there is rarely just one expert to consult; more like a plethora of them, and they often disagree with one another!

One could argue that all knowledge is ‘situated knowledge’ now, depending on the perspective of the beholder. When working with a team, the ‘situated knowledge’ for that group is a combination of everyone’s voices. ORSC* calls it the 2% rule, that “everyone is right, but only partially”.

We need ways to facilitate the conversations between experts that help uncover tacit knowledge and lead to the most responsible, complete, and innovative outcomes. We need space where different knowledge and expertise can be combined and translated into action. We need to stitch together the silos.

 *ORSC is the Organisation and Relationships Systems Coaching offered by CRR Global

More on the relationship systems cornerstones

Saturday, November 12th, 2016

Here’s another take on the basis for the systems approach to coaching groups of people, from CRR Global.

We hold the relationship system as the client. This helps us to see each person as one part of the whole. Just as we would not judge the left hand or the right leg of an individual, we would not judge one part of the overall system.

We work with the whole relationship system, and we champion “deep democracy”.  Deep Democracy is a critical skill since it reveals the voices of the system.  Unless all the voices of the system are heard the reality of the system is not accurately represented.  The coach supports marginalized voices or feelings to be heard. Within each system are other nested systems; individuals, pairs, sub-groups, etc. These nested systems are voices of the whole system and the coach must be able to shift between them and the overall system. Each sub-system and each individual are critical though sometimes one may need special attention. There is no problem with this provided it is within the context of the overall system.

We hold the relationship as naturally intelligent & creative. Here, the coach holds the system as having its own wisdom and answers rather than seeing it as broken. As long as endings are viewed as failures we will not be able to engage with them to find a way to be more skillful with their natural life cycle. The coach supports the system to find its own answers.  Conflict, breakdown, and endings are viewed as part of the natural cycle of systems.  The coach does not hold back from addressing difficult issues and views conflict as a signal that change is trying to happen.

 We reveal the system to itself. Systems are self-regulating. Awareness is the ground condition for system change, the necessary, if not always sufficient foundation. This primary focus of the coach is to mirror the system to itself. Revealing helps the system to be conscious and intentional. By practicing transparency about what he/she sees, the coach holds up a mirror to the system so it can learn and grow.  Every tool and skill the coach uses is for the purpose of helping the system understand itself and support its natural tendency to self-regulate.  Thus teams are self-organizing, and can naturally self-correct.

Margaret Wheatley explains this all beautifully. “If a system is in trouble, it can be restored to health by connecting it to more of itself. To make a system stronger, we need to create stronger relationships. . . . If a system is suffering, this indicates that it lacks sufficient access to itself. It might be lacking information, it might have lost clarity about who it is, it might have troubled relationships, it might be ignoring those who have valuable insights.”


(Adapted and excerpted from CRR Global’s summary “The Model,” p 6, 7; and Margaret Wheatley’s Leadership and the New Science, p 45)