Co-creating wiser ways

Julie Allan

Welcome to Part 2 of e-O&P’s exploration of wisdom in organisations

The editorial to Part 1, free to download here, explains my connection with this topic, the background to these two editions, and an outline of the content.  In this Part 2, which came into being as Part 1 blossomed beyond capacity, you will find perspectives of mind, body and spirit, individual journeys and tales of joint enterprise, practices to serve our emerging future and learning pulled forward from the past.

Roy Blatchford (The App Curriculum of the near future, and the wisdom of five minds) starts at (almost) the very beginning, looking to the wisdom of youth and a near future, when he expects that all school children will routinely use tablet-type portable gadgets to support their learning. Drawing on Howard Gardner’s work he writes, “I would suggest we want our students to develop five minds for the future: the disciplined mind; the synthesising mind; the creative mind; the respectful mind; and the ethical mind. These are the minds and dispositions of international citizens who will thrive in the coming decades.”  He outlines how apps would support such development through a curriculum approach.

For those interested in exploring the education arena a little further, I have added links to TED talks and other web resources, including Gardner as well as British-born educationalist Sir Ken Robinson. I have found them personally engaging as I consider where, when and if the topic of wisdom will be introduced to those of similar age to my children, and what effect this will have on the ‘wisdom quotient’ of our organisations of the future.

Leader coach Sol Davidson (Senex and Liminality) then navigates around that end of the lifespan more frequently associated with wisdom. Giving in to his name (Solomon the wise, of Biblical fame), he combines the topics of senex and liminality as he reflects on his work with leaders in organisations and how he came to be involved in it. Having experienced ‘between times’ of his own, including at sea, he finds this useful for the transitions he thinks are now in progress, individually and globally. He shares his work using the action logics of the Leadership Development Profile and the practices he has found personally useful over the years, drawing some inspiration from Jung’s view that ‘what you don’t transform you will transmit.’

The theme of practices for sustainable ways of being and leading in organisations is explored in some depth by Aikido 6th Dan Wendy Palmer. In her article (Leadership Embodiment: Enhancing wisdom in leaders), Wendy outlines core principles of the embodied leadership approach she has developed, explaining how this embodiment relates to wisdom and to the potential for wiser outcomes. She offers helpful practices for consultant and client alike, from the viewpoint that ‘wise leaders manifest three embodied leadership competencies, they are: being inclusive, being able to listen for the whole, and speaking up clearly without aggression or collapsing’.  Kirstin Irving, a change consultant who is following her own journey into embodiment practices, complements Wendy’s piece by sharing the thoughts and experiences of practitioners on a workshop taking place as we were going to press.  You’ll find Kirstin’s contribution here

In Wisdom through Integrated Practice: a practitioner’s journey, Susan Kirkcaldy shares the approach that her researches and experience have led her to, combining practices that are ‘reflective’ with those that are ‘receptive’. Drawing on Einstein, the Alhambra Palace and labyrinths, Susan outlines the need for these integrated practices if we are to be effective as practitioners, noting that the practices may be individual, but they also enable us to work together in different ways in our organisations. She, like fellow authors in this edition, finds a close relationship between the inner and outer journeys to be made by those exploring wiser ways for organisations: ‘Growing a regular practice, that is personal to our own circumstances, is the simplest direct way to develop ourselves sustainably and to create the possibility for continuously seeking, enabling and expressing wiser responses to the challenges we live and work with.’

The theme of organisational or collaborative contexts is picked up in the following two pieces. Consultant Adrian Brown writes in Finding wisdom in the spaces between us, “I am not convinced that developing wisdom in numerous individuals will make an organisation wiser any more than filling an organisation with those who have been on a leadership development course will make it leaderful.” Referencing Oshry’s work on systems (see Oshry’s article in the Summer 2012 edition of e-O&P Wisdom in Organisations Part 1), and Nowhere’s work on wisdom councils (see also Andrea Gewessler on Jim Rough in the same issue), he offers his experience of interventions for exploring those spaces.

Chris Chapman continues the theme of interconnectedness as he writes of margins, wrong walls and The wisdom of belonging in a time of transformative change. He explores his own journey as a change agent, away from believing in finding a way to wisdom through objectivity towards a view grounded in connection and intersubjectivity. In particular he outlines the work of Wheatley and Frieze on ‘walking out and walking on’. Based on experience from seven communities around the world where people have walked out of limiting beliefs and assumptions and walked on to create healthy and resilient communities, his article includes four practices that he believes are very helpful for organisational practitioners as well as clients.

Bruce Lloyd has been working with the concept of wisdom in organisational contexts for many years and been involved in a range of endeavours where wise outcomes are certainly much to be desired. In Power, responsibility and wisdom: Exploring the issues at the core of ethical decision-making, Bruce reflects that his journey with wisdom probably started 25 years ago at Troy. Noting that the World Futures Organisation’s extensive collection of wisdom phrases all point to a long shelf life for wisdom, while most organisations seem to focus on a far shorter term horizon, he makes the case for having wisdom at the base of the data-wisdom triangle rather than at the more commonly known apex position. He explores the core relationship between power and responsibility, which he argues lies at the heart of ethical and wise decision making.

And Bob MacKenzie makes the case in The Wisdom of Philosopher-Leaders for a type of leader who is fit for purpose in a complex world where challenges of global scale have drawn attention to moral and practical failings. Drawing on philosophy, well-known management theory and the puppet company behind the phenomenal stage play ‘War Horse’, he argues not for armchair philosophers, but for philosopher-leaders who draw upon a particular form of experiential learning – explication – and shares seven core ingredients that research suggests are needed for success in this type of wise practice.

Finally, in a combined book and event review and reflection, Shelagh Doonan and Jonathan Wilson each address both ‘Money and Sustainability: the Missing Link’ (Triarchy Press) and a debate hosted by St Paul’s Institute in London on 25th July 2012, ‘Is the City Socially Useful?’  The book, by Bernard Lietaer with Christian Arnsperger, Sally Goerner and Stefan Brunnhuber, is a Club of Rome report to Finance Watch and the World Business Academy on the ways in which our monetary system links structurally with a lack of sustainability.  The speakers during the event, Tony Greenham (New Economics Foundation and Raquel Hughes (TheCityUK) with Anne Kiem (Institute of Financial Services chairing, explored issues of both prosperity and crisis in addressing the role of the City.

Triarchy Press publisher Andrew Carey offers, tongue in cheek (probably), Triarchy’s Wisdom App and, more seriously, two practical and wisdom-related publications from the Triarchy imprint: Ten Things to Do in a Conceptual Emergency (authored by Graham Leicester who wrote a piece for the Wisdom Part 1 edition of e-O&P) and Growing Wings on the Way: Systems Thinking for Messy Situations by Rosalind Armson.

Co-creating wiser ways: the gathering

Would you like to join a group of fellow-travellers in a lively get-together to share, reflect and create on the subject of Wisdom in Organisations?  Our Part 1 and Part 2 authors will be invited, and so are you if this would interest you.  See the Events and Notices section for more.


Thanks to the authors who have each made a unique and wonderful contribution to this edition.  Bob MacKenzie and David McAra have, as ever, attended to all practicalities outside my scope or ability as well as being great co-thinkers and co-creators along the way. And Deborah Booth deserves honourable mention for nudging me in Bob’s direction to get the ball rolling on ‘Wisdom in Organisations, Part 1’, of which this is Part 2. Thanks again to Triarchy Press, our publishing partners for this Autumn edition and its Summer prequel.  Triarchy’s Andrew Carey says more about them elsewhere in this journal, but I’m happy to point out that they are a great source of intriguing and inventive publications, with special discount offers for readers of this e-O&P.

About our Guest Editor

“This picture is a photo I took, of a David Nash piece. I thought it a bit wisdom-ish”

Julie consults, coaches and supervises, with a particular focus on what is newly emerging in changing situations. Her work is to connect people with their capability so that they can make their best contributions, bringing into being what is needed.  An invited speaker and tutor in the areas of wisdom, gestalt and narratives, Julie’s publications include The Power of the Tale: Using Narratives for Organisational Success (Wiley 2002) and Gestalt Coaching in The Handbook of Coaching Psychology (Routledge 2007), as well as chapters on ethics in relation to supervision.  She is a Director of change consultancy Irving Allan and her ongoing research, learning and practice concerns the nature of corporate wisdom. A certified supervisor of coaches and consultants, pursuing enquiry-based learning for the emerging future, Julie also serves in ethics roles for the British Psychological Society.


Blog: wiseways

Twitter: @juliesallan

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