Read Paul Born's latest book:
Read Paul Born's latest book:
"A deep malaise of our times," says Jeraldene, an artist in many realms, "is that we think we need to live and work at the pace of technology, but we are human, so need to live at the pace of the human heartbeat." This was really helpful to me. It lifted the pressure of needing to know my next step right now. In truth, I needed to access and follow a pace determined my own knowing - and not that of what I perceived others' expectations of me to be. And so this meant to wait, and sit in a very powerful and generative time of simply not-knowing.
This can be a very uncomfortable place to be especially when faced with the sense of urgency that our institutions, communities, economies and ecologies are feeling. In our action- and solution-based culture, not-knowing can be harshly judged as incompetence or lack of vision. But what if not-knowing was a rich and in fact crucial time of discernment, the opportunity to let go of mental models, forms or habits that are in the way of a new, more resilient path?
What kind of leadership, practices and capacities are now needed to move through times of deep transition and change? How can we actually evolve our way of living and working, and do this collectively, so that we do not simply replicate old patterns in some new sexy form but rather fundamentally transform them - and ourselves - to the next level?
It seems then that one the most important skills to master is the capacity to work with uncertainty and the unknown. This includes an ability to hold the tension of not-knowing until the answers or solutions reveal themselves. These are some tried and true processes that create a "minimal-optimal structure" for not-knowing to take center stage:
These are part of a wider spectrum of practices and paradigm shifts toward accessing and nurturing collective wisdom. Mastering the skills of “not-knowing” through both individual and collective practices can serve our organizations because our decisions are informed from a deeper, collective well of intelligence that needs to be “accessed” and “revealed.”
These are quite challenging ideas for the dominant fields of leadership and organizational development which still stress action-oriented solution-based responses to challenges. But we are seeing a re-definition and an upgrade of what we consider “action” which is expanding mastery in leadership - to include deep listening, mindfulness, presencing, along with the skills of letting come, revealing, emergence, stillness, and working with the invisible.
Here are some steps towards an actual practice of not-knowing:
Re-wiring our assumptions.
First, we need to expand our view of what our systems include and embrace the idea that a system holds many intelligences which cannot solely be accessed through an individual leader, or through rational thinking and the current mental models.
Shifting towards a “collective stewardship” or whole system leadership.
This means accessing information and intelligence that is spread throughout the entire system by consciously creating a “minimal-optimal structure” to invite and work with it. A structure like this includes processes and spaces that allow the whole system to be present. This means everyone has to show up, which shifts primacy of the “leadership team” coming up with solutions to creating a real-time process that accesses collective intelligence. Leadership becomes a systemic practice that includes the wisdom of the whole.
Practicing "letting come" rather than "forcing forward".
These include practices of stillness, of clearing away, which many will recognize has roots in contemplative traditions such as mindfulness in Buddhism and other traditions of meditation.
Small but significant steps to creating organizational practices include: starting our meetings with with stillness or silence, becoming present through focusing or simply taking a few deep breaths; it could include taking 2 minutes for written reflection on a specific theme; or check-in questions using images or metaphors. These use different parts of the body and mind of individuals in the group.
Here are 2 more that came in really handy when I was working in an organization that was actually asking to be let go of (yes! conscious closure!):
And lastly, underlying all of this is Trust. Trusting each other, trusting that knowing will come, trusting that the path will reveal itself and trusting oneself, one’s wisdom and intuition.