Have you noticed how songs play out in your head? Do you pay attention to these tunes?
What song, for example, plays in your head as you walk through the reception hall of your office block as you arrive at work?
What tune rings out in your mind as you are walking in to a meeting that you know will be a tough one?
What music fills your subconscious when you're asked to describe the culture at your company?
These questions may be a bit too esoteric for your liking, but hang on with me here, I've got a point and I'll get to it ...
I've just started reading Oliver Sack's book Musicophilia. In it he explores the links between music and our brain and shares some amazing stories of cases where people have developed sudden musical ability as a result of brain trauma, amongst other things.
We are proud to announce the arrangements for hosting back-to-back Cognitive Edge Accreditation courses in 2012. After the sold-out inaugural Cape Town course in 2011, in partnership with the University of Stellenbosch Business School, we will be back in Bellville from 28th to 30th March 2012. Thereafter we will be in Johannesburg from 2nd to 4th April 2012.
Steve Bealing, CEO of Cognitive Edge, will again be joining us from Singapore to facilitate the accreditation. Spaces are limited to 24 only, so be sure to book your seat soon.
The accreditation is offered over three days, in two installments. Day 1 and 2 focus on the theory of complexity and practical tools and methods that can be used in making sense of conditions of uncertainty. The third day is the optional SenseMakerTM training that will equip people in running their own mass narrative capture and sensemaking projects.
The course brochures are available for download:
I was asked to provide a short description of our approach to research, and how narrative fits into it. Here it is:
Simply put, we use narrative as a vehicle through which we surface the mindsets, perceptions, values and beliefs that govern people's behaviour. We gather experiential material from people in narrative form to create a narrative database. Narrative is a helpful research tool because it cuts through the surface of opinions and simple analyses people give, and uncovers a more substantive description of how they see the world and choose to act in it. We then analyse the database for drivers and patterns within the stories that inform us about what governs people's behaviour with regards to a complex phenomenon e.g. safety, culture, diversity.
Towards the end of last year I asked a client to fire us. Well, not quite in those words. But I did tell them that we will not be facilitating anymore workshops on a certain project. It was something a delegate said in the second last workshop in a series of organisational culture sessions that got me thinking about the risk facilitators and consultants face in becoming the face of a project for a client.
It was the second time this group of employees had seen me as we were nearing the end of the second round of workshops on the project. Towards the end of the session I wished the staff well in the future, knowing that my official engagement had come to an end on the project, but that internal resources and champions would be continuing with it. A lady said, "Aw no, we won't see you again.
Most managers wouldn't admit to it, but I suspect that one of the reasons why team development sessions are not scheduled as often as they should be is because leaders are afraid of the 'dumping syndrome'. Dumping. That analogous phenomenon that occurs when a group of people congregate and then proceed to spew forth negativity, critique and bemoan that state of affairs in their team, company, city or country. It happens around the dinner table, in corporate passages, at the coffee machine and most notably in facilitated conversations. Dumping syndrome induces all kinds of anxiety for managers. You know this anxiety is acute when, in a briefing, the team leader tells you he doesn't want the session to be a 'bitch & moan' session. This is in the first instance an acknowledgement that the leader knows that there is reason for the likely dumping that the group will partake in, but secondly, that the leader is afraid of how such dumping will derail the purpose of the team session.
Peter Drucker is probably one of the greatest thinkers in management sciences over the last century. I don't know if he ever explicitly wrote or spoke about complexity, but the man obviously "got it". Consider what he wrote about "fact-based" decision making.
I'm busy reading The Upside of Irrationality by Dan Ariely (and really enjoying it). In one of the chapters he reflects on work and meaning. Can human beings find satisfaction and be engaged in work that pays well, but offers no meaning?
He unpacks two "types" of meaning:
"m"eaning - a feeling of being challenged by whatever our work is, and completing it to our own satisfaction vs
"M"eaning - a hope that someone else, potentially a significant someone, will find value in what we've done. Maybe a hope that sometime, the wider world out there would benefit in some way from what we've done.
We unfortunately have to postpone the next Cognitive Edge accreditation training course that was planned for early November 2011. At this time, another date hasn't been decided upon, but it will probably be in the first quarter of 2012.
If you need to familiarise yourself with the Cognitive Edge methods or thinking urgently, please don't hesitate to contact us to discuss potential coaching options in the the interim.
As Jamie entrenched himself in the community of Huntington, it became clear how big and complex the task ahead of him really was. The divide between the knowledge he wanted to impart to the community, and the level they were at at that time, were miles apart. How do you educate a community about healthy eating habits if first graders couldn't identify a tomato (they insisted it was a potato) and many others (adults and children) did not know how to use a knife and fork after years of eating junk food that only require their hands. One of the key target audiences for Jamie's message, the schools, didn't even supply knives and forks in their cafeterias as the food on their menus didn't require them. So simply changing the menu wouldn't work.
The entire Narrative Lab team, including a few others, has just arrived home after facilitating a metaphor elicitation process in Cape Town for a power utility company. It was a first time for us on a few counts.
Firstly, it was the first time we were running large group facilitation techniques with 400 people in each session. Secondly, it was a first working with so many people in just 45 minutes (there were four sessions), and thirdly, it was the first time we ran this particular process.
We had initially set out to surface a snapshot of what the safety story is in this particular organisation, but when I think about what emerged, I think we surfaced more than that. The nett result after the four sessions was that we had surfaced more than 80 unique metaphors relating to the safety culture in the company, and of that number, we found a dozen common base metaphors.