Mind Stretching

Over the last several months I have had a unique opportunity to join a group intent on finding a better way for people who work together to make holistic decisions. Once each month we meet to learn about a breakthrough process called “u-Lab: Leading Change in Times of Disruption”.  [https://www.ottoscharmer.com/programs/ulab ] Otto Scharmer, a professor at MIT, advocates for and facilitates online lessons that focus on achieving collective good rather than personal gain. It’s been a mind stretching experience; one that bears inspection if one were so inclined.

A friend brought this process to my attention while I was mending from an operation. I had plenty of time to watch podcasts, so I viewed introductory materials. Having been a strong proponent of Total Quality Management (TQM) years ago, it appeared to me, to be an enhancement of that discipline. It grabbed my attention. Bear with me while I offer a small window into the process.

Six people are on one hill (I’ll call them the “dirty half dozen”), looking across a difficult chasm to another hill – and they really want to get over there. Once upon a time it might have been “every man for himself” and “winner take all”. The group, though, is made up of a cross section of humanity. They talk it over [OPEN MIND], agree to help each other [OPEN HEART], and determine to do it together [OPEN WILL]. With that understanding this “dirty half-dozen” begin their journey.

Each member of the party walks to a cliff edge that offers a view of the way to the other side. Each considers a possible path and brings their idea back to the group. In the old days, one or two might have laughed at a seemingly impossible suggestion. This time, the group tries to listen – really listen – to each idea. They collectively discover that, when ideas combine and are properly processed, a single plan can begin to develop.

It is the concepts of OPEN MIND, OPEN HEART and OPEN WILL that bear the real fruit. What cannot be improved upon among people with a common interest? When people of good faith willingly work together toward any common goal, doesn’t finding a solution seems less difficult?  To my mind, cooperation within a group is both more effective and easier to endure than competition.

The world has speeded up since I retired a lot of years ago. Old problems are still out there, but have become more intense. Different words, tools and processes are in place. Long retired from the workforce, I entered this process solely for the opportunity to sharpen my wits and make demands on my inner self. The experience had not been without its surprises. Team building among people with whom I have not had contact before has been real and refreshing.

This group of busy workforce participants is about to have its final meeting and I am sad. I have pushed myself to learn and have engaged in the issues of today in new ways. For a moment I was engaged in their world. Both team and process stretched my mind, inspired and changed me. For that I am deeply grateful.

About flyingwithrick

Rick Iekel, a storyteller, has held a lifelong fascination with real stories about real people in real places. “With real-life stories so available,” he muses, “why would I make the effort to create believable fiction?”
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2 Responses to Mind Stretching

  1. I appreciate that you found the process stimulating and enlightening. Some thrive when competitive instincts are suppressed, while others find it stifling. To me there’s a place for competition within a group dynamic. To be sure it depends on the group members and their personalities as to how much. In my own experience competition often led to better ideas, the key is once a decision was made, the competition needs to end and everyone needs to work together. You could argue that’s what’s wrong with our political system – the competition never ends and there’s no perceived benefit to working together. Thanks for sharing your experience.


  2. Totally agree, Armen. Competition brings out ideas and juices up conversations that usually lead to a better end product. I think listening and a willingness to hear something new from your teammate can and should still be part of the mix. It’s when people shut down and refuse to listen -really listen – to the other person that opportunities can be missed. Thanks for your feedback.


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