I’ve had the good fortune to be able to provide coaching and consulting for the past twenty-five years to schools and school districts, government agencies (as far away as Singapore, but also our own government), non-profit organizations, and even some private sector businesses. I’ve come to see, in every case, the same longing for transcending traditional bureaucratic forms that were created to serve an entirely different purpose (and even different epistemological underpinnings) and discovering more authentic, networked, connected, responsive, emergent, fluid forms that can address the complex world and the revolutionary speed of learning and knowledge (not just information) creation and use.
Even more fundamental, people are longing for a new sense of meaning and purpose, a clarity about values and principles, to get away from cynicism and meaningless, repetitive, compliance-driven work, to make connections with each other, to renew our commitment to stewardship of the earth, to rebuild community and find the heart of what it means to be human together.
Several years back, I had the good fortune to be working with some folks in Denver to create a new coaching organization there (Institute for Educational Equity) to work with Denver Public Schools, and in the process of doing that, got involved with an intriguing social network driven organizational development project with the Piton Foundation and several organizations in Denver, including the African Community Center, which resettles African and other refugees. It’s been inspiring to see their openness to organizational forms unimagined before, in the service of building strong community networks. In addition, I’ve been “coaching coaches” at the LA County Office of Education in developing a coach community of practice to support their learning and work as consultants in low performing school districts.
Underlying all of these projects is a huge need to understand the processes of creating and making meaning out of and managing in a real time way all the knowledge that is being generated in these new work relationships and conversations. I’ve been working with several groups on what a dynamic and interactive knowledge management system and collaborative workspace would look like. I’m excited about the prospects of an architecture that mirrors the new networked organizational forms that are emerging.
Thus, these questions arise: How do we learn together to support complex work? How do we create systems to manage in a real time way the knowledge building and dialogue necessary for that work? What sorts of organizational designs best support these new kinds of work? That’s what this blog is about.
We are on the verge of an absolutely essential radical shift in the way we organize to do collaborative work and build community, I believe. The work on microdemocracy that The Right Question Project is doing, the Small Planet Institute that Frances Moore Lappe started, The Sustainability Institute that Donella Meadows started (she was one of the systems thinkers who influenced Peter Senge), the work of Kevin Kelly on networked, co-evolving, open systems, the World Cafe of Juanita Brown and David Isaacs… the list goes on and on of emerging new thinking about this essential need. I think there is enough evidence and thinking out there to give us all the clues we need; it’s just a matter of slowing down enough to take the time to think about how they all fit together.
So, here is a place to build the “slow organization,” like the slow food movement. Only I want to call it “the Wise Organization.” Let’s explore what that means together in our dialogue here. We have lots to learn, and a community to build!
I hope you will contribute your ideas as we grow!