30 Chapters
Medium 9781576751114

10 The Emotional Tapestry of Group Life

Peppers, Cheryl Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

171

IN THE PAINTING La Danse by Henri Matisse, a circle of people with joined hands dance in a ring. We cannot see their faces, yet we do not need to. Something familiar in the image reaches into our core, reminding us of what it means to be part of a circle, to be joined with others—to belong. It is as if the painting expresses a fulfilled longing—to belong in such a way that leaves us free, happy, dancing. This may contradict reality, where “belonging” can come at a cost to our individuality that rarely makes us want to dance. In our lives, we often struggle with what it means to participate meaningfully in work groups, family, or social circles. In our hearts, however, we long to join freely with others, without constraint.

The longing to belong is part of our nature. As social creatures, we know who we are by our interactions with others—by how others see us, by how we are similar and different, and by how we influence and are influenced by others. Our experience in groups, beginning with our families and extending into each new group we encounter, shapes and textures who we are. Though soul is an idea often associated with our uniqueness, group life is the crucible in which our character gains uniqueness and depth. How we work with others—our ability to act in common cause, as well as our frustrations in doing so—tells us about this interactive aspect of our soul.172

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TWO: Preparing for Collective Wisdom to Arise

Briskin, Alan Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

Our colleague Kate Regan uses a simple exercise to prepare individuals in groups to notice their internal thoughts and calibrate their group behaviors. In this exercise, typically done in workshops of approximately twenty people who are seated in a circle, she asks the participants to look down at the floor and close their eyes. She tells them that without opening their eyes, they must count to thirty in sequence without two people speaking at the same time. If two people do speak simultaneously, they must begin again. As you might expect, rarely do groups accomplish this the first time. As they report later, many individuals develop strategies to get the task done quickly without any sense of knowing what others are doing. For example, one person may decide to call out a number immediately once the exercise begins, or another may decide to call out his number at the split second after another person finishes. They learn that these individual strategies collide with each other, and two or three people inevitably call out at the same time.

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Medium 9781576750407

3 The Domination of Souls How Organizations Become Our Keepers

Briskin, Alan Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

Under the absolute government of a single man, despotism, to reach the soul, clumsily struck at the body, and the soul, escaping from such blows, rose gloriously above it; but in democratic republics that is not at all how tyranny behaves; it leaves the body alone and goes straight for the soul. The master no longer says: “Think like me or you die.” He does say: “You are free not to think as I do… but from this day you are a stranger among us.… You will remain among men, but you will lose your rights to count as one.…

Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America

No one can mature in a culture or organization without internalizing aspects of it. We are by nature dependent on family, community, social institutions, and our workplaces for our survival and to a large measure our sense of identity. To become aware of what it is that culture blurs—namely, the distinction between our utter uniqueness and the demands to fit in—is an essential task of soul seeking. We must continually confront the questions of meaning: “Who am I?” “What have I become?” “Where am I headed?” To answer these questions, we must confront our own history and socialization. We must also confront the power of ideas to shape both us and the organizations we are part of. The question of how we become more fully what we are takes on meaning and texture when we look inward and outward.

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1 The Inner Wilderness of Soul

Peppers, Cheryl Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

The journey is difficult, immense, at times impossible, yet that will not deter some of us from attempting it…. I can at best report only from my own wilderness. The important thing is that each man possess such a wilderness and that he consider what marvels are to be observed there. 1

—LOREN EISELEY

OUR LIVES ARE MARKED with a series of events, encounters, and turning points that in one way or another stamp our outlook on life and move us in this direction or that. Ultimately, our responses to those events shape us into who we are today. If we can view these circumstances of our lives as aspects of our very own story, our unique pathway through life, then we can make the journey more conscious, and we can open to it. As Loren Eiseley has suggested, the only vantage point for the journey is “from my own wilderness.” If we imagine our own inner wilderness as a base camp, this book is about the exploration of that personal wilderness and going out into the wilderness of our work lives. It’s about beholding the wonders and dangers, bringing the journey into consciousness. Perhaps we shall also discover something about soul!10

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Contents

Briskin, Alan Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

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