Harnessing the Power of All Parts

Working with two particular client groups over this past week has really made me reflect on how often we as humans are working with dualities and how we sometimes let one part define our working behaviour.

A duality refers to having two parts, often with opposite meaning like the duality of good and evil. They can also be referred to as polarities or opposing parts. The duality I observed in play with these client groups involved freedom and constraint.

One client group was predominantly made up of scientists and researchers who spoke about the many constraints under which they were working. There were funding constraints, expectations from Government, time constraints and capacity constraints. There was genuine desire to collaborate yet a palpable concern for how collaboration could happen amidst all these constraints.

The other client group was made up of community educators and facilitators, who though also influenced by available funding, spoke of the freedom they had in pursuing their work goals. They operated as if they were free to choose their behaviours even in light of constraints.

One of the community educators referred to this need and ability to integrate polarities when he spoke of the Chinese symbol Crisis. This single symbol is made up of two words ‘wei’ and ‘ji’ that together can mean opportunity in time of danger.

Zaid Hassan of the Social Labs Revolution http://social-labs.org/ also alludes to this need to work across polarities when he says that “addressing complex social challenges requires deep strategic commitment coupled with radical tactical flexibility.”

To operate deep strategic commitment at the same time as radical tactical flexibility is a challenge as it can require different temperaments and habits of behaviour.

One of the benefits of moving into a collaborative space is the opportunity to interact with multiple people. These people will have different drivers, temperaments and habits. The parts they all bring to the collaborative process will, over time, be integrated into a shared understanding of the problem.

This can remove a great burden from single organisations or individuals who no longer have to have all the answers or be able to fix the problem. Instead they can be freed up to contribute their knowledge and ideas to the whole.

My experience with Twyfords’ Power of Co pathway is that it provides a necessary handrail as groups of people go about integrating their perspectives. The two client groups I referred at the outset certainly demonstrated this. The scientists were intrigued at the opportunities for using the pathway and the community educators were inspired by the rigorous practice of the pathway, believing it would enhance their work.

Both client groups recognised that operating collaboratively was likely to lead to more congruent behaviour with their stakeholders, more clarity with decision-making and to the Holy Grail of enduring solutions.

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