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Organising to become more human

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At Mayvin we create safe, but challenging spaces where teams can renew wells of trust to enable organising to become more human
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At Mayvin, we've been getting curious about how the organisations we work with might be called upon to change.  To change in ways that are perhaps more radical and more imminent than often assumed. 

What are you noticing?

We are not in the business of predicting the future.  Focusing on what is happening right now has a funny way of creating just the right amount of energy to make the next move.  For a while I have been noticing how traditional power structures and boundaries are slipping: from the rejection of binary gender divisions, to the trend towards self-managed organisations, and the rise of people-powered movements such as Black Lives Matter and Extinction Rebellion.  Even at a global political level we find ourselves in an increasingly hazy multi-polar world. All around there seems greater fluidity and less trust.

Whether this is positive or negative, finding ourselves adrift in these currents is undeniably anxiety-inducing.  Populism predictably grasps for nostalgic certainties.  Another response is to avoid feeling anything and collapse towards apathy and fatalism.  What would happen if we could stay a little more curious and a little more compassionate? 

What does this mean for our organisations and ways of organising? 

Life needs variation to adapt.   So perhaps it is no coincidence that as we are called on to adapt at pace, diversity in all parts of our society including our organisations has risen from a ‘nice to have’ to something more urgent.  As the existential threat posed by our economic system becomes ever clearer, dissent hasn’t just got louder, it has proliferated.

Power is being pulled away from the centre.  But it’s not because decentralisation or networked organisations are more efficient or because our leaders have suddenly become unworthy – as satisfying as that is to believe.  It is the system's way of unleashing the energy it needs to move forward.  

The large, traditional and highly structured organisations we are used to may find it challenging yet doable to manage change in service of old values of efficiency and standardisation.  But making room for a multiplicity of voices to find a way towards sustainability is a different proposition entirely.  For those seeking change from the inside, it can feel like manoeuvring a tank through a rainforest. 

Finding the simplicity at the other side of complexity

It is said that at the other side of complexity lies simplicity.  I think the only way we can have the strength to be present and responsive to the complexity of our reality right now is through the simple (but not always easy) act of being in relationship. It’s as if all this fluidity needs to be grounded and directed by what we can only find when we are in relationship: shared values and purpose, better information flows and communal checks and balances.  As Adrienne Marie Brown puts it, systems change can only 'move at the speed of trust'.   

Instead of looking outside of ourselves for answers or expecting our hero leaders to come up with the goods, at Mayvin we believe that everything is a relational practice being open and available to each other in the midst of confusion and vulnerability.  Instead of looking outside of ourselves for answers or expecting our hero leaders to come up with the goods, a relational practice is about looking to the spaces in between each other, to what happens between us. And to find the next right move, together.  

How can we make our organisations more human?

At Mayvin, whatever the tool or method or theory we find ourselves using, fundamentally we are supporting relationships. The aim is to develop a collective that is far greater than the sum of its parts.  So that means supporting learning as a social experience. And to cultivate leadership as a quality in the collective, not as an individual characteristic.  It also means creating ‘safe’ spaces to be courageous in.  As well as getting at the juice of an organisation: working openly with power dynamics and generative conflict and staying in relationship while charged.

Perhaps the most useful and valuable question for our clients right now is not “what does the future of our organisation look like”, but “how can we make our organisation more alive, more human?”  

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