Offerings, Gifts & Invitations
A Question About Finding Our Way
Sometimes, we know where we are going before we depart. Other times, we carve our paths one step at a time. The destination may change form along our journey; we may think we are heading toward a specific location only learn that it was a placeholder for something much richer, complex, and more bewildering than we could have initially imagined.
I found my way into my PhD because I felt a tug to pursue one since I was a child. I didn’t know what the process would entail, but I chose it wholeheartedly.
There’s something I don’t know about where I am going, but when I thought of pursuing a PhD, something lit up within me. I felt my will rise up to meet the idea and the container of my being, expand to hold the possibility. I don’t know what I am capable of, but I long to discover what is possible.
Initially, I thought my focus would be on certain topics. The more I read and continued on the path, the more I discovered something else asking for exploration. My supervisors invited me to look within myself and at the very path I was walking as part of my inquiry. They encouraged me to explore core questions that have nudged me forward throughout my life. Before these questions existed in my mind as concepts in my mind, I experienced them through bursts of energy, pangs of longing, desire and even heartache. They were more about how myself and others moved through the world, finding our way and responding to complex and bewildering situations.
Through this process I have learned that when I am perplexed and cannot see the precise location I am moving toward, I engage with the world and learn in a different way. While the experience can be deeply unsettling it also opens me up and sensitizes me to subtle feelings and fleeting thoughts that might otherwise go unnoticed. The process is much more like wayfinding than navigating.
Robert Chia (2017) describes wayfinding as ‘knowing as you go’ and navigation as ‘knowing before you go’ (p. 108). In navigating, we often rely on a map to reach a particular destination. And, sometimes, overly relying on the map, even if that is a concept or framework we’re holding in our mind, makes us miss the subtle cues and gestures within and around us that can help us on our journey. Wayfinding invites the traveller to draw upon tacit knowledge and respond from depths of their being. It elicits sensitivity to environmental shifts and asks us to adapt according to hunches and subtle signals from our surroundings.
Originally I thought I would navigate towards my destination, but instead the journey has been one of wayfinding. So often, I make my way forward with incomplete information, and working at the edge of what I know.
Wayfinding is something I witness my colleagues and other practitioners doing as well. They respond quickly and intuit the next step, often without mental cognition or retrospective rationalization (p. 109). They respond fluidly to the changes around themFrom the outside, they often embody expertise or sometimes even artistry. They are off the map yet still following something - what is this?
What do we orient to when we cannot see the horizon we are moving toward, when the ground is shifting beneath our feet and we are puzzled or bewildered? When we are in these times of dynamic complexity?
These are the questions that sit at the core of my PhD research.
Below you’ll find a link with more information. On the bottom of this newsletter, you’ll notice a sketch, this represents something I’ve oriented to throughout my life. The image doesn’t depict something literal; it’s more gestural and energetic, highlighting the burst of light and a quality of radiation.
What images, gestures and experiences do you orient to?
What supports you to find your way in bewildering situations?
What I’m Reading:
Phronesis, also known as practical wisdom, or prudence, is present in situations where we recognize the particulars of a situation and respond accordingly. Shotter and Tsoukas (2014) suggest that this form of wisdom plays an important role in arriving at judgement. Wisdom is not hidden in the mind, they argue, it is enacted and emerges developmentally as an individual engages in a ceaseless flow of information and activity. The article explores a case of a doctor who finds herself in an ethical complex situation, to consider phronesis and judgement in action.
You can access the article here.
Are you interested in contributing to new knowledge and exploring your experience as an organisational practitioner? Or perhaps, you’ve work on a team and have had moments of feeling lost, confused and unsure how to proceed?
You may be curious about the tacit layers of your experience and understand more about how you respond when faced with challenges rooted in ambiguity, paradox, and uncertainty.
By engaging in an action research project rooted in participatory methods, you'll have the opportunity to learn alongside other practitioners and contribute to the larger field of sensemaking practice; how we make sense of our experience and respond accordingly.
The inquiry of the study is to consider the experiences, practices and capabilities that support organisational practitioners in finding their way through dynamic complexity.
What is dynamic complexity? - Dynamic complex manifests through situations infused with ambiguity, paradox, conflicting values, and uncertainty. Often, we may experience situations of dynamic complexity as puzzling or perplexing. We may face dynamic complexity, when we enter a new context, when we have to make decisions without enough information and when we cannot identify the root cause of a situation because it arises from many intersecting topics and issues. Dynamic complexity is present in situations where cause and effect are subtle, and where the effects over time of interventions are not obvious.1
Methodological Approach - The study is rooted in a phenomenological approach, which ‘aims at gaining a deeper understanding of the nature or meaning of our everyday experiences (Van Manen, 2016, p. 9)2. It differs from other sciences and research approaches, in that it focuses on gaining insightful descriptions of our immediate experience of the world. It doesn’t try to categorize, label or simplify it.
When I think about the future, I imagine things will only be getting more complex and bewildering.Through this study my hope is to gain insights of how we respond in times of challenge and complexity, to increase our awareness of the experiences, practices and capabilities that support us to find our way forward in many areas of our lives.
Methods: The study consists of 1:1 interviews and a series of three 2.5 hour cooperative inquiry sessions. Interviews are an hour long.
Please note that no prior understanding of complexity is needed to engage in this study.
Learn more and express interest HERE.