Sometimes ‘Because’ Is All There Is

Tom GibbonsOrganization Development8 Comments

A couple of weeks ago I was out digging away at a small garden we were replanting beside our house.  The little guy from next door rides his bike up beside me to see what’s going on.  He’s 6 years old and talks like a high speed conveyor belt.  He got going on the why, why, why track; “Why are you digging?” – “Why do you want different stuff in there?” – “Why are there snails in the dirt?” etc, etc.  I did my best to answer his questions as most of us do in these situations but it looked like nothing was going to stop the onslaught.

After what seemed like question 100 I said “Just because Tyler, and sometimes, because is all there is.”  Amazingly he got back on his bike and rode away and I heard him saying to himself “Sometimes because is all there is.”

As I continued to dig away it occurred to me that in many ways this is one of the big problems of many of the dominant organization development theories in use today.  They just can’t let ‘Because’ be all there is

Almost all the dominant thinking in organizational development theory today is founded on the following premise:

We act into a knowable future

Things like work dealing with Vision, things like Systems Thinking, Change Theory and even newer approaches from Complexity Science typically rest on the above premise, very often without even really considering this premise exists.

What this means is that there has to be a predictable, causal link from our activity in the present in order to create this knowable future.  This means that there is always an answer to the question “Why are you doing something?”  ‘Because” can never be all there is.  Yet everyone reading this knows that sometimes ‘Because’ is truly all there is.

The problem with not having theories or tools that allow for ‘Because’ being all there is, is that they still have to deal with the reality of its occurrence.  And when this happens these theories will inevitably slip very subtlety, out of their logical and predictable perspective into the mystical, the magical or the impossible to understand as if it was the logical next and deeper step with the theory.  It is the only way these theories can deal with the alternative premise:

We act into an unknowable future

This subtle slip into the mystical happens with Senge’s Presence, Jaworski’s Synchronicity, Wheatley’s Simpler Way, and countless other dominant viewpoints of how organizations develop and change and how they can be managed.  I think Senge, Jaworski and Wheatley and many other management ‘gurus’ are doing some very good and important things in our world.  But I do not think the process of what they are doing matches the theoretical foundations they describe it with.  And this is a very big problem.

We read their theories and try to act on them.  We are often met with limited success.  We see them doing wonderful things and wonder what’s wrong with us, why isn’t it working for us?  We are trying to replicate these theories when their actual behavior is not representative of the theory itself.

Imagine viewing the world from the premise that we act into an unknowable future.  It will be recognizable when we get there, but unknowable from the present.  You will likely find that this premise much more closely matches your actual experience.  You will still work intently and passionately to realize your intentions.  You will still imagine a future you want.  You will still wonder, worry and celebrate the present.  But you will not plan so fervently to make every action so causally predictive.  You will not angst so much over mistakes or unintended consequences.  You will say “Let’s go ahead and try it” more.  You will say “Maybe” more and be ok with that.  You will let the magical and the mystical have their appropriate space.  And most importantly you will watch what people are doing and choose what to replicate and what to do differently, not because of the theories espoused, but because you trust your own experience and have a much smaller need for the gurus to tell you how.

And yes, maybe some day you will even walk away and really believe that sometimes ‘Because’ is all there is.

Author – Tom

8 Comments on “Sometimes ‘Because’ Is All There Is”

  1. There are two things that resonated with me as I read this article and that is to live more in the moment and remember we are human ‘beings’ not a system. I really work hard at ‘being’ however often in a work situation I lose sight of this.

    Secondly, I think this article also speaks to our intuition muscle and the more we trust it and develop it the experience is so much richer.

    Thanks for a thought provoking article.

  2. Excellent insight! I have too many comments for this space, but will settle for one. As a 30+ year large corporation survivor, I have seen actions just like you’ve described. The need to know and control drives many managers and organizations to the “because” behavior. Those who out performed all were the ones who allowed the “becauses” to develop.

  3. Thanks for the comments everyone! The concept of ‘system’, when applied to human interaction can be really problematic. We begin to look for this thing called a system when we would be far better served staying present to the emergent interaction.

  4. Nice article Tom, and I think you’re right about Senge, Wheatley et al. If it can’t be logico-rational, then it has to be part of some divine or mystical purpose. obviously the prospect that we are not in control and don’t know what will happen to us is too much to bear.

  5. Tom, thanks for sharing this! I came from Chris’ blog, and this adds another dimension to that idea of why ‘hedgehogs’ dominate.

    From my own personal level, my father passed away unexpectedly a few years ago, and like Chris says above me, I tried so hard to put logic on top of that. Then, I tried to put some sort of “divine” logic to explain it. Both pursuits made me crazy.

    It was only when I came to your idea of “just because” that I really starting to come to terms with the fact that it DID happen, rather than try and “logic out” why it shouldn’t have happened…

  6. Thanks for your comments Chris and Randy.

    Randy, your story illustrates well how mainstream thinking affects not only our view of organizations but life in general. For all the rhetoric and gnashing of teeth against mechanistic and purely logical thinking I don’t really think we have moved too far away from it. So much of mainstream thinking distances us from our actual experience in an attempt to ‘figure it all out’.

    Interestingly I received some of off line comments about this post that went along the lines of… ‘I like this post; next time I’ll tell them it’s just because and now go do it!’ Your story Randy would likely not be as prone to misunderstanding as my words seemed to be to some people… 🙂

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