Hard to Concentrate by the Red Hot Chili Peppers – http://youtu.be/8jnRcM8Qf1A – is the best love song ever written. The lyrics are both beautiful and edgy, the music just makes you want to move and you just feel like you should just give this song to someone.
WHAT! You have a different best love song ever written?!? Well, have you ever really listened to Hard to Concentrate? Have you studied the lyrics? Do you know its history? Do you understand the complexity of how the music matches the lyrics? Well if you did you would know it was the best love song ever written too.
A while ago I joined a couple of LinkedIn groups, one focusing on Systems Thinking and another focusing on Design Thinking. These are very active groups with thousands of members in each. And after being in these groups for a while it began to feel like the short narrative above, except it was me that had a different and best ever love song. I had expressed a different perspective, one that fundamentally differed from the perspectives of the group and the response I received felt like I was being told that I just didn’t get their perspective well enough, that I didn’t understand its nuances. Hidden just under the surface of this was a sense that their perspective was true, or at least a better truth than mine. Of course I cannot know if this is what was being thought, but it felt that way.
It’s easy to accept that someone else could have a different, favorite love song. So much history, context, preference and individuality go into that choice. We don’t see our choice here as truth. My experience of these groups however feels like they are expressing the truth, the right and best way to see and understand the world. What I would call an ideology silently slips into truth. And when ideology becomes truth, wonder is severely constrained and relegated to ‘wondering’ how I can help people see the truth, rather than what we might discover together in a spirit of inquiry.
Perhaps ideology slips silently into truth because we need to feel like we have something solid and real to stand on, something to believe in that makes us, us. Perhaps especially in these times of so much uncertainty. Perhaps as well we might be a little better off if we could, when our ideologies slip into truth add two words – for now. Those two words – ‘for now’ – could position wonder back in its lofty and valuable position, true wondering about what is and what might be.
I think for many OD professionals, systems thinking is their favorite love song. And that song is based on the assumption of certainty and if you can just get the system right, you will get the results you want. Our song is based on the assumption of uncertainty and that we will move forward together into that uncertainty doing the very best we can. And to do that we will focus intensely on our local interactions and what’s happening in them. Since it is right there that the future is happening.
We think it’s a very good song – for now.
Author – Tom