Back to School – What Will You Be Learning This Year?

Tom GibbonsChange, Complexity, Learning, UncertaintyLeave a Comment

For many of us there is a different energy in the air this time of year as ‘back to school’ activities begin to happen.  Perhaps it’s finding some cool new back to school clothes, wondering if your best friend will be in your class, and as we get older perhaps wondering what life will be like as we go to school away from home.  And there is always the trip to some store to get school supplies.  We look for just the right, blank notebook so we can capture all the new things we will be learning.

That blank notebook seemed to symbolize the anticipation of learning something new.  That we would diligently fill it up with facts, ideas, doodles; all the things that make up new learning.

So what will you be learning this year?

For me, I just filled up a journal, the last pages written on a canoe trip in Algonquin Park in Ontario, Canada.  My new ‘school notebook’ will be a new journal.  It will be fun to find just the right one.

The last one took about 3 years for me to fill up with descriptions, reflections, ideas, musings, discoveries; all the things that make up new learning.  I looked back to when I started that journal and listed a number of things that had transpired for me and those in my life over the course of those 3 years.  I realized that the majority of what had happened was never really planned with much specificity.  What transpired are better described as ‘possibilities’, perhaps even ideas, but a single, random event could have (and did) change things an awful lot.

This realization brought into clear contrast for me that work; that life emerges in mostly unplanned ways.  And yet paradoxically, at each moment we have the power to choose our course of action.  From one perspective we feel in control, from the other we feel adrift in a sea of uncertainty.  And when these two perspectives come together I think it is best to not let one have precedence over the other.

Perhaps working towards that balance of perspectives is the balance so many are looking for.

I think we are far out of balance right now in our organizations and in many ways our lives as well.  We compromise an acceptance and openness to emergence in the service of control, most often a false control.

So this year I will try to learn how to experience that balance and live more comfortably within it.  I will try to learn how to more effectively weave this balance into the work I do in organizations.  And I will try to learn how to feel a little more grounded in my convictions that this balance is a more realistic way of being and understanding our experience of organizational life, perhaps even life in general.

What will you be learning this year?

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