Dialogue and Spirituality

Dialogue and Spirituality in the work place

“A master in the art of living draws no sharp distinction between his work and his play: his labour and his leisure; his mind and his body; his education and his recreation. He hardly know which is which. He simply pursues his own vision of excellence through whatever he is doing, and leaves others to determine whether he is working or playing. To himself, he always appears to be doing both” 

Francois Auguste Rene Chateaubriand

Most of us are aware that the institutions that direct and express our lives – politics, health, law, education, and religion- are no longer adequate to the challenges we face and feel in modern society. They are no longer able to sufficiently help or nourish our lives and are often in need of radical redesign to fulfil their stated purpose in this unsettling period of changing consciousness.

Transformative leaders understand that they cannot address their organisation’ exterior issues without addressing its inner problems. Over many generations Scientists, mystics and philosophers described the wholeness of the universe where nothing exists in isolation or that no thing exists or acts independently of the whole. However today an illusion of separateness between mind and spirit and action is the primary operating image or self-understanding for many people and organisations. Nobel Laureate neuroscientist Roger Sperry states that the overemphasis on technology and the kind of scientific thinking that excludes the human soul has contributed to a neglect of our ultimate values, beliefs, motivations and meanings. We cannot civilise the outer world without civilising the inner world. Many organisations such as outdoor gear company Patagonia in the USA have successfully embraced the spiritual in the workplace and have been reaping the results for a couple of decades. They are a highly successful, resilient and creative company with strong environmental ethics.  It is no surprise that Patagonia has hundreds of applications for any job that becomes available.

There is increasing recognition amongst organisational leaders, highlighted by the numerous courses now offered in Conscious and Mindful leadership, that we are  becoming very aware of the importance of the spiritual dimension at work. What is emerging is the quest to discover, remember, or create significant purpose, and meaning in our work. Those reeling from stress and burn out from an over engagement are now searching inward for courage, strength, wisdom, motivation and energy.

Renowned systems thinker and organisational expert Margaret Wheatley suggested that in many cases it is not the structure of the organisations that need to change but the conversations we have within them. Dialogue is not only a powerful technology for redesign or organisational change but also offers a transformed way of relating and experiencing the world. Well facilitated Dialogue naturally builds an empathetic environment for participants to fully experience the inner dimension of Spirit and help connect the group with their inner spiritual nature that directs, empowers and provides new energy and meaning activity. Spirituality has to do with making sense of our world, and knowing how creatively live within it. Group dialogue creates the space and the foundations for spirituality through its attitude to openness, skills of listening ability to connect with life through others and mostly importantly enabling the unknown to find form.

An aware participatory leader who is skilled in the Art of Dialogue creates an environment for the forming or reforming of the deeper part of the Self. The concept of formation is one of change or flux that is constant with any organism. This change is not a random meaningless event but is connected to the ongoing formation of the world around it. Dialogue provides a container for creative formative thinking that enables people to transcend the limits of their bodily senses and cognitive processes of rational thought and memory.

 

The Art of Dialogue

The Art of Dialogue is a response to a world that is becoming increasingly complex and fragmented, where true solutions and innovation lie not in one leader or one viewpoint, but in the bigger picture of our collective intelligence.

One of the essential skills for growing as a leader and dialogue host is being aware of what is happening around you and not losing yourself in the emotions of any given moment. Throughout the day we need to constantly ask ourselves how do we know what we know? This question is at the core of our worldview and needs to be examined deeply.

Our world views influences our communication, decision-making and workplace cultures – most of this happening unconsciously. They are the lens through which we experience and see the world through. All the decisions and actions you make are directly a result of our world views, which have been informed by your culture, education, parents. Media, spirituality, and environment you live in and friends. You can spend a lifetime examining how each of our world views have been informed.

Each one of us views the world through a different lens, which informs the actions we take and the thinking we bring to situations. Our thinking for the most part remains unvalidated throughout our lives. For this reason an extraordinary leader understands that they will only ever have partial answers for any problem and as such need the subtle skills in hosting dialogues to embrace all views which help make up the whole.

The most important conversation any leader must be aware of when hosting conversations that matter is the conversation one has with ourselves. When we are aware that our views of the world are seen through a coloured or filtered lens formed around our experiences  we are naturally more likely to be empathetic leaders who know the importance of hearing all voices to co-create creative solutions.

In the next blog we will examine six philosophical domains that shape our world views.

The importance of mindful conversations

The knowledge of early philosophers ranged far and wide, covering fields from biology to ethics, from politics to physics. With increasing production of knowledge, facilitated by the web, technology and a greater educated class and increasing cultural exchanges, it became harder to know everything under the sun. Over time it became clear that individuals could not keep abreast of all knowledge and we gradually learnt to specialize in one or more areas. With our specialization our thinking has become more fragmented and our ability to think wholly has been made more difficult.

At work we are more likely to be specialists in our field making it harder and harder to link different fragments of knowledge that lies scattered across sub disciplines within any organisation. Simplistic tools may be honoured as a way of addressing these problems, but often at the expense of complexity that require context and connection. It is much easier to attempt to incorporate procedures or tools rather than exploring the real complexities of these issue in a transdisciplinarian way.

A skilfully hosted group Dialogue or Council is one powerful transdiscilpinary approach of dealing with complexity within organisations, recognising the lived experience and subjectivity of each person in context, in a network of relationships, in an ecology. A Transdiscilpinary approach is meta-paradigmatic- opening many perspectives at once. This enables us to understand not only the content of various approaches to issues, but their underlying assumptions or paradigms, and how those paradigms shape the inquiry. A trans disciplinary approach offers opportunities to questions ones own assumptions. It is in the exchange with different perspectives that our own perspectives become most clearly elucidated and articulated.

Renowned Systems thinker, Social scientist and anthropologist Gregory Bateson believed great creativity emerges out of this interaction of multiple perspectives. The creative process has been defined as seeing “a single idea in two habitually incompatible frames of reference”. The existence of a multiplicity of perspectives, at times mutually opposed, can therefore be transformed into an opportunity for creativity, if we accept the possibility of multiple ways of knowing, that there is more than one perspective that has something to offer and no one perspective has the monopoly, and recognise the possibility that the perspectives can co-exist and also be brought together to develop creative integrations.

Skilfully hosted Dialogue encourages groups and individuals to effectively participate in the unfolding of meaning – a creative interaction that allows new insights and unexpected ideas to emerge from the encounter. Quantum physicist David Bohm believed that through persistent dialogue a radically new state of mind could emerge, “a concrete alteration that penetrates the core of a person’s experience and has the potential to communicate itself directly”

In Dialogue there is a shedding of agendas that allows for a co-creative flowing interaction, in which it is possible for something new to emerge. Dialogue can be described as a practice that awakens the desire for, and provides the means to, expand consciousness of each other and access untapped wisdom beyond our own worldview or paradigms. The mere presence of the other in Dialogue helps us to break up our own bias and narrowness and offers deep self-understanding. Openness is naturally initiated, bringing our prejudgments to the surface. The process often highlights the limitation of one’s own framework of thinking which then allows one to go beyond one’s own previous possibilities.