Collaboration

Embracing the Elephant in the Room

"Every experience, no matter how bad it seems, holds within it a blessing of some kind. The goal is to find it."  ~ Buddha

We've all heard the phrase 'there is an elephant in the room'. It's code for a difficult issue or significant problem that people don't feel comfortable talking about. It has a power and weight to it that can immobilize an organization or team. However, despite being unspoken the "elephant" issue is either consciously or unconsciously impacting relationships and the ability to get things done.

I believe we should learn to embrace the elephant in the room. Yes, it means that there is some force causing people to be uncomfortable and not talk about something. It's an energy that is big and unmovable. In fact, it could be something that is so sacred, fearful or important that no one wants to go near it. Isn't that usually a signal of something of vital importance that has to be courageously and respectfully explored?

Elephants as a species are powerful. They are very strong and they are gentle. They are loyal. They are patient. It is often said that elephants do not forget nor do they forgive. They are also associated with having great wisdom and compassion. They will fiercely protect what is important to them.

I would like to shift the perspective on elephants in the room. I believe that when the elephants emerge in team processes it's a signal of something transformative unfolding. It may be a bold change that is on the verge of happening. It could be a shift in dialogue that is becoming more open and honest; that the true essence of something important is being revealed. The elephant tension denotes vulnerability and diversity of opinion emerging.

Elephant energy can feel edgy. However, when we embrace it and explore it we can reveal important things that untended to will limit change, innovation or brave new visions from emerging. When we pause to honour the elephant, to name it and work with its energy, we are tapping into a wisdom force that needs to be honoured in order to move forward.

In my experience coaching teams, I often call out the elephant(s). I draw one on a flip chart and ask the team what it is. I playfully identify that the elephant(s) are in the room. I then ask people to pause and quietly reflect on what elephants are present and to write them on a post it note. Everyone gets to put them on the elephant. From there we group them by similar themes. This is a way of revealing the voices of the system; often the marginalized or unpopular ones.

Once we see the themes, we create conditions for people to talk about the elephants. It requires a tenderness and respect in  how people talk about them. I always ask about the elephant wisdom and how it is trying to serve at this time. We explore what is needed so that this wisdom can be considered as we go forward.

While it may be easier to ignore the elephants because they take energy to deal with, I find that when teams can talk about the elephants in a curious and supportive way they release energy that blocks them from true creative collaboration.  Acknowledging and processing the elephants can be a bonding process. It is a way of sharing history and story of an organization in a constructive manner. By speaking of the elephants some of their power is diminished. It frees up energy and opens awareness to what people want to see happen. Elephant exploration helps rewire the collective brains of the team so that new energy can be realized.

It is my wish that instead of ignoring or marginalizing the elephants in the room, that we embrace them and actively invite them into conversations. Only then can we access their wisdom so we can move forward together in more productive and positive ways.

We have much to learn from elephants. The following is a description of the attributes of elephants from a shamanistic perspective. May we embrace these qualities for the sake of healthy and vibrant team relationships and organizational cultures.

"Elephants can teach us that gentleness, commitment, and communication in relationships is very powerful and necessary to keep relationships alive, trusting and loving, whether it be friends, family or partner. Deeply committed to all creatures with whom they have relationships, elephants are tough when protecting others and gentle when nurturing them. The matriarch (the oldest, most experienced female leader of a herd) leads in a way that is both gentle and inclusive. Elephants are able to communicate telepathically. This can teach us how to truly listen to others."

http://www.shamanicjourney.com/elephant-power-animal-symbol-of-commitment-royalty-strength

 

Conscious Collision

It’s been about six months since Innovation Works London opened. It’s a co-working space dedicated to social innovation. It’s an incubator for creativity. It’s a collection of people and organizations dedicated to social purpose work. It’s an intergenerational, cross cultural and multi-sector co-working space. It’s a hub where social change ideas are birthed. It’s a place designed to create sparks from conscious collisions.

Conscious collisions? What the heck? Stay with me, you’ll get it.

I am in love with this place, the space and the people. I feel myself flourishing in this micro community of like-minded people. I am inspired by the talent and heart of the co-tenants. I am grateful for the new connections and collaboration opportunities that emerge daily.

Co-working spaces are intentionally designed to help people collide. At Innovation Works, the shared kitchen is a hub where people gather – for weekly Salad Club or Wine Down Fridays. Flex desk users sit in different spots, with different people, daily. People literally bump into each other while pondering the latest quote or poll on the chalk board. Dialogue walks are emerging as a new medium for intentional collision moments. They are invitations to walk, talk and share stories, dreams and motivations that form the root of relationships and spark ideas for new ways to collaborate.

Here's my definition of CONSCIOUS COLLISION:

The intentional act of intersecting with people with diverse talents, interests and expertise to co-create through collaboration. Collision moments are often facilitated in co-working spaces - either by chance or design.

Conscious collision moments create opportunities to talk, share, listen, ponder, be curious and learn. What might seem like random, one off conversations often lead to a series of interactions where relationships are deepened and ideas for collaboration emerge.

As I reflect on the highlights of 2016, I notice how grateful I am for the many positive collisions that I’ve experienced so far at Innovation Works. They’ve got my heart racing with joy and possibility thinking.  This community represents a shift in how people work, engage and co-create. It’s fun to be in on the ground floor.

I am also deeply grateful to my dear friend Johnny Fansher who was the spark of this idea in London. I call him the birth father of this project. He was passionate about the possibility and persistent in holding the vision. He gathered people to co-create and cultivate the vision. Eventually Pillar Non Profit, the London Arts Council and London Heritage Council caught the ball and helped bring the dream to reality. Patience, sprinkled with large doses of faith, paired with gritty determination have made Innovation Works come to life.

I can’t wait to see what innovations and collaborations we’ll be celebrating this time next year that got birthed in conscious collision moments. Stay tuned.

 

 

 

Janet Frood is a proud founding co-tenant of Innovation Works London and part of the original dream team that helped cultivate the vision for Innovation Works London. She is the Founder of Horizon Leadership Institute and is an executive, leadership and team coach.

 

 

 

 

Heart Full and Hope Filled

Heart Full and Hope Filled

Today I attended the first ULab course in London, ON to explore the concepts of TheoryU and the work of Otto Scharmer, cofounder of the Presencing Institute. Over 100 Londoners are part of this emergent learning experience, joining 35,000 people around the globe.  These are just a few highlights and reflections from today’s experience. 

Brain Dates

Brain Dates

Over the course of the C2 Conference I participated in a number of brain dates.  Brain Dates are a brilliant way of creating connection for idea sharing.  You put out offers of topics you are willing to share information about as well as topics you want to learn about.  You can search for topics that resonate and reach out to the person offering to request a meet up.  Brain Dates are 30 minutes of quick, passionate sharing and often end with a commitment to follow up and share further. 

Building Bridges Versus Busting Silos

Building Bridges Versus Busting Silos

A dominant complaint in team dynamics is silo thinking. Leaders want their teams to work collaboratively and call us in to “Bust Silo’s”. However, busting silo’s can feel harsh and aggressive. The desire to break down silos is usually to inspire more collaboration, efficiency, sharing of strengths and talent while achieving the global goals and mission of the organization. It’s human nature to defend what we care about. If there is any threat to our primary identity, we fight to protect it. So, if a team development session is billed as a “Busting Silo’s” event you can gaurantee that people will show up prepared to defend their territory. So what is a different way of achieving collaboration other than Busting Silo’s? In our work we refer to it as Building Bridges.