Friday, January 14, 2011

Day 1: Introduction to teaming and collaboration

Disclaimer: The following is a re-presentation of our time together. I've learned that I have a habit of deleting information, distorting it and making generalizations. I do this often without noticing that I'm doing it. So, I humbly offer this filtered account in the hope that some of it will be useful.

As part of the "check in" ritual, Roger asked us to state what our expectations were for the class. People gave a wide range of expectations that included nothing on one end of the spectrum and feeding our souls on the other end (this part is a slight hyperbole, if there is such a thing as "slight hyperbole"). He asserted that he didn't believe us when we say we don't have expectations. We will see that we do indeed have them in the moment that they are violated and we are disappointed.

Incidentally, for those who are new to the "check in," it is simply a way to enable people to set down anything that might be "holding" their attention. Each person can say anything they would like, or not say anything at all. The intent is to free the attention from whatever is gripping; to allow each to be present to what is taking place in the room.

During the check in, several people stated their desire to learn something about teaming and collaboration. Roger asserted that we often have a model of learning which equivalent to passively absorbing what an authority or expert tells us. This will not be the model of learning in this workshop. In fact, peoples' asserted that they "learned so much from Roger" in the last workshop is incorrect, in Roger's model. He believes that the nature of the workshop will be governed by the quality of attention that we all bring to the workshop.

Roger spoke briefly about the fact that we all have teaming and collaboration models. Oftentimes these models are invisible to us. The clue that we have them is when someone occurs to us as "wrong." He asserts that the conflict caused by the "wrong" state is an opportunity for us to begin to explore our capacity to create and enact models. (my notes are fuzzy on this part, Roger, …doesn't sound right)

Roger then stated that the format of the class was "dialog." He also insisted that the quality of discovery that people have reported in these workshops is directly related to the quality of attention that we collectively bring to them, not to any particular individual. Rather than telling us what he meant by dialog, he asked for offers of its meaning.

These are some of the qualities that were offered to describe dialog:

  • respect for different point of view, non judgment
  • "suspending" one's own point of view to listen to another
  • testing your understanding
  • trust
  • actually listening and hearing what another is saying rather than what happens in a discussion, which is more like listening to what you are saying to yourself in your head and speaking in response to your internal dialog

Roger then stated that his view of dialog is that it is a state of being, rather than a doing. For him, it is a state of contemplative disposition. He contrasted this state of being with an "end goal." In his model, a quality of dialog is that it doesn't "go anywhere." (such as toward an end goal).

The primary starting point in his model of dialog is that of systems thinking: wholeness. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts; furthermore, a whole does not in fact have "parts" that "add up" to a whole. It is complete on its own. In his model, the state of being associated with dialog is a "field effect."

My interpretation of the "field effect" is that it involves a kind of energy "field" that transcends our physical limitations or boundaries. Its transcendent nature enables a group to access the same "information" contained in the field.

This field-like nature gives rise to a phenomenon where a group of people can be silently sitting together in dialog and one person can say aloud what others were thinking. When this occurs in a discussion where people have a disposition toward preserving their ego, one might say to oneself, "Rats! i was going to make that point," whereas in a dialog, one is more like to say "Wow! I was thinking that too!"

I don't know how this happened, but Roger began to describe how he "navigates" toward a particular state, such as the contemplative disposition of dialog. He said he goes there and waits, making choices by "tuning" to the state.

An aside: When I first heard him describe this process, I found it both intriguing and nonsensical. Where is "there?" How do you "go" there? How do you "wait?" What does "tuning" mean? and finally, What do you mean by "I"? Strangely, this has all become perfectly clear to me and I will attempt to describe it.

Imagine that you are trying to get somewhere, but the somewhere you are trying to get is a place of "feeling." Since this is a place of "feeling," it does not require time or space to travel "there." This is the state. You can probably access a state or "disposition" by slowing down. Remember a time when you felt really open and curious. Recall what that feels like; how does your face feel? your mind? your body? This is the "there" where you have gone. Wait there…and "tune" towards that state.

How do you tune? Imagine you're in that open state and you are contemplating a response to someone's expressed thoughts. You could say "You're wrong and stupid!" As you consider saying that, notice whether the feeling of saying it is resonant or dissonant with the "open" state…I suspect dissonant. If it is dissonant, you can choose to discard that reaction in favor of saying something that feels resonant with that "open" state. In this way, you are "tuning" or navigating toward the desired state.

Roger proposed that we get into groups of 2/3 or 4 people and each one take a teaming model and present to the class each week. In these teaming models, we would report things like, "What are the entrance criteria?" Are there specific criteria? Are the team models principlematic or developmental?

He also said the lack of structure for a gathering reveals the structure that each one brought.

He also asked us to consider a project experiment that requires collaboration of others, will not occur accidentally, and the result is non-predictable. What are we assuming about teams?

Roger described three types of experiments:
1 Do things according to how you think they would occur
2. interrupt normal or unconscious patterns
3. Observation only

He is suggesting that we try an experiment number 3, although he readily acknowledged that the simple act of self-observation will cause you to suddenly be in experiment number 2.

Roger is particularly interested in exploring the quality of self-observation, since these can results in 2nd, and 3rd order learning loops. Actually, I am a bit confused by this reference to loops. I suspect it comes out of the organizational learning research. I'm lifting this text from Wikipedia:

Argyris & Schön (1978) distinguished between single-loop and double-loop learning, related to Gregory Bateson's concepts of first and second order learning. In single-loop learning, individuals, groups, or organizations modify their actions according to the difference between expected and obtained outcomes. In double-loop learning, the entities (individuals, groups or organization) question the values, assumptions and policies that led to the actions in the first place; if they are able to view and modify those, then second-order or double-loop learning has taken place. Double loop learning is the learning about single-loop learning.

Our homework:
Look at your own model of teaming and collaboration. Do a survey of other models. Consider an experiment. Are there natural fits within the current participants?

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