Curiosity by its nature is a curious thing. This morning I was watching an interview with Frederic Laloux on youtube about self-managing organisations. I have been curious about how we can create structures that encourage self-organising for a while now. This curiosity had led me to this video, and regularly challenges my assumptions about what organisations can be.
It is curiosity that helps my clients explore new conversations and break unhelpful patterns of stuckness. Curiosity can be wonderfully focused and still behave like a 4 year old boy with the attention span of a gnat getting his sticky hands into everything.
I finished the video and stared thoughtfully at the screen, then my curiosity noticed something. Another video with some Japanese writing and a man in a white jacket holding a car tyre at the top of a ski jump.
“Hmmm” thought my curiosity, “I wonder how far that will fly?”
I clicked on the video, and quickly learnt the man would roll a range of different tyres down the jump. Small car tyres, a formula one racing car tyre and even a tractor tyre. I don’t know if it is a bloke thing or not, but my curiosity was now fully engaged. I sat staring at the screen as the commentator said words I did not understand and the guy in the white coat stood motionlessly waiting to release the first tyre. When he did, it raced down the jump and launched 30m into the air. Then a strange thing happened. My curiosity started talking to itself.
“I wonder how far the tractor tyre will go. It is heavier so might go faster, but also might fall quicker, hmm” (my curiosity quite often says ‘Hmmm’). Then another part of my curiosity chipped in.
“Really? You are actually going to watch this?”
“Yeah, when have I ever seen a tyre roll down a ski jump before?”
“Ok, but just because you have not seen this before does not mean you need to see it now right!”
I became less focused on the video and instead listened to my new curiosity. I think I may have even joined in the conversation. Then I noticed that I had become curious about by own curiosity. And the moment I noticed that, I became curious about how I had become curious about my own curiosity. Then I stopped thinking as quickly as I could, just in case I disappeared down a rabbit hole of curiosity.
So what is the point of me sharing this?
Well, when I was only curious about what was on the screen my only option was to watch the video. Which tyre would jump the furthest? My behaviour became stuck. But when my curiosity started to explore my lived experience I had choice. I could continue to watch, skip bits, turn it off, share it with a friend.
In organisations it is easy to become focused on the screen; the reports, the analysis, the feedback the projections, you know the stuff. We position ourselves as observers and convince our curiosity that the organisation is ‘out there’, and best understood by focusing on the ‘screen’. That what is in the reports is the organisation. As we limit our curiosity to selected data so we limit our understanding and our choices. In time we become less innovative, more constrained, and more detached from our lived experiences.
We know organisations emerge from the messy hum of human interactions. We cannot remove ourselves and simply ‘observe’ the organisation, because ‘we are’the organisation. As such our lived experience becomes an amazingly rich source of data where curiosity can thrive. When we stop just looking at the screen and take our lived experience seriously our curiosity finds new interests, asks new questions, like;
- How are we working as a team?
- What are the conversations we are most comfortable having?
- What conversations are left unspoken?
- What role do I take other than my job role? Carer, facilitator, dominator, bully, lover, positive disruptor?
- Beyond the official conversations, what stories do I tell about this organisation?
- What stories do I tell about myself?
When we become curious about our lived experience a new sense of organisations emerges. Our curiosity reconnects with who we are, casts light on our assumptions and behaviours, and empowers us to make real change. Being curious about our experiences enables us to fundamentally shift what it means to be in an organisation.
We know the current model of the organisation has reached it limit, and is no longer relevant, maybe it never was. If we are to find something new it won’t be an off the shelf, one size fits all model. It will be unique to each organisation and the people who are the organisation.
So, what is the simplest way to find what works best for you and your organisation?
Start by taking time away from the usual data. Breathe, and allow your curiosity to explore what it is really like for you in your organisation, and do this together.
Executive Coach and Change Facilitator at nowlab.co.uk
North Devon, England.