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  • michellesholliday

Be Like Water



This is a harvest from the most recent “Friends of OD for Life” call, which revealed and reinforced some wonderful things about what is most needed in us and in the world.


These calls take place about every six weeks. So far, each one has gathered a small number of people who have discovered the OD for Life website or the LinkedIn page and felt a sense of connection. And each one has turned out to hold surprise and delight.


Din van Helden and I went into this call with a light approach to hosting, open to whatever might emerge from the conversation. At the same time, there was one question that we were interested in exploring with the group, if it seemed to fit: What is the most appropriate “theory of change” for this movement? What approach is needed if we are to help shift the field of Organizational Development to be more aligned with life?


The question had come up at our gathering in Italy earlier this year. So far, the collective experience of this community has been beautifully relational, a space of care and shared inquiry, grounded in connection with nature. And yet, as nourishing as it has been, a few of us have felt a restless buzz, wanting to know: What is the role of the drive to clear intention, organized action and intervention? Or at least, are we sure that the nurturing, relational approach will lead to the transformation we have set as our intention?


Even before we voiced this question, the group began to offer its answers. A summary wouldn’t do it justice, so I’ll just list snippets from the conversation, which flowed with ease, warmth and mutual curiosity:


Most people in my networks don’t know what time it really is in the world or the potential contained in breakdown and breakthrough.


We recognize that some of the language around organizations needs to be reimagined – recognizing organizations as organisms, for example.


The structures are outdated for the problems we face and the longings we feel.


We need to keep Life at the center, which means it’s not about problem solving. And we need to ask: how do we stay together to do it?


I want better connection with a group of colleagues who want to move this forward. I’m looking for like-minded people.


I feel desperate in the current situation.


I want to be in a network of people who fortify each other. My hope is for a social solidarity network circle.


I want to find out together how we can take clients along without being manipulative or imposing – and without denying the urgency.


In another network I’m in, there’s a culture of thinking together, with a lack of consciousness of dialogue. People interrupt each other. We often forget why we came together. That’s not what I’m looking for. The way of being is at the heart of what I’m hoping for. Together with each other – and together with nature.


The Japanese character for “community” means “the place where I am most myself.”


I want to get to business as the most peaceful natural way to come together to do work. Not just busy-ness.


What is needed? For us to lead a transformation around what leadership development looks like, making what we’re doing the norm.


I’m one of Margaret Wheatley’s Warriors of the Heart. She proposed going beyond hope and fear, transcending and deepening into a consciousness of interconnection and spirit, so we’re able to experience the uncertainty and the need around us and in us to act from that place. That takes courage, wisdom. We can’t do it alone. But our society is so individualistic.


We all need to be in relationship. How do we co-create through our collective work?

It means we have to be able to hold the space of hope and fear.


This is edge work. At some point, I realized/decided: I’m an edge worker. It’s groundbreaking.


So often, we’re going so fast we never tend the relational field. But complexity depends on that. It needs both masculine and feminine, tending space, tending life.


Scandinavian gods didn’t care about humans. Humans had to take care of themselves. So they formed governance circles, and they still govern that way. In contrast, Christian societies are always looking for a single savior, one person who will save them, and then they tear him down. They tend to give power and then tear the person down.


How do you get people an experience of what it’s like so they know at a cellular level what is possible?


In my work, I focus on organizations as ecologies.


I feel like a small rivulet, isolated, bumping along. Finding OD for Life felt like reaching a river.


The movement carries the image of the river. Water is powerful, but not forceful. It doesn’t try to do anything, it just is. It creates new pathways, cracks.


My cells get rearranged every time I come across a new breadcrumb. It’s not something we need to direct. It just is.


Water keeps being referred to. The eddies are where all the life is. This is where water stops and turns around for a while. It’s a time of rest, reflection, then we have the power to go on.


I would love to be learning what’s working. Learning from each other. Reading Din’s article helped.


Collective systems for decision-making need to be changed.


How are you leaving? What are you leaving with?

  • Curious.

  • Deep sense of connection and possibility

  • Feel in my belly: lovely, tender new constellation, weaving. It’s a lovely feeling.

  • It’s a real joy to hear these conversations.

  • I’m not feeling alone.

  • Awe inspired. Enriched.

  • The joy of reconnecting. It’s been a while. It’s nice to be back in the space, to hear everyone’s voices.

  • Gratitude, reconnecting around the world. Mycelium.

  • Life from the call. A deeper form of wisdom from life flowing through you.


What I took away from the conversation was the call for a context and community:

  • That is nourishing to us personally,

  • That inspires and encourages our own work in the world,

  • And that forms a microcosm in which we experience and pioneer a different way of being, and in particular a different way of being together.

I’m left feeling that this may be a nurturing, relational approach but it is not passive. Through osmosis, through carrying that energy and experience out in our other interactions, the ripple of our presence becomes “a tidal wave of thriving and integrity that responds to the true level of crisis at hand and the full depth of care in our hearts,” as the OD for Life Maniflexo says. The drops connect in relationship and become the wave. Water always wins, as I’ve heard recently.


It seems that what we need is what the movement needs, is what the field of OD needs, is what the world needs.





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