Exposure to the unfamiliar is vital for our development, and for waking us up to the possibility and the consequences of our practices and habits.
And yet so many of us in organisations are committed to avoiding this at all costs.
We hire people just like us. We design performance management systems to squeeze out difference, dissent, people who ask tricky questions, and people who have a different point of view. We buy in training programmes only where we know the outcome before we start – where it fits into our preexisting categories or concerns. We’ll accept or reject an idea based upon our capacity to understand it immediately. We develop conventions of dress, speech, mannerism so we can all be comfortably alike. We discourage certain emotions or speaking about what’s personal – both surefire invitations to be real with one another. We constrain people with behaviour and competency frameworks. We use the threat of shaming or loss of face or status to reign people in. We’ll prefer looking good to doing something that matters.
In short, we’ll do whatever we can to make sure nobody gets too upset (shaken up, turned around, personal, genuine, eyes opened in wonder). And our working world is vastly smaller because of it.
All of this has consequences not just for our own organisations, but for the wider world of which we are always a part.
Don’t you think we have a responsibility to be much more surprised, disturbed, confused, shaken up and changed than we currently allow?
Photograph by Kate Atkinson