To Learn = To Create = To Transform

The Bay Area Society of Organizational Learning Community (BASoL) is made up of a diverse group of practitioners, consultants and researchers dedicated to improving their knowledge and effectiveness in practicing organizational and societal learning. On Memorial Day I took part in one of the monthly workshops hosted at the Impact Hub in San Francisco. The workshop titled “To Learn = To Create = To Transform” was facilitated by Beatrice Benne as an exploration of the connection between these concepts. This blog post will be concerned with, how Beatrice in this workshop managed to create a space of wellbeing that allowed people to be creative together.

Bohmian Dialogue as a Creative Space

In one part of the workshop Beatrice invited us to take part in a Bohmian Dialogue. It is a form of conversation exploring a subject in a group by exploring different perspectives. It is not a discussion where the objective is to find a compromise or a shared understanding.

The BASoL is a group of well educated and experienced practitioners of organizational development and all have strong and well founded opinions. With no rules this group of experts like any other group with shared interest would easily end up discussing their viewpoints with an unspoken ambition to win the discussion.

A main point of Bohmian dialogue is the suspension of thoughts, impulses and judgments. In an article about dialogue David Bohm explains suspension in the following way:

It does not mean repressing or suppressing or, even, postponing them. It means, simply, giving them your serious attention so that their structures can be noticed while they are actually taking place.

Suspension thus slows down our conversation and in a way suspends our thoughts as an object in front of us as opposed to something inside us, i.e. not anything connected to our personality or status. My experience of the interaction within the group was that we got really deep in the exploration of learning, creation and transformation. This happened without the formation of groups with specific opinions that were clashing with other groups' opinions.

Bohmian dialogue is a good example of how to change group interactions. Often a discussion can feel like the survival of the fittest or that the one with the best arguments or loudest voice is “winning” over the rest. In previous workshops I also have experienced other rules that also interfered with the normal way of working together, examples of these rules are listed below.

  • Suspend thoughts, impulses and judgements
  • No “No, but…” say “Yes, and..."
  • Listen more than you speak
  • Learn, don’t perform
  • Between every person speaking there must be one breath of pause

As a reader of this you can try out some of these rules or add your own, next time you have a discussion or are working creatively with others.

Outcomes

Being an exploration we did not state a conclusions or take any decisions on the subject, though I felt that if someone had made a transcript of this conversation, it could easily become a chapter in a book about the subject. Below I have listed some of the questions, issues and statements that came up.

  • There are no systems. It is just something we have made up to simplify our understanding.
  • Creativity arises in when risk and trust is balanced appropriately.
  • We need to take into account the whole system to know if we are creating something good.
  • Transformation can arise from a deep, deep crisis.
  • Our primary problem in the World is the unintended consequences of our former good intentions.
Martin Dyrman Hansen