Taking Transformations to Scale

Finding my own path, my onlyness, in being nobody-but-myself.

While writing out my last post on Leading With Values, a bunch of older feelings seemed to well up from deep within me and rise to the surface. I was transported back to my amazing time on Google Plus between 2013 and 2015, where I was able to connect up with so many interesting and notable people because the platform had this cultivated sense of openness to it.

The Expectations on The Road Less Travelled

Back at the peak of that experience around 2014 though, I remember Susan Scrupski approaching me and asking me “What is your ‘job’ precisely?”, as she was interested in knowing if I could “fit into” Change Agents Worldwide. I remember proceeding to give her effectively an UnCover Letter response describing how because I wouldn’t “fit conventionally” into the group (because there was no way they were going to make me sound prestigious to corporate clients) that I would probably be the perfect fit for their group (because I believed they needed people with unconventional, lifelong learning backgrounds to represent the future of what was emerging right now).

Reflecting upon that conversation and other ones with members like Celine Schillinger, I remembered feeling innately uneasy about me working as a “change agent” helping corporate organizations and their leaders to transform themselves. Why? Because it just didn’t feel like me in terms of my onlyness and the path I was trying to take (yet I couldn’t fully understand at the time). In other words, it felt fake and forced to me from my perspective which is why I’m glad it never happened.

To put it another way, it felt like being a “change agent” was just another newer type of expectation put upon me by the community of professional misfits and outcasts I was a part of. So when I indicated to some of them that trying to transform corporate organizations and leaders just felt wrong to me in some way, I not only felt ostracized for not fitting into society but I also felt ostracized for not fitting into this newer community of social change as well. It’s one reason why I’ve continually said I feel like I am “disrupting the disruptors” because I’m trying to take an additional step further than the emerging norm of others.

Seeing Every Individual as A Creative Leader

What do I mean by that and why is it important? What I mean is that there are already a ton of professional change agents around the world trying to help corporate organizations and leaders to transform themselves. In effect, this is pretty much the conventional norm now in trying to transform individuals and organizations in a top-down sort of way in which the leader is transformed first and then he or she is able to transform the organization as a whole in turn.

From my perspective, this seems like an excruciatingly slow and limiting way of trying to transform the world as a whole, especially when we need more and more evolved leaders to help tackle the “wicked problems” of our world today (as noted in the book Anti-Hero). This is why I instead want to take a more playful, informal approach that is much more bottom-up and emergent oriented.

What I’m talking about here is transforming every “individuatingly-primed” individual no matter who or where they are, inside or outside of an organization, to take leadership over their own lives for the first time in their lives. Of course to achieve this and target an audience on this scale means radically changing one’s approach as well. Your approach needs to be both accessible and understandable from the perspective of the primed individual it’s targeting but it also needs to be affordable for them as well.

Making Transformations Accessible & Affordable

Again this is radically different from the norm. Most transformational classes are in the thousands of dollars, which is why unless you’re working for a larger corporate organization, it can be difficult to ever get the opportunity to take these classes. Yet the irony is that the very people who need these classes and transformations the most are probably the people who can afford them the least.

This is why I like Tiago Forte’s Building a Second Brain approach because it creates a personal, self-directed system under the guise of productivity whereby an individual can begin to objectify the subjectivity of their lives which is essential (as Robert Kegan notes) to transform oneself in the process. In effect, the primary benefit of the system is its ability to creatively begin to generate meaning and a clearer identity for your life which increases your productivity as a by-product of it in turn.

For myself, I believe it’s even possible to step farther than this, using my own previous experience and knowledge of building communities of practice around video games as an example of this. In effect, I believe a more accessible and affordable approach is one in which people (if given the right structure and guidance) will come together and transform themselves over time on a weekly basis by using these meet ups as a means of sharing their experiences, stories, and questions that they are trying to tackle in each of their own lives.

In this way, Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey becomes a sort of metaphorical representation of this ongoing weekly transformational journey amongst a group of people, whereby just like players in an MMO game, they following quests, go deep into dungeons, kill wicked monsters, and discover wonderful treasures. Yet in this case, the “quests” they undertake are the questions in their lives, the “dungeons” are the depths of themselves, the “wicked monsters” are their shadow selves, and the “treasures” they discover are the insights into their greatest gifts, their passion and purpose.

Transformational Role-Playing

BTW if what I just described above sounds strangely familiar to what people do when coming together to play role-playing games, you’re absolutely on the right track. In fact, that correlation is exactly how I realized that the communities I had been helping to build online were effectively how organizations would function in the future. That correlation was specifically found when I stumbled across the word T-groups which are a part of organization development. Here’s the meaning of T-groups as describe by Wikipedia below.

T-group or training group (sometimes also referred to as sensitivity-training group, human relations training group or encounter group) is a form of group training where participants (typically between eight and fifteen people) learn about themselves (and about small group processes in general) through their interaction with each other. They use feedback, problem solving, and role play to gain insights into themselves, others, and groups.

T-Groups, Wikipedia

Pretty weird and wild how similar they are, right? It’s no wonder then when people say how role-playing games have changed their lives. Now can you imagine a playful approach that could transform thousands, if not millions, of people in a similar way? Seriously, I’m surprised that a video game developer or publisher (hello Vancouver!) hasn’t started tackling this already. It would be the perfect integration of technological innovation and social innovation.

By Nollind Whachell

Questing to translate Joseph Campbell's Hero’s Journey into The Player’s Handbook for the roleplaying game called Life, thus making vertical (leadership) development an accessible, epic framework for everyone.

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