Establishing The Pillars of Your World

Articulating what is known, so that you can step into the unknown.

While I was aware of Otto Scharmer and his book Theory U, I finally was able to watch his TED Talk from 2016 and within the latter half of it a couple of things he said really stood out for me, as they directly relate to what I’m struggling with at the moment.

Dialogue is the capacity of a system to see itself.

…what it takes is to cultivate the soil of the social field by transforming how we relate to each other, to the planet, and to ourselves, which basically is awakening a movement that’s already in the ware and making that movement aware of itself. 

Otto Scharmer

First off, I found it remarkable because it reminded me of a school motto mentioned in one of Margaret Wheatley’s books that was “Take care of yourself. Take care of each other. Take care of this place.” These words perfectly embody how we can transform our relationship with ourselves, each other, and this planet.

This in turn really made me stop and reflect on my relationship with myself. A long time ago I said that my blog was first and foremost a means of having a intrapersonal relationship and dialogue with myself. On reflecting upon that, I’m not sure that’s as true as it once was. A lot of what I’m writing about now is primarily focused on trying to get others to listen to me so that they can change themselves to make the world better, when really it should be about listening to myself so that I can change myself and make my world-view better.

Stepping to my next thought, I asked myself “Am I even aware of what I know?” And answering honestly, I told myself a definitive “No!” Sure I’ve been speaking about The Future of Work, Social Innovation, and Creativity for a long while now on my blog here (and previously on Google+) but I’ve really only touched upon the edges of what I know, rather than encapsulating the core essence of it as a whole.

As I’ve also noted before though, the primary reason for this failure is because what I’m seeking and discovering seems to be within the liminal space in between the domains of knowledge I know, so it’s hard to articulate it. That’s fine. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that because exploring an unknown space can naturally be hard to articulate. But what’s clearly evident to me is that I’m not even articulating what I clearly know in these known domains of knowledge and there’s no excuse for that.

And if anything, the more clearly I can articulate this known domain knowledge that I do know, the clearer this unknown liminal knowledge will probably reveal itself. Why? Because as I’ve mentioned before, the creative process is seeing the patterns, seeing the relationships between the patterns, and then seeing the system as a whole.

So “seeing the patterns” is seeing the existing known domains which is fairly easy. Seeing the “relationships between the patterns” is starting to see these often unknown, invisible, liminal connections between them, thus networking them together in a deeper sense. Finally seeing the system as a whole is really seeing the patterns and their relationship to one another as a larger unified narrative that clearly helps you see and make sense of the reality of everything as a whole.

Illustration from Margaret Wheatley’s “Using Emergence To Take Social Innovations To Scale”

Now here’s the big catch though. I said that seeing these patterns is “easy”. It is. I see them everywhere now (ie keywords in things I read), like signposts guiding my way and reinforcing that what I’m seeing is very real. But the problem is that I myself am not making my own self aware of this by externalizing them objectively from my mind in some way, so that I can then start actually managing them and working with them at more complex levels, as Robert Kegan mentions one has to do to psychologically mature.

So effectively, by not clearly externalizing what I know of my known domain knowledge, I’m directly standing in the way of my own self in taking the next leap into the unknown because I basically don’t have a map of my known knowledge. So how can I navigate between the known and unknown when my very known territory is actually an unknown space to me as well. It’s like a surveyor who is supposed to map a terrain but decides to only do it in their head and then wonders why they can only recall separate perspectives of it rather than the terrain as a whole.

It’s funny because you can look at this like you’re building a bridge or even a building. If you don’t build the foundational cornerstones in the present, you have no way of supporting the rest of what you’re creatively trying to build within the empty space between them all in the future. All said and done, this is something I need to seriously focus on resolving this year, in some form or another, because it’s probably the main reason why I feel like I’m not achieving substantial momentum within my work and my life as a whole.

It’s because I’m not visually and objectively seeing my own progression which helps me to creatively navigate from where I’m clearly at now and where I clearly need to take the next step.

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