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Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Reflections on The Integral Living Room 2013, Part 2 Emergence vs Design

Constructively-Critical Reflections on The Integral Living Room 2013

Part 2: 

Theme: Emergence/Self-Generativeness vs


This is the second in a series of 6 blogposts, which are supplemental to the Notes from the Field report I wrote about the Integral Living Room event for the January 2014 issue of Integral Leadership Review online journal.
These blogposts represent my more personal constructively-critical reflections and musings, and are not purposed for reporting, as the Notes report was. They'll make limited sense if you haven't read the Notes report, but, I hope, are of some general usefulness.

Note: This blog contains only a couple of my reflections as a member of the ILR Harvest Team; there is much more to be said, and that is a future blog, around our questions, our process, and our relationship to various elements of the Integral Living Room happening! These are dear to my heart and closer to my Divine Passions than some of the reflections and musings below, and more important to the world, IMO, than some of what is below, but these posts got written in the timeframe I had up until now. Stay tuned!

The blogposts are about various themes I’ve organized my reflections into:

Part 2. Theme: Emergence/Self-Generativeness vs Leadership/Design/Structure

That's this post, read below. Find the others via the links to them.

Each theme section is independent, so you can skip around if you like!

Part 2. Theme: Emergence/Self-Generativeness vs Leadership/Design/Structure

This is a natural creative tension in any event on this theme, and I am sharing my reflections here simply as explorations because I haven’t distilled them into any kind of recommendation or suggestion.

Especially given the diverse stages, motives, and interests of the people, and the size of the group, plus the diverse and generalized purposes of the gathering, facilitation and designed structure had to be there. The question is, was it optimal, how much did it allow for changing during the event, how much did change and on what basis, and other questions I have no answers to. The design challenges were considerable, for sure, because of the experimental nature and content of the event.

Overall Purpose: No visible nested-hierarchy of purposes. Granted this was an exploration, there were plenty of more focused “purposes” articulated in the ILR website, but I didn’t detect any superordinate goal, and felt that lack led to scattering of event elements, for example, I couldn’t answer the question: What were the purposes of the various exercises as related to the purpose of the event?

Was design sometimes too subtle? Second, since I was not involved in directly making event-design decisions I cannot speak to, because ignorant of, a lot of the subtleties of the design. This is important to note here because this event had a unique design and purposes; it was definitely not your basically-Orange-design convention around Integral presenters and content to be learned. So my Notes report is participant-eye-view and reflects ignorance of what was really going on, or what might have been deliberately planned but looked unplanned, etc.

For example, early in the event, the leadership seemed to be “plunging us into the frustrations of Green” group process/relating which turns out to have been planned. Without that knowledge, what happened could be (and was by some) interpreted as an inept/failed attempt at leading us into Integral-level group process/relating.

Most certainly there were more design subtleties than I could ever begin to comprehend or even to sense, given the experience, wisdom, and expertise of Diane, Terry, and Jeff. There was quite a bit going on that didn’t meet the eye. You won’t find so much of that at the Integral Theory Conference for example; that’s pretty much a WYSIWYG event. There were more subtle things going on here which made it more interesting; more to reflect on, once one realized there was a “more” going on. (See Orders of Learning in this blogpost series.) LINK to follow.

Design to challenge and amplify exit-Green: I can now see just how nicely the event was designed to challenge limitations of Green relating and expand it upward. I was so caught up in my own inner tensions from my expectations at the time, I missed many of these nudges. In going through my notes, I saw them!!

Designing for Emergence: One challenge I might describe as being that process was part of product: There was not much room for macro changes in the happenings, but the purpose and design included some evolution based on participant input. Spaces for
various kinds of connecting emerged on demand. Planners were not sure what would emerge. The purpose was more about what went on, not conveying information from experts. Presenters were there to learn as well as evoke and explore.

Designing invitations for emergence: That said, I didn’t feel much designed-in “invitation” forthcoming for spontaneously contributing suggestions for changes. It was still, in my perception “This is our event; we are the leaders and designers. We know what we intend and want. You can suggest minor changes, but none major.” I myself felt a lot of uncertainty about what kind of “feedback” might be deemed appropriate from me. “Is it safe to provoke, here, even to provoke the designers/hosts? Could I ask questions like: What were they wanting us to ‘get’ from each chunk of sitting and watching them up in front of the room?”

Unsure what was wanted, needed, desired, or permitted, plus feeling unqualified to make any suggestions in ignorance of the design-plan, and also realizing that many of my suggestions would be based on my own unrealistic expectations/assumptions/over-generalizations, I didn’t feel free to speak up. (It never occurred to me to speak to any host privately but apparently many did, and they responded.) I opted for making notes, not having a clearly-specified input channel with some indication of potential for time and attention to my input, even as a member of the Harvest Team. (And now I get to express more considered views in this blog, in a perhaps more useful way!)

In retrospect and after much reflection, I feel that the Hosts' bandwidth for emergent re-structuring during the event, was realistically limited, and that they did as much as they could be realistically expected to do, given all the other variables in the situation. So none of what I say above should be interpreted to mean any "should" about it being otherwise. That I didn't feel as invited or free as I can imagine having been, is out of context, and just a pointer toward what might be at some future time. In the interest of "ragged truth-telling" I am not editing my unrealistic desires out of the above sub-section of this blogpost.)

Modeling responsiveness to emergent: One way to describe this might be that the hosts’ degree of responsiveness to what the “we” wanted, and their modelling of the actual process of discerning that, could have been more transparent, at least to me. I would have loved knowing more about the dancing-with-now they were engaged in. (It certainly was transparent sometimes; those were learning times for us all.) If many of the event activities were changes made based on private feedback, it would have been wonderful to be made even more aware of that rather than assuming things were going along pretty much according to a pre-plan.

(One suggestion I never saw implemented and would have loved, is a world map to put our locations on. However, so many other suggestions were implemented.)

One subtle instance of where IMO there could have been more invitation for self-generativeness, more modeling of responsiveness to the emergent, as well as greater optimizing of harvesting for momentum, was around Eric Troth’s proposal for follow-up conference phone calls among participants. It might have been pro-actively announced several times by the Hosts, as an opportunity for momentum, rather than left to a single mention by Eric himself.

Some imagined more-emergent scenarios: So I realized (and ongoingly dealt with) having arrived attached to my expectations which were based on unjustified assumptions and over-generalizations about the nature of the audience and the purpose of the event. From that tension, however, much good has emerged, including imagining the following future possible scenarios.

If spontaneity and self-organizing had been a higher priority than it appeared to be, and yet certain design-elements had been more baked-in, then I can imagine these scenarios:

1. The dance party and Philip Watson’s performance -- even though everyone’s resonating with his music contributed to our we-space development -- could have included or become a talent show -- performers of any kind, improv, skits, etc. -- arranged emergently during the preceding days; that might have been even more fostering of “we-space” energy.

2. This event as an exploration into “what is?” and “how to?” and even “why?” of Integral/Second-Tier interpersonal relating and “we-space” was of extraordinary daring, imagination, and value. AND I can imagine an event for the same explorations which would be designed by a self-selected group of people from inside and outside of the global Integral community who already have years if not decades of experience in catalyzing, facilitating, analyzing, and using such relating and such group dynamics, such “we-spaces.” It would be designed to transcend everything they already “knew.” It would provide a context which would evoke directly, whatever any participant’s next step in that direction might be. It would be, in every aspect in every moment, guided by the highest consciousness “It” which was continuously invited to emerge within the design group and the event group.

Leadership functions would spontaneously emerge before and during the event from the capacities of those involved, for whatever was needed or best at the time. First-order, second-order, and third-order learning paths (see below) would be “baked in” but what happened in those paths, would be emergent.

Orders of harvesting (memory, meaning, and momentum, on various scales) would be built in from the beginning, so that both in design and in ripples, all value generated by the event for all possible others, would be maximized. In addition, from design through all post-event ripples, this event would synergize closely with groups making similar explorations. Also the “12 Intelligences” would be baked-into the design, so they would emerge as optimal.

This would absolutely not preclude all the detailed logistical planning and execution needed for such an event. It would result in an experience which was, however, IMO far less structured and far more structured-for-emergence than the ILR 2013. For which audience this would be appropriate, is another question. It might be a different audience from ILR 2013. Many probably needed the degree of facilitation present, or they might have been lost. And for some, it was over-facilitated.

Drawing on available expertise around designing for emergence: I mean taking full advantage, beforehand and on the spot, of the we-space expertise represented in the participants. It seemed to me there was a great deal of untapped knowledge, wisdom, and experience (note the distinctions) in the “edge of humanity’s relating” being explored at the event, which the designed and emergent structure did not even reveal the presence of in the group, let alone draw on and make use of to enrich and shape the exploration/event itself emergently.

I understand that some folks had pre-event design input, and I noticed that some folks were always called on when they raised their hand (like George Por) but to me there was a wasted potential (and therefore an inefficient use of resources that went into putting on the event) for maximizing event impact on the audience and the world, not to mention synergizing among other pools of people interested in strengthening higher-consciousness-we-space capacity in humans.

Granted, it is an extreme design challenge to both design ahead and emergently use such people’s expertise without falling into the potential bogging-down by Green’s extreme of “co-creating by equals.” That would be an awesome advanced “we-space” practice in itself, for the designers and leaders!

by Rev. Alia Aurami, Ph.D., Head Minister, Amplifying Divine Light in All Church
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