— David Bohm
A colleague reached out to me this past week with an excellent recommendation. She suggested that I explore reaching beyond traditional teaching methods when introducing my work to people.
Her name is Gwen Kinsey, and Gwen is one of the featured leaders in The Future of the Workplace.
Gwen said she was reminded of Karl Weick’s work after I shared an unusual leadership experience in a recent workshop. Karl Weick was an organizational theorist who introduced loose coupling, mindfulness, and sense-making into organizational work.
But first, my leadership story.
In a recent workshop, I shared a story about what happened during a practice exercise when I was in the US Navy’s nuclear submarine service.
I won’t get into all the details here, but the situation we found ourselves was dire. The nuclear reactor had been purposely shutdown to simulate a disaster, but we could not restart the reactor due to an equipment failure.
When an event like this happens aboard a submarine, it’s a standard practice to shift all electrical systems and propulsion to the battery. The sub is brought to periscope depth, and a snorkel is raised to provide air for the emergency electric diesel generator.
But this time, there was also a problem starting the emergency generator too. The problems persisted and exacerbated. Meanwhile, the battery capacity was running dangerously low.
What’s critical to understand here is that submarines are dependent upon propulsion to control depth when submerged. Because of the critical battery situation, there was little capacity available for the emergency electric propulsion motor.
We were adrift under the water in the middle of the Pacific Ocean and slowly sinking into the deep abyss. Yep, not a good feeling at all.
When all hope seemed lost, I witnessed one of the most remarkable experiences of my life. I suddenly saw everyone jump into action and operate as one team to save the submarine and our lives.
Everyone knew what to do, and no one was directing them. I still remember what it felt like to be there. There was an unmistakable change in the air and how people were responding.
What is it that allows us to get into this state and perform at this level?
We sometimes see star athletes or top sports teams perform in such a manner where they exhibit superhuman capabilities. Is there a way for us to intentionally step into this space?
My big aha
Gwen’s prompting triggered a big aha for me. Suddenly a few things tied together in a new way.
In 2014, shortly after I attended a workshop led by Joseph Jaworski, author of Synchronicity, and Susan Taylor, my partner and I accidentally experienced our first real Dialogue experience at a level that got our attention.
I think this powerful quote from David Bohm says it brilliantly:
“We can just simply share the appreciation of the meanings; and out of this whole thing, truth emerges unannounced — not that we have chosen it.”
I’ve written about this remarkable experience before in a past post, but it was stunning to experience what Bohm describes as “truth emerging unannounced.”
And because of the way we brought about this experience, we also realized that we had discovered a way to help others experience dialogue. We called it Discover Dialog.
What’s also important to mention here is that Jaworski tells a leadership story that is very similar to my submarine story. While he was attending college, a devastating category F5 tornado struck the town, killing over one-hundred people.
In his writing and speaking, Joseph shares how he emerged from his dormitory and joined together with strangers to operate as one team to rescue as many people as they could. There was no single leader in charge. They worked with an extraordinary focus for many long hours, saving the lives of many people.
Joseph tells us that this experience greatly impacted him and left him with a longing to understand what was behind it. He often referred to it as the entrepreneurial impulse.
I believe that engaging in genuine dialogue creates a space for extraordinary performance and truth to emerge. This emergence occurs within the dialogue and reaches beyond into all other activities of our work and life.
Genuine dialogue is powerful and rare in our world. You can talk about dialogue and read countless books and articles, but in my experience, you really can’t grasp and appreciate the power of it until you experience it.
Learning how to engage in dialogue that results in the arrival of unannounced truth is genuinely one of the marvels of the universe.
Where this is all going
It is my contention, and I believe many would agree, that learning how to be in dialogue, as described by Bohm, is a place where more and more of us need to step into to solve the many challenges the world faces today.
I’m reminded of a quote from the book Synchronicity:
“The western scientific-materialistic worldview is no longer adequate for the issues our society is facing; a historic shift is now occurring.”
I also believe that my work helps people meet the challenges of the shift that is now occurring. It is not just in the leadership domain but also in other dimensions, including forward thinking, the mind, awareness, and navigating the inner journey.
Beginning with the next Space Beyond Boundaries workshop, there will be a new focus on engaging in genuine dialogue as part of the learning experience.
I will be running the next workshop in April. If you are interested in attending, please sign up at the Space Beyond Boundaries website or reply to this email and let me know.
To your forward thinking life & success!