Meaningful Flow — Proposed Lab for the School of the Possible

An attempt to discover and apply sustainable and more humane ways of working in our current economic environment

The “lab.” Not shown: Way too many books, coffee + 1 dog.

What is the future you want to create?

I envision a world where the cult of busy has been disbanded, where we are able to collaborate effectively and productively towards goals that help people and the planet, and where people are inspired to create and feel safe to share.

I’m trying to heal my own workaholism, help others suffering from the same affliction, and change a system that encourages and celebrates that behavior at the expense of relationships, mental and personal health, and our humanity.

Goal 1. Clarify the problem and the nature of the transformation that is currently occurring (general). I think if we understand the nature of the transformation, it will allow us to work with that transformation instead of try to control it or struggle against it.

Goal 2. Relate this understanding of the transformation to the current business environment — and determine where pockets of maturity in the transformation lie (i.e.find the flowers).

Goal 3. Define what a transformed work life looks like on both an individual and collective level.

Goal 4. Create a change strategy (i.e .determine ways to help those flowers thrive and overtake the weeds)

Goal 5. Create experiments. See if the theory is right, the model is right, and the change strategy is right. Make adjustments.

How do you track progress?

I’m a PMP-certified project manager. I like milestones and deliverables and as much certainty as I can muster. I’m trying to channel my control-freak, plan-all-the-things nature for good.

Goal 1 — Clarify the problem and the nature of the transformation.

Deliverable 1 — A written definition of the transformation using a historical survey approach. The final deliverable is likely a book.

I’ve discovered a number of groups asking the same questions and attempting to identify the shift. Ken Wilber, Don Beck and today’s philosophers, the Agileists and project management community, the environmental activists, to the design community, the World Economic Forum, and the business schools all see a common theme; even if there are myriad terms and ways to describe it. There are enough different people and groups talking that it is time to do a survey and see where the points of connection and disagreement occur.

Goal 2 — Relate this to the current business environment

Deliverable 2 — Identify trends in best practices and begin to determine appropriate metrics. This could show up as a dashboard and may also lead to a series of blog posts and/or a course.

There appear to be some best practices surfacing. Unfortunately, the attempt to apply those best practices have been challenging at best. Ask anyone who’s attempted to implement strict Scrum methodologies in a deeply hierarchical and conservative organization.

A major mindset shift is required for the best practices to truly work. As you know, changing mindsets is one of the most challenging things we can attempt.

Personally, I think the best we can do is do our best to model the mindset shift through our behavior and interactions and hope that it inspires others.

Metrics will help provide information how things are going with the change and what adjustments need to be made. Plus, the people we need to convince love colorful charts and numbers. We have to speak the language of our audience.

Goal 3 — Define what a transformed business world looks like — individual and collective

Deliverable 3 — Written and shareable definitions that are clear and actionable. This deliverable will likely show up as maturity worksheets for consulting engagements — for individuals and for organizations.

I’d like to find a way to start the transformation within the current systems.

Most people I know are not ready to take on the level of perceived risk going independent entails. Changing jobs is stressful.

I feel that many organizations have pockets of individuals who are already demonstrating the behaviors that lead towards a healthier and saner business environment. It’s a matter of encouraging and supporting those individuals.

The ideas that will lead to healthier, sustainable, and saner workplaces have been kicked around for at least 10 years. Attempts at going through the implementation motions, has occurred at most companies.

The hard part will be the mindset shift (particularly among more conservative leadership) to make all this work.

In my more pessimistic moments — a transformed business world looks like everyone with any level of competence quits working for dysfunctional leaders and their organizations. This frees these awesome people to follow their bliss with their loving, accepting tribe doing awesome shit that helps people and the planet and living a life that is nurturing and energizing for them. It may still look like that once I’m done with my research.

If my work makes at least one person slightly saner and able to provide more positive impact in their current environment, I’m happy.

Goal 4 — Create a change strategy

Deliverable 4 — An actionable change strategy. This will be the foundation of consulting engagements for both individuals and organizations.

The early change strategy work will focus on the individua. Change has to start at the individual level, then connect and cultivate. It won’t work if forced from without.

The change strategy also needs to address the appropriate use of Kaizen/gradual daily practice/1% improvement and dramatic, revolutionary change.

I’ve had many conversations around when revolution is appropriate. Unfortunately, we still treat change as an event. Change is a process.

That said, I think too much of the conversation around change is either gradual OR revolution. I’ve found in my own life that big change sticks when it is a combination of both. I do gradual change, then gradual stops working — so I have to do revolution. After the revolution, I then focus on making the revolutionary change stick by gradual daily practice and moment-to-moment decision-making.

The change strategy has to include a support process. This is where, I think, ongoing coaching engagements provide real value. I can serve as an external support for individuals in a way that a boss or in-house mentor can’t. I don’t have any say over their career or reputation within their organization.

I also provide an outside perspective with no agenda outside of encouraging and supporting the change they wish to make.

Goal 5 — Create and perform experiments

Deliverable 5 — Actionable, small experiments that I can perform with 1–1 clients and with small groups (workshops+client follow-up).

As a result of the experiments, I can test to see whether we are getting closer to the north star of people happily working in ways where they are doing good for the planet and each other in a way that is energetically sustainable. This should also help refine the change strategy and uncover further best practices.

How are you doing so far?

I’ve put together one draft of a potential operational framework. The initial intent was to help individuals find flow in their existing working environment. It’s very “in the weeds” and day-to-day.

There’s still a lot of command and control and attempts at certainty in the model. I don’t think it’s wrong — people find flow when they feel like they have clarity of goals and control over their tasks (among other things). However, I feel like the model is still too complicated.

I am providing a link to a 45 minute marketing webinar I put together. It provides the framework (Meaningful Flow) + a case study.

I have detached the video from my marketing architecture so I don’t inadvertently spam you with email. https://youtu.be/qKWEF5HR8R0

Feedback on this model is welcome. Please contact me at wwickham@middlecurve.com or wwickham@meaningfulflow.com and let me know you found me through Medium.

The lab will help me direct my efforts towards easing the greater transformation and, hopefully, make my work less complicated for others to apply.

The core questions remain the same.

  • How can I help people be “in flow” with the transformation that is occurring?
  • How can I help them do so while reducing their stress levels and helping them feel a little more competent?

I’ve been in the process of information collection for the past year or so and am about to start writing as part of a certification project with Humanity’s Team / Conscious Business Innerprise. Having the external accountability to share the information will encourage me to write and will help me avoid the collecting, hoarding, and “just one more thing” mindset.

My goal is to have the written definition of the transformation (Deliverable 1) complete and ready for feedback by September 1, 2018.

What have we learned so far?

  1. We are in transition.
  2. The transition requires us to be in flow with what is going on around us. The more we struggle to control our environment, the worse it is going to get.
  3. The transition will require us to get very clear on our personal north star, our individual values, and our personal purpose. We are in a time of a wealth of information and opportunities and a scarcity of time and energy. If it has not already happened, each of us will be forced to become much more discerning around where we spend our time, energy, attention, and resources.
  4. The current assumptions and models around our economy and businesses don’t work. Humans are not machines. Organizations are collections of humans. Organizations cannot be run like machines. And even machines need to be taken offline for maintenance.
  5. There are a number of people having similar conversations. These people are organized into separate pods that may or may not be talking to each other.
  6. We need to break our individual conditioning around competition as a default mode and question the assumption of scarcity. To manifest the change, the pods have to work together.

How can we help you?

I need people to provide feedback, ask questions, help me improve the work and help me design it so it can be practically and easily applied. Encouragement highly welcome :)

How can you help us?

I can provide a friendly ear, intense curiosity about your work, many questions, and my friends tell me that I have project planning superpowers. Let’s make this change real!

Wendy working at Advocates for Human Rights with Brian Dusablon facilitating portfolio design and strategy.

For more information contact Lab Director Wendy Wickham, PMP wwickham@middlecurve.com .

Meaningful Flow

Written by

Helping people navigate the transformation.

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