Connect the dots and create the “magic inside the intersections”
When I was a young boy growing up in Melbourne in the 1970’s I would often look up into the vastness of space and look at all the stars in the night sky.
I would reflect on our place in the the universe and consider our connection to all the possible planets and life forms that were clearly out of view and out there that we could only wonder about but not fully understand.
As time marches on, the practice of seeing connections between things has been a constant in life and work. To be able to see the connections and also consider the relationship between objects, people and places and to at times the good and the challenging interactions or relationships that happen in the intersections in between.
Remember to look up at the stars and not down at your feet. Try to make sense of what you see and about what makes the universe exist. Be curious. And however difficult life may seem, there is always something you can do, and succeed at. It matters that you don’t just give up. — Stephen Hawking
Alternative spaces to — learn, teach, make, practice, reflect and take action
At secondary school, drama was introduced as a subject and this was the first time I was able to experience an alternative setting to learning beyond the traditional classroom setup. Where the traditional classroom setup resembled rows of wooden tables side by side and at two per table.
Drama class was different.
We would meet in an open space in one of the rooms not connected to the other classrooms allowing the freedom to move around and to also be vocal and try moves that the traditional classrooms did not allow.
Our drama teacher would intentionally take us through different exercises that would help is practice vocals, movement and specific pieces to rehearse for yearly performances that students, teachers and parents would attend.
Connecting the dots
This was the first time I was able to see how people and objects could connect and interact around a shared goal and where we could as individuals explore parts of ourselves that the other classes did not seem to probe for beyond the use of books, blackboards and traditional teaching formats where the teacher would stand in the font of the class and the students, for the most part, would listen and passively take in or not take in the content being taught.
Much of how much content was actually absorbed by the student very much depended on the skill of the teacher and whether the student was indeed interested in the topic.
What makes the world interesting is the interaction between objects and not the objects in and of themselves. If we’re always restricting these interactions by creating boundaries, we’re also taking away from our comprehension. — If you want to stay successful, learn to think like Leonardo da Vinci
Drama at school then led me to drama school for four years.
My drama teacher suggested that I may wish to learn more about drama by attending a school on Saturday mornings that would provide consistent rhythms and practices to sharpen the skills required to be a top performer.
Key Practice Foundations
This led to an additional 4 years of professional theatre training on top of the 2 years of drama at school on a part time basis.
After completing a 4 year professional theatre training it became clear that I was now equipped with practices that would help me in other parts of work and life including — communication, confidence, presenting, selling, capturing audience attention and storytelling to name a few.
It also taught me the importance in working and socialising with others and what it meant to work together as a team to create a great performance or to “Make Meaningful Work”
It also made me slowly realise about the importance of the spaces required to get people to interact with each other in positive ways and at times to slow down enough to listen intentionally and to explore the learnings and outcomes from those moments enough to seek improvement over time.
Not present & busy
Fast forward to 2018 and people are just not present.
This takes shape as we watch people on their phones, zoning out in meetings, talking over others as driven by their own individual needs or agendas or biases and simply not having enough allocated time to create the connections and intersections to foster reflective conversations and practices.
This is very concerning and has led me to believe that its leading to a global form of short term thinking that is already having disastrous effects whereby we are not working on the problems we need to be working on to connect the individual to the community and to look at what projects could have benefits for both the me and the we.
I currently live in Hong Kong.
Hong Kong has a train system called the MTR and its really one of the best transport systems in the world.
Trains rarely run late and its network covers most of Hong Kong including Hong Kong island and the New Territories.
Over time it will continue to extend and connect into the train systems in Mainland China, including a high speed rail connecting China to the rest of the world making it an engineering marvel.
Some of the stations are intersections to allow people to transfer between lines seamlessly to be able to take people from one direction to a different direction with limited fuss and without too much cognitive load in determining where to go and what to do next.
The train stations also have additional benefits beyond moving people on trains. They also provide ways for people to meet up, to eat, to shop and to enjoy socialising in very comfortable environments, especially when Hong Kong enters the hot season.
The train stations are hubs the connect other hubs allowing people to move around and transact easily in a city of 7.3 million people.
Watching people in the these MTR hubs prompts me to consider the important of creating spaces for people to interact in healthy ways and how we can better create and facilitate this.
Some consideration of how we do or do not do this in our work places bears some attention and what we could be doing to help better conversations and practices to take place.
Consider here the MTR station and also the space created by my Drama teacher at school and consider how this can help “Make Meaningful Work”.
Perhaps meeting rooms do not entirely provide the right settings for people to connect across disciplines or do not provide the spaces to see what we need to see to consider the work beyond our own needs or own spaces in our cubicles?
Also consider here the importance of bringing multiple disciplines and backgrounds together and the theatre needed to promote better conversations:
- What could we be solving together?
- What supporting materials, tools, people, roles and probes would need to do that?
- What specific spaces would be required to enable better, deeper and more reflective conversations to give us all a chance of making something great together that has some sustained value for people and planet?
- How can we foster deeper moments, made up of reflective conversations and practices in those moments?
Fostering deeper moments
Consider a meal with people or a good book or a movie or travel or anything you can think of that prompts interesting conversations that lead to interesting outcomes or additional questions to promote learning.
What is usually consistent is the need to have another person present who can over perspectives you may not have considered. This happens because none of us have the ultimate or one truth about the world, we only have our experience with it in reference to time, environment and other people we have met on that journey.
What if we were more intentional about the intersections to enable to the deeper moments and we used these moments to feed our curiosity to learn more?
When the students were put together in the drama class, I watched the quiet children, the tough children, the children from all sorts of backgrounds with varying attitudes and approaches come together the one or two times a week and work together to create magic together.
Observing this happen at school and then in the more formal setting at theatre school was a pleasure but to only see these practices or lack of them not happen in work places.
Intentional Practices inside the intersections
Perhaps we need to be more explicit and intentional with practices to connect the dots and create the “Magic inside the intersections”.
So what are some examples of the intentional practices inside the intersections?
Perhaps we may start with some sage and inspirational advice from the social psychologist and philosopher Erich Fromm in reference to the “Art of Listening” and he says:
- The basic rule for practicing this art is the complete concentration of the listener.
- Nothing of importance must be on his mind, he must be optimally free from anxiety as well as from greed.
- He must possess a freely-working imagination which is sufficiently concrete to be expressed in words.
- He must be endowed with a capacity for empathy with another person and strong enough to feel the experience of the other as if it were his own.
- The condition for such empathy is a crucial facet of the capacity for love. To understand another means to love him — not in the erotic sense but in the sense of reaching out to him and of overcoming the fear of losing oneself.
- Understanding and loving are inseparable. If they are separate, it is a cerebral process and the door to essential understanding remains closed.
This is simply one perspective.
We expect there are many more perspective and much more to learn in reference to to harvesting of practices we could all be more conscious of when we enter spaces to “Make Meaningful Work” together:
- Perhaps the practices are hidden from view in the project stories we tell each other every day and right in front of us?
- But are we giving ourselves the necessary spaces and time to get to the important practices?
We have given ourselves a life long goal to keep harvesting the practices in the stories and to share these as “Practice Cards” as we mature “Make Meaningful Work”
We need to take the time to study and listen to the stories to connect the dots across the practices coming from example domains like theatre, music, cooking, sport and engineering to name a few, who have something to teach us about the practices inside the intersections.
The practices will shed light and provide clarity on helping us focus on real global problems that need our attention right now and we hope it will also show us how we can support diverse perspectives move away from the selfish to the distributed for a possible healthier now and tomorrow.
Thank you to Josephine Wong , Jen Fabrizi & Aldo Fabrizi for being lovely sounding boards and helping us answer how can we “Make Meaningful Work?”