Earlier this year I applied and was accepted into the Weatherhead School of Management’s EMBA program (class of 2018). I plan on writing much more about why an MBA, why Weatherhead, and about my adventures as a designer in business school, but not in this post. Today I want to share a few paragraphs from a personal vision essay I wrote for one of my classes, followed by short passages from a few books that converge upon the intersection I am digging at. It is scary to share something so personal, but by doing so I hope to gain confidence in talking about the world I want to live in, to find people who might share a similar vision, and to put forth small ideas and see how and where they may resonate.
“For the past year and a half I have been working with an executive coach who has taught me about authentic leadership, being present and whole at work, and having confidence in my own unique way of doing things. The result of this process has been a transformation in how I show up at work, relate to my colleagues, and handle conflict. Of course there has been a good amount of personal growth, healing, and understanding as well. What I’ve realized along the way is that our organizations are flat, missing dimensions that recognize and foster growth along non-performance based vectors. And yet organizations are some of the most powerful entities in the world, capable of changing so many things — economies, policies, and the ways in which we do things. But they are not yet capable of changing us.
I believe that organizational change is critical to impacting the world in a positive way and that design will play a crucial role in bringing this to fruition. I feel drawn to the path I am on now, deepening my design practice through an understanding of the business side of the house. I hope that my experience at Weatherhead, combined with my design background, will open up career opportunities to practice design on a much larger, more complex, and more human level.
I want to design organizations that enhance our ways of working, living, and being. I believe there are infinitely more creative ways in which people can live and integrate work into their lives. Ways that foster the ability to be present, show up authentically, and to work with joy. And I believe there are approaches to work that can help us find space to accommodate the ebbs and flows of life, ultimately giving rise to a greater sense of dynamic balance. Today we are so stressed, overburdened, and unhealthy. When did this happen and why is it so?”
Me, Personal Vision Essay
We are learning to recognize that we are not self-contained, that we are connected in many ways to Nature, to each other, and to this magnificent mystery that the Universe is. And from such connections, we can begin to recover some sense of meaning and purpose in our lives. To do this, we need an epistemological shift, a genuine leap of consciousness. We must begin to open ourselves up to other forces besides the purely material, to other ways of knowing that transcend, while still including, the merely rational. We must learn to develop other forms of intelligence, including the intuitive, the emotional, the esthetic, and the spiritual.
Magical leverage points are not easily accessible, even if we know where they are and which direction to push them. There are no cheap tickets to mastery. You have to work hard at it, whether that means rigorously analyzing a system or rigorously casting off your own paradigms and throwing yourself into the humility of not-knowing. In the end, it seems that mastery has less to do with pushing leverage points than it does with strategically, profoundly, madly, letting go and dancing with the system.
Donella Meadows, Thinking in Systems
Management has long concerned itself with individual motivation, commitment, and tenacity in the workforce. In recent years interest has deepened in areas such as emotional intelligence. Many theories of leadership take into account the affective states, that is, the moods and emotions of the people involved. Our contribution is to suggest that a range of reflective practices, some of which may be seen as spiritual (whether they have their roots in spiritual tradition or not), can facilitate the emergence of individual awareness of connection and the need for caring (for self, others, and the world). These practices foster a richer sense of creativity, which is critical for any enterprise to flourish. It is by tapping into the spiritual dimension that we are able to reach the threshold of an enduringly systemic view of sustainability. At the heart of this transformation is an awareness of connectedness between the world of human beings and all other forms of life.
Chris Laszlo & Judy Sorum Brown, Flourishing Enterprise: The New Spirit of Business