OUCH! What’s the Purpose of This?

20151104_145419A number of years ago I began a writing project that was called The Power of Uncertainty. I wrote quite a bit of content and yet something seemed to be missing for me. The premise of that writing was similar to what OUCH! is about; the problematic nature of the typical way we understand and thus formally act in organizations, and the problematic way we understand the individual within organizations.

I had interacted with lots of people on this topic plus wrote a number of blog posts with this focus and I realized that the interactions tended toward the more practical and the blog posts tended toward the more academic.  The interactions focused more on the real day to day experiences people had while the blog posts focused more on explaining the ideas underlying our understanding of those experiences.  The same pattern extended to the work I did with people; I could either just do stuff or explain why I was doing stuff.

I discovered sometimes you are just better off doing stuff than explaining it!

I also discovered that it helps to have coherence in what you do and how you do it. One of the most fundamental ideas behind OUCH! is that nothing, nothing happens in organizations outside of the interactions we have. So if I was going to engage in this writing project I should have as many interactions as I could. When the idea of blogging this book came along it seemed to fit on a number of levels:

  • The potential for lots of interaction.
  • Lots of this interaction would be emergent and unplanned.
  • Adaptation would occur based on these interactions.
  • While there was a sense of knowing what the intent of this work was about I could not be certain what that intent would actually look like as it progressed.
  • While I had a good idea of the messages I wanted to put out there, how people responded to those ideas, including ideas and applications of their own was very uncertain.

This format seems to be very coherent with what I (hopefully to become a we) am trying to do here. It is also not very comfortable.  Uncertainty and interaction quite often are not very comfortable. But uncertainty and interaction is what we experience and do every single day in our (organizational) lives.

So here we are.

And what are my intentions with this work? I have 6 primary intentions at this point:

  1. To illustrate that what we experience in organizations is not the typical way we understand organizations.
  2. To illustrate that most organization theory and thus formal practice supports a drive for certainty as well as seeing the individual as a discrete and separate entity distinct from the contexts they experience; and that this theory does not match our experience
  3. To illustrate a way of thinking about and understanding organizations that balances social construction with psychology and how this balance can affect our view of the individual in organizations.
  4. To enable people to use our interaction model intuitively and within their interactions to help make sense of their work experiences.
  5. To have the word OUCH! gain usage and meaning to capture the misfit between theory and experience in organizations.
  6. By doing the above, to reduce the amount of blame, guilt and shame we generate and are exposed to in organizations.

Discussion and comment points for this post:

What are your intentions for participating in this work?


8 Responses

  1. My intention is

    1.To challenge myself and others by looking at different perspectives as it relates to these topics.
    2. To gain connection as it can be lonely being an consultant
    3. To learn and stretch – Tom and Bonnie have a good way of doing this.

    • Hello Wendy! Good to have you on the comment board with OUCH!

      Your second point struck a cord with me and reminded me of something… First I think your point about lonely is bang on. I work with a lot of independent consultants and the lonely topic comes up quite often. It often comes up with individuals in OD functions in organizations too, perhaps surprisingly. Many times it seems as an independent there are not a lot of opportunities to simply be with a group of people and share ideas.

      So since we’re in the same geography what do you think about starting an OUCH! group?!?

      Way back in 1996 Bonnie put together an event with Bryan Smith of Innovation Associates and co-author of the The Fifth Discipline Fieldbook (of Peter Senge fame). At the time this series of books were pretty much the bibles of OD and both Bonnie and I had worked quite a bit with Bryan.

      Following the event Bonnie put together a group focusing on the Learning Organization and it was comprised of anyone who wanted to participate from the large group invited. We met more or less monthly, often with space provided by some organization who had people attending the get together. The focus would have been much like your intentions above and the group probably kept meeting for a couple of years.

      It was with this group where I really got to know Bonnie, met Jim Handyside and the three of us wrote the Team Working Wheel together and all of us worked together on a handful of consulting projects.

      So what do you think? Could we start an OUCH! group after this emerges a little more?

      And all you others out there in different geographies; what about an OUCH! group where you are!?!

      How cool would that be!

      • Now that would be really cool and l like the name ouch group. I’m relaunching my business and what keeps showing up for me is connection. For me it is about connecting and also it is about connecting teams as I think with technology and all the changes in the world that part is missing. Tom, would be very interested in partnering with you to get this going.

      • So I know you have retreat scheduled in the next bit so we can connect in April and get this off the ground, and do some connecting.

        We will have the first OUCH! group!

  2. An exciting project and I’m interested in:

    1. The content as develops
    2. Comparisons and similarities between groups,
    3. The method itself – I love to see this type of collaboration and social knowledge-building evolve.

    • Hi Chris… nice intentions! I’m looking forward to your perspectives!

      Perhaps you could start an OUCH! group in your area of the world!!! I’m going to be communicating more about this soon…

  3. I think my intentions are similar to what have been mentioned already:
    1. to connect with others – it’s lonely working virtually sometimes so the virtual conversation is intriguing – and perfect for my Introvert self;
    2. to really get to understand the model in a different way. We have worked with it at TMS for some time but I think this format will help land it for me.

    • Well Kathi, perhaps you can be part of the OUCH! group Wendy and I put together! Plus I think you are right, this format will apply the interaction model in a number of different ways and my hope is that it will become very clear how it can be used!

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