Why Balancing is Important – Part 2

20151104_145251In the last post a visual was introduced; a field extending in front and behind you with two chasms on the left and right sides. We looked at what it was like to walk much closer to the left chasm, the psychological end point. This is the perspective of mainstream OD, perhaps even a mainstream, western worldview.

What about the right side? I don’t think we walk on that side much at all, we don’t really know that landscape very well. Perhaps we don’t even know it exists! Actually, I think we work very, very hard to ignore its existence, even if this work has mostly become invisible, a background of day-to-day struggle manifesting in the consequences noted in the last post.

The chasm on the right represents a social construction end point. As we near this right edge it is context that is primary. The individual, you, are simply a part of that context. What would this look like in organizations?:

  • Generalized expertise, experience or knowledge is devalued since specific context renders it inapplicable.
  • A reliance on reacting to the present with very little focus on the past or future.
  • A belief that we can personally adapt and change to any context/situation we find ourselves in.
  • A belief that the individual is no more important than other variables in a given context, and that personal choice is mostly irrelevant.

And as you fall off the edge into the chasm of social construction end point the individual is ‘relativized’, simply another random variable, one of countless others that may or may not have any impact on the context at hand. In this chasm nothing matters because the individual is swallowed by their relativity to everything else.

This, I think is the end point of a social construction perspective on organizations and what people are within them. I don’t think we often walk too close to this edge or even acknowledge its existence but what might the consequences of this perspective in organizations:

  • An almost endless need to react and respond to each situation as if it was new and different.
  • A deep sense of frustration that our knowledge and experience was undervalued
  • A belief that no one, not even us can resolve our problems and challenges.
  • A turning away from accountability and choice because our choices have no more chance of making a difference than any other random variables.
  • A feeling of powerlessness.
  • An insistent longing for something to believe in, something more significant than the here and now.

Another little OUCH! since just like the psychological end point, the social construction end point is simply a perspective; and that can be challenged, would need to be challenged.

So we fall into one chasm of determinism and the other of relativism; neither sounds very enjoyable do they! However, these two posts are about balancing and right now, in the mainstream OD world we are getting very close to the left hand edge, that chasm of determinism. I don’t think we are even close finding our way to the right side of this field we walk on, which would at least give us a chance to consider balancing.

What I see are more and more attempts, more and more complexity in trying to overcome the CONSEQUENCES of this psychological perspective and very little challenging of the perspective itself!

What might balancing look like?  That’s the next post and perhaps more….


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