Saturday, April 23, 2011

Diversity in Learning – the OD India Sangam

One of the most remarkable benefits of having the meeting of OD enthusiasts on April 9, 2011 had been the one of learning from early adventurers of OD in India. They were remarkably unassuming, authentic and free-flowing in expression. Their freedom in expression rivaled the openness with which they listened to young and old alike.  The one who listened most, may have been the one who spoke the least. But how were we to know? One among us who was neither too old, nor too young came alive with the issue, imploring the silent to speak. And when they did, at least two among them spoke for the goodness in the group. That is where their commonality ended. One seemed actively practicing ‘activity inhibition’ reminding himself that the forum was not his classroom. The other was perhaps wondering how he could intervene from his grounding in purposeful action, appreciating as he did the value of listening to the loquacious chatter of self-seeking individuals. Coming from a place he was trusting and trusted, he wondered when the comfort of that intimate understanding would culminate in a productive rapport. That is why one of the God-parents processed the conversation as one that individuals entered into in search of a group that fulfilled their deeper desires, and simultaneously a group so created in search of a set of complementary individuals. A certain other could not help recalling the intent of the spirit of the group as if in a bid to ward off any evils at a heavenly feast.
These dynamics of the group are perhaps germane to the life of most groups. Bion, Festinger, and Moreno would make a feast of the goings on in this group for the tapestry they would have enjoyed in their own ways. There were tentative allowances for life to renew through the group’s very coming together. The departures in meaning that precipitated from mere English (some of them words as ancient as the language itself) were as intriguing as the elasticity of the group members’ perceptual width. The overtures and denouement in the round-robins of ritualistic democracy were like matters of a sociometry where the pecking order of ideas, constructs, and metaphor reigned like a hungry wind sweeping the atmosphere for vapor to form its hopeful cloud of a wishful shower of meaningful sentiments.
On the other end of the gerontological divide, the myriad anticipations of youth were fascinatingly reminiscent of the human span of development. One among them reveled in the metamorphosis of a ‘fly-on-the-wall’ to a flitting ‘butterfly’. Synesthesia seemed a triumph of human imagination over ill-willed neurons. Another sought to appropriate all authority projected into him by a senior into the legitimate license for membership in the unformed group.  The power of the term in ‘referred power’ rang almost akin to ‘referred pain’ in the body. Yet another almost wrote the obituary to an experiment to the future of work organization, as a misadventure of the age of the internet and hand-held portable communication devices. The palpable loss of meaning in experiencing life in institutions resonated as strange reminders of the manifestation of hope without imagination.
I noticed how remarkably diverse thoughts, expressed motives, attribution of needs, and visions for the group seemed to dip into a deeper unconscious, eclipsed by an unvisited curiosity.  A name for the group remained elusive due to a poverty of agreeable description. The need for a label for the group seemed so superficial and yet so tempting as to devour the bulk of the shared time spent together. It also indicated an oft learnt coping or anxiety reducing mechanism, to identify with a point of view that had rallying-point potential. Dealing with an open space was itself a process rife with unmet expectations, each of which added to the spectrum of diversity that the space was capable of entertaining, hosting and accommodating.
Is leadership therefore the consequence of appropriating a void in such spaces that the many are willing to surrender to the few who articulate the modus operandi for control over meaning, relations and destiny of the group? The meaning of diversity had already elevated from the statistical count of Ph.D. qualifications in the group, and the number of practicing consultants. The richness of the phenomenon of diversity was a far cry from the inanimate numbers that represent gender, linguistic affiliations, and schools of practice. No wonder then the adage of leaders being dealers in hope. Leadership as process in groups is as important as life in groups itself, I thought to myself.