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Staying With the Unknown

My Israel-based organization development colleague Allon Shevat wrote that the most important skill for an OD practitioner is the ability to stay with the unknown.

Here is an excerpt of his note: “…we can’t cope well with ambiguity. I was trained on the knees of the Tavistock model which helped me more than almost anything else to navigate well through unknown complexity. If you want to add to what else helps to deal with ambiguity, then delve into eastern belief systems, live in a country that lost an empire like the UK, or come to Tel Aviv for a week.”

Paraphrasing him, the most important skill for an OD practitioner is the ability to navigate and cope with complexity, the unknown, and the ambiguous. Or as Allon said, to stay with the unknown.

Amen to that.

When I think back to my earliest OD training, as an undergrad in the Human Communication Interaction Lab at Rutgers, that was my number one learning.

My gurus were masters at the unknown and ambiguous. Their standard answer when we would come to them begging for answers was, “Figure it out.”

I can still remember hearing myself say, when people would ask me what I am majoring in, “Not knowing.”

In today’s organizational world, this is an especially vital capacity. The ability to tolerate ambiguity, to trust, to hold the questions, to go with the flow, to listen and observe, to be patient, to deepen appreciation for the mystery in life, to cultivate mindfulness.

What do you think? How important is this competency in your view?

Posted on Tuesday November 13, 2012 by Terrence Seamon

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