In order better to understand the unique flow of social life, Norbert Elias argues, we must adopt the perspective of both the airman and the swimmer. Unlike many objects in nature which are relatively unchanging, society is riven by tensions, disruptions and explosions. ‘Decline alternates with rise, war with peace, crisis with booms’. These disruptions are driven by the interweaving activities of highly social, interdependent people like ourselves competing and co-operating to get things done. Elias argues that it is only from perspective of the airman that we are able to gain some detachment, a relatively undistorted view of the order of the long course of historical changes and the way we are forming and are formed by them. These long-term historical trends are extremely hard to resist even by very powerful coalitions of people or groups. However, there is nothing inevitable about our actions and reactions to the processes in which we find ourselves participating. But only by adopting the perspective of the swimmer, who is obliged to take action in the moment itself, is it possible to see how varied are the different pressures that are brought to bear on the particular circumstances in which find ourselves acting, in order that we might create opportunities to bring about outcomes of a different kind. (more…)
Archive for April, 2012
Taking the perspective of the airman and the swimmer – reflections on the ethics of organisational change
Posted in Business ethics, complexity, leadership, management, politics of everyday life, Values, tagged entrepreneurial leadership, ethics, forum theatre, involvement and detachment, Norbert Elias on April 30, 2012 | 10 Comments »
An invitation – to discuss the impact of the DMan on your practice and leadership
Douglas Board and I are two graduates of the DMan programme, graduating with our doctorates in 2010. Since then new avenues have opened up for us both. One joint piece of work is a book commission from Palgrave Macmillan: it is likely to be called The Social Development of Knowledge and Leadership.
At this year’s CMC conference we are looking invite you to a conversation around the following: for those people who have experienced the DMan programme (current, past and even prospective) how has the deeply reflexive process changed and how does it continue to change your leadership? Linked to this we are also interested to explore how your developing leadership has affected those whom you work and interact with. And, what does this say about our knowledge of organisations and what we all do together in the process of organising?
It would be great to share narratives or ideas on this, even before the CMC conference is underway. Please feel free to post your thoughts here and to get others involved, or to drop me a note directly, particularly if you would like to hear more of our ‘project’.
A frequent complaint to be heard in many group situations is the remark ‘it doesn’t feel safe here’.
So common is this utterance that I wanted to give some time to exploring its implications for the dilemmas we face in working with groups of all types.
The remark is most likely to be heard openly voiced in the experiential setting of training and psychotherapy groups . However I suggest that it is a common phenomenon in the politics of all groups, often expressed more covertly as an internal dialogue or within a subgroup, which configures before and after meetings.
The questions raised through this complaint are therefore also relevant to the politics of the workplace as well as to the challenges of experiential group work. The remark concerning safety in the group setting is often spoken with a tone of admonition as if responsibility for feelings of safety lay elsewhere and outside of the participation of the speaker and often, although not exclusively, with some figure of authority such as a course leader, therapist, chairperson or parental imago.
The implication is that if only the ‘feeling of safety’ prevailed that full and uninhibited participation in the group’s activities would ensue. (more…)
This is just a reminder to those of you who are considering attending the CMC conference, 8-10th June 2012, that the early bird discount finishes on Friday 21st April, i.e. in just over two weeks’ time.
The theme of the conference is Complexity and ethics: practical judgement in everyday politics and the guest speaker is the distinguished critical management scholar Professor Hugh Willmott.
UH has now set up a payment page here:
As usual there will be lots of opportunities for discussions throughout the weekend.