Big Tent : Narrow Door

When thinking about change, how do you enable greater diversity in your processes?

This week I attended the Future of Work is Human Big Tent. There were lots of interesting, necessary and at times fascinating subjects on the agenda.

  • National alienation and class
  • Power
  • Implications of the 100 year life
  • Helping enterprise flourish
  • The human responsibility of business
  • A universal basic income
  • Actively removing fear of discrimination: the economic case
  • Pay and incentives – the need for fundamental reform
  • Education: time for a system by-pass?

I scribbled a lot of notes which I’ll write up and share soon.

The tent (it wasn’t a real tent, we were at Central Hall Westminster) was indeed big, and I felt it had a very narrow door through which we passed.

I heard some good stuff, and would have preferred a more involving, inclusive, action orientated approach, with less reliance on the sage on the stage, which was loaded with white privilege*. I’m not saying the views from speakers weren’t valid, they often were, and I think a richer picture would have been painted with a more diverse approach. If the shock I experience since Brexit has taught me anything, it’s that I frequently exist in a bubble, and I need to diversify where and how and from whom I seek understanding.

During the event, there was an acknowledgment of how we hire in our own image, and general agreement of that being a limiting and often flawed concept, yet the audience seemed to have been recruited in that way. There is a risk this will lead to a lack of diversity in thinking, the success of this work requires a shake up in how people are engaged with it.

big-tent-doodle

At times, the discussion felt quite abstract, quite overwhelming. I developed a headache towards the end of the morning which I managed to ease through a bit of doodling, then someone at our table called out the abstract nature of the discussion, and suggested we tell stories of small things we’re already doing to make change. Stories of togetherness, trying something new, dog walking, art, and parties all followed. That lovely, useful, and simple idea brought the conversation back to a more applied level, and I felt it beginning to galvanise us at the table. Coincidentally, and in support of this, Johnnie Moore shared thoughts from a book by Shawn Achor called The Happiness Advantage on Facebook later:

“Goals that are too big paralyze you. They literally shut off your brain, says Achor. Here’s what happens to your brain when faced with a daunting goal or project:

The amygdala, the part of the brain that responds to fear and threats, hijacks the “thinker” part of the brain, the prefrontal cortex, says Achor. The amygdala steals resources from the prefrontal cortex, the creative part of the brain that makes decisions and sees possibilities.”

I’m grateful for the invitation and pleased I went. An interesting morning indeed.

*Someone had the courage to call this out part way through the event. I don’t know his name, but thank you, whoever you are.

2 thoughts on “Big Tent : Narrow Door

  1. Sukh Pabial

    Doug, thanks for writing this and sharing your thoughts.

    As you know, I’m quite attuned to the conversation around privilege and inclusion. It’s becoming so prevalent for me, these days, that it’s now becoming a lens that I have to look through wherever I go.

    I’ve just read a piece by a lady called Jenn Mattern about her experiences of white straight men who used their privilege and power to try and sexually control her in different way from the age of 11 to 39. It’s not easy reading and it just makes me so sad.

    The reflection in audiences and in conference panels and speakers is beyond stark. Kudos to the person who spoke up and voiced it. I’m growing in my strength and confidence to do this more openly.

    Reply
  2. Pingback: Notes From A Big Tent » Ethos » The Future of Work. Now

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