Last week 9 of us gathered for our monthly Participative Leadership Practitioners Circle. It was a reconvening after taking the summer off. It was opportunity to welcome my good friend and colleague Roq Gareau to share some of his experience, particularly on working with stories and symbols, from the mythic to the personal, as navigation systems for working with complexity. Another way of saying that is, “Working With What Is In Front of You to Make Things Better.”
First, a check-in that included invitation to share a bit of story about what people experience as complex in their lives.
Second, the telling of the story of “Half Boy” (see further here from Michael Meade, author and men’s movement leader). From the telling of the story, Roq invited each person to pick one thread, or one symbol that stands out to them from the story.
Third, we chronologically reordered how we were sitting based on the threads and symbols that we each chose from the story. Then we spoke to why that symbol caught our attention and how that connects to the earlier checkin we spoke on complexity. It was a reweaving of the story from each of the individual lenses.
Fourth, some continued exploring and a check-out of appreciation and learning.
I experienced it as powerful learning. Helpful process. To me, the skill of noticing the symbols that hold our attention are the ones that create the most helpful learning. It is a question I often ask of people — what has your attention now? This can be asked of a meeting, a project, a dream, a mythic story. The symbol catches what we are projecting and how we are creating meaning and narrative. Thus, attention to the symbol can offer rich, rich learning.
It is my experience that working in this way creates a helpful and needed alternative to working with more analytical and linear ways of thinking. And that people quite like it.