Also: gardening, and the perils of momentum…
What-ho and hello friends,
My previous post on Warlocks at Work did generate a lot of personal notes from folks to me—many more than usual. The notion of ‘Enterprise Egregores’ as emergent intersubjective entities that feed upon human sacrifice did seem to strike a very resonant chord. And the following workshop might be a way in which we can better ward ourselves from the more egregious effects the Enterprise Egregores might bring.
This is The Museletter of Dr Fox. If a friend forwarded this to you (🧡), you might like to have The Unkindness deliver future epistles to you, too.
Covid-19 has resulted in many of us spending a lot more time ‘working from home’. The boundaries between ‘work life’ and ‘home life’ were long since eroding. Now, they’ve all but disappeared.
… Or have they?
Is it possible for you to create spaces or zones within your home that are sacred and restorative? And is it possible for your workspace to feel somehow enchanted and conducive to productive flow?
After watching Kim attend one of Cecilia Macaulay’s virtual workshops, I would say, unequivocally: yes!
I did that thing where just one person registers for an online event, while the other lurks off camera. I was drawn to it. In one afternoon Kim and I learnt so much, and were able to act on these insights immediately.
I don’t know quite how to describe it, but: it’s enlivening. There’s a wholesomeness to our spaces now; a subtle vividness too. Previously, we used to save up for an AirBnB experience—to visit an enchanted home for a night or two, to feel that sense of abundance that allows us to read, imagine, work and ‘be’. Now: I feel like we have the sensibilities to be able to cultivate that in our own home.
Anyhoo: the workshop stayed with us in the weeks since. And in the meantime I found myself working with clients who were grappling with this global shift to working from home. Many were approaching this new world from a policy/insurance or software/productivity perspective. ‘How can we make this work for the company?’, they asked. Some even asked: ‘how can we make this work for our people?’ (an apt question!).
Well: none of us have all the answers. But I know Cecilia has worlds of experience and savvy to share. The kinds of insights that might change the way you relate to your home forever.
Enchanting Work at Home 🏡🌳
A virtual weekend workshop with Cecilia Macaulay (hosted by Dr Fox)
Spanning both Saturday 10th October 2–4pm AEST (utc +10) // 3–5pm AEDT (utc +11)
+ Sunday 11th October 2–330pm AEST (utc +10) // 3–430pm AEDT (utc +11)
Details and tickets here.
I suspect this ‘work from home’ notion will be with us for some time yet. Just a hunch. Work from home may even become the new nor—no wait; there’s nothing quite normal about any of this. Yet still, there are ways in which we can be far more intentional about how we relate to our work—and the spaces we make for it—in our home domain.
I’ve been friends Cecilia for many years now. She’s a fey enchantress (my words) who embodies a Way of Living I find so inspiring. And so it is with great delight that I shall be hosting an intimate and interactive virtual ‘weekend workshop’ with Cecilia Macaulay for you. If you suspect that maybe your home/work environment could do with some enchantment—if you seek more than just a spring clean, but something altogether more rejuvenating—this could be the workshop for you.
I lifted the following words from Cecilia’s website, to provide a hint as to some of the themes we shall explore together:—
How to Reduce Useless diversity, Increase Useful Diversity.
That’s the key to making systems that look after us, whether it’s a food forest, a company, or your own kitchen.
How to Make ‘families’ of objects.
Once you make these categories, you can make a happy home for each object to belong to, with its friends. This helps you see what you really need and what you don’t, and takes the decision-making out of tidying up.
How to Recognise ‘Mu’ or ‘creative void’, the Japanese Fifth Element, the element of creation.
Re-framing how you see emptiness will make letting go of clutter easy. This ‘sacred space’ protects against re-cluttering, and takes away the obstacles that discourage you from getting into action in the kitchen. Or in life.
Additionally, I imagine we might explore how you can cultivate the conditions for focus, flourishing and flow in our work from home. And more besides.
This is not some bleak/dystopian/cult-of-oblivion/black-skivvy/stark-white/sterile-minimalist vibe-thing. It’s about enchanting your home. Cecilia will share real-life makeover stories and images from decades of travels, while answering your questions, and I’ll be participating along with you.
This workshop is spread over two days, so as to allow us to actually do some home-work in-between the sessions. By gifting yourself (and/or your colleagues and friends) this opportunity, you are cultivating whole new worlds of potentiality for your own flourishing at home.
It is often very helpful to approach complex endeavours (eg: life) through the disposition of a gardener—which is perhaps why I find the notion of weaving permaculture principles into home and work life so attractive and apt. Here, we focus on the conditions, constraints and relational connections between entities (more so than fixating upon the entities themselves). And yet more besides.
A good gardener—attuned to the seasons and all the elements—might begin to intuitively discern patterns within the system itself (whilst also knowing they—we—are part of the system itself).
Tyson Yunkaporta speaks eloquently of such in Sand Talk:
“… People today will mostly focus on the points of connection, the nodes of interest like stars in the sky. But the real understanding comes in the spaces in between, in the relational forces that connect and move the points… If you can see the relational forces connecting and moving the elements of a system, rather than focusing on the elements themselves, you are able to see a pattern outside of linear time. If you bring that pattern back into linear time, this can be called a prediction in today’s world.”
And yet of course, most of our world is viewed through the lens of an ‘architect’ or a ‘mechanic’. We treat complex systems as if they were merely complicated, and then search for the ‘faults’ within the system that can be ‘fixed’ to make it all work better, like a machine. From this lens, we start using mechanistic metaphors (like ‘roadmaps’, ‘blueprints’ and ‘plans’) to somehow assuage the apprehension and anxiety that comes with ambiguity, uncertainty and unknowingness.
And, to be fair, there’s a charm in that—if deployed lightly and with mirth, ironically aware of the naïveté and hubris baked into any such assertions. ‘Plans’ serve as a helpful fiction to rally around; a hypothesis to which we can test our assumptions. But I would suggest that any mechanistic metaphors ought be softened somewhat.
A ‘mud map’ is probably more apt than a ‘concrete plan’. Both are made of the same material, perhaps (hopes and dreams?), only the former is more fluid, adaptive and responsive. The latter? Rigid, hard, unmoving; ‘fixed’.
We’re in the storm now
Complexity, ambiguity, paradox and doubt—this is the storm within which we must live, learn and lead. It’s always been thus, though for a long while we have been able to trick ourselves into thinking otherwise. Now, as we face into these transitionary times together, we ought foster the sensibilities of a gardener and tend to the emergence at play.
I shall be writing more on such in the coming times. The notion of ‘fluidity’—of ‘situational orientation towards relevance realisation’—is a key element of The Ritual of Becoming (which remains free for you, whilst I slowly update it). It’s been an element of the now very old responsive org manifesto. And it’s a key element of all complex adaptive systems (to which you and I are composed of and a part of).
The other day I saw Sir David Attenborough speak of the devastating rates of whole species extinction we are experiencing; of habitat loss and the pernicious impacts of climate change. These issues are far more profound for our human minds to fully comprehend—for to do so would surely lead to crippling levels of despair?—and yet it also leaves me with a compelling sense that we need to ‘act’.
But what does ‘action’ look like, in a complex system?
Hoho: I’m not falling for that trap!
But okay: sometimes, it looks like nothing.
To actively do nothing (as Jenny Odell writes of).
Or further: to quietly step back and away from the kinds of activities that do harm (or contribute to such). Nowadays, I hunt for absence as a signaller of care. For example: I look for sites that don’t use trackers/cookies and that don’t advertise with social media. It’s hard to point at what I am looking for, but the ‘lack’ of perversion is often a good indicator for wholesomeness. This is perhaps why I am finding so much charm in the independent web, and of more local-scale networks. Perhaps!
Of course: choosing to not choose to act is still a choice—a choice that will come with its own consequences. And so the paradox is in the knowing of when, where, and how to act—something we cannot know until it is so. Hence why we ought cultivate the savvy to discern patterns; and then to actively play our roles (as we perceive them).
Yet for more than a decade now, a popular ethos in Enterprise Land (as garnered from the many conferences I have witnessed) was that of ‘speed’, ‘growth’ and ‘optimisation’—all notions which lead a kind of hallowed ‘momentum’, wherein all the charts go upwards and to the right. That’s success, right?
Such momentum thrives off repetition—doing the same thing, faster and faster. Yet:—
Momentum inhibits reinvention
Momentum, in an enterprise context, brings you more of the same. It keeps you set on your current trajectory, making it incredibly difficult to ‘pivot’ (a word I have not yet fallen out of love for—though I equally appreciate ‘pirouette’).
And yet 2020—hellish as this year has been for many of us—has presented many of us with a chance to reinvent. The absence of momentum provides us all a chance to consider our current trajectory, and to ask ourselves: what might bring us closer to future relevance?
This question is at the heart of leading a quest; the precursor to any and all meaningful progress.
But what is ‘meaningful progress’?
Hoho again, I dodge your trick question. Surely it’s not answers you seek? All I can but provide is a glimmer of the sensibilities we might cultivate, so that we might foster the wit to find our way. Or better yet: to approach it all as a trickster might. 🃏
“Better to operate with detachment, then; better to have a way but infuse it with a little humour; best, to have no way at all but to have instead the wit constantly to make one's way anew from the materials at hand.”―Lewis Hyde, Trickster Makes This World: Mischief, Myth, and Art
In closing: seek the patterns that lie within the relational forces connecting and moving the elements of the systems you find yourself in. And be mindful of the metaphors you use—swap mechanistic for organic.
We’re all gardeners here; tending to that which is emerging.