Psychological safety is a fundamental prerequisite for creating a learning organisation and for reducing the organisational and individual bias against creativity. Yes, you read correctly, humans have a bias against creativity at both a collective and at an individual level. Overcoming that bias is only possible in a safe environment that includes people with neurodivergent cognitive lenses. Neurodiversity is the at the core of creativity.
A genuinely safe environment allows people to be themselves, take risks, make mistakes, raise problems, ask questions, and disagree.
Does your organisation offer safety?
Creating collaborative learning organisations / ecosystems is as much about unlearning traditional management techniques from the industrial era, as it is about reacquainting ourselves with our innate collaborative tendencies and relearning how to be curious and how to think critically.
The limits of industrial era thinking have been recognised for many decades as illustrated in this classic dialogue between Russell Ackoff and W Edwards Deming.
Note the comments on idealised redesign, institutionalised dysfunctionality, and the interconnections between learning and teaching.
Many organisations today are still stuck in the information age – trying to “monetise” information, ignorant of how to transition to the knowledge age – which benefits from creativity, trusted collaboration, niche construction and knowledge flows, rather than from simplistic information flows.
Learning is catalysed by providing safe open spaces
The value of open spaces is obvious to regular CIIC attendees, but it is not widely understood by most organisations, usually as a result of never having experienced genuinely safe open spaces in a world dominated by busyness as usual and delusional conceptions of success and performance.
S23M is facilitating a CIIC-style Open Space workshop in relation to the healthcare sector in New Zealand on the topic of this blog post (trust building, thinking, and learning tools to create an inclusive culture) at the upcoming HiNZ conference on 21 November in Wellington.
This workshop brings together a broad range of professionals working in the healthcare sector, academic researchers, and creative innovators to jointly tackle wicked problems that don’t have an obvious solution. In most cases deep innovation and breakthrough improvements in performance are the result of an interdisciplinary effort, drawing on insights from disciplines that lie beyond the focus and capabilities of any single organisation. Whilst the level of automation is rising in many domains, human tacit knowledge, situational awareness, and the ability to develop trusted relationships amongst peers and with patients are critical elements of optimal service delivery.
The organisers encourage participants to submit concrete problem statements in advance and to bring along their culture and collaboration challenges for discussion with peers in Open Space.
If your work relates to the healthcare sector, you are invited to register and attend.
Learning how to ask good questions
The questions one is able to ask depend on one’s entire prior life experience, and the same constraint applies to one’s interpretation of the answers received and the resulting interactive flow of further questions and answers.
Similarly, the mental models one is able to draw on white boards and represent in other media, as part of answering questions and sharing of knowledge depend on one’s entire prior life experience.
These constraints hint at the value of cognitive and experiential diversity within teams and organisations.
In a world that is dominated by the linear format of spoken and written language, it may not be obvious that the human ability to ask valuable questions and to develop explicit abstract representations of advanced forms of deep knowledge is not dependent on linear representations.
It is no accident that all useful meeting rooms are equipped with a white board.
Knowledge recorded in artefacts such as stick charts from the Marshall Islands illustrates that written language is not a prerequisite for inventing powerful non-linear representations of knowledge that capture details that are impossible to convey efficiently and reliably in a linear stream of spoken or written words.
Such compact representations of knowledge also illustrate that humans have been aware of the limitations of linear representations for a long time. Otherwise we would have had no need to invent stick charts or any of the other non-linear representations that we make use of in our mental worlds, which find their way into works of art and artistic performance, into widely used visual iconography, into the visual notations used in various mathematical theories, and into the ever growing pool of digitised versions of all of the above.
Creating safe open spaces within your organisation
By attending the quarterly CIIC workshops you can observe and contribute to open space in the public domain, share experiences with creative and neurodivergent people, and learn about critical thinking tools that can assist your organisation to imagine and realise ideas that are incompatible with busyness as usual.