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August 28, 2016


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Mary Eggers

Being an artist as well as an organization consultant, I’m celebrating that the arts are finding their way into your thinking. My thoughts come from the work I’ve done for the past 20+ years and a woman that mentored me early on, Kathie Dannemiller; they also come from what I see happening in the world and specifically my part of the world, the US.

In response to your question: Is the term polysemous a justifiable label for the way we organize in our contemporary world to do business, to make progress in society? I hope what is emerging is a hybrid as I still see the need personally and in my work with organizations for vision and I believe where polysemous comes in is in who shapes that vision. You know my work and the emphasis on inclusion – as I write the phase “inspired inclusion” comes to me. I think what I mean with this is individuals within an organization or society feel inspired to share their voice because they know if will be heard, perhaps not always taken into action and always heard.

When working with organizations I often encourage folks to listen to see the world the speaker sees, to remember that each person’s truth is truth – to them and when posing questions to a speaker to make them questions of understanding. These are quite different from what we normally do, which is to listen with the thought of how we will respond or how we will disagree or challenge. Organizations/societies have always been made up of multiple realities and for some this awareness has been welcomed and for other not. Our individual reality has been shaped by thousands, perhaps millions, of small experiences in our lives. The critical question, I believe then is - how do we help people see the whole of an organization or society, see what others see and appreciate the differences?

It is interesting for me at this moment in time to think about how one helps people see the whole and appreciate the differences when in the US (and other places in the world) at the highest level there seem to me to be a debate. The debate is between two camps, one that wants to unite us in collaboration and in hearing each other, which has at least the possible of helping one seeing a larger view that might impact their own thoughts and actions and one that wants to divide us and make us fearful of differences.


When you say "mechanic reductionism," my immediate reaction is to say "well of course, who would do that, it is so archaic." Then I think of my, our collective day to day lives and all of the instances where I, we do just that. Sometimes as Ron Heifetz points out, it may be appropriate. Quite often our modern world calls for a different kind of response.

Personal email to Barry

Russ Ackoff: "Effective managers to not SOLVE problems, they dissolve messes." Meaning mechanic Reductionism is not a real or permanent solution?? I think so.


You are the second of the thoughful people who responded to my blog post indicating that the post exceeded their immediate powers of mental concentration. I deem this to be an important message from the Universe. In the end, I would like to be writing for an audience. It is likely that in this case, my enthusiasm got the best of me.

I liked your comment that "everyone must stake out their own comfort zone bounded by the vague parameters of the problem."

We each have thoughts, reactions which start out within our own comfort zones. We each have our own reality. The idea of this all occurring within the "vague parameters" of a problem alerts me to what we are learning from Design Thinking which is to be successful we have to have defined and have clear parameters of the problem. We previousy learned this from the Kempner-Tregoe people. I don't know if in my post, I was allowing for a problem to be vague. In any enterprise, we should start out with a defined problem or challenge such as "reducing administrative costs across the member institutions."

The value of approaches like Design Thinking is to move us beyond our comfort zones. Sometimes, it takes an organized effort to accomplish this. My post probably could have focused less on emphasizing a laissez-faire world where we just remain with our thoughts.
I believe that what creates progress is when several people alone with their thoughts and the meanings they make reach out to one another to create shared meaning, i.e. "let's tackle this problem."

Your next comment is very Shakespearean in that multiple people could come up with a variety of interpretations. I am referring to the part which starts with " Newtonian or post-Newtonian thought."

In this, you raise an interesting question: What is a reality-based solution? In the past, did a Newtonian effort to arrive at a singular solution guided by Science or the Church capture reality? What is reality? Did the several Newtonian Laws succeed in capturing reality? This question is beyond my own powers of immediate mental concentration. Is reality what Steven Jobs might have said what we make of it? Or what those who created a viable new enterprise from just an idea made of it?

I recognize based on your comment that I left space for our communities or institutions to be based on many personal meanings (which they are) where people strive not to contradict or undermine the meanings of others.

This requires some additional clarification on my part. In one network, a member institution declined to be part of one specific larger project because it diverged from their own view of reality. The network continued because people were willing to live with the meaning making of others recognizing that there are many occasions where the meanings coincide or where each is willing to allow their own meanings to be impacted. I think the last comment is the difference. We show up with different meanings but are willing to allow our meanings to be impacted. I believe we call this being collaborative. It is the most important criteria for membership in a network and perhaps in an organization.

Bottom line, I allowed myself to be more thoughtful at the cost of being less direct than I could have been. However, I did succeed in our chaotic world of allowing space (with the help of Shakespeare) for others like yourself to raise some challenging and perplexing questions which both contradicted my own reality, impacted my naivete and helped to illuminate other paths.

The result is not something that I fully understand but I guess that is the point.

Personal email to Barry

This concept appears to demand a lot more "thinking" time than my mind can manage at this moment.

The reaction I had was paradoxical, but agreed with your synthesis of multiple meanings, multiple solutions, at multiple times along the time continuum to the point that everyone must stake out their own comfort zone bounded by the vague parameters of the problem. Newtonian or post-Newtonian thought about alternative solutions-based in turn on multiple or conflicting assessments of the one true reality, which would seem to shift the essential process away from defining reality-based solutions and moving to identification of personal solutions that do not excessively contradict or undermine those solutions others may have imagined. Like free speech: we sorta' know what it is supposed to be, but everyone decides for themselves where the boundary is or isn't.

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