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Development by Design: powerful simplicity to guide inner work for individuals and organizations

Updated: Feb 16, 2023

“Transformation of the world lies hidden within the undeveloped capacity of every person.”

Carol Sanford, The Regenerative Life

Would you and your organization like to be more resilient, responsive, creative, focused, energized and insightful? Do your current investments in creating behavior change deliver the impact you expect? These capacities require shifting perceptions to see the world with fresh eyes. They require development by design.

What is development?

Individuals, organizations, and human societies are facing enormous challenges. The good news is that human beings have an amazing capacity to adapt and make sense of the world in more complex ways, developing over time a way of interpreting and engaging with the world that is less ego-centric, less reactive, and more responsive to the demands of our rapidly changing, interdependent world.

Development is about perception. It’s about increasing awareness by expanding what the mind can see. The capacities we need to master greater complexity require a fundamental shift in how we see ourselves, how we see others and how we see the world around us.

You can think of development as the difference between information (what you know) vs transformation (how you know). Training and learning are about adding new knowledge and skills to the existing form or filter of information. Whereas development is changing the size and shape of the form or filter to perceive the world from a broader, deeper, and more comprehensive perspective.

Direction and alignment

Development follows a natural, recurring pattern that is scale-independent; it is the same for individuals, organizations, and societies. Over time people and all living systems seek to grow toward higher and wider reaches of their own potential.

Aligning individual and organizational development in the same direction is essential to achieve transformational change and transcend the limitations of yesterday’s models and habits. What is the shared vision for who and how you want to be? What are the behaviors you wish to see that would support and enable thriving in current conditions?

When the collective system develops a shared seeing and sensing of the emerging future, it acts as a catalyst for individual development. The independent “we” of an organization begins to operate at a higher level of awareness pulling all individuals along their own developmental pathway.

Daily practice: taking small steps

Development is not an intellectual exercise. It comes from direct experience with consistent practice. Development occurs gradually over time, not in a sprint to the finish line.

Regular practice includes three important steps.

· training your attention to expand awareness within you and around you.

· developing self-knowledge and self-mastery to uncover and let go of thoughts, beliefs, and behaviors that keep you stuck.

· taking action to incorporate new patterns of thought and behavior into daily living.

To create the conditions for development, organizations must foster micro-practices that can be done easily and consistently in two areas.

· Personal: a significant body of research shows that regular reflective and meditative practice accelerates the developmental process. Moments of stillness and observation enable people to tap into other domains of knowing beyond rational thinking. Becoming a witness to your thoughts and emotions enables you to transcend habitual patterns of thoughts and reactions.

· Interpersonal: increasing personal awareness opens the door for improved interpersonal communication. Learning to speak from an “I” perspective for common daily interactions such as feedback, appreciation and apology decreases the threat reaction for the listener and improves receptivity. For example, when this happened, I felt this way …, I noticed this reaction when you did... When I did this, I sensed your anger, hurt, confusion, frustration…

A map to guide the way

The biggest challenge with beginning and maintaining reflective practice is getting started. Archetypes, patterns of instinctual human behavior, provide a support structure for introspection: a map and clues of the unconscious territory to discover hidden assumptions we hold that help and hinder individual development.

Archetypes can also be valuable in shifting the cultural field by guiding individual development and organizational development toward greater aliveness, vitality, and capacity to create. Core archetypal qualities include: earth qualities (compassion, connection, loving kindness); fire qualities (determination, focus, discipline); water qualities (resilience, creativity, intuition) light qualities (presence, playfulness, gratitude). You can consider these qualities as primary colors that you can use to express your full humanity in the world.

It is possible to reset our course in a more positive direction for humanity and the world by activating more of our innate potential. Archetypes can guide the developmental journey by “engaging our feet to walk where deeper selves desire to go.” Carol Pearson, What Stories Are You Living?

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