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Creating Flow

The Freedom To Be

Tag Archives: HR

“What do you do?” We are often asked. The question leaves us stumped. Depending on who’s asking, our answers may range from – organisation development, HR consulting, leadership development or team building. Some people end up thinking we offer life skills. Well the actual answer is peculiar. We do neither of the above, yet all of the above. Let me explain.

First, why is it difficult to explain what we do? Second, what we do and what emerges out of it.

My work is purely experiential, hence difficult to explain. It is like asking someone eating a chocolate ice cream what does it taste like. He will say “it tastes like chocolate ice cream”. Now, if you have tasted chocolate ice cream you will recall that taste from memory. But if you have never eaten it before, then chocolate ice cream are simply words and you are as clueless as before.  Since what I do is not something I have experienced others do, I don’t really have words to explain it. In which case I use common words that people will relate to – OD, HR, Training, Coaching etc. Of course these have so many connotations based on the listener’s association with these words, that he simply puts my work under one of these buckets, and is quite satisfied thinking he has understood what I do. But that is not what I do.

So what do I do? Simply put, I engage people in conversations. With themselves or with each other. It is my belief that all that is manifest in the outer world is on account of the inner conversations of people. These conversations may comprise of beliefs, values, ideas, notions, concepts, theories, philosophies, prejudices, perceptions, views, opinions, judgements. Call it what you may, all these form part of our inner conversation, that becomes our self-identity. When this personal inner world relates to another person’s inner world it creates a relationship. When there are more people bound together, it creates a culture. Cultures gives rise to systems, processes, policies – stated or unstated- to manage a social unit. Be it a family, organisation or a nation.

In the work we have done, I have observed that engaging people in facilitative conversations brings awareness of mindsets, values, strengths, weaknesses, cultures, roles, systems. It also highlights how these are related to each other and helps to identify what is functional and dysfunctional in a particular situation. These conversations are very real. By that I mean pertinent to the person’s current life situation. Since neither of this is intellectual or cognitive, it impacts people at a feeling level. These conversations have the capability to impact mindsets and beliefs, during the course of the conversations itself. Even views the person may hold about himself. Quite unlike intellectual learning, where concepts are gathered, to be put to good use later. Which in my experience rarely happens. It only adds to the concept bank of a person, without creating any shift in consciousness.

So what use is this? The beauty of it is, that it can be put to any use. Ranging from helping individuals get in touch with themselves more deeply, facilitating full self-expression to building organisation cultures. The outcome is mostly a by-product of these conversations. A recent interview and interactive process we did with the leadership team of an organization to my mind built individual and group self-awareness, opened communication blocks, examined individual styles to organizational roles, identified key organizational blocks, built ownership to the organisation brand and vision and identified the next strategic initiatives for organizational growth. Did we start with these objectives? No. We simply started and ended with facilitating conversations that were unarticulated. Bringing multiple perspectives to awareness for exploration and enhancing the gestalt of an individual to experience himself and another. Whatever objectives were achieved, were an outcome that of that process.

I often tell people, what I do cannot be told or sold. It can only be experienced and recommended. People who have experienced our work and found value in it, become our brand ambassadors. We recently did a group coaching exercise for young adults, as a part of a two year leadership program called Gandhi Fellowship. Enclosed below is a testimonial from Tripti, the Head of that program. It was one of the most fulfilling assignments and the comprehensive testimonial is reflective of how we work. Even though the focus in this assignment was the individual and not the organisation, our approach in all cases remain the same. Facilitating the unsaid.

In conclusion I am reminded of the saying “The proof of the pudding lies in eating it.”

And, knowing what Flow does lies in experiencing it!

Testimonial from Kaivalya Education Foundation

{http://www.gandhifellowship.org}

Flow conducted a five day Personal Reflection process for the fellows of the Gandhi Fellowship program. The brief to Flow was to design a process that would enhance the fellows’ self-awareness, get them to systematically begin exploring the question, “Who am I?” and thus be able to reach clarity about themselves so as to enable each fellow to articulate to herself his/her early version of their ‘private dream’; which is a the pivot around which the Gandhi Fellowship program is designed.

 Flow had to design a process that explored the innermost questions of each individual but it had to be done in a group and it had to be designed for 40 people. How to design a standard process that can be customized to the needs of each individual? And most importantly how to do this an environment that is emotionally and psychologically safe? These were the issues around which Flow had to work.

 Added to this was the challenge that these were no regular corporate employees, who would do a process simply because they had been asked to. The Fellows are individuals who will not do anything only for the sake of it and they are people who will ask questions and demand reasons for what they are getting in to.

 Flow Consulting designed a process that effectively and intelligently worked around the above-mentioned challenges and constraints. The design of the process was accurate to the last minute and yet left room for ideas and emotions to flow when needed. Within a tight design there was room for adaptation, participation and even co-facilitation. The beauty of the process was that by the second day fellows themselves had begun to contribute to the facilitation process.

 The process stretched the limits of all, the fellows and of members from Flow Consulting too. A process of such intense nature that extends for five days can be a emotionally and psychologically draining but Ajay, Payal and Jaya flowed through the ebb and flow of intense emotions with consummate ease.

 What I appreciate most was their ability to connect with, respect and appreciate the uniqueness of the Gandhi Fellows. This attitude percolated to the fellows and so they were able to draw  real appreciation and respect from the Fellows.

The most evident outcome of the process has been that the Fellows have learnt how to accept the emotion they are feeling at a given moment and  then give word to their emotions. This ability to connect to the ebb and flow of one’s emotions is the first step towards taking responsibility for one’s feelings, which in turn is a giant step in reaching true maturity. Flow has made a huge contribution to this growth in the journey of the 40 fellows.

Tripti Vyas

Head: Gandhi Fellowship Programme

Kaivalya Education Foundation

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The room was well lit. The air, conditioned. The music, gentle. People in coats and ties, some sitting alone, others standing together. Quick handshakes, half smiles, polite conversations. A taste of corporate India one summer morning at the banquet hall of a star city hotel.

The banner read “Learning Conference”, a get together of HR and learning professionals. Practitioners and consultants. To learn about learning. Some eager to share what they had learnt. Others keen to learn from their learning. The power point ready to assist in the learning process.

The proceedings began with a talk. It answered- Why we are here? Why it is important to be here? What we can achieve by being here? A quick speech, delivered with eloquent flair. The audience reminded of their importance now seemed willing to learn.

The first slide flashed “Understanding Psychometric Instruments”, the topic of the day. “What is psychometric?” asked the sari clad elegant looking presenter. A senior executive of a leading consulting firm. A few hands went up. Each answer anticipating being the right response. The second slide flashed “psyche + measure”. A tool to measure the mind. Effectively employed while recruiting, training, assessing, developing human talent in an organization. Larger the numbers, easier the sifting process. Removing the chaff from the grain.

As the slides moved, the room seemed to be divided into vertical and horizontal lines. Square shapes everywhere. Boxes for everything. Measures. Outcomes. Performance. Talent. Growth. Each well explained, well sorted into its own box. The audience seemed satisfied. Things were becoming clearer. Knowing what went where. What cause, lead to what effect and vice-versa. Mental shaped problems fitting into conceptual shaped solutions. Learning seemed to be happening.

Yet another shape emerged within the boxes of that room. A wiggly wobbly hole. A gaping hole inside of me. As though devoid of soul. Seeking human touch. For no reason and no outcome.  Yearning for creativity and relating without any measure. Longing to speak a physical language, without words and numbers. The wiggly wobbly hole began wondering what was its place in a world full of concrete hard squares? Getting no answer it felt sad and disillusioned.

I carried the hole with me that day. Was humanity wrong? Or was I wrong, to question the working of the whole human race? A corporate machine, measuring every action and sorting people into buckets.  Every bucket to be poured into the ocean of organizational outcomes. The abstract had consumed the physical. Result had overpowered relating. Profit had overshadowed people. Index had depleted individual.  Every instinct in me cried, humanity was wrong. It was a lonely place. Being pitted against your own race. Seeing something, which others did not seem to see?  Yet something did not seem right. Making them wrong. Making me right.

As I sat watching the sea that night, the wiggly wobbly hole grew bigger. The isolation felt stronger. Each wave brought a new question, painfully lashing into the recesses of my being. What is the purpose of my life? Is there any value for my values, so distinct from the world at large? What am I to do?  What is my destiny? Each question left me feeling empty and hollow. Another part of me felt as though I was judging the world, putting myself on a higher pedestal than others. I felt lost. Was their a middle path, of holding onto my values, without being self-righteous?

The moon was full that night. Gazing luminously at the frothy sea.  Clouds like unrolled cotton balls, kept changing shape. The waves washed the sands, leaving new imprints with every sweep. The sea breeze carried its salty sticky flavour to the shore, with a differing force each time. The canvas kept moving changing. It occurred to me that everything in nature is wiggly wobbly. No concrete shape, unlike a man made world. No boxes, no squares, no triangles. Shapes keep changing, merging seamlessly into each other, giving birth to new shapes. The moon, the sea, the sand, the breeze and the enveloping blue darkness are all one. Doing a cosmic dance ordered by a supreme intelligence.  With a deep conviction that the immediate now, whatever its nature, is the goal and fulfillment of all living.

Perhaps we humans are a part of that cosmic dance too, only we don’t realise it. As though suffering temporary amnesia and forgetting our oneness with existence. And the perfection of what Is. Even when it seems imperfect. Cutting the physical world into pieces through the scissors of the mind, using dual blades of number and words. Finding fault with it. Then trying to rectify it with effort and outcome.

Suddenly in that moment, words began to crumble. Corporate, non-corporate, values, right, wrong, me, them, squares, holes. All of them. The concrete inner world of concepts became wiggly wobbly. It gave way to an empty silence, in touch with physical sensations alone.

In the silence, all wrong become right. Infact there was no wrong or right. Just IT. An intense impersonal aliveness of the now! IT, was the simplest word to describe a wordless reality.  All purpose became purposeless. Things were the way they were. The way the world functioned and what I felt about it was part of  IT. They were not separate. They were part of the same dance. There was a silent acceptance of them, of me and our disagreement. Also the acceptance of the illusion that separated us.

This was the isness of life.

This is IT.

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