Making Contact

Held at a distance: Pentonville Road, London

Held at a distance: Pentonville Road, London

"He lived at a little distance from his body, regarding his own acts with doubtful side-glances." ('A Painful Case' ~ James Joyce)


We seem to live our lives theoretically, staring through a filter that tells us something else should be happening.

As I met with a client this week, we tussled with the nature of organisational life and the ambitions we had for something different.  She said that, "We have our published work procedures and we're very happy with those, but we're not sure what to do with our incredible collection of stories and opinion pieces."

I was curious at how the generalised, abstract procedures differed from the energetic stories and lively points of view.

As we pay attention to what should be happening instead of what is happening, we join the search for the latest management approach, the newest 2x2 matrix, the most authoritative, popular, interpretation of what ought to be going on. And so we live mediated lives, devaluing our own experience of what is actually going on...

The price we pay for this kind of abstraction is found in the Dilbert-like conversations that go on in our workplaces and organisations. We begin to feel at odds with the 'system'  (built in accordance, of course, with all the best management theory) and are seen as 'disengaged' or even rebellious when we try to pay attention to the 'real world.' 

Jürgen Habermas speaks of how the 'system world', driven largely by money and power, colonizes the 'life world', the everyday world we share with others.  Of course, although the system depends on the life world of relationships, it also seems fair to say that many managerial approaches deliberately devalue our lives and pay little attention to our real, lived experiences.

What my client knew intuitively, was that better conversations and relationships are critical to developing energy and engagement in our workplaces.  

As we make better connection to our own experiences, instead of the theory of what should be happening, we begin to see through the abstract 'system'.  

And holding focus on real experience means we can make contact with what really matters in our lives.



I'm sure you'll be familiar with Dilbert humour but I can't resist this one about 'valuable assets and carbon paper'.

If you are prepared to take on Jürgen Habermas, you have my best wishes.  More accessible is Habermas: A Guide for the Perplexed.