An Everyday Inquiry

by John Nicholson, GLA Coach

Yesterday, I read a devotional in the morning which described ‘liminal space’ (‘an inner state and sometimes an outer situation where we can begin to think and act in new ways… we usually enter liminal space when our former way of being is challenged or changed… in such space we are neither certain nor in control’).  Later, while doing some household DIY, I listened to a podcast on ‘transformation’ featuring the inspiring lady, Dr Monica Sharma (author of Radical Transformational Leadership), who encouraged the practice of regularly inquiring into aspects of our lifestyles – not to judge ourselves but to discern what we must do (e.g. I say I do not want to contribute to climate change but do I take flights) and the courage that is required to speak truth to power… ‘it is this that we need to inquire into – am I courageous enough to be able to call out actions that are not ok, norms that are not ok, rules of the game that are making sure that wealth is and remains concentrated, am I able to speak without making human beings wrong but call out that the action is not ok?’.   And later that evening as part of Film Night with my 22yr old daughter, I watched the film ’12 Years a Slave’ set in 1840s America.   

So what? Well, if I reach for my Vertical Development lenses, I think I can pick out how each of these can illustrate an aspect of Action Inquiry / Vertical Development (and the Expert state of me wants to get this right and is feeling concerned that I might not, not completely anyway…): 

The description of liminal space reminded me of a description of an aspect of the stage of Redefining (‘This can be a confusing time as these individuals often lose a sense of surety in themselves and with the organisation’s processes and structures’).  In my own experience it was / is a place ‘without certainty or control’ (or at least an awareness of the reality that control is often a charade) – a place of discombobulation. 

Monica Sharma’s thoughts and encouragements to keep inquiring, echo those of the practice of Action Inquiry – which can foster first, second, and triple-loop learning:  what tweaks do I need to make to the way I am going about things?  Or do I need to reassess my strategy completely?   Or do I need to consider this from a completely different paradigm and radically re-think and change my approach? 

And the practice of mid-1900s slavery – an example of the Opportunistic use of coercive power ‘might makes right’ with some of the Diplomatic positional power (using power to protect vested interests) thrown in.  The story is harrowing and repels me, but (linking back to Monica Sharma) prompts me to inquire: are there structures, systems which I tacitly support or we unwittingly support as a family or as a culture, or our legal system supports, which sustain modern day slavery (which I think could be viewed as a first, second, and third person Inquiry)?

There is more that could be pulled out to illustrate, but that’s enough for now.

What will tomorrow bring, I wonder.

John Nicholson, GLA Coach

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