Liminal Pathways Blog
Reflections on Racism
Recently I attended a ‘dialogue on race’ which my friend and colleague Ronita Johnson hosted. Somewhat by surprise, it led me to reflect on how my understanding and experience with racism, as someone born and raised in Germany, might be quite different from those who were born and raised here in the Unites States.
Many participants, both people of color and white people, shared stories of their earliest experience of racism. We also talked about American slavery, the current presidential elections, black pride, the police shootings, and other injustices that African Americans experience. We discussed the notion of race as an anthropological construction and racism as a symptom of a power system that is rigged toward the advantages of a few.
I walked away from this dialogue feeling quite stirred up and touched by the often heart-wrenching personal stories that were shared. “Is racism really about color, or is it about maintaining structural inequality so that a few can profit?” Questions are like doorways and guides for learning; I took this one with me from the dialogue.
This event led me to reflect on my own orientation. I came to the U.S. when I was 21, and my childhood in Germany was of course quite different from those who grew up in the American South or New York or Los Angeles. My early life was marked by Germany trying to come to terms with the Holocaust. As a child I remember that we were not allowed to tell jokes about Jewish people, although it was quite all right to tell jokes about our other ethnicities or nationalities. I also recall that no […]
Recently I was invited by Meridian University, where I also teach, to host a dialogue via videoconference on Crucibles of Change: Guiding Liminal Processes in Organizational Life. Here is the link to the video stream.
To me the crucible is a generative image. Once we come to understand what a crucible is, we begin to see it everywhere, especially in our work as change agents.
I invited Alan Briskin, author of Collective Wisdom, David Sibbet, my colleague at The Grove Consultants International, and Bethe Hagens, who I came to know years ago at an Anthropology of Consciousness conference. As an anthropologist, exploring liminality has been a significant part of Bethe’s research and academic work. The four of us had a wonderful dialogue. Here is the video link.
The Grove intensive Designing and Leading Change that David Sibbet and I lead explicitly explores how to identify and shape crucible-type situations and events in larger change processes. The Liminal Pathways Framework which we introduce in this three-day workshop indicates the crucible phase as the center of the transformative process—at the threshold or place of transition where one is no longer the old and not yet the new.
In chemistry, crucibles are used to melt metals and combine elements under strong heat. Alchemists used crucibles in an attempt to turn base metals into gold, and they explored how their own magical interactions might cause a transformation to occur. So the crucible has become a metaphor for human containers (or processes) that can handle a great amount […]
Statues at the Louvre
I just returned from an inspiring trip to Germany, Netherlands and France. David Sibbet and I led a public workshop on visualizing change for organizational consultants in Amsterdam and we spent time with several of the Grove Global Partners working on various new projects. The workshop focused on mental models and metaphors that capture increasing levels of complexity within systems as well as examining patterns of change—within individuals as well as organizations and larger system. We also looked at patterns of change by reviewing the Liminal Pathways Framework. It is always wonderful to see how quickly this framework for change resonates with workshop participants and clients.
While in Europe I also took a few days to visit Paris and read The Principle of Individuation: Toward the Development of Human Consciousness, written by one of my favorite Jungian writers, Murray Stein. The reading led me to explore the Greek God of Hermes and his archetypal role in transformational processes while all along being inspired by the historical and artistic backdrop of Paris, including a visit to the Louvre with its many representations of ancient Gods.
Stein’s exploration of Hermes is especially relevant within the context of understanding individuation—a deeply transformative and developmental psychological process that requires venturing through liminality, the uncertainty of the “in between.” Stein describes Hermes as the God of liminal space and so I was more than a little engaged in his thinking. Stein also applies his insights about the transformative process of individuation to the much larger cultural movements that shape our time, another passion of mine. I found myself very encouraged by his thinking. It is my […]
This brief article about my work at The Grove Consultants International was published in their Winter 2015 Journal. The Grove’s renewed focus on organizational and social change has been met with an exciting amount of interest and projects, including organization change and multi-stakeholder projects. Our increased focus on The Grove’s Learning and Exchange Network is generating a variety of new public offerings here in the US, Europe and Asia.
Introducing Gisela Wendling, PhD, The Grove’s New Director of Global Learning
By The Grove
Gisela Wendling, Ph.D., joined The Grove in June 2014 as a new senior consultant and Director of Global Learning. She brings to The Grove a fine-tuned mindset and deep experience in organization change. Gisela describes transformative change as a process occurring over time, with distinct phases and a momentum that, if guided well, can overcome obstacles and resistance.
New Grove Intensive: “Designing and Leading Change”
At The Grove we are finding a growing need for organization and culture change work. Getting long-term results involves dedicated effort over time and significant shifts in values, focus and ways of working.
One of The Grove’s new workshop offerings to address this need is the Designing and Leading Change Intensive, co-led by David Sibbet and Gisela Wendling. This 3-day intensive combines the use of Grove tools with the application of emerging change frameworks to real-time participant projects.
David comments, “As Charles O’Reilly, a wonderful Stanford Business School professor we’ve worked with, loves to say: ‘Culture trumps strategy.’ Integrating this kind of awareness into our work with clients greatly expands our ability to get results. Gisela brings a wealth of knowledge in this area.”
The Liminal Experience: Research and Practice
Gisela first heard of The Grove while a student of organizational development at Sonoma State University, from […]
California’s attempts, present and past, to help achieve effective water governance and sustainable water use have usually been riddled with contentious and conflict ridden interactions. Often attempts become ensnared in litigation between the diverse stakeholders rather than finding ways forward that address the real issue of limited water supply that all Californians must face.
Yet representatives on the California Roundtable on Water and Food Supply (CRWFS), came together over the past four years and agreed on a transformational, whole systems approach they called “Connectivity ” to address California’s water and food supply issues. This post reflects on how they can to this remarkable resolve […]
A significant change impacts not only what we can observe on the outer side of things; it is also a process that is deeply felt. On a day-to-day basis, however, we tend to forget this is so. We are comfortable with the familiar and are focused on getting things done. But when confronted with change, it can feel like a shock or deeply disruptive experience.
Change – whether sought or unwanted – disrupts our routines, pulls us out of our comfort zone and forces us to navigate new territory. We come face to face with the fact that change is a process initiated by something that has come to an end.
In his book Transitions (1980) William Bridges refers back to Arnold van Gennep’s anthropological work and names the three phases of change: 1) endings, 2) the neutral zone and 3) new beginnings. Of course, moving through the middle phase is not as dispassionate as the word ‘neutral’ would suggest—but more about the second phase in my next post.
Every transition begins with an ending. We have to let go of the old before we can pick up the new. Writing about endings, William Bridges introduces us to four facets of the ending process: disengagement, disidentification, disenchantment and disorientation. Even just reading these four words right after each other, we already begin to grasp the deeper nature of significant endings.
Invariably a significant life transition leads us to disengage from an old situation; an aspect of our lives that we were familiar with and able to count on has come to an end. This could be leaving a significant relationship or place of work, moving across state, finishing a significant project, or sending your child off to […]