The Challenge of Changing Culture: Promise and Perils

I have been thinking a lot about how organizational cultures change and the challenges that are part of adopting and developing new cultural practices and norms. It is clear to me that culture change requires attention over time, reflecting on what is working and what is not, and a co-creative approach to help make it stick. But I have a cautionary tale about imposing processes that we believe in on people who aren’t ready.

This is a story from my years teaching at Sonoma State University, when I first began teaching a core curriculum course in humanistic psychology to undergraduate students. This was when I encountered an interesting culture change challenge, symbolized by moving chairs.  […]

2018-10-26T00:36:13+00:00October 25th, 2018|Change, Culture|0 Comments

Creating a Culture of Collaboration and Change at a College of Business Administration

Recently I teamed up with Laurie Durnell, The Grove’s co-president, to design and facilitate a visioning and culture development process with the College of Business Administration at Cal Poly Pomona. The college of six academic departments and more than 5,000 students needed to move beyond a culture of silos, update some of its administrative processes, and address what seemed to be a lack of opportunities for innovation. As the college was getting ready to celebrate its 50th anniversary and was shifting from a quarter-based to two-semester-based system, the timing was ripe for a major renewal process.

This is a story of how change methodology, dialogic practice, and visual facilitation combined to achieve a successful result, symbolized by the completed Grove Storymap® (see above).

Launching the Project

Our first step in the process was getting clear on the specific objectives. The dean of the college, Dr. Erik Rolland, asked us to:

  • Support the college to move beyond a culture of silos to become a culture that more fully embraces change, collaboration and innovation;
  • Develop a […]

Facilitating a Vision & Change Alignment Process for the University of California – Merced

Here is a case study written for The Grove Journal about one of several whole-systems change projects I have been co-leading with David Sibbet and other Grove consultants.

Driven by economics and demand, the University of California’s newest campus in Merced is expected to double in size by 2020. No fewer than 72 change projects faced Michael Reese, vice chancellor of Business Administration, in 2016 when he engaged The Grove’s Gisela Wendling, Ph.D., and David Sibbet to facilitate a campus-wide 2020 Visioning and Change Alignment Process.

The process combined large-scale strategic-change consulting, visual facilitation, Grove Storymapping®, and interactive-network technology in a series of large summit meetings with faculty, staff and students. The meetings were guided by a Change Alignment Team (CAT) of top project managers led by Reese and the former dean of the School of Engineering, Erik Roland.

At Chancellor Dorothy Leland’s insistence, the process streamed real-time to students, staff and faculty who couldn’t attend the face-to-face meetings. An interactive platform provided by Grove partner Covision allowed virtual and in-person table groups to share […]

Reflections on Racism and the Possibility of Social Healing

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 […]

2019-01-30T12:04:25+00:00August 17th, 2016|Culture, Dialogue, Social Change|2 Comments

An Invitation from the Greek God Hermes

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 […]

2018-09-25T23:51:49+00:00July 9th, 2015|Change, Culture|1 Comment

Hunting for Honey Ants

During one of my visits to the Central Desert to participate in the women’s ceremonies, several Aboriginal women went hunting for honey ants and took a friend of mine and me along. Before we left I knew very little about these ants except that they had a great cultural significance to the Aboriginal people. In the middle of the day we spent several hours out bush in the sweltering heat hunting and  digging for these ants and what we received in return was priceless. Aside from tasting the sweet nectar of these honey ants, I was able to witness the refined perceptive powers of Central Desert people, hear a story that sensitized me to the pain of Aboriginal women, appreciate the nourishing power of one of their bush foods, and see how Aboriginal symbols as found in many of their paintings reflect what we can observe in nature. Shortly after this particular trip to the desert I made the painting above to capture the story of our experience that day.

As we took off for the hunt, the burning sun penetrated our bodies and the red sand drenched in sunlight radiated heat […]

2019-02-02T01:06:02+00:00March 24th, 2011|Culture, Indigenous Wisdom|0 Comments

Altered States or Altered Realities

When I first became introduced into indigenous spiritual healing traditions, I began to experience things that were out of the ordinary and outside of the rules of modern western conventions that I grew up with. Many of these extraordinary experiences deeply resonated with me and somehow they felt familiar. There was a part in me that recognized the wisdom, knowledge and healing powers present in these ancient practices. However when trying to articulate and research my experiences, I often wondered whether or not what I was experiencing was real or imagined. Was I actually entering different realities, worlds and places or did I simply shift into an altered state of consciousness or awareness? After some research into these questions I realized that whether something is called altered ‘state’ or alternate ‘reality’ depends on the cosmology or ontology that one uses to understand, interpret or relate to an experience.

A cosmology is a set of beliefs about how the universe works and ontology seeks to define the nature of being, existence and reality. Both of these belief systems can vary dramatically from one culture to the next and profoundly shape how we see […]

Life As Ceremony

A few posts ago I shared my perception that ceremonies are a collective healing response to the existential experiences of being human. This clarity crystallized when I participated earlier this year in Women’s Business (Ceremonies) with Aboriginal Elder Women in the Central Desert. Previous experiences with indigenous ceremonies elsewhere, helped shape the foundations for this understanding.

Ceremonies in general are a way to step out of the ordinary goings-on of daily life to enter a sacred space for personal and collective healing through praying, singing, dancing, silence and the laying on of hands. Ceremonial practices generate movement toward wholeness and wellness by removing the blockages and heavy energy that we accumulate as part of living daily life. These blockages and layers of heavy energy prevent us from feeling and recognizing one’s belonging to this world, that we are an integral part of the great weave of life, and that the living energy travels among, through and between us.

My experience in the Central Desert reflected and confirmed other experiences I have had with indigenous people: in Africa with the Kalahari Bushman, with the Andean indigenous People of Peru, and with Native American ceremonies […]

Dreamtime or Time for Dreaming – One

I made the painting, Incubation: Lizard Dreaming, two months after I arrived in Australia. Making this painting was my first exploration of aboriginal symbolism and mythology and during the process the painting became a reflection of the rather ambiguous state I have been in. I want to share with you a few insights I gained into aboriginal art, symbolism and Dreamtime, as well as about this painting and myself. I share these small discoveries with sincerity as well as with a sense of humility because I am an eager and earnest learner, and because I otherwise would not muster the courage to reveal to you the cultural and artistic naïveté with which I approached the composition of this painting. Little did I know that in the end the painting turned out to be a depiction of an American lizard incubating the vision of a German woman amidst the shifting sands of the Australian desert.

 

Lizards

I was drawn to include a lizard in a painting for a couple of reasons. I had been intrigued by the many tiny lizards in our backyard and that there are over 520 species of lizards in Australia. […]

Parliament of World Religions – Two

(This is the second part of a two-part post.)

After the introductory remarks to the session Maama—The Untouchables Ones: From Cave to Canvas, several aboriginal elders invited us to participate in a smoking ceremony. What I gleaned from these aborigines about the ritual is that whenever they leave their land and enter another, they seek protection by burning special herbs and woods. The smoking ritual also protects those with whom they share their tradition – without doing the smoking ritual the aborigines would feel responsible for any misfortune or illness would come to the others.

I was rather surprised but also pleased when I saw the elders create a rather large billowing of smoke in the corner of this small conference room. Each one of us was invited to step through the smoke and breathe it in. The smoke was thick and the smell intense. Within moments the smoke penetrated the entire room and settled on our bodies. After some time and to no one’s surprise, a fire marshal entered the room to investigate the situation. At that point […]

2019-01-30T12:08:06+00:00June 17th, 2010|Culture, Indigenous Wisdom|0 Comments