Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Changing the games of imagining

One of the core work in systemic practice (or any consultancy?) is to facilitate imagining, in particular, helping people to imagine and generate possible and better futures for themselves and others

This past weekend I attended a workshop by Christine Oliver and Martin Miksits. The title was Imagining in Systemic Practice. I often follow what happens amongst the systemic practitioners and every now and then I am able to participate these events. This time the title with the word imagining caught my eye and there I was spending my Saturday with 15 other people. 

Imagining is a social process and the core of being human. What becomes imaginable and possible shapes our capacity of creating and shaping our patterns of communication with others. And our patterns of communication will guide what becomes possible for us to imagine. Therefore, imagining is, as Martin framed it, a relational, dialogic and discursive practice that is context bound. As imagining is a communicative practice, language plays a central role. "The limits of language are the limits of my world", said Wittgenstein. One could also say that the limits of language are the limits of our imagining.

When we are communicating we invite others and are being invited to different language games, which are shaping how we make meanings - and what we can and possibly could imagine. Martin presented three games of imagining that could be useful to become mindful of the games we are playing and are invited to. 

(Picture re-drawn from the materials of Christine Oliver and Martin Miksits)

The transformation game is about who do we (want to) become. This is the discourse where we imagine our way of being. This discourse has a high potential to effect change but it doesn't necessarily come without pain as things that are taken for granted are questioned and challenged. 

The exploration game is about what is possible and what does that mean. This is the discourse where we imagine possible futures, choices and options. This discourse invites playfulness as we are building a landscape of intended and to be avoided outcomes. 

The solution game is about how to get there. This is the discourse of imagining a process that helps us to move from the current to a desired state. This discourse provides focus and clarity but at the same time can narrow our imagining.

In the workshop we discussed how imagining is practiced in our work and how we have tried to change the games of imagining that were played. As a consultant I often get invited to the solution game: "we have this problem, tell us what to do" or "give us some concrete tools to handle difficult conversations". As a consultant you might try to invite the client to join the exploration game or even further, the transformation game! 

I also see a cycle in this framework, the solutions we create will influence the future possibilities (exploration) and who we are becoming (transformation), which in return will influence the solutions we are able to develop. My experience is that the solution game takes majority of our time, especially in a business context. How could we learn to pay more attention to the other games, and more importantly, how these games are interconnected? Would that build our capacity to make wiser choices about future? 

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