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The walls within: working with defenses against otherness

Online Conference 5-11 July 2021

Leaderly Learning: Understanding and Improving the Learning Capacity

Petzinger (1999) has proposed that a revolution is underway in business that is transformational in nature and scope and is driven by dramatic and continuous change in the market place, where companies and industries can be merged, acquired or eliminated overnight. Transformed by the explosion of technology and information, successful organizations now '...deploy technology to distribute rather than consolidate authority and creativity. They compete through resilience instead of resistance, through adaptation instead of control' (p. 17). Blending an emphasis on humanizing organizational structures, more effective learning cycles and improving collaborative efforts within and outside the organization, Petzinger identifies the sources of innovation and corporate wealth as those entrepreneurs within the companies themselves. 'Pioneers' are those employees, especially attuned to the needs and wants of customers, and less concerned with 'selling' a product (p. 51). These pioneers develop '...a seamless cycle in which the customer and producer become inseparable' (p. 85). Demonstrating the importance of maintaining a creative direction, Pascale (1990) argues that many organizations experience failure as a result of previous success.Of the corporations in the Fortune 500 rankings five years ago, 143 are missing today. (By comparison, in the twenty-five years, 1955-1980, only 238 companies dropped out.) While it is by no means true that all of these companies foundered for the same reason, the foible common to most was that they took a good thing too far (p. 11). Pascale suggests that the problem with success is its tendency to breed a mindset or paradigm that results in missed opportunities. Success can cause an organization to train managers to focus more on stability than on adaptability. The paradox that exists for organizations is to acknowledge that the secrets to their current success may not offer a prescription for survival in the future. The need, Pascale suggests, is to make best use of the human resources available in the organizations, to generate new approaches and new paradigms. 'The essential activity for keeping our paradigm current is persistent questioning. I will use the term inquiry. Inquiry is the engine of vitality and self-renewal...the ultimate, and largely ignored task of management is one of creating and breaking paradigms' (p. 14). Needing to exist at the core of this spirit is a low-fear, high-trust work environment where emerging and potential 'pioneers' feel more willing to invest their minds, hearts and energies into the enterprise (Ryan & Oestreich, 1991). The organization in contemporary society needs employees who are willing to risk questioning current assumptions and propose new approaches and new ways of thinking. 'People who make waves and spark contention are regarded as assets, not liabilities' (Pascale, p. 31).