In which direction is the pen moving?

Grab a pen. Hold it straight up in the air and start “drawing” a circle on the ceiling, in a clockwise direction. Keep drawing and looking up. Now, as you continue to draw the circle clockwise, slowly start to bring the pen down a few inches at a time until it is in front of your face, and eventually bring it down until you are looking down on top of it as you keep drawing the circles.
In which direction if your pen moving?

At this point, it will be moving in an anti-clockwise direction. Huh? But how is that possible? What happened? Don’t worry, you didn’t “do it wrong”, it is not a trick. The pen did not change its direction, but your perspective of it changed and suddenly the “system” didn’t look the same.
This simple yet insightful exercise (adapted from The Systems Thinking Playbook by Linda Booth Sweeney and Dennis Meadows) highlights the need to consider systems, like our organizations, from multiple points of view, especially if we want to identify new leverage points for their transformation.

When we think about this in the context of trying to discover transformational organizational development leverage points, maybe it is worth reflecting on questions such as:

  • Do we co-design our OD interventions with people who have different perspectives, or different people with the similar perspectives?
  • Do we co-design and co-create targeted programmes, like those focused on young talent, with the actual talents we want to develop or do we do the programs for them? Or to them?

There are many tools and methodologies available to help us invite, integrate and co-create solutions with these multiple perspectives and in my experience, this approach not only delivers better, more innovative solutions, but also increases engagement and development of those who co-create, eventually supporting smoother implementation of the outcomes

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