The Culture of Consumption and The Culture Dispoistion
In working with organizations to develop the creative potential of people there is a central question I am always needing to address. It is the question of “How long will it take?”. This is a necessary question since people need to understand the investment of time and energy required, so it is not one I dismiss. But within that simple question is a larger issue that must also be addressed. It focuses on what my friend Robert Kelly refers to as a culture of consumption and a culture of disposition.
Culture of Consumption:
A culture of consumption treats information, training and exploration as something to be taken in to satisfy immediate needs. Thus the ability being developed in people is valued in regard to whether it can meet the identified challenge in a timely way. Characteristics of activities within a culture of consumption is that they are short in duration, require minimal commitment from participants and can be delivered to large numbers of people. There is no expectation that the ability explored within a session needs further investigation or mastery. People should be able go out and apply what was demonstrated. Ability gained through this approach connects to existing knowledge so it does not ask people to change their way of operating within the situation.
Even though I have not described this in the most glowing of terms, there is a need for this type of engagement. Used at the right time, work that draws upon the characteristics of a culture of consumption (and does it well) is remarkably powerful. The question is more the issue of this way of engaging being the default.
Culture of Disposition:
Disposition is not a word we use much anymore. Our disposition is our way of facing the world; a mixture of personality, character, experience, and history. I do not believe that our disposition is fixed but rather that it is an ever evolving culmination of our interaction with the world. And since I believe our disposition is not fixed, I also believe it is open to development and exploration. Our disposition is something we can create and expand. The question is merely in what way do we wish to develop.
A culture of disposition seeks to develop ability by addressing the question of what is being asked of us within the situation. Instead of focusing only on what needs to be done immediately, a culture of disposition seeks to understand who do we need to be in to do what needs to be done. Therefore it requires a longer investment of time, smaller groups of participants and an individual approach to the work. A culture of disposition also requires a continual engagement with the learning through practice and a pursuit of mastery. It will ask us to question our usual way of operating within a situation, possibly demanding we give up old patterns of behavior.
Now even though I write about this in more glowing terms, I do not believe that developing disposition is the answer for everything. It requires a deep investment of time, energy and a situation that allows people to continue with the status quo as this work is done.
So when I am asked “How long will it take?” the larger question I feel I must address is “Within what culture will we be operating?” Is what is required by the challenge something that can be addressed through an improvement in present abilities or will it require the development of new ways of being? And more importantly are both of these options available? Is work done to develop the disposition of people valued at the same level as work done to improve the skills of people?