The Rehearsal Process

Inquire : Create : Perform

Developing the relationships that promote creativity and innovation. Applying those relationships to create performances to meet challenges.

The Space of Creation

We shall now move to the other side of the continuum and explore the space of creation.

I believe that all great performances – performances that reveal publicly an understanding of a question or challenge with such insight they shift what is possible – start in the space of creation.  And I also believe that great performances start here not because people are thrown into this space by circumstance but because they enter it by choice.  Either because they feel compelled to address a question or because they realize that their present performance no longer meets the challenge they face. 

When we step fully into a space of creation, no possible performance is visible (or should be visible yet).  Entering into the space of creation asks us to release what we presently believe about the question or challenge (beliefs often based on past patterns, current knowledge, personal biases, etc).  In the course of the work we will develop our understanding, discover our performance, and become ready to reveal that publicly.  At the beginning though, there is only a letting go and a clearing.

Question: what are the practices, rituals, or rules of thumb that you each use to release and clear space (both for yourself and with groups)?   

 Since the space of creation is the place from which our performance will emerge, we focus on the same three areas.  The difference is that we work from the opposite assumption.  If performance is about operating from certainty in the three areas, creation is working from the premise that we know nothing about them.  In creation we are working from the ground up, building clarity as we go.

1.      The System

We endeavour to fully understand the system within which we are acting.

2.      Our Actions  

We seek to know what actions we should take within this system to address the question or challenge.  Furthermore we want to be aware of the impact – intended and unintended - our actions have within the system.

3.      The Signal 

While acting within the system we strive to discover what information / feedback we need to attend to and what we can ignore.  As well, we want to understand the key relationships on which to focus.

Our work in each area naturally influencing the others (as well as influencing us in the process).  As we reach insights in one area, the other two areas shift and change and we see them from a different perspective.  As clarity develops, our understanding about the challenge or question may change to reveal new challenges and questions.  In this organic and interconnected process of inquiry we develop our understanding and our performance takes shape. 

What I believe fuels work in the space of creation (developing clarity in the three areas) is engaging in acts of creation.  There are four movements:

1.      Inquire Deeply 

This is the act of diving deeply into the situation, relationship, etc.  We are not trying to understand or make sense, rather we seek an intimate (embodied) sense of what is occurring.

2.      Reflect Deeply 

We take all of the insight and experience from the inquiry and reflect on it personally.  Asking ourselves “what do I already know?” and “how does that connect with this particular situation?”  We also search for the lived experiences we have which are analogous / isomorphic to the situation in order make the situation personal.

3.      Discover  

We combine what was revealed through inquiry with our own reflections to create a personal expression of understanding.  This can be captured as insights, as “What if” questions for exploration, or revealing new areas for inquiry

4.      Offer Generously  

We share our personal expression of untested understanding with others freely in order to see what connects and sparks with others.

I believe that engaging in these actions individually and collectively gets things moving and keeps them flowing within a space of creation.  Also, that these four actions underpin all the work of moving across the continuum.  The process of creation is iterative and these movements shape the movement within each new cycle.  Therefore I think it is vital when operating within a space of creation that we attend to the conditions that promote these four actions and value the capacities necessary for engaging in each movement.

This brings us back to teams.

When we move into the space of creation the tendency is to import our common social relationship for organizing people - the team relationship.  Not intentionally, rather because it is the default way of operating as a group.  This does not always go well, since the qualities a team relationship promotes - hierarchy, role dependence and outcome focus - are not suited to engaging in acts of creation.  Which means that people in the teams can be operating wonderfully for that relationship and yet make no progress in getting clear on the action, system or signal.  The result, often, is an undermining of the confidence of group in general and those in formal leadership positions in particular.  And no one likes to feel that they are not of value or that their efforts do not make a contribution.  And this is extremely acute with people in formal leadership positions since they have been valued for their ability to get things done.  All of this can lead to a feeling that the challenge or question is unsolvable.  In that case people have the tendency to take the first nascent answers they find and fix on them, or look outside for an answer (this is where best practice becomes a cliché performance).  In both cases the team relationship is seeking to close down the space of creation in order to move back into a space of performance where their way of acting is of value.

Question: Does this description of people moving into a creation space ring true in your experience?  If so, what have you seen?  If not, what have you seen?  Also is there anything about the challenge of people moving into creation that is missing from this description?

It is not that teams operating in the space of creation are doing bad work or acting with ill intent.  Rather the work they need to do is not supported (or valued) within the present group relationship.  They need to draw on a different social relationship as the way of working together so they can engage in acts of creation and begin to get movement in the three areas.

This is where the Ensemble relationship comes into play.  This relationship promotes (and values) the qualities of:

1.      Fluid leadership 

Leadership continually shifts to the person with the capacity to meet the emerging challenge.  Once the challenge shifts or a new one takes focus, leadership moves naturally to the next person.

2.      Role inter-dependence

People understand their responsibilities in relationship to the situation and the people with whom they are connected. People modulate their work in real time to what is occurring across the system.

3.      Purpose focus

Rather than focusing on the immediate outcome to be generated, there is a continual awareness of the largest purpose that wants to be served.  This larger purpose guides what possibilities are pursued.

Question: Are there other qualities or other types of relationship that you see supporting people as they create or venture into unknown territory?

The ensemble relationship also asks those in formal leadership positions to enter into a new paradoxical relationship: that of co-creator whose central responsibility is holding the space of creation open (resisting the pressure to close and move to performance).  The ability of those in formal leadership let go of their authority while exerting it to keep the space of creation open, invite the ensemble relationship and attend to the actions of the ensemble is necessary for success[1].  

Question: Are there other qualities or other types of relationship that you see supporting people as they create or venture into unknown territory?

 The Ensemble relationship creates a platform upon which individuals and groups can engage in ongoing acts of creation.  Establishing this new relationship between people opens up the space of creation; it allows groups to see possibilities, gain insights and create understanding.

In the next post we will explore the four actions of the ensemble (that support engaging in personal and collective acts of creation and allow for the ensemble relationship to emerge) and what it means to invite or convene an ensemble.



[1] Thanks to the work of Frederick Laloux in his book Reinventing Organizations for naming this paradox.


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