The Unprecedented Unknown

April 21, 2009

I was listening into an invitation phone call yesterday. It was a beautifully hosted. It was friends and possible participants exploring an Art of Hosting event in June that is focused on this core question:

What is dying and what is being born in a world where capitalism is being transformed and wealth redefined?

Some of these possible participants were asking why it would be important to be at the event. The spoken needs ranged everything from desparate for "practical tools for the trenches" to much needed "philosophical reeavaluation of the financial and wealth paradigm."

As I listened, a core question became clear to me that underlies the specifics of the financial questions.

How do we face the unprecedented unknown?
As leaders?
As participants?
Or for this specific context, as professionals from this particular field of financial planning?

My bias is that we are “facing an unprecedented unknown.” (health care, food and sustainability, education…). I find this helpful to name. It helps name the need for why a project or an initiative matters. For why pioneering efforts matter. For why pioneering process matters.

Learning surfacing through Art of Hosting, Berkana and other groups supporting engagement is that the “how” of “facing unprecedented unknowns” is found in community. This is what I am learning. This is what leading practitioners are sharing. This is what academians are reporting.

More specifically in the “how” is the importance of colearning (think of this as core competency to adapt) in community. And real work that people care about. And relationships that are real and close enough to endure and thrive in the knowing and the not knowing that most certainly shows up in unprecedented unknowns.

Christina Baldwin has been a great example of a "namer" for me. She names what is going on so that we can have choice of what to do with it. It is my learning that naming the magnitude of unknown helps people focus beyond the tools and tricks. It takes us into the core competency needed of creating the new together, gathered in community.


Ria Baeck said...

Hello Tenneson! In the work that I am doing with Women Moving the Edge - and recently a gathering called Edge of Collective Sourcing - we have named one practice: Staying in the not-knowing. We see it as a core practice and quality for facing the future and the emergent. In the beginning it is not simple to do, because our minds race at finding 'something'... but if we are centered, and hold the space for each other and ourselves, something radically new can emerge from this not-knowing. My sense is that we will need it a lot in the future to come!
With love,

Helen Titchen Beeth said...

Hi Tenneson - what you have named is very powerful. It opens up a big, deep space, both outside and inside. One of the core competencies that I see (you referred to core competencies in your last sentence, without naming any...?) is making the implicit explicit. Naming the elephant in the room, as Toke would say. The only way we can face this is together. Logically, also, if we look at the way life on earth has evolved since the beginning, our next step as humanity is to move from competing to cooperating. If we fail, we're cooked!

Gilles Jersey said...

Interesting post, Tenneson.

The word "unprecedented" made me wonder; is it "unprecedented" because of all the noise we hear here and there about the depth of this so-called crisis; or is it just a bigger and rudder awakening that will shake a belief system that no longer provides fair sustenance to all? and that will force us to redefine our relationship to wealth and money?

Eventually, we have to "Evolve" out of the pit of material civilization, and it won't be easy or painless.

The "unknown" is what we face daily; little doses of "unknown" that sometimes amount to more than a single big shot; and sometimes, my little "unknown" -shall I call it my insecurity- is more difficult to overcome than a bigger "unknown" that we can face and explore together; there is definitely strength, power and joy of sharing in community.

There is also an essential quality of "being in community" that allows me to reflect and somehow renew myself, beyond the "unknown." There is, indeed, "courage in community."

Thanks for allowing me to reflect some more about my and our "unknown."