Drawing on Experience Blog

Organisational change and development

Fantasy or reality? Part II

So you’re immersed in a virtual world, in a multi-player scenario…lulled into thinking everything is ‘unreal’…a place where the reality principle doesn’t apply. This may lead to you relating to the avatars of other players in this world as non-people, inanimate objects.

As a player, I am sitting at my computer, interacting with others…and yet, at some level, I forget these others are also people sitting at theirs computers. I might treat them differently, and act in ways I would never dream of doing in the physical world, as though I’ve ‘lost’ my moral compass.

So what is it that brings me back? What is it that brings the person to mind?

In my son’s scenario (previous post), the horror of destroying someone’s work was what brought him back to reality…and he was able to consider the person behind the avatar in a subjective way…ie putting himself in the other person’s shoes. This ‘horror’ is evidence of the incongruence of the act with an innate sense of what is right and wrong. I would suggest this innate knowing is very deeply imprinted into our psyches.

My own experience in Second Life, where I found I was acting in a way incongruent with my values, shook me to the core. I remember throwing down my mouse and pushing myself away from the desk in an attempt to distance myself from my action. And yet it seemed to be accepted behaviour in that world. And it was easy to defend against ‘feeling’ while it stayed in that virtual world, split off from my physical world. It was not until I physically met the people behind the avatars a month or so later that realised how well I had split off this experience, and then began the reparation.

The game that doesn’t acknowledge damage or reverses the damage, without any reparation required by players, can have the effect of numbing players to the ‘horror’ of their actions, enabling them to behave more and more fantastically in this online environment, without any qualms. It encourages people not to think about the person behind the avatar and may foster a false sense of reality…which can come crushing down when worlds collide.


Fantasy or reality?

My son was playing an online game on his phone. It involves building a village and defending it against attacks. He went to visit someone else’s village and was offered the option of attacking it. So he pressed the button that said “Yes” and obliterated the village.

He came to me in tears. He had destroyed another child’s village. It couldn’t be undone. The enormity of it had hit him and he was full of remorse.

Reality check: It’s a game. There are risks involved in playing multiplayer online games, especially ones with winners and losers. Destruction of property is one of the risks he and other players presumably signed up for in joining this particular game.

This experience made me think about what is fantasy – an online game – and how it suddenly became reality… there is another person out there who is affected by my actions in this online space.

 It reminds me of my first (and only) experience of Second Life. I met colleagues online to explore Second Life, and then met them again, and for the first time, physically. I realised I had split the experience into virtual and real…yet they’re both real. How does one hold them both in mind? Even for my son, who has grown up with the internet, this seems to be an issue. I had thought it would be different, and that he would engage with it in ways I cannot.

 We subsequently found out the village had only been destroyed for five minutes, then re-appeared…completely unharmed. A fantasy after all…but real at the time.

There is something about online interactions that allow us to ignore the reality principle, and engage in fantasy. But I wonder what it is that brings us back to reality. Is it our own primitive fear of annihilation, or a deep seated sense of guilt, and the need for reparation? I think that object relations may go some way to help us understand what might be happening in online relations.

Life Drawing – Pathway to Inner Knowing

Susan Ryan, founder of Artelier, facilitated a wonderful session at the CPX meeting yesterday. Using life drawing, we worked to let go of the things that get in the way of our taking action.

We started with some short poses, which were quick, free and easy. There was no time to think about what to draw. But as soon as we moved to longer poses, I immediately thought “Will my drawing be good enough?”

Good enough for who? We were told it was about the process not the outcome. There was no competition for ‘best’ and yet…my internal superego was worried about being good enough.

Susan helped the group work explore some of these issues and encouraged us to let go of these pre-conceptions about what should be and work with what we could see. Many of us had drawn outlines of the body, but the body has no ‘line’…it is a series of planes, with light and shadow. Susan encouraged us to work with these planes instead of lines. Easier said than done. I immediately framed up my image with points and lines. And then something shifted….

I started on a new work. On the paper was some crushed charcoal, so I started with that, in the shadows, and built out. The outcome…a work that’s both solid and delicate….pictured here.

My key learning is to work in the shadow, to start with the unknown and let the known become visible. And I also realised how much I miss life drawing….

Social Dreaming – online and ‘in the room’

I am excited to be presenting at the upcoming Australasian ISPSO Regional Meeting about my experience of social dreaming at the Annual Meeting in San Diego.

Friday October 12, 3-7pm at the Lyceum Club, Melbourne.

There was (simultaneously) an online and face to face social dreaming matrix..and it is interesting to reflect on what dreams went where, and how the two spaces were held by both consultants and participants.

I will be speaking to the liminal space between online and ‘in the room’ spaces, the energy and the slippage that happens, and inviting participants to explore the applications for this learning..

Play to learn or learn to play

At the recent CPX meetup, Dr Froth (Andrew Suttar) shared with us his Bubbleosophy approach to systems thinking.

He uses the bubble as a metaphor for the boundary of system, a boundary that is fragile and permeable. I was struck by the sense that if one doesn’t try to control it, to make it ‘not pop’ then one can accept it for what it is, and enjoy it as an ephemera, a thing of wonder and awe but with no lasting significance. How can we use this learning in systems thinking…designing systems for specific tasks and that don’t become a burden beyond the period of their usefulness.

The presentation caused me to wonder about the bubble as a metaphor for potential space (in Winnicott terms). What can it teach us about creating a space for innovative work? As children we play to learn, but as adults we may need to learn to play.

Who is in the Room

The Guild Melbourne Partners in Passion and Purpose (PiPPs) were excited to present the Who is in the Room 2 day workshop and Advanced Consultancy Training day.

Using the Transforming Experience Framework (TEF) – developed by The Grubb Institute – and the four domains of person, system, context and source, we explored how role is taken up . Case studies were presented and the TEF was used to develop hypotheses and ask questions in a way that enables action for change. As a framework, it can be adjusted to suit organisational settings. Making hypotheses is something we do all the time. It’s asking the right questions that is the challenge.

Of my many learnings, it is interesting to note how often we use the word role when we mean position. A person may have a position, but take up many roles within that position. We are finding, making and taking roles all the time, in a dynamic way.

Thanks to fellow PiPPs, staff members and participants for a memorable learning experience. Looking forward to what comes next.

Puppetry in facilitation

A magical session this morning at the CPX Meet-Up. Gary Friedman from Corporate Creatures engaged participants in some Brain Gym exercises before delving into the main focus for the session… the art of puppetry and its applications for group facilitation, whether in team building, visioning, or change.

Using the puppet as a transitional object (in Winnicott terms), participants are invited into a soft lit space to role play issues related to a given topic. The puppet in this case was a piece of crushed paper, brought to life by the puppeteer. The practical exercises proved how effective this approach could be.

As a method, it relies on facilitators developing trust within the group and providing a safe environment for issues to be worked through. The challenge for facilitators will be when the process unearths something the group is not ready to deal with, disturbing defences that in themselves provide a containing function (Menzies-Lyth). An understanding of group relations will enable the facilitator to assist the group to maintain a depressive position (Klein), where work can be done.

I wonder how this methodology might be adapted for virtual workshops.

Co-operative Enterprises

Great Meetup last night organised by Collaboratory Melbourne. The panel comprising representatives from Earthworker Co-operative, Goulburn Valley Food Co-op, Hepburn Wind and Bank MECU.

It’s really got me thinking about the sustainability and resilience of co-operatives, and the benefit to the local community.


A co-operative doesn’t just engage with the community, they are the community.

While manufacturing in Australia may not be viable when using a capitalist business model, it can be if using a co-operative business model.

All the panel members agreed that co-operatives are about empowering the community, engaging stakeholders in decision making and feeding dividends back into the community.

And…that a co-operative relies on good governance and organisational structures to ensure the co-op stays true to its purpose and its community.

Changing Relationships @ Work


Registrations are closing for the Changing Relationships @ Work experiential conference. Act now!


Ubiquitous Connectivity

Russell Yardley gave a presentation to the CPX Meetup today about ubiquitous connectivity and the impact for collaboration. The discussion ranged from trust and empathy to altruism and wealth creation.

A question I’m left with is this….will ubiquitous connectivity lead to altruism as suggested by Russell. I’m not so sure.

While technology opens up collaborative opportunities on a global scale, the premise of Sherry Turkle’s book Alone Together, is that the use of digital technology enables us to opt out of connecting with others. We can defend against engaging with others, (defriending on facebook, turing off notifications on linkedin, not responding to texts or emails). And these same social media seem more likely to encourage narcissism – look at me, look at what I’m doing. They don’t necessarily encourage or provoke robust debate.

If we agree that altruism is required for the sustainability of our society and the planet, that we need to move from measuring inputs and outputs at an individual/organisational level to valuing wealth created at a societal level, how can the current crop of technology move us from where we are now to an altruistic stance?

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