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Harnessing eMotion: Strategies and Tools for Dealing with Disruption

By Catherine Seo
Founder and President
Synergistic Solutions

Spiraling into Chaos
The Spiraling into Chaos diagram documents a compelling invisible pattern that people seem to instantaneously recognize from their own experiences in organizations. Individuals express a sense of relief that this can be named.

Since the spiral both begins with disruption and ends in constriction as a result of fear-based reactivity, the place to intervene in the spiral is to dissolve the fear cycle. Once the obstacle of fear is dissolved individuals can connect, collaborate, and create solutions.

In their books, both Clayton Christensen, The Innovators Dilemma: When New Technologies Cause Great Firms to Fail, and Stan Gryskiewicz, Positive Turbulence, Developing Climates for Creativity, Innovation and Renewal, have done extensive research on both the need and necessary conditions for innovation and creativity.

Christensen has identified the conditions necessary in complex organizations to continually innovate and meet market challenges emerging from the disruption of new technologies. One key distinction specifically names perception as a key success factor.

The leaders miss the growth because they frame it as a threat. You've got to frame it as a threat in order to elicit the energy to address it. But if you then don't flip it and somehow change the framing to an opportunity, you won't go after the incremental growth, you just kind of focus in on defending yourself.

Gryskiewicz has identified his diamond model specifically describing the 5 keys needed in the environment (Challenge, Resources, Encouragement, Clear Goals, and Freedom) to foster innovation. He also describes the need for structure to modulate the information related to change so that the creative process can be channeled into an optimal level for responsiveness to turbulence.

What is needed in addition to this above-mentioned work is an integrated approach and structured process to balance thinking and action with feelings and emotions that drive the creative process. The underpinning of the Chaos Spiral is encased in the fear-based reactivity and emotional constriction, which shuts down one's rational and innovative thinking capability and the ability to identify and take the right action at the right time.

Fear-based reactivity is exacerbated by the lack of understanding, acceptance and the skillful use of style differences. Emotional constriction is accelerated by the lack of proactive understanding, acceptance and skillful utilization of both a structured rational process and a creative innovation approach.

The overriding effect in a time of crisis and increasing change as a result of the constriction is ineffective management decisions, incomplete project execution, unclear goal achievement, lack of innovation and the inability to thrive in an atmosphere of turbulence.

Reversing the Spiral Effect: Leverage for Interventions in the Chaos Spiral
Harnessing eMotion is the tipping point for the reversal in the Chaos Spiral. It is the presence of an easy way to acknowledge, integrate, and balance strong emotional responses and to skillfully utilize style differences, rational decision-making processes, and innovation practices on a daily basis throughout the organization. Once that is achieved an organization would have the ability to harness the creative energy of emotion in turbulent times.

Turbulence itself gives rise to new possibilities and opportunities. Balanced and integrated thinking, feeling, and acting would lead to more effective management decisions, goal achievement and innovations, and indeed breakthroughs in adaptation that would allow the organization to evolve. The key is not in any singular dimension, but in the synergistic interacting of all of them collectively to give rebirth to the work place.

I experienced disorientation and disruption both personally and professionally like many others following the recent World Trade Center tragedy on September 11. It seems incomprehensible that a catastrophe of this magnitude could have occurred. My initial reaction was that this research project had lost its meaning and usefulness.

As I processed my own fear-based reaction and profound grief, I examined the Chaos Spiral more closely and realized that it actually is more relevant now and not less. Not only do we have disruptive technologies and a chaotic market place to deal with, we now have a disruptive geo-political culture to live in.

The same principles that apply to reversing the Chaos Spiral in organizations apply to our personal lives and our lives within our culture. In fact, it is more critical now that we learn how to intervene on this Chaos Spiral and create innovative solutions.

We will survive, we will thrive again, but not without enormous amounts of turbulence. Turbulence that not only includes continued downsizing and change in business contexts, but also living within an increasingly unpredictable environment.

Never has there been a time when we need the ability to integrate and balance thinking and action with feeling/emotion. This process will allow us to see our way out of this turbulence with an alignment and integration of clear thinking, compassionate action, and the ability to harness the emotional energy into innovative and creative solutions.

Spiraling into Chaos (diagram)




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