Saturday, January 10, 2009

A mind map of how I approach spirituality and institutions

Mind map image
Click on the image to see the full, interactive version of the map.

As I talk to more people, I keep discovering new ways of thinking about the connections between spirituality and institutions. This is a map of concepts or lenses that I draw on when thinking about this topic. Some of these lenses relate to academic fields, and some are more informal ways of thinking about the world. Most of the words in the map have a link to a web-site, so you can see more about what I meant with that idea.

Which of these frameworks has the most meaning for you?
What would you add or change in the map?


LM said...

Hi Michael (and others in the Spirit of Institutions Community),

I've been enjoying following your blog. I was struck by how many of these concepts I am not familiar with. I first followed the link to discernment. Its probably the most familiar to me, and I find myself thinking about how I do spend time in prayerful discernment now (primarily by journal writing) , and how I might like to do so in the coming year... I had been meeting regularly with Richard Fuller for support in the process, but we are spacing our meetings further apart now...

Then I looked at "integrative leadership" to see what it was. Interesting to see the basic definition as leadership from different sectors (corporate, nonprofit, academic... not sure that I saw religious on here, but it seems to me that it could be included in the concept) We have our first corporate member on our board, and I've been struck by how much I appreciate his insights, and how a different viewpoint (everyone else is nonprofit or academic) enriches our discussions and decision making...I'd been prejudiced in an anti-corporate way in the past, and while there are times when I see differences in our points of view/values that I would have predicted, there are MANY more commonalities and instances of productive idea cross fertilization than I would have imagined...

Thanks for sharing your reflections through this blog. I would love to see it become a place where the many of us you know who are engaged with the subject commented, shared our personal reflections, and built connections with each other....

Michael Bischoff said...

Thanks for the insights, Laura! I would also love to see this be a place where people who care about the integration of spirituality and organizational life can connect with each other and share ideas.

Tom Jablonski said...


Just some quick thoughts on your map.

What strikes me the most about the topics included on your map is how difficult it is to practice them or even discuss them openly in most of the institutions that I am involved with. What is even stranger to me is that sometimes even in our Theological Institutions (at least certain areas of the ones I am familiar with) many of these concepts are not addressed or practiced.

Institutions that I am familiar with that do practice the principles are 12 Step groups. I think that one of the keys to their being successful in one they do is the power combination of the 12 steps and the 12 traditions. It is hopeful to me to think about what our institutions can become when we find ways to practice the items listed in your map – and then participate in the transformation of us as individuals and the communities we belong to.

Keep up the great work.

Tom Jablonski

LM said...

Reading from a past post of Michael's, and thinking about your comment, Tom, about how the only place you find these conversations happening is in 12 step groups.

The quote from the post below speaks to me, and brings up questions.

“What we call God is an image, not actually God. It is far less than God. It is idolatry to worship that image. Anyone who is discerning meaning and purpose and discerning right and wrong is following a spiritual path.”

"We need to quit excluding the spiritual insights and motivations of the people who work in our organizations. People exclude it because it can be divisive, but it also pushes away a great resource."

When an organization does not have spirituality or religion as an explicit part of its mission, how can such motivations be included?

The God-lead tractor company is intriguing, but in that case folks signed on to a company with God in its mission statement.

Do people have stories of spiritual motivations being named and included in secular companies or organizations?

Michael Bischoff said...

As you say, Tom, it can be hard to find organizations that carry out these principles. My hope is that our culture (and human species) are slowly turning towards ways of bringing out our best selves in organizations. I think that some of the institutional challenges in this financial downturn will open doors for less ego-centric ways of being in organizations.

Laura, your question: "Do people have stories of spiritual motivations being named and included in secular companies or organizations?" is a driving one for me.

One place that I have found lots of these stories is in the writing of Margaret Benefiel. She is a Quaker from Boston, who I interviewed last month. Here are some of the stories she points to:

* A bank that is focused on social justice and values-driven decisions
* A clothing business that integrates “wellness and joyful activities” into their work.
* A non-religious hospital that prioritized spiritual care.
* A playground equipment company that shared leadership and "followed the heart.".

I also think that the ways that Obama has called upon our better selves as citizens has been a part of drawing on spirituality in leadership.

The language in these examples doesn't always use "God" language, but I think that is OK.

Anonymous said...

Hi Michael,

I think you have done a good job of capturing a lot of disparate ways in which people talk about spirit as it relates to institutions. And yet, there is a tremendous amount of overlap among them.

I find myself resonating with almost all of the concepts you have articulated.

I wonder what it would look like to do a mind map that distinguishes between all of these concepts at individual, versus organizational, versus community/society.

Thanks for all the hard work. I think you are on to something.

Tom Allen

Michael Bischoff said...

Thanks for the insights, Tom. I agree that there is a lot of overlap between these different approaches--yet I also find that people within many of these approaches don't seem interested in acknowledging and drawing on that overlap. I think it is easy to focus on developing each of our own conceptual models in ways that blind to the synergy happening next door. At the same time, I appreciate people who are able to be deep and focused in developing one clear conceptual framework.

And thanks for the idea about distinguishing the ideas on the map on individual, organizational, and societal levels. I started to play around with modifying the map to get at some of these distinctions, and it started to get messy. It is a useful and fun thing to ponder, though.

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