Saturday, April 18, 2009

Seven doors into the spiritual development of organizations

I believe that every organization has the possibility of engaging spiritual depth as a part of the organization's development. However, my experience has been that each organization has its own unique language and ideas that are doors into that spiritual opening I'm looking for. The doors to spiritual development in one agency might not work in another group. When I talk about the "spiritual development of organizations," I mean finding ways of relaxing our attachments to our individual and organizational egos and connecting with a purpose and meaning greater than ourselves. Here are seven doors that I've seen organizations use to enter into spiritual development:

Deep Partnerships and Collaborations: Most organizations that I know are strongly driven by a desire for self-preservation and expansion. In some organizations, I've seen deep partnerships with other organizations help people transcend narrow self-preservation with broader purposes that serve the community. Even though this path can be hard and include plenty of conflict, external factors like reductions in funding are pushing many groups in this direction.

Creativity and innovation: An openness to creativity in product and project development can develop an atmosphere of openness. Playfulness and experimentation can get us unstuck from habitual patterns and open us to deep guidance.

Shared values and/or vision: Collectively developing and agreeing on shared values and/or a vision has been a foundation for many groups. The discipline of continuing to return to these values and vision for grounding can certainly bring depth.

Community: Trusting, close working relationships within an organization can lead to an openness and honesty that contributes to the collective spiritual development of the organization.

Crisis or conflict: Whether intended or not, the tensions and unexpectedness of crisis and conflict can throw us out of our typical ways of operating. Some groups are able to use this for deepening.

Systems thinking: Peter Senge's books on systems thinking have popularized methods for seeing individual actions as part of larger flows that we can influence but not control. I think the shift into systems thinking can parallel and cultivate spiritual development.

Discernment: I've seen secular methods for strategic planning tap into just as much depth as faith communities seeking to discern and follow divine guidance. Future planning can be a way of listening for calling--where the deep joy of the organization meets the pressing needs of the broader community.

These are preliminary thoughts about doors into spiritual development for organizations. I welcome your feedback and dialogue!

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Liz Opp said...

I like this list, Michael. The items in the list remind of something I heard a number of years ago, that to every system there's an "inside" and an "outside."

So I think about how each of these 7 doors also provide a threshhold between the "inside" (internal to the organization) and the "outside" (the surrounding externals):

Partnerships, innovations, etc. within the organization and between organizations.

Maybe another way to think about it is the degree of congruency between the "face" that an organization has when its staff and board "talk among themselves" and the "face" that is presented to others when there's a public event. Those two "faces" don't always match.

That's not quite it either, but it's what occurs to me when I read your post.

Liz Opp, The Good Raised Up

Michael Bischoff said...

Thanks, Liz.

And your comment about the congruency between the different faces of an organization reminds me of an interview I did last month with Monica Manning. She talked about the gap between the talk and the reality of an organization. She said that you could measure the worth an organization by the number of lies people are expected to tell about the organization:

Anonymous said...

Hi Michael,

I really like the way you defined spirituality. That makes total sense to me and in that way of talking about it, it transcends classifications as for profit, non profit, etc.

I often think of another category, that of corporate culture. I believe that you have captured that in some of your other categories, but it might also be helpful to use that language as well.