Wings of Change

April 23, 2019

I’ve been reading a new book on organizational change titled Emergent Strategy: Shaping Change, Changing Worlds by Adrienne Maree Brown. This book explores the myriad possibilities of moving with inevitable change rather than bracing ourselves against it. Brown draws upon patterns in nature to help inform how this is possible.

One of the natural organizations she highlights is a murmuration of starlings. You know, those moving clouds of birds that seems to navigate the sky like a school of fish. There’s something so miraculous about their organization to the observer. Brown moves us up close to look at how a murmuration functions: each individual bird is not responsible for the entire system, rather they are in tune with the six closest birds around them. In Brown’s words, “each creature is tuned in to its neighbors.” Brown goes on to explain that this type of organization requires healthy boundaries, acute listening, deep trust, and a vision to live. She also asserts that adaptation reduces exhaustion because no one is bearing the full burden of the system.

There is so much I love about this model. Whether it is the practice of relating to our individual neighbors, listening to the people around the tables we sit at (board tables, meeting tables, lunch tables), or being tuned into the work of other local organizations, we can draw upon this model. Not only does this affirm our connections with others, but it gives a deep sense of purpose to each individual and organization. Even though the system does not depend solely on us, the way we function is vital to the flow.

All of this reminds me of the poignant questions Dr. Johonna Turner posed at the 2018 Bridge of Hope National Conference –

How do we set the table?
How do we come to the table?

Ultimately for Brown, the point is transformation, which she connects to our spiritual lives. These are the questions I hold when I approach any part of my life, even outside of my role as an organizational director. How can you apply this to your life?

Wings of Change