Maps/Gear | Palette of Possibilities | Evolutionary Zoom Lens
Evolutionary Zoom Lens

We live in a universe of holons—whole/parts within whole/parts within whole/parts. Nothing exists in isolation. We are each wholes. We each embody countless wholes. We are each a part of larger wholes. This seems to be true for everything from quarks to galaxies.

In the purposeful living web of relationships and agreements called organizations we screw up badly when we lose sight of our deep and profound interconnectedness and interdependency. Applying mechanistic thinking to a living evolving organization is like planting and tending a garden with the tools and mindset of an auto mechanic.

This lens, together with the Yin-Yang Lens, brings essential dimensions of wholeness into sharp focus. The Yin-Yang Lens illuminates the folly of attempting to fly with only one wing. The Evolutionary Zoom Lens reinforces the need for developing both wings, but especially that neglected Yin-wing. The Evolutionary Zoom Lens highlights specific areas to focus on in strengthening the Yin-wing.

In the figure below we distinguish three broad levels of system:

Core Work consists of three interdependent and often neglected levels of developmental work in organizations of all kinds.

Inner work encompasses all of the work required to gain mastery over our inner patterns of thinking, acting and being. Inner work usually involves both healing and "wholing" — not only recovering from our various personal and collective addictions (unhealthy self-reinforcing patterns), but also discovering and actualizing our genius, our true work, and our true purpose.

Relational work refers to the work we need to do to evolve the quality of our relationships.

Circle work had its roots in prehistoric times around the campfires of indigenous peoples throughout our planet. Circle work can be a wonderfully flexible and approach to people and organizational development. They can be the "learning nodes" in developmentally oriented action-learning strands. Circle work can conveniently be woven within and among existing organizing forms, e.g., families, neighborhoods, and organizations. E.g., communities of practice can be thought of as one form of circle work.

In January of 2000, Marilyn and I formed our first Pathfinder Circle. This unique approach to leadership development has had a profound effect on the quality of my inner and relational work. It, more than any other practice, has supported my making irreversible shifts in how I approach all aspects of my work and my life.

Ignorance of the importance of Core Work, especially within the ranks of leadership, has severely undercut the effectiveness of countless organizational capacity-building initiatives. As Vivian Wright of Hewlett-Packard put it: You can only enable that which you embody. Perhaps more than any other factor, it is the relative in attention to Core Work (at all levels) in systemic change initiatives that robs them of their potential to enliven and strengthen an organization's culture.

Systemic Work includes developmental work at the level of departments, organizations, industries, communities, regional, and even socio-environmental- economic ecosystems. Systemic Work usually involves organization design/redesign to some degree — changes in policies, processes, structures and the like. Common examples of Systemic Work in organizations are usually thought of in structural terms, e.g., reorganizing, down-sizing, process reengineering, and mergers. However, their deepest purpose is usually some form of organizational capacity-building, e.g., the capacity to deliver products and services at competitive costs. See Generative Capacity-Building for a more detailed treatment of that life-giving approach to Systemic Work.

World Work refers to the lasting effect of our work on the well-being of the larger whole. Whether we know it or not, all of our choices — thoughts as well as actions — are either contributing to or detracting from the well-being of the life on our planet. World Work within organizations involves expanding our organizational options, understanding the consequences of those options, and then making choices that contribute to rather than detract from the well-being of the larger whole.

World Work necessarily involves becoming systemically conscious and accountable for our choices and their consequences. It's all about growing up. We expect different levels of consciousness and accountability from toddlers, children, adolescents and adults. Some organizations are still in the toddler stage, not yet house-broken in terms of the messes they are creating for others to clean up. Many are adolescent in terms of preoccupation with themselves. World Work challenges the Core Group in organizations to do the individual and collective work to understand all of the options and the lasting consequences of those options.

Traditional approaches to organization learning and change often —

  • Tend to be narrowly focused, e.g., a re-engineering initiative without attention to Core Work; leadership development training focusing only one level of system.
  • Are unconscious of all of the systemic ripple effects that will be triggered.
  • Ignore their impact on the larger whole.
  • Ignore role/importance of Core Work in not only helping ensure the success of the initiative, but also in growing a resilient culture of on-going development.
A Few Evolutionary Zoom Lens Principles: