Learning and development have been central themes throughout my working life. As I work with clients I try to remain open to the opportunities for learning and development that arise within our work together. I recognise more strongly than ever that often all that’s needed for a developmental opportunity to open up is for someone to draw attention to an aspect of a situation or challenge that has not been evident before. Central to learning “on the go”, from within our experience of a situation, is this ability to notice and attend to those things that are different from the usual we have come to anticipate.
My work is, therefore, more or less deliberately developmental most of the time. Whether it be in Executive Coaching or a leadership development program, team development or organisational development there is always some focus on consolidation, expansion and growth. In this aspect of my work I am typically drawn to adopt a dialogic, rather than diagnostic, approach. This distinction has recently been articulated in relation to OD consulting in particular and refers to a broad range of methods and practices that enable a more emergent approach. This is generally considered to be particularly appropriate in situations that are highly ambiguous and complex.
My thinking and practice about development in particular has been influenced by the idea of ‘vertical’, as contrasted with ‘horizontal’, development. Vertical development refers to a range of ideas that have emerged about the ongoing development of adults and suggests that there are transitions that some people make that are characterised variously, but perhaps most succinctly, as an increasing “complexity of mind”. Horizontal development, on the other hand, refers more to the consolidation of particular skills and capabilities within a particular perspective or orientation.
The most usual way I build development into the particular work I’m doing is through some form of participative action inquiry. That is, by making taking action and conducting in-the-moment inquiries into the impact of those actions an intentional and disciplined part of what we are doing. But always with the specific intention of increasing the timeliness, practicality and wisdom of those actions.
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