Like love and marriage, change and risk go together.
Like love and marriage, organizational change and risk taking go together. So what did we learn when two analytic development institutes collaborated to explore risk taking and risk management in the current climate?
In February 2010, Karen Izod and Sue Whittle, directors of The Tavistock Institute’s Practitioner Certificate in Consulting and Change program in London worked with Bernard Gertler and Sally Wigutow from the Organization Program at the William Alanson White Institute to design an innovative workshop entitled Organizational Risk: Comfort, Conscience and Critique.
Using an experiential “here and now” approach helped faculty and participants to explore the links between personal and organizational risk and the consequences of unexamined risk taking for individuals and collectives. The task of the workshop was to investigate the following hypothesis:
We are living in a society that has suffered the consequences of “too big to fail”, sub-prime mortgages, and a global financial crisis; one in which shareholder value has surpassed the value of stakeholder interests, in which societal trends put individual gain before that of the group and in which polarization is increasing – largely because of unexamined and excessive organizational risk.
In whom and in what we can trust is at the center of current debate on the future of society and its institutions. To accept one’s share of risk taking and its associated vulnerability is the basis of trust. Faculty found they had to work hard on the dynamics of risk taking and trust throughout their collaboration. The workshop’s theme was enacted in every aspect of their work, such that comfort, conscience and critique shaped how individual roles were taken, the evolving group dynamics and perceptions about the experiences.
For participants, from consulting, professional development, academic, leadership and therapeutic backgrounds, the challenge was to risk taking up agency in order to meet own needs and expectations whilst working with others, who had different needs and expectations, especially around risk taking. How could this be achieved in an organizational context, however temporary?
Was the workshop a risk worth taking? Yes, we think so. Watch this space.