Mindfulness in the Group context – simplicity and presencing

In this third blog we want to talk more about what you can expect coming to the conference.

WiG (Wisdom in Groups), is derived from the earlier BI “Midhurst Conference” and the format was originally conceived by Harold Bridger. The Midhurst Conference was a tried, tested and successful formula. But it needed to change to suit the needs of a rapidly changing world. It has evolved over the years and 2018 marks its most radical evolution yet.

As part of this latest iteration our intention is to make the process more accessible, whilst at the same time maintaining the depth needed for real transformation to take place.
WiG has three core components: search groups, supported by consultants, which provide an open space for participants to explore issues of common interest in their work (task 1) and at the same time experience and comment on what goes on in a working group (task 2). The second component is consulting groups where participants bring a particular concern or problem and are supported by the others in the group, including a consultant to explore it and devise a way forward. The third component talk/discussions is a more familiar way of learning for most of us. We will keep the talks short and the discussion flowing.

The Consulting Group is small and allows individuals to learn more about the experience of consulting to others – asking, listening and actively learning. The Search Groups are, some might say, more challenging. They are both larger and less structured.

We haven’t changed these core components much although we will be issuing some clearer guidance as to how to navigate the search groups. We have introduced some new ‘tools and processes’ which you can take away such as:

  • Rich pictures –which enable you to explore the issues you bring visually
  • The Leadership Compass – which gives you a chance to find out more about your working styles and those of your colleagues

For those of you who haven’t been to an experiential learning event before, WiG might feel a bit different. It requires you to ‘jump in’ using your own experience, in the moment, to learn. It is exhilarating but can also feel challenging and even scary at times. For this reason we will be given you an opportunity to have a short coaching session, on how you make best use of the event as you are in it, rather than on any external issues.
We want WiG to be transparent and accessible so that the learning process is visible and mutual. We are really looking forward to your feedback on your experience during and after the week we spend together. Working together in this way will we hope develop a lasting and mutually beneficial relationship between you, the delegates and the BI.

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Leadership for the future: being GroupAware

Harold Bridger’s Double Task has been the foundational methodology underpinning our existence at the Bayswater Institute for the past 25 years. We are excited about the potential it offers and we know, that we haven’t made the most of it yet. This year, in 2018, we are hoping to make it more accessible to more people, because we have found that it provides the key to improving effectiveness in groups, increasing tolerance in teams and ultimately improved performance at an organisational level.
The Double Task is deceptively simple at its core. It invites people to work on the purpose and task of the group (Task 1), at the same time as reflecting on how they are working together on that task (Task 2). The underlying belief is that by reflecting on and improving how they work together, they will achieve their ultimate object more easily and effectively.
It is simple but it is not easy. Inviting groups to reflect on how they work together can generate in-depth and powerful conversations. These have the potential to be transformational, if we can navigate our way through them to the learning.
Our task at BI is to support people to become better navigators, using a variety of processes, which we hope eventually individuals and groups will take on, use and develop for themselves.
We are calling our approach GroupAware. Our objective with GroupAware is to provide leaders with a rapid and exciting means to engage in the work of groups in a reflective manner and thereby to gain a clearer understanding of group dynamics. Our challenge is to steer a course between going deep enough for real change to take place, but not so deep that the group becomes mystified and stuck.
We find that some people do develop an interest in some of the underlying principles of the Double Task, which is rooted in socio-technical and psychodynamic theory, and they can subsequently delve as deep as they like. People at the BI are happy to facilitate this deeper exploration if required.
In our work developing a GroupAware approach within Wisdom in Groups, we have drawn some inspiration from the work of Jon Kabat Zinn. He was a pioneer in the development of Mindfulness, which has proved an immensely helpful practice for many people. Mindfulness has deep roots in Buddhism, and both psychoanalytic and psychological interventions such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. But Kabat Zinn developed it into a straightforward and simple practice. Mindfulness is an easy and useful gateway to a deep field as well as a valuable method in its own right.

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Simon Bell A personal reflection on some of the origins of GroupAware – an essay

Simon Bell

Thrilled to be working with Jo on the WiG event this year. Briefly, I am CEO of the BI and Co-Director of Wisdom in Groups.

I should say now that the realisation of the Wisdom in Groups event is the outcome of a life-long journey.

Over the last 35 years I have worked with groups in many countries and many organisations. I have enjoyed working with others in their problem structuring and count myself to be fortunate and privileged to have learned with others who are often struggling against overwhelming issues. I have made use of many interesting and useful methods but have gradually been making my way to a truly reflective and practical group dynamics process. A process which is systemic and innovative, relatively straightforward in presentation and engagement yet capable of almost unlimited exploration in the depths.

Harold Bridger’s Double Task model is key and central to this but in Wisdom in Groups a variety of sympathetic and provocative additions help to produce what feels to me to be a bewitching process.

The future of civic society is contingent on the coherence of humanity working together at scale. It is my belief that we have always been at our best when we are at our best together. Wisdom in Groups seeks to find that ‘best’ and help delegates to attain and retain the means to the end.

I am truly excited by the prospect of Wisdom in Groups and co-learning with you.

Jo Kennedy

I am delighted to have the opportunity to co-direct the Wisdom in Groups event in April 2018. Over the past 7 years, I have been a participant, a staff member and a co-director, and it is one of the highlights of my working year.

We have changed the format a bit this time, to reflect both the changing context we are living and working in, and to respond to feedback from participants and new staff members; but it retains the integrity of the central structure, originally conceived and devised by Harold Bridger.

I think of the Wisdom in Groups event as a ‘headspa’, where my beliefs and assumptions were ‘scrubbed down’ and I came out renewed and refreshed.  When I came on it as a participant, I was the leader of an organisation, which had a long and complex history, and I was facing some difficult dynamics both within my team and on my board. The double task model gave me clarity both about the work we did and the way we did that work. The consultancy groups gave me a chance to explore and analyse some of the issues facing me so that I could take some steps forward. But it was in the ‘search’ group that I learned the most: about myself, and how others experience me; about what motivates others and about how groups operate.

I left the event feeling stronger and more resilient. That feeling lasting and enabled me to the take the actions I needed to take in my role. The event marked a step change in my understanding of myself as a leader. I don’t always get it right now but I believe that I can, and I no longer suffer from what some people call ‘imposter syndrome’, a sense that one day someone will expose how ill equipped I am to inhabit the role I have.

I have gone on to use the ‘double task’ model in my daily work as a leadership and organisational development consultant. Peter Drucker came up with a saying ‘culture eats strategy for breakfast’ and I see this in many of the organisations I go into. Using the double task with leaders and teams helps us to work together on strategy and culture at the same time, so that any changes, they introduce are firmly rooted in the reality of the present, and lead to better outcomes in the future.

Over the past 6 years, I have taken great satisfaction in seeing participants benefit in the same way that I did.