Blog about lecture from Keynote Speaker Jitske Kramer at the ANSE Summer University 2017. Author: Wiepke de Heij.
Photo by David van Haren
At the ANSE Summer University held at Rotterdam, we were treated with keynote speaker Jitske Kramer, author of several books, including ‘De Corporate Tribe (2015) (in Dutch, English translation will be available). As an anthropologist, she studied culture: “People shape culture and cultures shape people”. She is specialized in corporate anthropology.
Moving and being moved
As the theme of the conference was ‘moving and being moved’ in a VUCA World (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous) she pointed out: “We are all different. We are bad at dealing with differences, because it’s about dealing with conflicts. We need to connect across and through differences. “As a supervisor, trainer and member of the Dutch association for Supervisors and Coaches I am interested in dealing with differences at an individual, team and organizational level.
How do we react when we see differences?
To show the average reaction on difference Jitske showed us this picture and asked: “What stands out?” Of course: the bird that is hanging upside down is standing out for most persons. She called the bird ‘Harry’. Most people react when they are seeing behavior in the ‘tribe’ that is different with: ‘act normal’! We are not curious about differences. We are not saying to Harry: ‘Wow, that is great! You are hanging upside down, how is your view?!’ At this point we don’t know if Harry is brilliant or mad.
When I see this picture, I think: ‘That’s great, there is a playful bird, and he is hanging upside down. Let me try it too! Maybe he is finding a much better way than the rest! All these other birds are probably stupid… ?!’ At this point I realize, I am not an average bird, I am a ‘Harry’! At the age of 22 I was a lecturer at a University of Applied Science in Amsterdam. My colleagues, except of a view other young birds were over 50. I saw things differently; I saw new opportunities, ways to change... But I couldn’t fly. That is why I eventually spread my wings and became an entrepreneur. While I am writing this blog and reflecting about ‘Harry’ and dealing with differences, I realize that’s what drives me. I want to connect differences. I know the feeling of standing alone (or hanging upside down) seeing a view, that no other bird sees and therefore is not able to fly. This motivates me to embrace differences, and to help people embrace differences. I am also aware of the need to empathize with all the other birds who love the way of standing up. Who have found their answers, and for those who don’t feel the urge to hang upside down.
As the lecture continues Jitske stresses the importance of the role for supervisors and coaches in a rapidly changing world. We need strong tribes, safe for diversity, ready for change. There are three steps for change: the old stage, the liminal stage (there were the learning occurs) and the new stage. With a beautiful example and film of a tribe who has a ritual for boys who are becoming men, she explains these stages. As supervisors and coaches it is our job to help people through liminal stages. She gives us the following powerful slogan: “You are not lost. You are here. And I am here with you.” She emphasizes: we need liminal leaders, we need guidance.
With other inspiring examples throughout the world, this following example and beautiful metaphor is nearby. Imagine that your task is to take out the garbage. One day you make a decision. You are not taking out the garbage and you are leaving the trashcan in front of your house. You go to work, but at a time, you must go home and have a conversation about your decision… Maybe it is a conflict. Maybe it is not. Through this metaphor Jitske showed: in order to make changes and shape culture, you must take decisions. But, when we don’t talk about it, we are building trash. As the lecture ends Jitske let us dance to three rhythms we all need. Listen to all voices.
Make a connection
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Wiepke de Heij