Pattern #64


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Using Diversity and Disturbance Creatively Card - Version 1


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Using Diversity and Disturbance Creatively

Sameness makes everything seem dependable and secure. In contrast, diversity and disturbance introduce unpredictability and discomfort. So, to enrich life and better navigate complexity and change, welcome and engage diversity and disturbance as signals, stimulants, and resources for deeper insight into what’s developing beneath the surface and what’s needed to address it.

Related: 20 Diversity, 28 Generating Shared Orientation, 29 Generative Interactions, 37 Multi- Modal Intelligence, 38 Multi-Modal Power, 39 Multiple Perspective View, 66 Well-Utilized Life Energy

Going deeper …

This is an edited version of the video on this page.

If we have a community, a government, or a company where everything is super stable, everything is going fine, everybody knows their roles, everybody kind of believes the same thing, believes in the same way of organizing things, and buys into that totally, then that’s all fine and good. Some of the people who are outliers will tend to be dismissed and weird and go their way and not have much impact. But if something changes – when the environment changes in some way, or the system evolves, or there is some shock to the system – some environmental shock, economic shock, natural shock – then suddenly there is a need to do things differently, to be different, but you have suppressed the diversity you had, and you don’t have the differences available to you to adapt to what’s going on.

If you are valuing diversity and disturbance, you are moving into a realm where things are less predictable, and whatever order you have needs to come from how you are using diversity and disturbance rather than keeping everything the same. That’s a new approach. This is covered from a scientific perspective by chaos and complexity theories and ecology. They explain that diversity and disturbance are natural phenomenon, they are ever present, and we can suppress them but they don’t necessarily go away. They get pushed into a lower level that is not so obvious. Very often they will show up at unpredictable times in ways that further disturb the system.

So ultimately – if you can do it – it is more sustainable to respect and engage with and handle diversity and disturbance well – to “roll with the punches”, as they say.

If we are seeking wisdom, we have to engage diversity. And the diversity we’re talking about is not just demographic diversity. It is people having different perspectives, different information, different behaviors, etc.

And we don’t just try to suppress disturbances. Any kind of problem is a disturbance, disagreements are disturbances, and diversity often generates disturbance. Now, from a wise democracy perspective, if a system is generating diversity and disturbance, we take that as a signal that something is going on that should be attended to and addressed, rather than that we should suppress it. To give an obvious example, if you have a pain and the pain is persistent, you should take that as a signal to go to the doctor to find out what’s going on. Or if you know where it’s coming from, you should to do something about it, rather than just automatically taking painkillers. This pain is both a symptom and a signal. And if we really want things to be whole and smooth and beautiful and all the rest, we can take it as a stimulant to invest some attention and resources into finding out what is going on and addressing it. In particular, as wisdom seekers, it is a signal to go deeper because what “seems to be” is not always “what’s really going on”. So we’re going to do a deeper inquiry. We are going to explore what’s going on beneath the surface, beneath what we thought was going on. There may be dynamics happening in the real world or in people’s internal worlds that we were not aware of, that are generating this disturbance, and we need to bring them out – we need to make the unconscious dynamics conscious and start addressing them.

If we do that really well, more deep needs will be served, and our individual and collective lives will be better. To the extent we use diversity and disturbance creatively, we will be able to better navigate complexity and change. This is important because, after all, the real world is actually quite complex and always changing. To the extent we can take that in and deal with it well we are more able to navigate the “rapids of change” (as Robert Theobald said) and the complexity of life, the many different dimensions of what’s going. When we oversimplify, we miss big chunks of reality. So being able to get into the complexity that’s there, to not be overwhelmed by it, to address and be informed by it, and to become part of the complexity of reality, to become part of the changes that are happening, to flow with them instead of resisting or ignoring them. There is a lot of wisdom in that.

Video Introduction (8 min)

Examples and Resources

  • “Wasteland” movie
  • Dynamic Facilitation
  • Nonviolent Communication
  • Restorative Justice
  • Multiple Viewpoint Drama
  • Transformational Mediation
  • Fishbowl
  • Book: Page, S.E., The Difference: How the Power of Diversity Creates Better Groups, Firms, Schools, & Societies Link
  • Book: Peggy Holman, Engaging Emergence: Turning Upheaval into Opportunity Link
  • Book: Rosa Zubizarreta, From Conflict to Creative Collaboration Link
  • Circle Forward’s Governance Networks vision – Link
  • Character Strengths – Positivity Project – Link
  • Circle Forward’s Consent approach – Link
  • StrengthsFinder – Link
  • Harvard Business Review “Why Diverse Teams Are Smarter”
  • Helene Landemore’s Democratic Reason
  • Freedom and Dialogue in a Polarized World Link
  • Why American Democracy Thrives on Conflict – Bk Review Link
  • The Third Side Link
  • Neurodiversity – Wired Link
  • Scared Sacred movie Link
  • Story Bridge Link
  • Cynefin Link

I saw a documentary of disturbance and diversity being used in a very unusual and creative way. An artist visited people who live in the junkyards of Argentina or Columbia. There was a whole community living in the junkyards recycling stuff. They even have a union. The artist actually engaged some of these people in making imitations of great paintings totally made of chunk. They used a floor in a warehouse to arrange junk in the pattern of the famous painting and then took a picture of it. Then they brought the guy who ran the union up to New York to an art auction where the picture sold for thousands of dollars and they gave the money to the people who work in the junk yard. An interesting example of using diverse junk (which is itself disturbance) creatively.

Dynamic Facilitation and Nonviolent Communication both take conflicts and transform them into breakthrough possibilities that serve the deep needs of everyone involved.

Restorative Justice takes somebody who has committed a crime and engages them with both the victims and the community at-large.  Proponents of restorative justice are interested in how to heal the disruptions caused by crime and how bring the affected community more together. It is like a couple that has an intense argument: to the extent they really handle it well, they come together stronger than they did before: they make love after the argument, they really see each other, they appreciate each other more.

Multiple Viewpoint Drama – especially Anna Deavere Smith’s work – is very relevant here.  It creates enlightening art out of representing in compelling ways all the perspectives involved in intense conflicts.

Transformational Mediation is just what it says. In some versions they don’t even care whether the conflict is resolved or not. They are going for what are the assumptions, the levels of consciousness, the underlying dynamics that – if we inquire into them wisely – will make this disagreement into a part of people’s growth.

I’ve seen fishbowl used this way a lot. You have arguments between two sides. Let’s say you have arguments between two sides, for example, the women don’t like the way they are being treated in the meeting. So you have the women sit together in the middle of the group and talk together while the men sit around the outside and listen. Then after 15 minutes or whatever, the men go into the circle and talk together while the women listen. This goes back and forth several times. Each side starts to address what they heard the other side saying, creating a positive feedback dynamic. This could, of course, make things worse.  But well facilitated, it increases mutual understanding as people absorb the legitimacy and meaning of what each other is saying, and shift.