What was sparked
  • More than 170 people from 14 countries tuned into the Stanford Social Innovation Review webinar in February where we shared our learnings around the concept and practice of inscaping (based on the article Social Innovation From the Inside Out). We were joined by Marlon Parker, founder of the Cape Town-based organization RLabs, who provided examples from his own experience.

    A number of interesting questions and comments were raised during the Q&A. Since we did not have time to respond to all of them during the webinar, I thought it would be worth sharing our responses here in writing. Each of the links below is a question/comment that someone raised. By clicking on it, you will be taken to our response (which was sent to them after the webinar via email).  If you feel inspired to add your own experience to the mix, you can do so in the comment section at the bottom of this post. Just reference the number of the question/comment so that we know what you’re referring to.

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    1. (California, U.S.) How can a person who is in the lower level of an organization, say without a formal leadership position, bring inscaping to their organization?

     

    2. (Paisley, Scotland) I like the concept of inscaping, and understand that it needs to be informal and organic. However, I would have a concern that if it is not “managed” it could become a very self-indulgent process for staff and in fact a major distraction.

     

    3. (Washington, DC, U.S.) How do you suggest applying inscaping for a large organization with thousands of employees across the globe?

     

    4. (Connecticut, U.S.) How do you define/measure innovation? What is the evidence that these practices result in INNOVATION?

     

    5. (Connecticut, U.S.) Have there been environments identified where this approach may not be beneficial? If yes, what are the hallmarks of such environments? 

     

    6. (North Carolina, U.S.) What word would you use to characterize the organizations that are low in both work and life inscaping? Delve further into the destructive nature of this, please?

     

    7. (Ultrecht, Netherlands) How do you break the silos within many large organizations? How do you stimulate inscaping across departments?

     

    8. (Ultrecht, Netherlands) Can you give some tips of how to deal with large differences between the different people checking in? What to do when a few people in a circle take a negative stance, whereas others would like to continue from a more positive point of view. How to find the balance between these differences and providing enough attention to both groups and stick to the timeframe available?

     

    9. (Quebec, Canada) Does an organization have a responsibility to deal with strong emotion surfaced during check-ins, for example?

     

    10. (Quebec, Canada) If this process is highly contextual, how does an organization balance dominant personalities, introvert/extrovert dynamics?

     

    11. (Quebec, Canada) How can we encourage inscaping in orgs that traditionally have kept the broader self at bay, particularly in government/ public service setting? Best practices?

     

    12. (California, U.S.) For Social Innovation to work, I believe the conversation has to stay relational, at least early on, not informational. Yet, I find that when conversations start to go deeper and emotions begin to be felt, people jump out of the fire and begin to focus on ‘information’, thereby leaving (escaping) the emerging relational connection. What are your experiences with this, and how do you move with it in a group?

     

    13. (Virginia, U.S.) The examples of inscaping approaches sound like ice breakers. Can you give other examples?

     

    14. (Glasgow, Scotland) The practice of inscaping acknowledges staff and communities served by social purpose organisations for who they are beyond the traditional role of helper and ‘helpee’ that can feel very limiting – can you say more about that?

     

    15. (Ohio, U.S.) Can you talk about how inscaping within your org can move externally as you work within communities?

     

    16. (California, U.S.) I work with an organization that has activities across different locations and team members living in different time zones. The work is really exciting and innovative but it’s been really hard to engage and name the experiential difficulties that come up. So how does inscaping work for geographically diverse teams, and for teams where there is a high turnover of consultants and partners? How does inscaping work for organizations where people connect mostly over Skype and email?

     

    17. (Washington, DC, U.S.) Is there a recommended process or steps to begin inscaping in an organization?

     

    18. (Washington, DC, U.S.) Does inscaping have to start at the top, or bottom up?

     

    19. (California, U.S.) Could you speak to the innovation that results from inscaping in the context of a government contractor funding model?

     

    20. (Northwest Territories, Canada) How do you negotiate the importance of practicing inscaping and trusting the process?

     

    21. (Northwest Territories, Canada) In an evaluation/accountability heavy culture, how do you measure inscaping as a driver of social innovation when sometimes the impacts are longer term and not immediately evident?

     

    22. (Washington State, U.S.) At my organization we do many of these kind of inscaping techniques – with some significant success – but I am often concerned that positional power dynamics can result in people participating more or less in part related on their seniority, their positional power, their comfort level sharing, etc – what ideas or techniques are you seeing in the field that help break down these barriers?

     

    23. (Quebec, Canada) Please write the name of the organization in Montreal just mentioned. Thank you. 

     

     

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    1. (California, U.S.) How can a person who is in the lower level of an organization, say without a formal leadership position, bring inscaping to their organization?

    From what we’ve seen, the more that inscaping comes from people at all levels of the organization the more likely it is that it will become infused in the organizational DNA, so it’s important for people to start from wherever they are no matter their position. I would suggest starting small (with a few colleagues) and in the least hierarchical working groups you’re involved with in the organization (ex. a small division or team that tends to work in a more collaborative way). And simply start inscaping yourself, rather than trying to get others around you to do it. In the article we list a handful of concrete examples, many of which don’t require anyone else to participate. You can also just practice speaking from a more experiential place yourself and look for windows of opportunity where it would feel generative to inquire into others’ experience of work and life.

    That said, we have also created these short self-guided sessions to help people introduce the concept and practice of inscaping (and related concepts) more head-on into their organizations. They are designed to do with a small group of colleagues and we imagine them being done as a bag lunch kind of thing- i.e., nothing too formal.

     

    2. (Paisley, Scotland) I like the concept of inscaping, and understand that it needs to be informal and organic. However, I would have a concern that if it is not “managed” it could become a very self-indulgent process for staff and in fact a major distraction.

    I would have thought this would have been the case as well, but what we’ve found in practice in the organizations we’ve observed is that the more robust a culture of inscaping the less likely it will become a distraction and self-indulgent because it happens in a very integrated and light way as people go about their work.  In the article we tried to share examples of concrete practices that are very much done in the service of the work at hand. But because it’s more of a way of being rather than a specific practice, it’s been quite challenging to talk/write about it in a way that doesn’t end up sounding formulaic and process-oriented. This self-guided session on the practice of inscaping includes all the practices we mentioned in the article.

    The organizations we’ve observed are extremely productive and innovative. They are inward focused in a way that deepens their outward focus and their investment in their work in the world. They are some of the most welcoming places as well- so instead of causing an organization to become cult-like, a robust practice of inscaping seems to breed a spirit of openness and invitation. Perhaps open people = open organization.

    As Warren mentioned, actually voicing concern about too much inscaping is an important form of inscaping. So perhaps they had a lot of that kind of voicing going on along the way (we didn’t follow the evolution of the inscaping practices overtime so can’t be certain). How people start introducing the practice of inscaping into their organizations in a way that doesn’t lead to a self-indulgent culture is a very interesting question, since it’s certainly a danger. Your inclination to lightly manage it is an interesting one to explore. If you have any specific ideas from your own experience for how we might help people avoid going down that route, we’d love to chat with you. We’re actively crowdsourcing people’s experience around this stuff to share with others.

     

    3. (Washington, DC, U.S.) How do you suggest applying inscaping for a large organization with thousands of employees across the globe?

    That’s an interesting question. We’ve not yet had the opportunity to observe large, globe-spanning organizations that have a strong inscaping culture. But based on what we’ve seen at a smaller scale, our hunch is that no matter the size of the organization, you’d want to start in a very localized way- with whatever team of people you most regularly work with. And if there’s a team that involves people from other parts of the organization and other countries that you could focus on, that would make it more likely for the practice to naturally spread. What we would discourage is treating it as a massive culture change to roll out like a program. Rather, build it over time and in relationship and let the relationships carry it. If the relationships span organizational boundaries, so will the practice of inscaping.

    We’ve also created these short self-guided sessions to help people introduce the concept and practice of inscaping (and related concepts) more head-on into their organizations. They are designed to do with a small group of colleagues and we imagine them being done as a bag lunch kind of thing- i.e., nothing too formal.

     

    4. (Connecticut, U.S.) How do you define/measure innovation? What is the evidence that these practices result in INNOVATION?

    This is a good foundational question that I wish we had gotten to in the webinar itself. There are many definitions of social innovation floating around. Our working definition, taken from Frances Westley, is systemic in orientation.  Frances defines social innovation as “a complex process of introducing new products, processes or programs that profoundly change the basic routines, resource and authority flows, or beliefs of the social system in which the innovation occurs. Such successful social innovations have durability and broad impact.” That said, we recognize that all products, processes and programs fall somewhere on a continuum of more to less socially innovative. There isn’t a stark dividing line between what is a social innovation and what is not.

    To respond to the second part of your question, regarding evidence. What we observed in the handful of organizations we studied suggests a strong correlation between inscaping and social innovation capacity (using the above definition). However, our sample is small and our research is theory-building/exploratory in nature.  You might be interested in reading another article we wrote – Inscaping: Exploring the Connection Between Experiential Surfacing and Social Innovation- in which we shared 5 organizational examples that help to illuminate the relationship between inscaping and social innovation. We saw many additional examples in these organizations where inscaping seemed to contribute heavily to visible innovations in belief systems, ways of making decisions (i.e., authority flows), patterns of association across different social categories, and programmatic approaches. These are all categories of social innovation for us. And they were also consistently described by the people in the organizations as dramatically different from their experiences in other comparable social purpose organizations. So it wasn’t just us ;-). There was a widely shared sense that something unusual – something innovative – was going on in these places, and that that innovation was manifesting itself in terms of programming, belief system, and relationship. We hope these examples will inspire more researchers/practitioners to explore this connection in more depth and with a wider range of organizations.

     

    5. (Connecticut, U.S.) Have there been environments identified where this approach may not be beneficial? If yes, what are the hallmarks of such environments? 

    Up to now we have focused all of our attention on studying organizations where inscaping has already been happening and feeding a culture of social innovation…so we don’t have lots of empirically-based understanding of such environments. Based on our preliminary explorations though I’d say that the more mechanistic/bureaucratic an organization is, the more lightly you’d need to tread when introducing inscaping practices. Being too heavy-handed could cause a backlash and thus result in people/institutions further clamping down, which would reverse any progress that was already made. Highly politicized organizations and those in the public limelight are also tricky given that people are reluctant to openly surface their experiences in fear of what they share being used against them. Organizations running in fast-paced environments need to take particular care in finding ways of inscaping that integrates into their rhythms. A doctor working in a medical unit operating in a war zone recently shared with us that a lack of inscaping was hindering the team’s ability to function effectively and that he was looking for small windows of opportunity in which to bring inscaping into the way they worked together.

    We are interested in learning how people can gently/slowly introducing the practice of inscaping into these more challenging organizational spaces in ways that won’t end up causing more harm than good.

     

    6. (North Carolina, U.S.) What word would you use to characterize the organizations that are low in both work and life inscaping? Delve further into the destructive nature of this, please?

    We actually had a description of this in the original draft of the article but took it out due to space constraints. The word we’ve been using to describe organizations with both low work and life inscaping is ‘mechanistic’. Our experience of organizations in this space is that the work in them tends to be routine and the relationships narrowly functional. The general mode of relationship is role to role rather than person to person, which means that people don’t focus much on supporting each other’s personal growth and development and have little empathy towards each other’s experiences when things go wrong. People may be collegial, but the narrowness of relationships leaves overall human engagement low.

    While the organization may be perfectly competent at meeting predefined objectives, its capacity for learning and creativity will be limited, and it will have virtually no ability to move significantly beyond existing paradigms or to inspire such movement in others. And there is little scope for reflecting on the organization’s impact in terms of its broader social context.

    A form of sharing may happen in these organizations, but it is likely to happen not in the course of work itself but on the side- in private conversations with certain colleagues, in the rumor mill conversations in the hallway, or at home with friends and family members.  As a result, the organization is unable to draw from members’ experiences to shape its work, and trust is diminished between colleagues. This kind of sharing can undermine innovation rather than enhance it.

     

    7. (Ultrecht, Netherlands) How do you break the silos within many large organizations? How do you stimulate inscaping across departments?

    That’s an interesting question. We’ve not yet had the opportunity to observe large or globe-spanning organizations that have a strong inscaping culture. But based on what we’ve seen at a smaller scale, our hunch is that no matter the size of the organization, you’d want to start in a very localized way- with whatever team of people you most regularly work with. And if there’s a team that involves people from other parts of the organization and other countries that you could focus on, that would make it more likely for the practice to naturally spread. What we would discourage is treating it as a massive culture change to roll out like a program. Rather, build it over time and in relationship and let the relationships carry it. If the relationships span organizational boundaries, so will the practice of inscaping.

    We’ve created these short self-guided sessions to help people introduce the concept and practice of inscaping (and related concepts) more head-on into their organizations. They are designed to do with a small group of colleagues and we imagine them being done as a bag lunch kind of thing- i.e., nothing too formal.

     

    8. (Ultrecht, Netherlands) Can you give some tips of how to deal with large differences between the different people checking in? What to do when a few people in a circle take a negative stance, whereas others would like to continue from a more positive point of view. How to find the balance between these differences and providing enough attention to both groups and stick to the timeframe available?

    I’m not sure I understand enough of the specific context you’re referring to in order to respond in a way that would be helpful. My initial response is that the primary purpose of inscaping is to become aware of experience, not to change it. So if people in an organization are having very different experiences of their work, that is important to know. If, as in your example, a check-in reveals a deep divide in experience/strong sense of dissatisfaction, the check-in should serve primarily as a place to surface that inner landscape rather than as a platform to address it.  So it would be the task of whoever is hosting the check-in simply to name the pattern of experience that has surfaced. Very often, once this kind of experience is seen and shared, it begins to change on its own.

    That being said, if it is something that comes up over and over again, it is fine to ask the group for   suggestions on how/when to follow-up. If the group feels strongly that the situation requires urgent attention and there is time to engage in the moment, then I would go with that. But I wouldn’t make that a habit since you really want to keep check-ins light and energy-giving.

    Also, it’s important that when people check-in, they do so in a way that is as much as possible grounded in their own experience and not just their analysis of the situation or other people’s actions. I found the book Learning in Relationship to be extremely helpful to me personally around improving the way in which I express my experience in the workplace.

     

    9. (Quebec, Canada) Does an organization have a responsibility to deal with strong emotion surfaced during check-ins, for example?

    The most important aspect of inscaping is the surfacing. During a check in, it may well be catalytic simply to pay attention to that strong emotion, acknowledge it, and then move on. It is rarely a good idea to try to manage experience in the heat of the moment. Over the long term, however, while I’m not sure that I would say an organization has a ‘responsibility’ to deal with strong emotions that surface, I would say that it is in the best interest of everyone involved to consider what those emotions reveal about the organization and the work it is doing. First, strong and persistent negative emotion is likely to affect the person’s work and work relationships in negative ways if it is not dealt with. On the flip side, strong emotion can also be a catalyst for social innovation. So although uncomfortable, engaging with it might lead to new ways of seeing ourselves and the work we are doing in the world. It’s often the darkest aspects of our experience that are the most illuminating when it comes to understanding how to shift the seemingly immovable social patterns in the larger world around us.  Of course the organization doesn’t always have the means or capacity to deal with all human emotions/mental states, so dealing with them might involve helping a person seek external support.

     

    10. (Quebec, Canada) If this process is highly contextual, how does an organization balance dominant personalities, introvert/extrovert dynamics?

    This is a really interesting question. There are certainly ways of balancing these energies in more structured spaces like check-ins and meetings where you can facilitate the surfacing of experiences in a way that allows all voices to be heard equally- using a talking piece, dividing people into pairs/triads where each person has a set time to voice their experiences while the others listen, etc. And in our experience, putting a regular process of appreciative feedback triads into place can be a helpful way of building a group’s inscaping muscles.

    But in the more fluid rhythms of everyday work life it requires people with more dominant/extrovert personalities to develop a keener awareness of the conversational space they are taking up at any given time and on the flip side it requires the more introverted people to voice their experience at times when they feel strongly to do so. In my experience, the more people participate in the more facilitated spaces, the more that practice of egalitarian exchange starts to bleed into everyday interactions with colleagues. It’s a muscle that develops over time with practice.

    I think it’s also important to recognize that talking doesn’t necessarily = inscaping. Someone can talk for 10 min and not reveal much while a more introverted person might reveal a lot with a couple of words. And on the flip side, an introvert might share their experiences openly and often, but if others are not listening, no inscaping is actually happening. One helpful practice could be to once in a while do a check-in that is focused on people sharing the degree to which they feel they are able to freely express what they are experiencing and to bring their larger life experiences to their work and the degree to which they feel that experience is listened to and engaged with by others.

     

    11. (Quebec, Canada) How can we encourage inscaping in orgs that traditionally have kept the broader self at bay, particularly in government/ public service setting? Best practices?

    I’d say that the more mechanistic/bureaucratic an organization is, the more lightly you’d need to tread when introducing inscaping practices. Being too heavy-handed could cause a backlash and thus result in people/institutions further clamping down, which would reverse any progress that was already made. We’d suggest starting in a very localized way- with whatever team of people you most regularly work with. And if there’s a team that involves people from other parts of the organization and other countries that you could focus on, that would make it more likely for the practice to naturally spread. What we would discourage is treating it as a massive culture change to roll out like a program. Rather, build it over time and in relationship and let the relationships carry it.

    We’re in the process of putting together a ‘collection of 1,000 practices’ that we collect from organizations around the world, but we’re only just beginning that process. The “Ins and outs of Inscaping” section of the SSIR article includes a handful of sample practices that I’d suggest looking at if you haven’t already. And we’ve created these short self-guided sessions to help people introduce the concept and practice of inscaping (and related concepts) more head-on into their organizations. They are designed to do with a small group of colleagues and we imagine them being done as a bag lunch kind of thing- i.e., nothing too formal.

     

    12. (California, U.S.) For Social Innovation to work, I believe the conversation has to stay relational, at least early on, not informational. Yet, I find that when conversations start to go deeper and emotions begin to be felt, people jump out of the fire and begin to focus on ‘information’, thereby leaving (escaping) the emerging relational connection. What are your experiences with this, and how do you move with it in a group?

    In our experience the relational and the informational depend upon each other. Privileging one over the other can inhibit social innovation capacity. So yes, if people use the more technical/informational aspects of their work to avoid relational exploration as soon as a conversation gets deep or emotional, this can be a problem. But it can also be problem if people use relational exploration to avoid the informational aspects of their work. Information (i.e., facts, strategies, structures, policies, etc.) is part of experience. It is part of how we make sense of the world, and, more importantly it is part of how we build relationships to each other. Relationships go deeper when people are involved in creative activity together than they do if people just focus on the relationship itself in a vacuum. The organizations we have studied are very good at keeping this balance. They are always  attending to relationships. But at the same time they are always attending to the specific objectives of the work they are doing. They explore their relationships through those objectives. And they explore those objectives through their relationships.

    Perhaps a light way of shifting the dynamic if you feel it is becoming too informational is not expecting people necessarily to dig into their emotions themselves, but inquiring into their experience more lightly. If they offer an opinion, ask them what in their experience leads them to that opinion. Or you could ask them if they have a gut feeling to move in a certain direction. Often I think the language that is used during emotionally-charged conversations can be a trigger to people shutting down. It’s important to let people react the way they want to react. Some people lead with their emotions and some lead with their heads. Over time, both kinds of people will open up if they are given space to do it in their own way.

    Also, I think inscaping is a muscle that you develop over time and by witnessing it regularly in others. Maybe some people are not keen to do it in a group, but the opening up that they witness in a group setting might make it more likely for them to feel safe to open up in a one-on-one conversation.

     

    13. (Virginia, U.S.) The examples of inscaping approaches sound like ice breakers. Can you give other examples?

    I’m not sure if we responded sufficiently to your question in the webinar. In the ‘Ins and Outs of Inscaping’ section of the SSIR article, we give examples of inscaping practices that we’ve witnessed in a variety of areas of organizational life- evaluation, decision-making, strategy, planning, etc. Our long-term goal is to compile a ‘collection of 1,000 practices’ sourced from a wide range of social purpose organizations. This will give people more ideas for how to infuse inscaping into their work and help to avoid it being turned into a recipe or collection of icebreakers. So stay tuned.

     

    14. (Glasgow, Scotland) The practice of inscaping acknowledges staff and communities served by social purpose organisations for who they are beyond the traditional role of helper and ‘helpee’ that can feel very limiting – can you say more about that?

    If my memory serves me correctly, you’ve already seen the self-guided session that focuses on this theme. The most thorough piece that I think we have on this is a couple of pages of Warren’s PhD theory paper- on pg 42 (‘Disengagement as Incoherence’) and pg 50 (‘Coherence Restored’).

    After that he wrote a reflection on ‘The Giving Field’ as a blog post and another as a short reflection for Ascent Magazine. You might also find City of Sanctuary interesting.

     

    15. (Ohio, U.S.) Can you talk about how inscaping within your org can move externally as you work within communities?

    I love this question. From what we’ve seen, the more robust the internal culture of inscaping is, the more it seems to spill out into the organization’s work in the world. I don’t think it’s necessarily always a conscious thing, it just naturally happens because it becomes engrained in how people go about their work.

    One significant effect that we’ve noticed is a movement away from a clear distinction between ‘giver’ and ‘receiver’. The more our own experience becomes part and parcel of our work, the more we recognize how integrally connected we are to the institutions we’re trying to change and that they are inside of us (individually and collectively) and not just ‘out there’. Warren wrote a short piece on this dynamic in this blog post titled The Giving Field.

    And from what we’ve seen/experienced, this tends to translate into a more authentic relationship between staff/volunteers and community members- interacting more around their common humanity. Community members feel that they are seen more fully as whole human beings by the organization. In the meals-on-wheels organization that we highlight in the SSIR article, for example, elderly client members often said that this was the first time they had interacted with a social service organization where they felt truly respected and embraced for who they are and seen as full human beings, as equals and treated with such dignity.

    We’ve also noticed that it spreads not just to relationships with community members, but also to relationships with funding partners (being able to open, honest conversations about what works and doesn’t work about funding requirements and program impact), programming partners (an example was highlighted in this article), and the public (being able to share the organization’s blemishes and failures versus on focusing on developing a squeaky clean PR image)

    And it also causes you to really pay attention to what’s happening on the ground- to work from the experiences of community members more than your preconceived notions of what change will look like- outlined in project plans. This Tedx talk that Warren gave on the Form Trap speaks to this dynamic.

    I just received a copy of the manuscript ‘A Delicate Activism: A phenomenological approach to change’, which includes a really interesting example of a Cape Town- based project that was working in a highly experience-based way and how that approached fed its work in the world. I’m not sure where it will be made available, but the authors Allan Kaplan and Sue Davidoff agreed to have us print an excerpt on our website www.organizationunbound.org later this year to coincide with it’s launch, so keep an eye out for that.

     

    16. (California, U.S.) I work with an organization that has activities across different locations and team members living in different time zones. The work is really exciting and innovative but it’s been really hard to engage and name the experiential difficulties that come up. So how does inscaping work for geographically diverse teams, and for teams where there is a high turnover of consultants and partners? How does inscaping work for organizations where people connect mostly over Skype and email?

    This is a question that I’ve been struggling with myself.  I wrote a reflection on it a few years back with a link to the article that inspired it- “The Human Moment at Work”, which you might find interesting, but haven’t really explored the subject much further since then.

    The organizations that we’ve observed and experienced are all places where the people have lots of face-to-face contact. However, I don’t see why most of the sample practices we shared in the ‘Ins and Outs of Inscaping’ section of the SSIR article wouldn’t apply to virtual connections. I’ve been working on a virtually-based project for a year and have found that the team simply holding an intention to work from an experiential place has been sufficient.

    One thought is to seek out technology platforms that help to facilitate inscaping in conversations/decision-making/planning in a way that doesn’t have to take place in real time (which can feel quite heavy). Loomio seems to be an example of such a technology: https://www.loomio.org/ I haven’t tried it out myself but know others who have found it to be helpful. I would also check out mixprize.org later in the year when they share the results of their digital technology challenge.

    You asked how does inscaping happen for teams where there is a high turnover of consultants and partners. One of the organizations we observed that has a robust inscaping culture has a naturally high turnover of staff/volunteers. That is one of the things we found so fascinating about it that it was able to keep and deepen this culture over it’s almost 20 year history despite the fluidity of people. From what we can tell the practice is passed on quite naturally because it is so ingrained in how people interact that it acts as a natural contagion.

     

    17. (Washington, DC, US) Is there a recommended process or steps to begin inscaping in an organization?

    We don’t think inscaping depends on any one specific process; it is very contextual. But in the ‘Ins and Outs of Inscaping’ section of the SSIR article, we give examples of inscaping practices that we’ve witnessed in a variety of areas of organizational life- evaluation, decision-making, strategy, planning, etc. Our feeling is that those are good places to start. You can also just practice speaking from a more experiential place yourself and look for windows of opportunity where it would feel generative to inquire into others’ experience of work and life.

    Our long-term goal is to compile a ‘collection of 1,000 practices’ sourced from a wide range of social purpose organizations. This will give people more ideas for how to infuse inscaping into their work and help to avoid it being turned into a recipe or collection of icebreakers. So stay tuned : )

    We have also created these short self-guided sessions to help people introduce the concept and practice of inscaping (and related concepts) more head-on into their organizations. They are designed to do with a small group of colleagues and we imagine them being done as a bag lunch kind of thing- nothing too formal.

     

    18. (Washington, DC, US) Does inscaping have to start at the top, or bottom up?

    It certainly is powerful when people in leadership positions engage in inscaping- not trying to get others to do it but doing it themselves. The more they surface their experiences of the work and life, the more others will be inspired to do the same. But there is no reason to wait for people in leadership positions to take the lead. From what we’ve seen, the more that inscaping comes from people at all levels of the organization the more likely it is that it will become infused in the organizational DNA.

    So I would suggest starting small (with a few colleagues) and in the least hierarchical working groups you’re involved with in the organization (ex. a small division or team that tends to work in a more collaborative way). And simply start inscaping yourself, rather than trying to get others around you to do it.

     

    19. (California, U.S.) Could you speak to the innovation that results from inscaping in the context of a government contractor funding model?

    In our experience, organizations that have a robust culture of inscaping are skilled at navigating government funding relationships in a way that doesn’t overly impede their innovation capacity. Government funding certainly constricts them, but they have more innovation capacity than most government-funded organizations. They seem to find creative ways of working within government restrictions and their internal culture of inscaping naturally seeps out into their funding relationships- certainly not as strongly and not without struggle, but it does seep out because it is so part of who they are. They tend to approach these interactions more openly and authentically. Funders are so used to people telling them what they think they want to hear rather than the truth, so this is quite refreshing for them to be in more of an open learning relationship with a grantee.

    What we haven’t yet seen are cases where an organization’s inscaping practices/innovation capacity moves upstream and actually affects the way government is run. We’ve seen it happen with a private foundation, but not with a government department.

     

    20. (Northwest Territories, Canada) How do you negotiate the importance of practicing inscaping and trusting the process?

    My first thought is- don’t ‘trust’ the process. Experiment with it.

    It’s also about recognizing that we’ve been working from a faulty assumption about what feeds social innovation. Most people agree on the importance of paying sustained and nimble attention to an organization’s external environment- that doing so is vital to an ability to be creatively responsive and to plan and strategize intelligently. They recognize the complexity of the external environment and the degree to which it shapes organizational possibilities. But the internal environment is just as mysterious and complex, and it changes even faster and more frequently than the external environment. People change daily. Relationships are infinitely nuanced. The reality is that organizations are to a large degree defined and shaped by the intuitions, desires, emotions, beliefs and lives of organizational members. What organizations are capable of, how they think, what they learn, what they see, how they foster collaboration, are all super dependent on this invisible architecture. The more attention we pay to the inner landscape of our organizations, the more we recognize its powerful influence on the work at hand.

    You might be interested in reading another article we wrote – Inscaping: Exploring the connection between Experiential Surfacing and Social Innovation- in which we shared 5 organizational examples that help to illuminate the relationship between inscaping and social innovation.

     

    21. (Northwest Territories, Canada) In an evaluation/accountability heavy culture, how do you measure inscaping as a driver of social innovation when sometimes the impacts are longer term and not immediately evident?

    For organizations that have a heavy evaluation/accountability culture and a real interest in developing their innovation capacity, we’d suggest taking a small-scale, experimental approach to developing inscaping as a core practice, coupled with an M&E process. Because inscaping is more a way of being/practice than a specific process or approach to ‘roll-out’ across the organization, it’s best to experiment at a small team level over a specific time period (ex. 6 months) and then evaluate the effect that is having on the team’s perceived innovation capacity (however you choose to define that). And if time/resources allowed, you could take it one step further and assess the change in actual innovation capacity. That would require the more in-depth work of identifying, tracking, and measuring indicators of ‘innovation capacity’.

    On a side note on the topic of evaluation, from what we’ve seen, organizations that have a robust culture of inscaping tend to approach evaluation in a more meaningful way. Their motivation to do evaluation tends to be more internally driven (as opposed to funder driven) and thus more nuanced and relevant to the work at hand. A developmental approach to evaluation is more the norm, which allows for real-time feedback based on lived experience. And because of this high level of engagement in evaluation, the results/learnings gleaned are more likely to be applied in ways that are meaningful moving forward.

     

    22. (Washington State, U.S.) At my organization we do many of these kind of inscaping techniques – with some significant success – but I am often concerned that positional power dynamics can result in people participating more or less in part related on their seniority, their positional power, their comfort level sharing, etc – what ideas or techniques are you seeing in the field that help break down these barriers?

    This is certainly a challenge in even the most open of work environments we’ve seen. It’s easy for organizations to be under the assumption that all is good as long as they create flatter structures and processes, but it is only by surfacing our experiences that we will be able to address power in a meaningful way. This Tedx Talk on the ‘Form Trap’ that Warren gave a while back focuses on this issue. And these blog posts as well: http://organizationunbound.org/expressive-change/the-experiential-turn/ and http://organizationunbound.org/expressive-change/a-quick-dip-into-anarchy/.

    In my experience, it’s easiest to start breaking down the barriers in more structured spaces like check-ins and meetings where you can facilitate the surfacing of experiences in a way that allows all voices to be heard. Here are a couple of things simple things I’ve found helpful over the years (not necessarily to do regularly, but at the times that it feels right):

    -Going around the circle to hear from each person in turn, if they have something to say (if not, they can just say ‘skip’). In my experience, this almost always results in quieter people speaking more because they usually feel uncomfortable jumping into a fast-paced conversation. And if the intention is to dive deeply into an issue, you could do several rounds, which results in people building off of each other’s experiences.

    -Dividing people into pairs/triads where each person has a set time to voice their experiences while the others listen, etc. (or keeping the timing loose). This often results in those who feel uncomfortable speaking in a group setting opening up.  This kind of conversation happens a lot in facilitated workshops, but is rarely incorporated into regular organizational life.

    -Using a talking piece during conversations. This tends to give people more of a sense of permission to speak their mind because it reinforces that the floor is theirs and theirs only while they are holding the piece.

    -Doing appreciative feedback triads regularly- 2 weeks, month or quarter.

    -Try a check-in that is focused on people sharing the degree to which they feel they are able to freely express what they are experiencing and bring their larger life experiences to their work and the degree to which they feel that experience is listened to and engaged with by others.

    But in the more fluid rhythms of everyday work life breaking down barriers around power I think requires people with more dominant/extrovert personalities and who are in more senior roles to develop a keener awareness of the conversational space they are taking up at any given time and on the flip side it requires the more introverted people to voice their experience at times when they feel strongly to do so. In my experience, the more people participate in more facilitated spaces like check-ins and ‘appreciative triads’, the more that practice of egalitarian exchange starts to bleed into everyday interactions with colleagues. It’s a muscle that develops over time with practice.

     

    23. (Quebec, Canada) Please write the name of the organization in Montreal just mentioned. Thank you. 

    The organization is Santropol Roulant. It is one of the organizations that Warren studied for his PhD. During that time he also wrote this reflection on what he observed there: The Southern Wall: The art of engagement at Santropol Roulant. Available in French here. If you’re interested in reading his observations from a more academic perspective, his thesis is also available on our website. Page 72 has a bunch of quotes taken from his interviews and then Chapters 5-7 contain specific observations and quotes (but note that he refers to it as Food Cycle not Santropol Roulant in his thesis).

    I was also involved with the organization for many years in a variety of roles and so it served as a rich learning ground for both of us. In a more recent, but more academically flavored article, we highlighted 3 examples from Montreal that might interest you- the Santropol Roulant Rooftop Garden Project, Zenith Cleaners, and the McGill University Sustainability Projects Fund. The article can be found here.

     

    April 6th, 2014 | Tana Paddock | 5 Comments

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  • Tolulope Ilesanmi

    Question12. This is a big one for us at Zenith Cleaners. It is very easy to be drawn towards the relational, away from the informational in our work but the reality is neither is complete without the other. They are intertwined. Because we care about the relationships, we care about the facts, we care about the quality of cleaning, the cleaning products, the numbers.

    We have a unique challenge because we are redefining cleaning and exposing the philosophical, spiritual, transcendental side of cleaning and creating exciting new programs through it. It is easy to stay in the transcendental and ignore the seemingly mundane but we realize that our practice is incomplete without our hands in the dirt. The client experience, the quality of cleaning we create is as important as the process, the richness we experience through cleaning and vice versa. Cleaning quality is not downplayed because we now see cleaning as a practice and a metaphor. In reality, cleaning quality becomes even more important than if cleaning was drudgery. I think it is the same with Relational vs Informational Inscaping. There is no filtering.

  • Alex ODonoghue

    There is a huge amount of knowledge transferred to any reader through this Q&A. Thank you so much for putting it together – I have found it enormously helpful.

    • Tana Paddock

      Happy to hear that you found it helpful, Alex. Taking time to reflect on each point was a hugely enriching process on our end.

    • Tolulope Ilesanmi

      I could not agree more. I have come back to this often. I find it rich. Thanks Tana and Rennie.

      • Tana Paddock

        Thanks Tolu : )

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