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The Spark Blog

An occasional series of thoughts and reflections on the role of narrative in organizational change, branding and knowledge work

the benefits of plural perspectives

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The North Face of the Eiger: mountaineering royalty, sheer, hard; an experience that comes to mind around any highly testing uphill push. We noticed this installation on a slope nearby: a camera arrow slit that provides the perfectly poised ledge for the perfect image. Making it easy, and helping travelers share the same, aligned, fixed view.

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Transitions and change are both an uphill push that relies on one premise: a shift in position. And yet so often their story and experience is shaped through a mono-view. Gaining a plural perspective on where we are and where we are going may not help climb the mountain faster, but it will, we argue, provide a wider range of ropes and hooks. Get more people along. Make the journey a learning process with its own value rather than burying it in the promise of the summit.

Pluralising points of view during transition and change is core to Sparknow’s practice. This relies on curating networks, inviting people to relate experiences from all parts of an organisation, and building in the role of the change ambassador/advocate/journalist, namely the person inside invited to provide eyewitness/earwitness to change and connect different points of view, across, up, down and in.

As we reflect on our work in this area over the last 15 years, and the significant practice developed by our peers, friends and partners, five points stand out:

1 | The role of the change ambassador implies clear invitation, expectations and active participation. It is transformative for the individual involved in three ways:

  • It builds their capacity to pay attention to their organisation in a new way and see and relate things they may not normally notice
  • It gives them a voice, a role and increases their visibility across new networks
  • It often helps them grow out of their current role, or have a fresh look at their purpose and goals

2 | Small eyewitness accounts can create bigger patterns of meaning, with cumulative evidence supporting decisions and future direction. This can apply to things that are often out of view or feel trivial and anecdotal at first.

3 | Seeing output from input quickly is key. The role of change ambassador is not without its tinge of cynicism. Why am I asking to be involved, does my opinion count, will I get into trouble for what I report back, is this a surveillance exercise, is it just to keep troublemakers like us busy while our destiny is being decided elsewhere?  Taking on board observations, opportunities and feedback quickly and visibly focuses this network. Equipping it to do this well is the foundation.

4 | The gap between formal language and informal experience can thaw. The space between leaders and front line can shrink. It creates a sense of “us”.

5 | Actively witnessing an organisation helps move today into tomorrow with a more deliberate foothold. It also provides early warning systems to catch issues and threats, and shifts inertia into action through live cultural monitoring.

We have helped weave networks of change witnesses in many of our projects, in government agencies, global corporations and virtual organisations. There are many labels for this role, such as ambassador or advocate. At its core lies the reach of diverse and plural perspectives in shaping a shared rather than individual journey. The process challenge is harnessing these different angles to shape a coherent and fluid landscape of change rather than settling too soon for a framed destination.

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