Unplanned Interactions

“Make your interactions with people transformational, not transactional” – Patti Smith

I have been preoccupied lately with organizations and their culture. I find it fascinating  how sometimes decisions with the best of intentions simply turn out wrong whereas sometimes a simple “nudge” in a direction with the freedom to shape an outcome that realizes a clear end goal or principle. Maybe I am so fascinated by this as it often seems elusive to me as a leader or maybe I just have not cleared my mind enough to be that intentional.

The reason I am taking a moment to write today is that I heard a phrase that seemed universal in building solid organizational cultures; unplanned interactions.

The phrase challenged that to really create unity inside a culture that creating space and opportunity for these unplanned interactions between people of any level in an organization create heightened unity.

The idea is that for the most part we, as humans and workers for a company, often see the same obstacles and opportunities but alone in our bubble many feel powerless to act upon them. But as a shared experience, creativity towards solution or change can have an opportunity to flow. How many times have you found yourself engaged with a stranger in a conversation and some subject that sparks you both arises to create a situation in which you build on an idea, experience healthy conflict from opposing opinions or just become more engaged as you are sharing and learning things you did not know?

This concept also supports the idea of cultivation of “informal leaders” or what I often refer to as “leading where you stand”. People begin to think of new and creative ways to better the world around them. For the most part, people want an engaging and positive workplace since we spend a great deal of our lives there. Most seek to make it better. Often people experience fear or lack of empowerment to do so through self-imposition, bad management or general organizational constraints that inhibit making change. Sometimes based on these constraints, we allow ourselves to become derailed to make any change as it doesn’t seem the optimal. I know this very well as I often question myself regarding change I make if a deviation from the ideal (although it rarely stops me).

So, back to this idea of “unplanned interactions” …  Does your organization create a way to support this? Typically we facilitate lots of planned interactions in organizations such as company picnics, Christmas parties, pot lucks, etc. But those can often create the stereotypical middle school dance situation in which people gather with people they know to enjoy the event as a shared experience. We do things like place cards at tables to mix people together but it often does not have the desired outcome. Why? Is it because it is an attempt at compliance to interact as opposed to facilitating the space to interact? I absolutely think that organizations should create planned interactions as a part of their culture as I think it familiarizes people with new faces. We just have to ensure that we take care not to make them something people feel mandated to take part in.

I really am curious about how to create space within my organization to facilitate connections. We have two distinct business groups (which have different cultures), but in speaking informally with people in both, there are shared passions and opportunities to engage in playful ways to connect people within the two. Perhaps we have to be brave enough to break from social convention and create and encourage playspace as an effort to create a more holistic view of our organization? It really has me thinking and wanting to learn more and try some experiments to see if we can foster these interactions. I think that by doing this we are looking at our organization with more of a systems view (from individual to team to department to division to whole) and stand the potential to tap into the creative minds that lay dormant inside our organization.

So I put out questions and a challenge to everyone who reads this. How are you facilitating unplanned organizations between individuals today? And if you are not presently doing so, why not? Or, how can you start? As always, I hope you change the world…

“When you want something you have never had, you have to do something you’ve never done” – Steve Roesler




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