This has come out of the #ldinsight chat today on what have we learned from the Friday Twitter chats.

In response to the plea to let things emerge and the very lovely open space principle that “the right people will be arrive” to be in a conversation – I’m thinking about the difference between being interventionist & making stuff happen vs being non interventionist & letting stuff happen as it happens.

So I’m thoughtful that most of the client systems I hang out in err to the interventionist – lock it down on a plan, with dates and budgets. Plan. Organise. Control. THIS intervention means THESE are your Learning Outcomes (Really? They are? How do you know? Are these my only Learning Outcomes? Am I allowed more? Fewer? Where’s the part where I got a say in this intervention?)
See… too much of that stuff & it all gets a bit daft.
I’ve worked with people and systems who cannot leave well enough alone – changing for changes sake, just because they need to intervene… it’s arguably harmful.

And then there is an alternative route – emergent possibilities – working in a way that is inherently more complex (LOADS of stuff runs, mostly all at the same time, as many ideas as you have folk) Slower – it takes time to work with emerging agendas, you need to let stuff run to see where it is running & if that’s working. It’s free thinking, self-organising and non-interventionist. It’s arguably a tougher route. Certainly it requires a whole bunch of personal maturity and resilience to just kind of let stuff go.. inner control freaks start rearing their head, people can feel very unsettled …

Both suit folk. Lock it down, intervene to ensure an outcome, seems safer, faster… and then generally, in the long term, the unlocked stuff leaks all over the place, muddying the nice neat boxes constructed.
Emergent agendas – going where it goes, with whoever happens to be around, working with what is new – seem more creative, more fluid, fairer…

Which leads me to noodling.
I can noodle. It’s a bit of a fuchsiablueism – by noodling I mean I can work with a big bowl of muddled up noodles and love the complexity, follow the threads, play with the forms.. work with what emerges. I can do this for ages – it’s fascinating.
I’m also guilty of some personal noodling – blogging might be part of that – hanging out with a thought – poking at it and considering it… noodling away by myself without fully paying attention to the world around me, my context, the relevance of my stuff.
I like a bit of noodling. I like the emergent, slow stuff. I had to learn how to sit with some of it, because most of my early working life geared me to NOT NOODLE and get to the point/ purpose…that and I was not bestowed with infinite patience… it’s an ongoing battle for me

My point is: if I don’t want to disappear into some strange noodley ether, I kind of feel I have to find anchors and reality, structures and systems that allow me to come back.
When I’m facilitating, it’s as important to bring stuff back to the core point, the purpose, as it is to enable and encourage folk to go away from it. Emergent work just doesn’t work for some people. It’s freaky and weird and scary. Just like a neat 16 box matrix is likely to make me want to gently bang my head off the desk… but you kind of need both.

If I’m going to be useful to clients, to the folk in my life, I can’t just noodle.
If I want my practice to be enriched, lively and stay relevant… I have to do a bit of noodling.
It can’t be all or nothing.

Now mulling on if I can get the concept of noodling into a 16 box matrix and sell it worldwide for interventions…….

Thanks to Meg Peppin & Jo Stephenson for the inspiration

3 thoughts on “Noodling

  1. Lovely stuff.
    I think it depends on the role we are performing. if for example, I am being hired to facilitate the creation of a strategic plan, then that is the core of my focus; whether I think planning ahead for three years makes sense or not, the client agenda is at the heart of my work. How we get there – ask some good questions and get out of the way. It’s amazing how much work people can do for themselves.
    If people come together voluntarily for exploration, then even less intervention; the occasional incisive question.
    Some years ago, I was facilitating a large meeting; two boards coming together. My client took me aside at one point and said quietly “we just need you to be here; you don’t necessarily need to do anything for much of the time”. Wonderful learning.
    I guess what’s at the heart of my own practice is the continual awareness of who’s agenda I’m really working; mine, or theirs. There are times when mine has a legitimate place, but I can only know who’s agenda I’m working through constant reflexivity.
    I suppose my point is that emergent, for me, is noodley – noodley in the fact that there are multiple threads, some are mine, some belong to the system – knowing which are mine, which are theirs, YUM. It’s what happens, whether we are able to contain it or not.

    • I love this, Meg – Yes. Beautifully put – Understanding self & our own urges to jump in/ stay out is a key part of the work.

  2. Love the concept of noodling but has prompted me to think, not of the noodles, but the bowl they’re in.
    A few questions:
    Does the bowl define a structure that you work within?
    If the noodles weren’t in a bowl but on a plate, would you still be able to follow them the same way?
    Does the size of bowl matter in terms of volume, space and capacity?
    How do you eventually get out of the bowl?

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