Risky disclosures in developmental friendships

Ben Teehankee, Jean Hartmann and Petra Schweizer-Ries offer a concurrent session, calling with a…“Bahhhhhhaaaaahaahaaaahaaa …” 

“We met at the first AR+ Gathering at Chalmers in 2019. Our group of six (three women and three men) then self-organized, calling ourselves “Virtual Black Sheeps.” In this we were much like a regular AR+ coLAB and adding  Otto Scharmer’s Theory U principles and practice with  social technologies, such as Arawana Hayashi’s social presencing theatre, to our generative dialogue. 

In retrospect, the profundity of our black sheep experience started with how the five of us experienced an “awkward” moment during that first AR+ Chalmer’s Gathering. In this moment the Gathering facilitation seemed to come crashing down. What exactly had happened?! Each of us responded differently to the seemingly conflictual situation. We used the ‘Chalmers case’ and our informal debrief to start into a process of learning how to make risky disclosures which in turn served to deepen our peer-to-peer relating over time.

What is our developmental edge practice? It’s about activating the power of inquiry and feeling empowered within that inquiry within a group context, despite (or because of?) the risky disclosures we make. In this we overlap with, enrich, and are enriched by, other practices at AR+. Our practice premise extends from Bill O’Brian’s insight about transformative change: “the success of an intervention depends on the interior condition of the intervener” (quoted in Scharmer, 2018, p. 7).

In our developmental edge session, we’ll share a little about the theoretical grounding and our practice approach here, but only enough to orient attention. Fundamentally we believe deeply in the quality of human relating and the resulting relationship that can impact the quality of developmental learning, collaborative working, and healthy and happy living in community with others.

For us, the quality of developmental experience depends on the emotional state of our own vulnerability; and the quality of interaction in the social field depends on the relational spaces of our making, online or in-person. In other words, we remain curious about how we can create our own openings within as relational beings. And how to do so well while in company of developmental others. How can we listen without judgment? How can we inquire from a non-advising stance? And how do we further engage in risky disclosures to either initiate or reciprocate what is the relational intimacy of truths-telling (what we hold true to ourselves)? This is the terrain of developmental (self), collegial (other), and relational (many) spaces within and between, inside our grazing grounds for the black sheeps.

We might say that “vulnerability held us together,” as we landed our own ah-ha’s. Now we warmly invite you to join us in our developmental edge practice at the AR+ e(CO)Retreat. Come to enjoy the backstory of how we came together (beginnings matter, as they say). Experience with us some of the improvisational practices that turned out to be quite Sherpa-like for personal and professional growths (so we think!)

It is our intention to share our learning journey as a contribution to the growing repertoire of ARTists and as a tribute to AR+ for supporting our inquiry into transforming our own communities of practice as participatory action researchers in contexts such as, inter alia: Guyana, as an OD practitioner with US-based nonprofits in homeless servicing; as a German professor of sustainability science and community development; as a Professor of business ethics in the Philippines; as a consultant and thought leader in global finance for women; as an educational psychologist in the UK.

We share some sheepish science about our developmental edge practice on our YouTube video. And a little about tuning the qualities of a whole self. 

Please check out this related resource microPractice article.

Scharmer, O. (2018). The essentials of theory U: Core principles and applications. United States: Berrett-Koehler Publishers.

Willis, P. (2019). Retroduction, reflexivity and leadership learning: Insights from a critical realist study of empowerment. Management Learning, 50(4), 449-464.