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Authentic Chooks

Guest blogger: Josie McLean Principal consultant The Partnership

By linking a few different stories relating to different species, I want to inspire you, my fellow chooks, to be your chook selves. I want us to evolve principles for operating, which are authentically and uniquely chook-like. I argue that we need to create a new “chook” game, rather than just emulating and imitating the “rooster” game.

Your Chook author was present at a meeting of another group of women back in those distant years of the early to mid 1990s, when the IT industry looked set to take off. The conversation was almost the same as the conversation that Chooks are a part of around start-ups more generally now. There are probably lessons to be learned from that era, but the fact that it is almost the same conversation is an indicator that the culture of our society has seemingly failed to evolve much in regard to gender issues.

Societal change at a fundamental level of identity within a context of Australia as a white-male-dominated society is a profound change yet to emerge. But it’s the type of change I’ve been researching and working with for the last 20 years. How does that type of change emerge? How can we chooks influence it?

I wonder if we might learn from some wolves? I know we’re all chooks here, so please don’t be alarmed at the mention of wolves; I assure you they’re purely for demonstrative purposes. You may have seen an amazing video entitled “How wolves change rivers”. It relates the story of the reintroduction of wolves into Yellowstone National Park in Yosemite, and the unplanned, unexpected and positive outcomes of this simple act. (If you haven’t seen the video yet, please take 5 minutes to view it now before reading on – the rest will make more sense if you do.)

Some principles

1, Be authentically you

The wolves were just going about their lives being authentic wolves. They weren’t dressing up as sheep or otherwise trying to be anything other than wolves. Being authentically ourselves is a powerful force of nature. Authenticity enables the liberation of our individual core values and the talents or strengths that we all possess. Expressing your values through your work can transform it, because most work practices have been developed in response to valuing something other than you! Such as businesses valuing efficiency and profit above all else. So remain true to what you value and express it. Find ways of changing work practices in response to what is most important to you.

2. Plans and goals aren’t required

Neither the wolves nor the ecologists who reintroduced them had a blueprint for the scale of change that occurred. The wolves weren’t given a to-do list upon arrival to check off as they consciously implemented each change. In fact, in the context of living systems, a plan is a waste of time and energy because of the complexity of the interdependence of the feedback loops of cause and effect. These feedback loops can be between different species, natural variables like rainfall or temperature, or even the landscape itself.

But to orient yourself, hold on to your vision of how you really want to experience the new landscape. The landscape I am referring to here, is the transformed workplace, and economic environment in which your new business is participating. But let’s not forget that an economic environment can’t exist without people or a natural environment. So consider, how do you really want to experience the interdependent facets of work and business within your life?I emphasise the word “really” because it reminds me of the wonderful systems dynamics scientist, Donella Meadows. She said that we must not settle for what we think is realistic but instead be idealistic like a child. Meadows encouraged us to be bold and envision “what we really want”.

3. Trust that the landscape will change in response

It's hard at times (occasionally it may even seem impossible) to see the impact of what you are doing on a grander scale. It can feel as though we are invisible and despite being present, that our activity and impact is close to zero. But you are a part of the larger whole. You must trust that over time, your activity will influence the entire landscape in a positive manner. Sometimes, we gain a small insight into the fact that we have made a difference. And that difference is usually noticed in hindsight – when the dust has settled a little.

If you doubt the impact your efforts have – consider this: If you do nothing differently, that too will make a difference by reinforcing the very dynamics within the existing system. You are always influencing – the question is whether you’re consciously influencing or not

Chooks being chooks can transform the whole economic system

Capitalism as we have practiced it over the last few hundred years has developed into a force that has wreaked destruction on society and the natural environment while also delivering us a lifestyle beyond the wildest dreams of most of our grandparents. What a paradox!

The way we go about business itself needs to transform. Chooks, as they add their authentic diversity to the dominantly masculine worldview and chemistry of doing business, can be a part of the impulse for transformation. But let's keep that vision of transforming the very way business is undertaken and integrated into our lives, at the heart of what we are doing.

And as we consider Chooks, we remember that there is great diversity amongst chooks themselves, Isa Browns, Rhode Island Reds, Australorps, Leghorns etc, who can each liberate their own genius. And as they do so, the creative and innovative capacity of the system as a whole will increase exponentially too.

Chooks are chooks. Roosters are roosters (or sometimes, cocks!…). Roosters’ rules have dominated for too long. We need a healthy and intelligent combination of the two. Let’s not be limited to Chooks just getting good at Rooster games. I know I may be preaching to the converted but let's be consciously aware of our intention to change the landscape - the very way in which ‘business as normal’ is conducted.

Let's create self-sustaining businesses that are purposefully nurturing people (including you) and the planet at the same time. Please, don't form new businesses that just have more chooks playing the old destructive game. The possibility is for so much more than just gaining a fairer share of VC funds! Indeed, the world needs us to be so much more.

Guest blogger is Josie McLean. She is the creative director of The Partnership and leads client liaison, program development and delivery. She has just completed requirements for her PhD with research s the foundation of Profound Change. She is internationally recognised as a speaker and coach (recipient of 2009 ICF global President’s Award).

You will hear Josie’s laugh before you see her approaching. Download Josie’s profile.

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