Utopian exercises for the modern organization: a workshop
A Thursday afternoon, late May, I met with a vibrant crew of NXT employees to stimulate thought and action around time and work. Based on previous talks with NXT founder and Creative Director Flemming Wisler and NXT artist Madeleine Kate McGowan, I had developed a 3-hour workshop to attune NXT to the temporal issues of organizing (for) sustainable transformation, and to experiment with different ways of being in and using time. NXT is a rather special communications-and-art agency who's keen on rebellion, ecology, architecture and the transformation of society in our age of disasters. So I developed a workshop for them in three parts, offering both theoretical and playful engagement with the role of time in changing the world - and ourselves:
A research-based lecture on the concept of The Anthropocene, the acceleration of modern time, the potential of 'utopian methods', and the need for a new temporal framework for human beings, based on new/revitalized forms of agency in which care and community play a big part.
A discussion exercise around ways of caring and nourishing the human and non-human stakeholders while trapped in time pressure and short-term deliveries.
An affective and tactile exercise with the strategic notion of goals and milestones, working with a 50-year timeframe.
A few of the comments from NXT participants after the workshop:
'What I liked best was the last exercise with the stones. It was great to be challenged with where I think NXT should be in 50 years. It strengthens the visions that one works with and towards!'
'The group discussion was where I was pushed the most. We generally don't prioritize time to debate internal affairs, so it was both good and somewhat provoking. It was a new angle on things and it gave us a completely different talk than we would normally have. The framing moved the conversation and challenged the content.'
'The introduction to time was interesting - and I could have easily listened for longer'
'I really liked the lecture. It found it very interesting and it gave us a great start for the workshop'
'I was pretty crazy about the sensuous aspects of the milestones exercise'
A reflection on the workshop shared by all was a yearning for more time to dive into the exercises, the concepts, the discussions. As one participant wrote to me: 'we need time to shake off our habits'. Yes. The time limit is always a factor. How deep can we go with the little time we have? How much time can we as leaders and employees allow ourselves to untie from daily organizational life, in order to see things differently? How efficient can the workshop be - what can I as temporal consultant do to balance my intention to get people to a different place of thought, with the hours that we have at hand?