Students and Employers Share Their Thoughts About the Workplace and Workforce of the Future in a Unique Conversation

When high school and community college students are asked how they believe employers see their age group they are surprisingly aware and very frank. “They think we are lazy, entitled, inexperienced, less responsible than older employees, and that we are too dependent on technology.”

What do these students want employers to know about them? “Give us a chance. We do work hard and we need experience in order to learn. Just because we use technology does not mean we are tech savvy, we do need training. We are open-minded and open to change. But we are different and we view the world differently.”

On the morning of February 9, 2017 forty-five students from six different schools in Itasca and Cass Counties in NE Minnesota gathered at the Timberlake Lodge in Grand Rapids where they were invited to explore their thoughts with each other about whether they are thinking of staying in the region, what is influencing their thoughts about work, how they think employers see their age group, what they want employers to know about them and how they want to be treated at work.


Bold questions were asked

Throughout the morning they had a chance to meet each other in a series of small group conversations to consider topics about their employment future many had not yet given much thought to. Their conversations grew longer and more thoughtful as the morning progressed and by lunch time they were ready to meet employers.

In the afternoon, thirty-five people from various employers in the region joined the conversation, bringing curiosity and keen interest in learning the thoughts and ideas of the students and willing to share about their work environments and some of the opportunities that exist. Students and employers shared with each other what they think the other group thinks of them, how they each want to be treated at work and how they can retain young people in the region, or attract them back.


Employers and students in rich conversations with each other about the workplace and workforce of the future

Everyone was deeply and respectfully engaged in the conversations and they learned a lot – including, whether they are an employer or potential employee they do want very similar things but the how to them might be different. Some key learnings: respect is a two-way street, training is vital to the development of good employees and workplace environments, young people are open to challenges at work, dependability at work means everyone can do their job well, employers are not just sitting back and doing nothing. Students learned there is more opportunity in the area than they thought and both employers and students acknowledged it could be quite beneficial for young people to leave the area to learn and grow and then come back home with an expanded worldview.

They also talked about the importance of communication and of honesty while maintaining and positive attitude and make expectations clear. Both talked about failure – how it is a good learning opportunity.

This is a Worldview Intelligence project funded by the Blandin Foundation, supported by the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce and carried out by the Meadowlark Institute focused on workforce readiness and workplace changes in response to the growing need for workers in the region. This problem not unique to NE Minnesota but this is the first initiative of its kind focused on employers, future employees and the community has a whole.


Clustering the post-it note harvest looking for themes and patterns

Schools that participated in this initiative are Deer River, Grand Rapids, ALC, Hill City School, Northern Lights Community School, Itasca Community College. At the end of the morning the students had an opportunity to speak about their experience in the conversations. Many indicated it was different than what they were expecting – believing they were coming to a job fair. While a few indicated it was at times boring, they were amazed at the opportunity to share their ideas on each of the topics and pleased to be able to reflect on questions that are looming for them about the workplace. A few also reflected some anxiety about interacting with others they did not know, but that quickly turned into curiosity and connection.

By the time the employers showed up, the students were warmed up and ready to engage confidently in conversations that treated them as equals – one of the things they are looking for in the workplace.

When We See It, It’s Obvious; Until Then, It’s a Hidden Dynamic

When we see it, it’s obvious. Until then, it’s a hidden dynamic. Worldview Intelligence provides many different opportunities to reveal the obvious, making it possible to strategize relationships and communications in ways that move issues of common interest forward, often in new and previously un-thought-of ways.

Each of the Worldview Intelligence explorations – personal, professional, team, organizational, cultural, social systems – provides a window into seeing more of what exists, illuminating patterns, assumptions, belief and value systems in reflective, curious and generative ways. The best way to understand this is through stories. Here we share an example from a health care client we are working with in the United States. It operates in three States with 30,000 employees and is bringing innovation to many areas of its work. One such area is in bringing a team based approach to patient care in their clinics.

In the last year, there have been six clinics in a pilot project led by a team within the organization that is providing the clinics with resources, including evidence based research, leadership development and team cohesion assessments. We were invited to bring Worldview Intelligence to build connections within and across the teams as they were brought altogether for the first time. The impact was revealing and fascinating for all involved.

Shifting the Trust/Risk Dynamics

The co-ordinating team was curious to see if and how we could build enough trust within two days for the teams to become vulnerable enough to share with each other openly and honestly. At the end of Day 1, they weren’t sure they had the answer to that question but by break time the next morning it was clear that the teams were openly sharing successes and challenges and making requests of the co-ordinating team. There was also a demonstrable shift in how members of teams sought each other out to explore new questions at the break and during lunch.

Personal Exploration

How did this happen? The first day focused on the personal worldview exploration including strategies for hosting yourself when your worldview is challenged. While on the surface it didn’t look like much had shifted at the end of the day, it laid a solid foundation for the next day’s exploration related to the social systems of each of the six clinic teams and the co-ordinating team. The personal experience provides an opportunity for people to embody the Worldview Intelligence framework as they gain insight into why they see and experience the world the way they do. The reflection and curiosity that was brought to the personal exploration carried through to subsequent explorations, opening the space for expanded observations, understanding and insights.

Social Systems Mapping

The teams were asked to map their social system and then come back and share what they discovered with the whole group. Social systems mapping is not new, but looking at the mapped systems through the Worldview Intelligence framework is. It has mappers asking different questions to reveal the hidden dynamics and to strategize how to work within and across the system.

Examples of Social Systems Maps

As the team shared their discoveries, not only were they honest and open, there were surprising collective revelations as the entire group began to see the worldview experiences of each clinic and of the whole. By the time all the presentations were complete, the atmosphere in the room had shifted from a collection of teams to a sense of belonging to something bigger and the conversations and relationships had shifted as people sought each other out to learn more.

Worldview Revelations

What were some of the revelations? In short: the impact of the community as a social system on each clinic, unintended consequences and a question about the role of the co-ordinating team.

Impact of Community on Each Clinic

First of all, each clinic is located in a different community or social system. That social system impacts who comes to the clinic, the unique challenges each clinic must address and it influences how the clinic interacts with its community. Different clinics held assumptions about their environment and how it differed from the other clinics and not all those assumptions held true. A clinic located in a larger center assumed they experienced more diversity than clinics in smaller centers. When they said this in their presentation, the members of another clinic team all smiled or chuckled so we knew something was up. When that team did their presentation they talked about the large newcomer population in their area and how that brought 56 different languages into their work, presenting different challenges depending on access to translation services, understanding of cultural traditions and more. Other influences of the communities on the various clinics included availability of staff to fill positions and outreach.

Unintended Consequences

One of the clinics, located in a larger center, had an ongoing relationship with two other clinics in that area. They had spent over seven years working on building consistency across the three clinics so patients would have a similar experience no matter where they went. Only one clinic is in the pilot project and they shared that this was putting their relationships with the other two clinics at risk because they were now changing their approach to patient care and the other clinics did not have the same context.

Role and Relevance of the Co-ordinating Team

Another revelation of note is that for each of the clinics, as they mapped their system, the co-ordinating team was either not on the map or only there in a peripheral way, whereas for the co-ordinating team the clinics were a significant part of their map. This awareness has the members of the co-ordinating team questioning why this is so and becoming curious about their relevance and role and what they might need to shift to support the clinic teams differently.

Consistent and Responsive Systems and Processes

The exploration pointed to the need for an approach, systems and processes that provide consistency across the clinics while allowing for responsiveness to each of the communities and social systems the clinics are located within. It provided key learnings for the current pilot and for what needs to be taken into account when the next round of clinics is brought on for Phase 2.

It all seems completely obvious as it is revealed but it stays hidden until a process, framework and structure is offered to illuminate the patterns and dynamics in a healthy, constructive way that builds relationships and connections for stronger outcomes. Worldview Intelligence is that approach.

Why Asking Someone to Change How They Work May Not Be as Simple as You Think

It happens all the time in work environments. The organization wants or needs to change – the way it works, delivers service, makes its products, is organized. Often this point is missed: change is not just about the mechanics of what is to be changed, it is about the people. People make up and deliver our systems and processes. Most people say they don’t mind change, but they don’t like being changed. Even when it “makes sense”. Because “makes sense” depends on your perspective.

Anais Nin - We don't see things as they are

When we are looking for efficiencies at work, we are often asking someone – or several someones – to change the way they work. To take on new responsibilities or to give up part of your role. It seems to make sense in the grand scheme of things. It is integral to the change working. If we are leading the change or innovation, when we meet resistance we often don’t understand why. What we are asking often seems like a simple request.

conversation-one-on-oneThe challenge we meet is that many of us identify with our role. It forms part of our identity. We think we are simply asking people to change the way they work when we might actually be challenging the way they see themselves. We might be challenging their very sense of identity. And when we feel our identity is being challenged or threatened, psychological research tells us that we respond as if our very life is being threatened. Instead of being open to change, we dig in our heels and overtly or covertly resist being changed. We become more attached to our role or our identity.

Worldview Intelligence offers personal explorations that help us understand our own worldview, where it comes from, what influences it, what values and beliefs are fundamental to who we are. It illuminates typical responsesingrained human patterns, of how we respond to challenges, how we filter information in and out, how our sense of identity shapes our responses, how we become entrenched in our point of view when we feel compelled to defend it. When we can bring curiosity to the exploration we become aware of what is important and why and then we can become conscious of the choices we are making. The very exploration opens up the possibility for each of us to expand our own worldview and be more open to possibility.

For those of us who are responsible for leading change or asking our people to change, understanding that simple requests might have deeper implications allows us to think about how we approach another person or whole department, their role, their work and what is needed to bring about the changes that we need or want rather than becoming frustrated or combative which only serves to make us less effective in our leadership.

Silos, Communication Breakdown and “I Don’t Know What You Do”

It seems no matter what the size of the organization we work with, we typically hear these three complaints: “We work in silos.” “We don’t communicate well.” “I don’t know what you do.” This seems equally true of an organization that has 30 employees relatively co-located or 30,000 employees spread across many sites across a large geography.

It can be a frustrating experience for leadership teams intent on breaking down those silos, improving communication across the organization and wondering why people just don’t talk to each other to discover what they do to hear the same challenges emerge time and time again. Because these issues are not one off. They can’t be solved with that being the end of the story. They need constant attentiveness.

There is no magic bullet. Ever. So, what is a leadership team to do? Keep these challenges in their sights and invest in the time and opportunities it takes to bring people together to talk to each other, to strategize together how to work across silos and be in conversations about what people do and how they contribute to the overall work of the organization.

We have been using Worldview Intelligence in a variety of settings with our clients. The program surfaces these age old complaints with a framework that provides a new lens of discovery, different language to enter into the conversations, a way to illuminate the hidden dynamics or patterns of behaviour within the silos and the organization overall and ways to think about a shared future that honours the individual workings of departments while making sure all are moving forward in alignment.

It is an iterative process. The same framework offers the opportunity for many different often interrelated explorations, including personal, professional, departmental or team, organizational and social systems.


Worldview Intelligence Explorations – An Iterative Process

The personal exploration is a leadership practice as individuals become aware of the lenses through which they see the world, work or community and learn how to invite other people to share their perspectives and influences on how they see the world. It is a heart centered exploration as people first turn curiosity and compassion inwards toward their own journey and then outward toward another. It invites genuine listening and learning to really understand how life experiences, including day-to-day reality, are different. This is particularly true when people from different cultures are learning from and about each other and it is also true for what might be considered more minor differences like coming from a different community in the same city or region.

The professional exploration offers people the opportunity to understand how the views of their profession influence their own professional views. This includes everything from educational influences to the patterns and practices of the profession overall. It provides insights into communication challenges and points of tension with other professions or even within a profession. Within health care, for example, the different medical professions often experience points of conflict around scopes of practice and delivery of health care. Examining the worldviews of each of the professions offers insights and reminds people of the points of connection between them, offering new ideas, thoughts and strategies about how to communicate with the well being of the patient at the center.

The departmental and team explorations invite members of a team to reflect on the history of the department and team, even prior to the current composition of the team, how they think about and live into the future and the practices they use with each other and external to the team to get work done. It can illuminate how they treat each other and others outside the department, offering the opportunity to be intentional about their relationships.

When departments and teams share their worldviews with each other the resulting insights are often surprisingly dramatic and simple at the same time. The exploration surfaces things that can be blindingly obvious once illuminated but hidden until that time. Within an organization this could be the result of different leadership styles or perspectives on the future, it could be the lingering influence of conflictual relationships or any number of other scenarios. Across an organization, particularly one geographically dispersed, the location of a department or unit can have a significant impact on how they function and it is often unacknowledged until the system is mapped and explored.

Once departments or units across an organization share their worldviews with each other, the elements of a shared worldview can be elicited. The organization does not need a singular worldview, but worldviews across the organization should have elements that are common. An organization benefits from a diversity of views and learning how to draw out the greatest potential in addressing the issues and challenges the organization faces. The alignment across worldviews can be strategic and intentional as the organization moves forward on issues that are pertinent to its work and its future well-being.

Understanding what comprises the social systems of departments, units or the organization overall provides an opportunity to explore how to create consistent policies and practices across the organization that are also flexible enough to be responsive to local circumstances and influences.

When an organization takes the opportunity to collectively enter a worldview exploration, it also enters the conversation about how to work across silos, communicate more effectively because people are learning from and about each other and what they do. It is an iterative process. In one way it is simple. In another way it is difficult because it takes time, focus and strategic thinking to ensure ongoing attention to the age old issues. And it is important because these age old issues get in the way of getting work done.

Come With An Open Mind: The Program Might Not Be What You Expect

Adaptability and Intuitiveness of the Worldview Intelligence Framework

There are two basic ways we offer Worldview Intelligence programs. One is through open enrolment programs that attract a wide variety of people coming from diverse places and situations and the co-learning is reach. The other is designing client specific programs to address questions or issues the client has identified. The Worldview Intelligence framework is not only academically rigorous as Jerry speaks about in another video, it is also highly adaptable and intuitive. There are any number of equally powerful worldview explorations that can be done through the same six dimensions: personal, organizational, professional, community and social systems are ones we’ve worked with so far.

People who have experienced Worldview Programs are also speaking about how intuitive the framework is – more than most they have come across or used in their work. It can be applied without always consciously thinking about all six dimensions and can be pulled out in full to examine issues that are stuck to find new ways to strategize relationship and communication to make progress on issues that matter. People, departments, organizations, sub-systems do not all have to think alike. In fact, it’s better if they don’t. The worldview exploration helps build bridges between different perspectives by making explicit what is often implicit and inviting in the creative thinking that comes with a diversity of perspectives.

Different Conversations Within Existing Structures is Possible with Worldview Intelligence

Jaime Smith - cropped

Jaime Smith

“The worldview exploration – touches on who I am,” Jaime Smith told me in a recent conversation about her experience with Worldview Intelligence during and since her participation in a program in Halifax, Nova Scotia a year ago. “For me, it is a leadership development journey and it impacts my work in community.”

In the past couple of years, Jaime has stepped into a very different part of her life journey as she started her own consulting company. She is a planner and facilitator who worked as a Member of the Canadian Institute of Planners with organizations like the New Brunswick Department of Environment, the Halifax Regional Municipality, the New Brunswick Rural District Planning Commission and most recently for the Pictou County Health Authority as a community health planner.

She founded Marram Consulting in 2013 to bring her skills, talent and leadership to a variety of groups, organizations and businesses, to help them navigate challenging spaces with innovation and discovery.  She has a passion for healthy communities and embraces a population health approach to community development. She is a person who can activate in community and can bring a leadership perspective from a 30,000 foot view. She told me, “Worldview has been a powerful and uplifting experience in bringing these two things together.”

“The worldview training gave me an opportunity to think more deeply about what I do – for the first time really.” Jaime is a young mother and a volunteer in addition to running her own business. She has a very busy schedule. “I didn’t have the time to think about things – like, how did I become the person I am today and how does that influence how I am in the world and what I do now?”

Worldview is a lens through which we each look out at the world, usually without an awareness of how that lens influences and shapes what we see and how we act. Reflecting on her experience, Jaime said, “The worldview framework you offer gives me a different way of thinking about my experiences, how my experiences inform how I see myself and what I reflect out into the world. The program was powerful.”

Jaime describes a very typical scenario of a small business owner. “I’ve gone through challenges with my work, trying to navigate my own path while working with what’s emerging but still wanting control of my destiny. My background and education is in urban planning, environmental studies and design.” Jaime acknowledges that urban planning is about working with policies and regulations and it is not straight forward or black and white. She became a practitioner in the Art of Hosting Conversations that Matter which gave her a piece of the puzzle she was seeking and left her searching for more. That’s when she came across the Worldview Intelligence program.

“The six dimensions of worldview gave me an opportunity to look at myself and my work in a different way. It is a holistic approach that invites the different pieces of you to work together. My creative side can work with the side of me that is business and planning oriented and it doesn’t have to be either or. The framework provides a tangible process that is respectful of many different points of view. I was blown away – in a reflective way. It stuck with me. It is foundational and informs so many of the other pieces.”

In Jaime’s view and experience, the academic rigour behind the Worldview Intelligence framework is a key aspect of this work. The framework builds on the study and research of Leo Apostel, a Belgium philosopher, who brought together other philosophers and scientists three decades ago to create a mechanism to bring integration to what they saw as an increasingly fragmented world. Jaime identifies this research and background as essential to the success of Worldview Intelligence. “The world still works this way, still wants the background, the theory behind the patterns, practices and methods that grounds it and makes it both explainable and justifiable to clients in business, government and community.”

Jaime shared one of her stories about impact on her work with her clients. She described one particularly difficult engagement where there was a clear need to look at a variety of perspectives but participants were challenged in doing so. Her own knowledge of worldview and the value of having many different perspectives visible and shared enabled her to find ways to invite and bring all the perspectives together to find a different way into that discussion, without ever having to use the word or specific language of worldview.

She said, “Worldview offers something people can connect to more quickly than some other processes. It provides the leadership and space to have conversations differently while connecting with existing structures to do our best work together. It doesn’t amplify divides in a community. It provides a way to connect across differences.”

When I asked her why someone should take this program, she said, “Anyone who is working with community, with change, investigating their own leadership – this will strengthen and deepen their experience. Worldview can be married with other processes, like IAP2 or Art of Hosting and produce an even better experience.”

“If more of our community and business leaders and politicians would have an opportunity to look at their own views and deepen compassion, we could really make a difference for the people we work with and for. At the end of the day, organizations and society are made up of people. Worldview is a very humanistic and person centered approach. Community health and development tells us this is how we build more effective and resilient communities.”

Jaime is coming back for another round of Worldview Intelligence which now includes a social systems component – new since she took the program a year ago. She is excited to investigate the social systems piece. “It will help me develop new questions about creating meaningful impact.”

Jaime cares deeply about Nova Scotia and noted, “This province is in a time of great change. When stakes are high, we hold onto our views tighter. Worldview Intelligence offers a way to create the space to talk about what we value and to heal trust in communities.

If you are interested in learning more, take a look at the upcoming Worldview Intelligence Program in Halifax at the end of May. We would love to see you there.