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.

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

Times of Unrest, Polarity and Amplification of Difference

We live in complex times with increasing social unrest, fragmentation, polarization and a nastiness arising in the expression and defence of differing perspectives or worldviews – not always even whole worldviews but just slices of them. Our long standing organizations and institutions are failing us and the disturbances are making visible deeper patterns that have existed for a long time in the social, political and institutional fabric that makes up our social systems, our countries and our collective and individual sense of who we are. These underlying patterns and dynamics we have, for the most part, turned a blind eye to (depending on who or what your reference groups are as some do not have the luxury of turning a blind eye) and they have been simmering, waiting for a time to erupt.

cracksNow they are erupting in many places in the world at the same time, offering zero-sum polarization – it is either this or it is that. US politics, Brexit, Austria and even the last election in Canada are examples of the polarization of views – polarized on points of distinction that are reinforced by individuals’ or groups’ reference groups. The spectrum of identification is being stretched right now and includes from individual, to family, to tribe, to tribes of tribes, all the way to everyone on this planet and all of life and ultimately the universe. A question is how to hold both individuation and planetary unity in the same breath.

Reference groups hold substantively similar perspectives on specific issues. They reflect back to us our worldviews, blinding us to the fact that others may see the world somewhat or substantially differently – which is why we can be surprised by election results, by who does or does not have support. We filter in the “facts” that support what we want to see and filter out the ones that don’t fit with our view of the world.

What we are seeing in the US, even amongst voters within a party, is individuals latching onto “news” stories that support their worldviews, harshly dismissing “news” stories that contradict their views and this dismissal and harshness extends to other people who hold a differing perspective. We live in time of an abundance of data, not facts, as William Davies said in his post on Thoughts on the Sociology of Brexit.

There seems less willingness to explore the spaces in between and beyond the zero-sum. There seems less willingness to stop and listen to each other and a greater propensity to yell and scream – literally and figuratively – at each other, denouncing perspectives that are different from our own.

When we begin with difference, we amplify it. Difference is becoming the starting point in so many of these discourses, even in the ones where worldviews might overlap or be aligned on the majority of issues or questions. When we can find points of connection first, we can explore difference in a healthier, more constructive and expanded way. When we can become curious about how we  and others see the world, about how history informs the present and the future and be willing to look at individual and collective practices to see what they support and bring to life, we are much closer to an exploratory space to move us forward.

arrows-in-opposite-directionPolarities reduce the complexity of any given subject to either or. And a referendum like Brexit reduces complexity to absurd simplicity. When people believe the data they are paying attention to are the facts, arguments about data take place where nobody is really talking to each other but everybody wants their point to not just be heard but to be blindly accepted by someone with a different view. Many of the arguments put forth by vocal politicians or candidates are not supported by facts but are made up stories laid out with blustery, often bullying noise as if daring to question is a wrong in and of itself. It cuts off avenues for exploring different views.

Institutions and political parties are failing us and have been doing so for a very long time. They are operating in forms that sufficed for the last century but not for this one. This lends itself to the disturbances that sprout up around growing social inequities and injustices – real and perceived – that are cloaked in isolationist, protectionist language and a return to a romanticized notion of a past that never existed. Or in proclaiming the “freedom” to speak one’s mind outside of political correctness. It’s not about politically correct language. It’s about the intensity of disappointment, violence, anger and frustration that has been pent up over time and now focused with fear on what we do not know. And people are not stopping to ask how they know what they know, how they know what they believe is true.

The choices that the electorates are making are not, for the most part, unanimous or clear in one direction or another and the issues will not go away with a decision that borders on 50/50 or an election result that puts one party or entrenched ideology in power over another. The divisions stirred up in the US or countries that are part of the EU are not going to disappear and especially not as fears are played upon. They will become more insistent.

Does it take whole scale collapse to get to a new order? Maybe so. It seems we may not get there by extending existing forms or practices. Philip Horvath and others say the collapse is inevitable. On the plus side, collapse is always followed by expansion. Right now, we might not be able to see our way there as we hunker back into individualism and isolationism with some people longing for a future that looks like a romanticized version of a past that never existed and others calling on a future that looks entirely different but is uncharted territory. We need to ask the questions. Lots of questions – about how the practices of our organizations and systems are not aligned with the values and hopes espoused and why the reality we experience is no longer holding together. What is a future that embodies multiple narratives minimizing fear but seeing possibilities?

The Worldview Intelligence framework so far has been surfacing hidden patterns through an inquiry sparked by the six dimensions of reality, explanation, future, values, practices, and knowledge. We are curious to see if it might bring a new opportunity to enter back into conversation about the things that matter, to find our ways beneath and around the hostilities to find ways forward on issues that affect us all. And we’ll have a chance to discover what the possibilities might be in the upcoming programs in Minnesota and Germany this fall where these topics that are alive and real in the world will be alive and real in our explorations.


Worldview Intelligence is Essential for Anyone Working in Community

The framework of Worldview Intelligence is exciting to Jaime Smith, not just because of the academic rigour and research that supports it, but also because it provides a different way to think about your own worldview and to think about community engagement. She is reflecting on what it truly means to bring diverse perspectives into a room and how to frame those needed conversations in more meaningful ways. She offers that learning with curiosity and letting go of judgment, although simplistic, offers who new opportunities for listening and learning.

And, she received an unexpected gift – a revelation. Another consultant in the program, from another country, mapped out her social system and it mirrors Jaime’s own – a fabulous insight into her own networks and work.


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.