Tag: Changing Institutions

The new creative tensions for change

Written by on July 9, 2014 in The Blog with 0 Comments

Appreciate these thoughts from David Brooks in this NYT op-ed. Consider (bold added):

Sometimes creativity happens in pairs, duos like Lennon and McCartney who bring clashing worldviews but similar tastes. But sometimes it happens in one person, in someone who contains contradictions and who works furiously to resolve the tensions within.

When you see creative people like that, you see that they don’t flee from the contradictions; they embrace dialectics and dualism. They cultivate what Roger Martin called the opposable mind — the ability to hold two opposing ideas at the same time.

If they are religious, they seek to live among the secular. If they are intellectual, they go off into the hurly-burly of business and politics. Creative people often want to be strangers in a strange land. They want to live in dissimilar environments to maximize the creative tensions between different parts of themselves.

Today we live in a distinct sort of creative environment. People don’t so much live in the contradiction between competing worldviews. We live in a period of disillusion and distrust of institutions.

Disillusioned. Distrusting institutions. Hopeful??

Some creative people dive into these contradictions. I get that. I feel like I’m swimming in them and being buffeted by the waves, and what next!?

This has created two reactions. Some monads withdraw back into the purity of their own subcultures. But others push themselves into the rotting institutions they want to reinvent. If you are looking for people who are going to be creative in the current climate, I’d look for people who are disillusioned with politics even as they go into it; who are disenchanted with contemporary worship, even as they join the church; who are disgusted by finance even as they work in finance. These people believe in the goals of their systems but detest how they function. They contain the anxious contradictions between disillusionment and hope.

Can we relate this to development work and to working with vulnerable children and families?

“Some withdraw back into the purity of their subcultures.” Check. We see this all the time. Organizations and individual leaders pull into shells in the name of differences (or to preserve uniqueness). With support from donors and those who align with them they may continue that way indefinitely.

“Others push themselves into the rotting institutions they want to correct.” It’s not so much “rotting institutions” in the developing world. We have fresh but corrupt and incompetent institutions, and we have organizational/religious/philosophical fiefdoms.

But some cross the lines to engage with seemingly contradictory forces, because they hope for change.

For me this means having friends who are orphanage directors or involved with orphanages and partnering with others to raise awareness about family-based care. It means caring about what is right and best for children and engaging as a learner and partner with people who think differently, because the best hope for real change is many different kinds of people working together.

What does this look like for you?

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