Recently I began exploring some prevailing (and to my mind, quite damaging) myths around vertical development. You can find the first article in this series below.
Another one of these myths is that adult development is an individual journey. Much of the existing research on vertical development (including my own) has focused on individuals’ journeys through the stages and on the impact leaders operating from various stages (particularly later ones) can have on their teams and organisations. This is partly perhaps because individuals are much easier to study than whole systems. Whatever the reason for this preference for the individual perspective, we still have much to do in exploring the interconnectedness of individual and system and how that plays out in adult development.
On the other hand, practitioners in the complexity/systems space have been criticising the overly individualistic views of human development and have been advocating for a systems perspective as the way to foster sustainable, scalable change. In calling out the imbalance, some of them have swung the pendulum to the opposite end of the spectrum, dismissing any focus on individual growth/change as irrelevant and suggesting system-level interventions are the only way to have an impact.
My lived experience working both within organisations - with groups large and small - as well as individually, with hundreds of leaders – has shown me that neither of these extremes seems to be the full picture. System and individual seem to be inextricably connected and I have come to believe that trying to influence one in isolation from the other is futile, as is trying to dismiss one or the other as irrelevant.
Watching the ongoing debate between advocates for individual lenses on change versus systemic lenses has made me wonder if what we might be dealing with is, in fact, a polarity and whether we might learn something new from stepping back from it to see the broader perspective of the individual AND system. So I have set out to explore this myth of development as solely a function of the individual in more detail and sought to invite an alternative perspective that can illuminate the role of system, while also honouring the individual.
On today,’s episode, I am thrilled to dialogue with a guest whose work I admire and who I believe holds precious wisdom at the intersection of these two fields – individual development and systemic change. I have learnt a lot from this conversation with Joan Lurie and I hope it offers you as much food for thought as it did to me.
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About Joan Lurie
Joan is the Founder and CEO of Orgonomics, an organisation strategy and leadership development consultancy she established in 2008 to help leaders and organisations develop, perform and transform. She is a Fulbright Scholar with a Master’s Degree in Adult Education and a Master’s Degree in Developmental Psychology.
Joan works with boards, executives and leadership teams to help them develop systemic intelligence and to design and lead complex adaptive change in their organisations with turnaround results. Working together they emerge new cultures, operating models and organisational forms.
Joan applies the Orgonomics™ methodology she created which is most often referred to as ground-breaking. It’s a novel theory and practice for organisations which integrates strategy, systems thinking, complexity and adult development theory. It provides an ecological ‘map’ for leaders to navigate the unique challenges they face and be fit for the current complex landscape we are in. It enables leaders to fundamentally shift how they take up their roles; reframe their assumptions, mental maps and ways of knowing and repattern their organisational systems for new ways of relating and operating to function as coherent wholes.
In a nutshell, Joan’s work enables leaders, teams and organisations to liberate themselves from the constraints and patterns which no longer serve them, but in which they are stuck.
“When I first created Orgonomics™ my core purpose was to assist leaders and organisations to develop their systemic and adaptive muscle - to enable them to continuously develop and grow with complexity. Back then, this was a “nice to have” but now it is an individual and organisational imperative, one which we have to accelerate for the good of our whole ecology”
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