Acting 'As If'
Which is more authentic - a person’s behaviour or their deepest intentions?
For me, people only behave authentically when they’re serving intentions driven by their deepest values. You may agree with this at first reading, but hold on a moment. Let’s add a second sentence. Even if they behave in a way that is outside of their normal behaviour and comfort zone. Not convinced? Here’s a question for you.
What if you are in a situation and your overarching intention is to absolutely not offend someone. However, in order to placate them you know that you have to take part in an uncomfortable, physical ritual that feels inauthentic. Would you do it?
I can almost hear a few groans of dissension, so, if that’s you, please hold back your judgement, suspend your disbelief, stop here and consider the above question for a moment longer before you read on.
Delighted that you’ve come back. Let’s move on.
Fredric Laloux’s recent book ‘Reinventing Organisations is a reminder to leaders that there is a horizontal and vertical developmental journey to take in order to create the kind of organisations that will be fit for purpose in the 21st century.
- ‘Horizontal’ means improving and consolidating current competencies to continue to effectively meet the demands and expectations of the developmental stage we are at right now.
- ‘Vertical’ means increasing our capability and capacity to include and integrate new competencies and qualities from a level above our current stage.
In his book Laloux reiterates Ken Wilber’s Integral theory and applies it to 12 case studies to make his point. His call is for leaders to act in service of building what is known in Integral circles as 2nd Tier Teal organisations. However, the actions called for go way beyond simply communicating a new management strategy and then expecting people to implement it. Tony Hsieh of Zappos is currently experiencing the challenges of imposing a 2nd Tier process on a people in a culture unprepared at the deepest level.
A strategy with a 2nd Tier vision needs leaders and managers able to authentically operate at 2nd Tier themselves, together with employees willing to share the same vision, in order to implement it. And there in lies the biggest challenge. Reaching the 2nd Tier stage of human development is no mean feat. We’re talking about a radical shift in perspective as a result of a momentous leap in consciousness. The challenge here is that the jump to such a complex stage of consciousness can take up to 5 years to stabilize. I would wager there are very few among us who can claim to have that kind of time and patience in business today.
But, what if taking action means we ‘act as if’ we’re already where we need to be? What would be the impact?
As the philosopher Hans Vaihinger pointed out, we humans can never really know the true, underlying reality of the world. As a result we construct systems of thought and then behave ‘as if’ the world matches our models. Not convinced? Then let’s take a look at people who ‘as act if’ for a living. Consider for a moment the developmental task of professional actors.
Actors in training need to master the ability to manage and manipulate their own 3D (physical, emotional and cognitive) human experience. They train by working with body language, emotional intelligence and the ability to learn, understand and deliver complex texts.
They then need to be able to untangle their consciousness from their own feelings, thoughts intentions and behaviours in order to embody an entirely different person’s set of experiences to convincingly communicate a characters story.
They must also endeavour to bring something new to a role in order to imbue their performance with creative uniqueness.
The world’s best actors develop what could be described as a non-dual capacity to fully embody a character on stage, while simultaneously witnessing themselves doing so. In performance they’re able to feel, think and take action while objectifying their feelings, thoughts and behaviours so as to guide and manage what is happening both intra-personally and inter-personally with the other actors. All the while maintaining what we as the audience experience as a genuinely moving, entertaining and authentic portrayal of a character.
To do this they have to expand their ability to consciously create the impact they choose. This leads to the development of the 4th dimension of human being. The Intentional dimension. This is the realm of consciousness, energy, creativity and at the deepest level, the causal field. That’s as close a description of a practice for Laloux’s Teal disciplines of Evolutionary purpose, Self-management and Wholeness as I’ve ever heard.
Therefore I would like to suggest that almost everyone can benefit from learning the cognitive and behavioural techniques the most authentic actors use. I believe that, with certain adaptions, these practices can drive development in all lines, levels, states and stages to Teal. Mastering the art of improvisation is the first of many skills that can lead to an authentic shift of the whole person towards taking genuine 2nd Tier perspectives more thoroughly and more efficiently than any other practice I know. At the end of his book Laloux writes:
“We are not dealing here with a theoretical model or a utopian idea, but with a reality waiting to be imitated and propagated.”
We at 4DHB answer his call to imitate the reality of the Teal way of being and doing in business by acting with passion, commitment and absolutely authentic intentions.