I use the word ‘Soul’ intentionally to counterbalance the neurobiological determinism assailing organisations. I am not harking
back to a bygone age clutching at commandment stone or pontificating
from the pulpit, for even these emblems have withered when exposed to
the light. Neither do I wish to link the word to a New Age mantra or the
rich and deep traditions of the East.
I use it here as a means to
connect with what is deeply significant to each one of us within
organisations, it is a field, energy, force whatever else you may choose
to call it that permeates our deeper dreams and desires, it resides
within each of us though it is elusive and indescribable. No physicist,
scientist, professor or neuroscientist has located it. It can’t be seen
or touched, it is neither in the brain, the heart or the gut, yet it
exerts a powerful influence.
Though it can’t be seen or touched,
each one of us has felt it, however its not the same type of everyday
feeling that you would ascribe to the senses, it resides much deeper and
subtly below awareness and within awareness at the same time.
of us have it and its potency and vitality ebbs and flows. You witness
it in others - In people that lift your spirit, offer you wise counsel,
support you unconditionally and challenge you to be your best. You are
exposed to their humanity, their strengths, their concerns, their
tribulations and their hopes. You see it in teams and organisations when
they are infused with vision, purpose and passion.
We connect more profoundly with ’Soul’ when we allow our senses to grow still and enable a process of flow.
have found the verse on Self-Knowledge from ‘The Prophet’ by Khalil
Gibran a powerful enabler. I invite you to watch my short two-minute
video on Youtube.
A verse on Self-Knowledge from 'The Prophet’ by Khalil Gibran. Recited by Eugene Fernandez and accompanied by his photography.
Dr Eugene Fernandez has over 25 years experience in consulting, coaching and facilitation, spanning various industries and
sectors globally. www.metanoa.com.au
Managers and Leaders are critical agents in helping to challenge people’s view of the world by encouraging deeper thinking and reflective processes within the organisation. The
DOOR framework emerged as a result of helping managers and leaders to
think and reflect on what they do and can lead to deep learning and
generative change when utilised with Action Learning.
is used as a mnemonic, and also metaphorically and literally as a means
to ‘open’ doorways to understanding. This article was written whilst on
a family holiday in Fiji. It was an opportunity to use my holiday
journey as a metaphor to illustrate and elaborate on the framework. The
‘D’ in DOOR stands for ‘Design’, the first ‘O’ stands for ‘Operate’,
the second ‘O” stands for ‘Observe’ and the ‘R” stands for “Reflect”.
This then forms the first iterative cycle.
At its elementary
level the ‘DO’ stands for ‘doing’. Like most Leaders, I am immersed well
in truly in the Doing paradigm. For me ‘doing’ is at a most robotic and
unconscious level. The ‘OR’ stands for ‘or else’ and includes divergent
thinking, creativity, play, questioning, challenging, meta reflection
and being present in the moment.
The open Door of the 737 aircraft was an invitation to leave behind the treadmill of Doing. Stepping inside I was met with a sun-blessed
cheery face and a warm ‘Bula’ (Hello) which I followed with ‘Vinaka’
which means thank you. Those of you that have been to Fiji know that
this is an invitation to slow down and to take on board what the Fijians
call ‘Fiji Time’ – essentially chill out and go with the flow. A Fijian
bitter (beer) eased me as I settled back into the seat and reflected on
the year that was.
Observe I have found that ‘Observation’ is usually a good place to start with the DOOR cycle. We are so busy
bombarded with action that we rarely get the time to stand back and
As a Leadership Consultant, I design processes to help
busy executives to understand more about themselves. I’m also a conduit
in enabling deeper more reflective processes to emerge, thereby helping
to transform the lives of many leaders. I did this for over a
decade,(Fernandez 1997) though found that whilst I enabled this for
others, I rarely engaged with these processes myself. My Doctoral
journey changed this through addressing the question – “How can I as a
leader (add facilitator and consultant to this) shift my focus from
Action to Deep Reflection?”
The lens that was externally focused
was now firmly focused on me and the internal frame. Interestingly the
old adage, ‘We teach what we most need to learn’, was true in my case.
It helped me to see that what I encouraged in others, I needed to embody
and emulate for myself. As Managers and Leaders we influence people
and processes at different levels. Our whole persona is integrally
linked to the processes that we enable. We influence and are also
influenced by every interaction with others - in many ways our role
becomes one of co-enabling and co-creating processes with people. The
old science model of the distant disconnected observer and expert plying
their trade to others has had its day in the sun (Hawking &
Mlodinow 2010; Kaku 2009; Laszlo 2008).
If I was to enable deep
change for others then I needed to observe and recognise my own mental
models and filters that constructed my view of reality. I needed to work
at growing and developing further as a person. Pragmatically speaking -
as a Facilitator and Leader - through self-observation I needed to
understand what my own mental models and filters of the world are. How
do these models and filters reinforce my view of the world? What is the
breadth and depth of my worldview? What are the deeper metaphors and
stories that inform my world-view? How accommodative of others
world-views am I? Observation is essential as it provides the data for
Reflect Breathing with excitement I snorkeled at the edge of a reef en-route to stepping ashore for a barbecue lunch at a
secluded Sandy Cay. I reflected momentarily on a Sufi quote I often use
in my programs. ‘Deep in the Sea are riches beyond compare but if you
seek safety it is on the shore’. By Shiraz. The person’s name not the
wine, though I did indulge in a glass at the Cay!
To keep the
metaphor going, there are many species of reflection, some allow you to
explore the shore, close to the surface and others enable the
exploration of the depths.
Like the coral reef, there are layers
of interrelated, symbiotic connections; rich, colorful and imbued with
meaning and purpose.
Time for ‘Reflection’ is scant in our busy
lives. Even when we do reflect, our primary means is to reflect in the
middle of action or briefly on action. This surface level process
reflects back the world that you know - much like the shallow pool of
water at the Cay that reflected my face and the blue sky in the
background. In business, ‘Review’ is compensated for ‘Reflection’ and
even this is done in a cursory fashion.
Also, review - like the
‘post implementation review’ within project management frameworks - sits
comfortably within established business practices. It rarely challenges
the status quo or the deeper underlying issues. In this context review
and surface level reflection are single loop, incremental and fragmented
from the context. Deep reflection on the other hand is the vital
ingredient that incubates and illuminates new ideas. Deep reflection
challenges current mental models or world-views and can change the game
altogether. It is uncomfortable, creates dissonance and without it we
are likely to achieve no more than trivial change. (Fernandez 2008;
Deep reflection does not occur by happenstance.
Given the pace and demands of life it needs to be designed, fostered and
embedded systemically in organisations. Deep reflection involves the
individual as both the subject and object of reflection. Also,
group/team reflection sessions are a powerful enabler of high
performance. Critical skills in dialogue, inquiry, advocacy and empathic
listening help in developing openness, trust and camaraderie. (Issacs 1999)
and reflection are linked to our world-views and the Meta models we
hold in our head. Leaders with myopic self centered world-views who are
non-reflexive impact disproportionately on the lives of individuals.
Design Our Observations and Reflections provide the data and critical thinking that helps us in designing something new.
Design incorporates a creative forward-looking process. It can be,
intentional and unintentional, planned and emergent. Design plays a key
part in transforming our lives and in developing solutions that go
beyond what we currently do and know. Leaders, who spend time designing
and planning for the future, intentionally create better outcomes.
Recent research on the brain (Carr 2010; Fine 2007; Levine 2002; Siegel
2007) also highlights the critical need to engage the forebrain in
designing and creating the future. If we don’t, this part atrophies and
we get locked into the daily grind.
Some time ago, I facilitated
a leadership program for the Ratus (chiefs of Fiji). There were
significant insights and learnings for me and I valued the
cross-cultural immersion. For my children, this was a holiday where I
wanted them to have a similarly immersive cultural experience apart from
the orchestrated one at our resort.
Whilst waiting in the
foyer the valet, David, enquired about our trip, I briefly provided the
highlights and commented that I was also hiring a car so my children
could see the real Fiji. He open-heartedly invited us to his house for
dinner in a village amongst small sugar cane plantations. We took up the
offer, exchanged phone numbers and agreed to meet at the car park of a
local supermarket in town and then follow him in our car. We
decided to bring a bottle of Australian wine along with an envelope
containing money as our gift. With David in tow we also bought some
nibbles and chocolates for his son plus a couple of bottles of Fiji
bitter. David had two bags of ice, apologising that they had no light or
fridge due to a recent cyclone. He asked us to follow him. I was glad
that I had hired a large all terrain vehicle with plenty of clearance at
the bottom as we had to take a longer route through boggy tracks due to
the bridge being damaged by the cyclone.
We left the
highway and entered a dirt road, after some time David left his car at a
friends place and hopped in our car. He did this so that he could come
back with us for the more dangerous part of the ride. It started to
rain, the terrain was boggy and hilly, we forded two bridges, and one
made of timber had my hair on edge. My rather limited driving in boggy
terrain skills was also tested. A little later the rain had cleared and
we entered lush green countryside. Farmers waved at us as we passed.
David commented that due to the hilly terrain and the high cost of fuel
most work was done by ox and spade. The mixed community (Fijian and
Indian) helped each other out during the cutting season and for other
We arrived at a small house tucked
away amongst giant Neem, Mango and Tamarind trees. There were herbs
vegetables and flowers around it and chickens and goats in separate
pens. The house was clean and tidy; food was cooked in an annex kitchen
that was fired with timber and charcoal. Water was drawn from a boar,
though the pump was not working due to the electrical wires coming down.
Dinner was served in the courtyard, as the house was too hot. We had a
feast of crab and fish that David and his extended family had caught the
day previously on his day off from work. He stated that we were lucky
as the full moon meant fleshier and plump crabs. We
explored a range of issues including about the environment and global
warming and the impact on his community. He commented that he was paid
$3.90 per hour, as was most of the service staff at the resort. He said
that this was not sustainable and equitable given the amount the resort
charged their guests. His income was supplemented by what they grew.
example he bartered some herbs for the lettuce in our salad. David and
his wife saved $20 a fortnight for the education of their son. We
discussed the traits and strengths that their son was already
demonstrating and we talked about their aspirations. David and his wife
had hope for a better future for their son. They were realistic,
optimistic and intentionally and purposefully made plans for a brighter
future.My children were privy to all that was said and done during this time. We had a great conversation
on the trip back about our experiences, about the deeper pervading
issues in society, about the future and its potentiality. I also had an
opportunity to look up at the night sky; it appeared like every star was
visible and twinkled.
The story captures many aspects of
the design and planning process. My intention for a deeper cultural
experience meets the warmhearted opportunity offered by David. We are
all designers of our life, making choices along the way that create and
bring to life a future drawn from many other possible futures
(Inayatullah 2008). Awareness of this is critical for if we are not
willing to actively engage in this design, then we may be unconscious of
the influences around us and have a future imposed on us.
Operate ‘Operate’ is the final frame of DOOR and many of us are very good at this. In fact our whole life is engineered
for this to occur; our very cortical architecture primes us for pattern
and predictability. Neuroscience recognizes that this pattern making
approximates 96% of what we do and this is mainly unconscious. The 4% is
working memory and our window to consciousness. The DOOR’s iterative
process enables us to meaningfully and intentionally work with the 4%
and to understand the patterns and processes that drive us. The beauty
is that when you deeply think and reflect your ‘Doing’ also becomes more
present. I was present and enjoyed my time with David and was alive to
the journey. I had trust in the future that was unfolding around us.
are constantly experiencing something through our senses. It is when we
place this ‘DOing’ through the filter of Observation and Reflection
that we add meaning to it. Meaning which is individualised, constructed
and context bound, gains significance and power through a process of
Dialogue with others. Managers and Leaders who are reflexive
practitioners can with their whole being ‘Be the Change they want to see in the World’.
References Carr, N. 2010, The Shallows - How the internet is changing the way we read, think and remember, Atlantic Books, London. Fernandez, E. 1997, ‘The Value of Reflective Practice in the Process of Change’,
Action Research thesis, International Management Centres-UK, Brisbane. Fernandez, E. 2008, DOOR to Action Learning Metanoa, pp 1-3 www.metanoa.com.au Fernandez,
E. 2009, 'DOOR to Deep Learning’, Deep Learning- Sources and Practices
for Integral Leadership, eds P. Schrijnen, E. Leigh & S. Michiotis,
Society For Organisational Learning, Lesbos Greece, pp. 59-62. Fine, C. 2007, A Mind Of Its Own - How your brain distorts and deceives, Allen & Unwin Pty. Ltd, Sydney. Hawking, S. & Mlodinow, L. 2010, The Grand Design, Bantam, New York. Inayatullah, S. 2008, 'Six Pillars - Futures thinking for transforming ’, Foresight, vol. 10, no. 1, pp. 4-21. Issacs, W. 1999, Dialogue and the art of thinking together, Doubleday - Random House, New York. Kaku, M. 2009, Physics of the Impossible, Penguin, London. Langer, E. 1989, Mindfulness, Addison-Wesley, Woburn, MA. Laszlo,
E. 2008, Quantum Shift in the Global Brain- How the New scientific
Reality Can Change Us and Our World, Inner Traditions, Rochester,
Vermont. Levine, M. 2002, A Mind At A Time, Simon & Schuster, New York. Rock,
D. 2009, Your Brain at Work - Strategies for overcoming distraction,
regaining focus, and working smarter all day long, HarperCollins, New
York. Siegel, D., J. 2007, The Mindful Brain: Reflecion and
Attunement In The Cultivation Of well-Being, W.W. Norton & Company,
Dr Eugene Fernandez is the Managing Director of Metanoa and has over 25 years experience in consulting, coaching and facilitation, spanning
various industries and sectors globally.
He has held senior
roles in Organisational Consulting and Human Capital including roles as a
Company Director and Program Director for Australia’s leading Business
Schools, Melbourne Business School, Australian Graduate School of
Management, Macquarie Graduate School of Management and the Australian
Institute of Management. Over 5000 managers have participated in his
interventions. More details on the DOOR model can be found at
Neuroscience is discovering that the brains of leaders and followers are different and that they follow inherited tendencies towards leading and following.
All of the earth shattering assumptions were made by comparing scans done on 25 macaque monkeys. The study then extrapolated further by stating that ‘There is no reason to suspect that the correlations identified in the study would not apply to other primates, like apes and humans’.
Whilst this is Interesting, I would still call it ‘emerging’ research’. I use the word 'emerging’ to show that any 'bit’ of research based on neuroscience is a work in progress - particularly given the liberal assumptions and inferences the author draws from the research. Gives added weight to the term 'Monkeying around’ ha ha!
There is much to be learned from ‘Neuroscience’ though the danger lies in extracting bits of information and extrapolating from it as if it infers the whole. Much like the blind men and the elephant.
Many of these studies also draw on small sample sizes and confuse correlations (see word in bold italic above) with causes. Correlation is not causation i.e. just because there is a relationship between two or more things doesn’t mean that one necessarily causes the other. for e.g. police and accidents tend to be found together, does not mean that police are causing the accidents or sunflowers turning towards the sun does not cause the sun to move.
Neuroscientist Rafael Yuste, says there are about 100 billion neurons and up to 1,000 trillion neural connections in the brain – so studying them individually is like “understanding a television program by looking at a single pixel.”
Many Neuroscience advocates (particularly in the management consulting business and not the scientists) tend to place all that they see through their own reductionist lens and filters. They make pronouncements disregarding the weight of evidence and practice thats in front of them. It is as if the word neuroscience now suffices to grant new found credibility to all that falls within its orbit.
Moral - Put on your sceptical hat and bullsh*t filter. Ask for the source of the evidence and challenge the assumptions and conclusions drawn.