Collective dreaming is an opportunity for a group of people to construct a vision of their future. With its roots in positive psychology, and appreciative enquiry, it shifts the focus away from problems to be solved, and on to doing what works, and doing more of what is already working. Recently, I was working with a team who had been through a tough time lately. A great deal of organisational change, a couple of formal complaints and high staff turnover risked making this team of exceptional people become disillusioned. They were ready for some positive thinking.
Through a guided visualisation, I had the team envision a point in time one year on, and to think themselves into it, as if it were now. They explored questions like what the environment looks like and sounds like; how it feels to work in this team; how they are behaving towards one another and towards their customers; what they are saying to one another; what a fly on the wall would notice about the team; what skills and capabilities they are drawing on to be successful; what new opportunities are arising to further develop their skills; what the team’s core values are; and how their own personal values are being met by being part of the team.
I asked them each to come up with a metaphor for the team in a year’s time, when it is operating just as brilliantly as they want it to be. The results were richly varied. One person chose a German automobile company as their metaphor, identifying characteristics such as efficiency, innovation, expertise in each unique component part, brought together skilfully to make a high-performing result. Another chose a beaver, because it is industrious, works together with others to maximise resources, collaborates, is organised and at the same time a cohesive social unit. Another chose Brains from the Thunderbirds, because he is the communication hub, with his finger on the pulse, accessing and utilising all the other members of the team to get the best results. The picture above was one person's tree metaphor.
The team needed no further guidance to start to extract the common themes from their wide-ranging metaphors, to create their shared vision of the future. Further thinking created an inventory of resources within the team to generate the planning and momentum needed for the immediate actions. Stimulated by one person choosing Google as their metaphor, they realised that the staff turnover could be re-framed as a positive thing – the natural consequence of being a team of intelligent, talented, young, ambitious professionals. Inevitably such people would be highly employable and much in demand; and the loss of one team member would give the opportunity for the others to step up to the plate, learn new skills and extend their experience.
The day ended with the team buzzing with excitement and a palpable increase in their self-worth. Collective Dreaming may sound like an intangible concept, but it can deliver absolutely tangible results.
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