As Organisation Development practitioners we are interested in how things get done, in a community, business or organisation. As complexity increases it becomes more difficult but not impossible.

Here is a story to get us thinking ….

We invite you to help us build a picture for our city to help us all navigate the maze of transformation; to share your story, your piece of the jigsaw of complexity, so together we have a clearer view of who does what, to help us get things done.

Once upon a time, and closer to home than you can imagine, there was a village alongside a river. The tribe leaders worked together to run the village, developing skills, trades and a thriving community spirit, or so they thought …

Each evening villagers would come together around a campfire to share their experiences.

Sam, a newcomer, listened intently. The smouldering embers of the fire revealed …

  • Ornate parchments filled with good intentions provided little improvement to village life, and so they went unread.
  • As each year passed, the diminishing pot of money forced the tribe to work smarter or become more agile.
  • The transfer of knowledge and experiences started to fracture as villagers began to build their own fires.

Amidst the confusion, it was becoming more difficult to get things done.

One leader said, “Our village is like a jigsaw puzzle, we each have a piece, but no one person has the complete picture, and we have lost the lid of the box.”

One evening, Sam plucked up the courage to speak. “Why don’t we do something about it?”. One of the elders broke the silence. “Well Sam, there is a legend; beyond the village is a maze called the ‘Maze of Transformation’, and beyond the maze is a great city. Some believe the city houses a thriving community, where people live and work together for the common good and things get done!

But it’s only a legend, I doubt very much if it’s true…”

“Let me go and explore” suggested Sam.

Sam’s request was met with an air of resignation. “Well, if you must” came the reply, “but we have tried this before and it got us nowhere!”

Undeterred, Sam set off out from the village along the Road of Exploration and was soon joined by a fellow traveller, Alex who enquired. “Where are you headed?”.

Sam began telling Alex about the village by the river, and the search for the Maze of Transformation and the great city beyond. “It’s a great place to live, with amazing people, but somehow, we seem to have lost our way. We once exported our ideas across the Shire, indeed the whole country and beyond, leading the way in innovation and social justice. Now people from outside of our village come to share their ideas but they do not understand our village in the same way as we do.”

Alex nodding in agreement said, “Yes, I know what you mean, for I too once lived in your village and now I live in the great city you are in search of.”

An excited and amazed Sam asked Alex “Will you tell me about the Maze of Transformation that leads to the great city?”

Alex was willing to do more than that and would show Sam the way. “Tell me, Sam, what is good about your village; what works well?”

“That’s an easy one” replied Sam, “it’s our amazing people and our wonderful heritage.”

Alex paused for several minutes, deep thought and then added, “when we built our great city we developed a way of thinking, a way of understanding and communicating. We called it ‘Appreciative Inquiry’. It works on the basis that in every society or village something works. We grow vibrant communities when we build on what is going well, and when we stop blaming others or even ourselves. It shows up in our questions, plans and how we treat each other.”

Alex continued, “if you really want to navigate the Maze of Transformation and develop a thriving village community Sam, you have all you need. All the wisdom, energy, skills and ideas already exist in your community. You need to think of a way of collaborating with the whole community and create just one campfire around which all the traders and villagers share their different stories, using the mindset I described. Then before long, you will start to navigate the Maze of Transformation together. As you do so, the great city will come into view.”

Sam stopped for a moment to consider the wisdom Alex had shared.  Sam looked around and Alex was no longer there!

So what next, thought Sam. Maybe the great city does exist?

Sam hurried back to the village thinking on the journey, determined not only to tell the story but make it happen.