by Amina Knowlan | August 2007
IT IS THE CAPACITY to keep differentiating and to access more of the full range of creativity and intelligence that we can trust. It is the "science" of the model —the tools and practices that build multi-faceted intelligence in each person, each relationship and the group as a whole — that guide us and lend underlying order when chaos seems to be reigning. Throughout all of the stages of life, it is in fact the deep practice of returning to the maintenance of these connections that allows us to keep harvesting the emergence of the Whole over time.
In a group that has a well functioning Matrix of communication, the concepts and behaviors associated with control and management must change radically. The concept of control is super-ceded by a practice of trust. trust that is born in part through the pressing need to track and listen for the emergent voice of the whole. It is no longer viable to make reductionistic decisions that serve one individual, one classroom, one team or department, one company or even one country. In Matrix systems we cultivate trust, whose infancy develops resting in the arms of each unique connection, relishing each exquisitely different other person as an essential part of the group. trust, whose childhood spirit and will-force, soar in a life-changing process of being included and valued. trust, who as an adolescent, develops the emotional muscles to stay engaged in a fruitful exploration of differences. trust, whose rite of passage into adulthood rests in the capacity to self-authorize with fuller and more satisfying range of expression while learning to authorize others-to stay in the dance that leads to true mutuality and collaboration.
In our current stage of cultural evolution, it may only be in rarefied moments that we glimpse the maturity of this trust. In her maturity this same trust has us know that we are now all being held in a web of connection that is truly resilient. We can sit in the fire of change and evolution with equanimity and enthusiastic certainty, watching the strands of an old form unravel in route to a death that we trust will lead to the necessary re-formation. The ensuing chaos is no longer threatening. It is a dance of Parvati and Shiva in the constant interplay of creation and formlessness. When a group comes to depend on its own Matrix of connection, amazing capacity arises. Our whole concept of leading, managing and even parenting needs to be redefined when a group begins to seek out and work with the differing perspectives, values and needs of individuals as essential to it's creative process over time. Divergent solutions or alternatives will often appear suddenly as the ingredients of the cake mix to form something none of the individual ingredients could have produced. It is alchemical and sometimes appears to quite mystical or mysterious.
At a time when our own Matrix Leadership organization was approaching some strategic planning, I wrote to a colleague that I had no idea which direction we should pursue. I said that it was like being in a well-constructed boat out in a vast ocean with no compass and no map. The well-constructed boat was a reference to the web of connections among the trainers, organizers and students who were working to shepherd this organization to its next evolution. I personally sat with some confusion with as many as twenty different strategic directions we might have chosen. I had no map or compass that felt adequate. Rather than feeling threatened by this uncertainty, I felt a strong sense of confidence in the boat itself. I knew that the changes we needed to make could not be foreseen or chosen by any one of us-including me. The boat would carry us where to our optimal destination. The emergent intelligence would come from our collective voices and the interactions between us.
For those of us who learned in one way or another to be responsible or to take charge-facilitating or guiding becomes rooted in trusting the connections that have been built. trusting the Matrix. Our work is to maintain the foundation that includes speaking person-to-person in the open, investing in feedback, inviting differences as resources and distributing or diversifying the group roles and energies. Our task as managers, parents or teachers then becomes one of sitting back to listen for the intelligence of the whole emerging. For those who are oriented to following the guidance of others and depending on the stability of the authorities or the structure, the same radical departure is required. We must learn to trust the Matrix of connection and realize on a deep level that we are also an essential part of this whole. Each person's needs and wisdom will be-in fact, must be-included in this whole.
In the process of realizing this interconnected resilience we are often asked to trust even when it seems as if things are falling apart. If our mindset is one of control, we might panic or move into urgent stress responses when the old structures will no longer work or when a key leader needs to move on. In the world we live in today, we are in constant state of threats from the environment. War, poverty, global climate change, the AIDS epidemic affect all systems from families to multi-national corporations. We are constantly adapting to complex and unpredictable stressors in the environment. We must be able to engage in, and step back to witness, the tension of exploring differences with trust that an inclusive "solution" will eventually emerge. It requires a radical departure from all of our conditioning in the paradigm of control and competition to cultivate this inner stance of trust. The emergent intelligence of the whole often arises through times of chaos. What does it mean to trust the Matrix-even when the system is in a phase of chaos?
Ultimately, what is it that we can trust? God, Spirit, Source or the Universe, some would say. Yes. And, on this earth plane as we attempt to re-create heaven on earth-when we must work together in global networks to create the change we seek-what is it we can trust? If we have developed a Matrix of open communication, the "what" we can trust is also a "who." We can, and must be able to trust our connections with each other. Beyond one-on-one, we learn that we can trust the whole that is greater than the sum of the parts. We are rewiring our brains-perhaps ultimately our collective DNA-when we realize that we can trust the web or Matrix of communication and connection that we have so carefully constructed and tended. How is it that we can trust this web? What are we actually trusting? We are asked again and again to trust and return to the principles and practices that we know will help us stay in connection. Like any other system (the human body, an automobile), what we can trust-amidst all of the things that can "go wrong,"-is the capacity of the parts to stay in optimal communication with each other when they are properly maintained. Then the whole organism can function and evolve optimally over time.
I believe that we are all yearning to remember ourselves as interconnected strands in the web of life. In my estimation, we have now put independence and autonomy on the map. Surviving launched many of us into developing the ego strength to leave limiting, constrictive belief systems. Now our continued evolution-even survival-depends on realizing our interdependence. I believe it is imperative that we learn to live as if we know the truth of our interdependence. The Matrix model offers a technology for tuning and maintaining any group or system. Embodying the Matrix principles gives a group of individuals an optimal chance of thriving through the challenges that will inevitably occur. It is returning to the underlying principles used to develop and maintain the Matrix of connections that we can trust through periods of chaos in even the most difficult times. It is in fact the practice of staying in connection through the process of differentiating, that allows the system to self-organize and create new "higher" order out of the seeming chaos.
© Knowlan, Amina, reprinted and excerpted from the forthcoming book on Matrix Leadership, July, 2007
To me, MLI is a wonderful learning process for business and community leadership development. It opens a person up, increases one's personal choices, creates flexibility for responding. One develops emotional intelligence and becomes more resourceful in all types of settings. It is the stuff MBA programs never touch.
— Dieter A.