The Downing Street Project / network

Pauline wrote:

> If we place all the traditional aspects of business operations – strategy, governance, corporate social responsibility, technology, human resources, marketing, sales, customer service, manufacture and so on – into "masculine" or "feminine" traits, it is much easier to align the best people (whether male and female) to activities that best suit them and where they will be best placed to deliver business growth.

It’s a very interesting thought that struck me as worth paying more attention to. I can think of a couple of functions where the placing them into one of the two types, then filling them with people of either gender that have the corresponding energy more alive, could be done easily. For example while customer service could go to those with a well-developed anima, manufacture could go to those with an animus alive and kicking.

But what about marketing, strategy, corporate social responsibility, and KM, for example? Couldn’t we say, that those functions can be done exercised equally well (or equally poorly) in a predominantly feminine or a masculine way? Wouldn’t they become better performing if they were exercised so that those different ways were articulated on their own, recognized for their unique contribution, and brought to bear on the challenges and opportunities on hand, in unison?

Looking at the feminine/masculine dynamics from the perspective of the organisation’s total ecosystem of capacities, I’m wondering whether it wouldn’t become more resilient if, besides situating certain corporate functions in the two basic archetypes, we would also identify and strengthen the feminine within the functions.

If we strived to discover, honor, and synergise the feminine and masculine ways of practicing the basic operational functions of a business, that may even lead to re-generating what those functions are/should be about, and ultimately, to the regeneration of the business itself for the 21st century.

Indra suggested something that I viscerally resonate with: “We need to balance that patient groundswell of thinking, with interventions in the present that make a difference now. That's what brings hope and hope brings strength.” So let’s sense into what could be done today as a small, elegant, and generative step in the direction of better feminine/masculine balance in doing business.

The first image that is emerging is of a new kind of community of practice, a CoP 2.0, where people are exploring and redefining the ways of how their profession is practiced, using the “soft power” lens. Is there any woman (or man) business leader whom you know and who may be willing to encourage the formation of “soft power” communities of practice? I imagine, a pilot project of cultivating such community would yield both practices worth replicating and a surge of community-enabled business results.

I believe Helen and other women, who are working in the EU Commission and member of several communities of practice, have some observations/insights about how “soft power” is already showing up there, in the life of those communities.

A “soft power CoP” pilot that I suggest in the business context, will be conducted as a participatory action research focused on value-creation by liberating the full potential of the soft/sharp synergy.

The “participatory action-research” strategy that I suggest is based on the integration of first-person and second-person practices identified by Judi Marshall, Peter Reason, and Bill Torbert, and quoted here.

First-person action research/practice skills and methods address the ability of the researcher to foster an inquiring approach to his or her own life, to act awarely and choicefully, and to assess effects in the outside world while acting. First person research practice brings inquiry into more and more of our moments of action—not as outside researchers but in the whole range of everyday activities.”

Second-person action research/practice addresses our ability to inquire face-to-face with others into issues of mutual concern—for example in the service of improving our personal and professional practice both individually and separately. Second person inquiry starts with interpersonal dialogue and includes the development of communities of inquiry and learning organizations.”

Do you know anybody who may be interested to explore what a soft power CoP pilot would look like if conducted as a first- and second-person AR, in the context of a particular business? If yes, drop me a line in this forum or by email. I am also very curious of your thoughts/feelings on any part of this conversation opener.


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