Identity in a fishbowl

By Lorentz Forsberg

I was in the middle of an organisational change process. It was a scary thing, yet both interesting and challenging. My organisation was small and as staff, we knew one another quite well. But with changes brought to us in the form of restructured departmental architecture, I found myself questioning what I really knew about my colleagues.

In my unit, we realised early that we needed external help to facilitate the merger of our two small teams. We were so different in our approach, culture and work methods. For ten years, we had grown our own ways, and somewhat resistant, we found ourselves in this new arrangement.

As we met the first time with the consultant and as a unit, we talked about many things we had never talked about before. I learned new things about each of my colleagues, including my old team partners. I even learned new things about myself, some of which I really liked.

One helpful exercise we used is called the fish bowl. Each of the former teams were seated in the middle and encouraged to talk about their culture and work methods, while the other team was listening in silence as they were seated around. Then the teams switched places, and the team in the middle talked about what they had heard while listening to the other team. Then the first team got back in the middle to reflect on what the other team had heard as they listened. This exercise and the dialogue that followed gave new insights and opened a new window of understanding to what we had been as teams and what we wanted to be as a unit.

On a personal level, all this brought me back to the words of Jesus in Matthew 16: “And you, who do you say I am?” As things around were getting more confused, and arguments heated up on who this Jesus was, he was able to invite his closest followers to reflect on what others said, and what they themselves believed. I imagine that the team of disciples became closer and grew individually from this. I know Peter did, and today we are many that echo his answer: “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.”

This week, take the time to listen carefully to your colleagues and find out something new about them. Make sure you also share something new about yourself.

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