Dancing at the Edge : Competence, Culture and Organization in the 21st Century, Paperback

Dancing at the Edge : Competence, Culture and Organization in the 21st Century Paperback



How can we develop 'persons of tomorrow' with the capacity to guide our society through the turbulent times that we face now? What skills and competencies should they have? There is little disagreement that we face complex times and messy problems in terms of finance, economics, environment, population, resources, education and society (to name but a few). In 1980, Carl Rogers, the most influential US psychologist of the 20th century and founder of Person-Centred Psychotherapy, contemplated the future in an essay called The World of Tomorrow and the Person of Tomorrow. He described those who would usher in this new era as having the capacity to understand, bring about and absorb a paradigm shift. Quoting the President of the World Future Society approvingly, he said: "The rapid development of technology has freed man from slavery to environmental and biological circumstances."Among the 'potentialities' that Rogers observed in the 'Person of Tomorrow' were an increasing use of (and respect for): Meditation Intuition Altered states of consciousness Biofeedback Telepathy, precognition and clairvoyance Healing, spiritual and transcendent powers of the individual He also acknowledged that his view was only a "beginning, an outline, a suggestion". With 30 years' hindsight, we can see Rogers's aspiration to escape the tiresome constraints of everyday life - to rise above the context.

In 2012, Maureen O'Hara (one of Rogers's closest collaborators) and Graham Leicester of International Futures Forum, update this vision of the 'Person of Tomorrow' in their book Dancing at the Edge. By contrast, their aspiration is somehow to get people to ground themselves in 'the context' rather than rise above it. For them, the keyword is not freedom. Where Rogers saw environmental and biological circumstances loosening their grip, Leicester and O'Hara stress the need to recognise those constraints.

The keyword here is complexity: which we face at every turn. The underlying competence they stress for the 'Person of Tomorrow' is Psychological Literacy (including a reflexive awareness of oneself and one's context). Drawing on extensive research, shadowing of some of today's most successful cultural, business and political leaders the authors group the other competencies needed by a 'Person of Tomorrow' into 4 areas - Learning: to Be, to Be Together, to Know and to Do. The competencies they list include thoroughly pragmatic and contextual ones like: Being aware of - and able to navigate - the cultural landscape Choosing and participating in the right organisational settings and networks The authors argue that these competencies are innate and within the reach of all of us - given the right setting, plenty of practice and some gentle guidance.

But these competencies remain the exception rather than the rule because they are routinely undervalued in today's culture.

Echoing St Paul, Theodore Hesburgh, President Emeritus of Notre Dame University, once said that leadership demands certainty: 'You cannot blow an uncertain trumpet'. On the contrary, Leicester and O'Hara insist that it is too much certain trumpeting that has got us into this mess - and that we must all learn to play the uncertain trumpet like virtuosos.

It is an image that conveys the subtle discipline required of the person of tomorrow - an artistry that, they argue, is essential to restore hope in the future.




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