Where do we turn in crisis – in or out?

It’s interesting to note, especially in times of crisis, which are often also times of great learning and transformation, how we respond. Where do we turn? How do we behave?

We’ve been asking ourselves these questions and paying attention to what we see in ourselves, in our team, in our client organisations, and in our communities.

What we’ve noticed can be broadly summarised as, “more of the same!”. The current situation, as extreme as it is, doesn’t seem to be changing our propensities or those we observe in the world around us – either towards turning in or turning out – but is amplifying them.

It’s interesting to see that:

  • some people withdraw into themselves to reflect, some turn out for connection, even in times of extreme isolation;
  • some teams are focusing on their inner workings, some looking beyond these to how they can connect more with others, across even greater apparent divides;
  • some organisations have closed ranks and are managing their responses internally, believing that they already have all they need, and some are recognising a need for assistance beyond their capabilities and reaching out for support;
  • in our community work, people are embracing technologies that they have shunned before, stepping in to meet across lines that now appear to serve no purpose, and we also have seen those who seldom show up, continue not to show up.

It’s tempting to want to draw conclusions and judge these responses as either better or worse. It’s tempting. But is it useful?

We’ve found that our own isolation, individually and collectively, has created opportunities to reflect inwardly and liberated us to connect and collaborate outwardly in new ways, unimagined perhaps even just a few weeks ago.

We’ve looked inwards to see what we have to offer in this situation. We’ve reached out and we’ve made connections and forged collaborative partnerships that we did not necessarily see before this situation arose. It’s happened faster and it’s happened in different ways perhaps (let’s be honest, virtual working was never most people’s chosen way to connect and collaborate, despite us singing its praises) but that’s really just an amplified version of what we tend to do anyway.

For 21 years we’ve been turning out to notice what’s happening in the world around us, turning in to make sense of what that means to us, and turning out to build on connections in ways that help us establish new relationships and serve those we are already in partnership with – both personal and professional, turning in to learn and adjust how we’re working, turning out… you get the gist. We’re still doing this.

We are also still working virtually, which as a distributed team we’ve always done, and we’re still supporting our clients and communities to make meeting more meaningful. It’s what we do. And we are doing it now. We are looking in to reflect and learn and we are looking out to sense and respond. We dance in and out. Luckily for us, others are dancing too.

So what are the conclusions we’re drawing right now, if some must be drawn?

  • We, all of us – individuals, teams, organisations, communities – will probably turn where we always turn, even in times of crisis.
  • Deciding whether inwards or outwards, or a combination of the two, is better or worse is not as important as being conscious of the moves we’re making, the learning we taking and how this enables us to evolve, to transform.
  • Depending on where we are in our cycles – of change or of learning – we may be turning in or turning out. Sometimes it feels like we’re doing both at the same time. It can be dizzying.
  • In or out, it’s ALL okay. We will be okay.