Take a Walk in the Woods

This session involved an active walk in the woods. It’s very difficult to capture what went on or the ideas behind it, so I will just record what went on

 We first looked at the idea of nature (reflected in the woods we were in) being a metaphor for organisational life. The first activity was to find something in the woods that was:

– not alive

– something living

– something running

– something thinking

 If you pick a flower, cut it off from its root, is it really alive?

What are the differences between different plants? Some die quickly. Some have seeds which last for years.

 Examples found were:

– not alive: a stone, a pine cone, some rubbish

– something living: a plant, a spider

– something running: water, an animal (which we couldn’t catch!)

– something thinking: a person

 perhaps we over-focused in organisations on the non-organic, the things which are not alive.

Perhaps we lose awareness of the whole growth process, the photosynthesis taking place. What is a flower? A flower is the plant, the roots, the earth, the sun, the air – all of these things. Seen in isolation it is not a flower, and when picked, it is a dead thing (or soon will be!)

 The second activity involved drawing something seen in the forest – a tree or  blade of grass for example – but trying to make the thing chosen emerge out of drawing the things around it, instead of drawing a line drawing of the object, then filling it in with detail. In this way we can become aware of the environment around a thing – that which gives the object shape. The typical line drawing is an illusion – it gives guidance on shape but we pay a price. There is no line around an object, it is part of a larger reality. 

 Perhaps in organisations we are too focused on drawing boundary lines around things, so we lose the overall picture.

 Lastly, we had some discussion about ‘thresholds’. In the wood in which we were walking there is a stream with a ‘bridge that once was’ – a place where the two bricked sides are still there but the crossing has fallen away. To get across the ‘threshold’ you would need to build a bridge or jump across. We stood on the threshold and shared with each other what it was in our lives we needed to do to move forward – either personally or in our organisations – to cross the threshold. It would involve a kind of death – the death of the things we needed to drop (the ideas, habits, attitudes and assumptions) – to leave behind on this side of the bridge in order to make the successful crossing to something new on the other side.


(Notes from An Open Space Conference, Sussex, 1995)

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