We cannot, I think, plan genuine innovative change, but we can prepare ourselves for it (see entry on Preparing activities). Indeed, to go further, we can occasion it, in the sense of ‘setting the scene’ for the happening of change.
As we have seen, there is something very special about the dynamically flowing nature of dialogically-structured activities that has not yet been properly understood and assimilated into the way we conduct our inquiries (see entries on Joint action and the dialogical and Spontaneous responsiveness). What makes this kind of joint activity so special, is that when it occurs, unique, qualitatively distinct, ephemeral ‘somethings’ emerge from within the dynamically unfolding entwinings of the two or more unique ‘flows’ of activity involved within it.
Indeed, as Bakhtin (1986) points out, because (a) something novel, related to the circumstances of the dialogical transaction itself, is always created, and (b) because its overall outcome cannot be traced back to the intentions of any of the individuals involved (see entry on Emergence), the novel ‘somethings’ created are experienced not as objects, but as agencies with their own (ethical) demands and requirements: “Each dialogue takes place,” he says, “as if against a background of the responsive understanding of an invisibly present third party who stands above all the participants in the dialogue (partners)… The aforementioned third party is not any mystical or metaphysical being… he is a constitutive aspect of the whole utterance, who, under deeper analysis, can be revealed in it” (pp.126-127). We can thus find ourselves as participants ‘parts’ within an ongoing reality which affects us as much, if not more, than we can affect it.
One reason for it not being assimilated into how we conduct our inquiries, is the way in which we currently generate and ask the questions driving what we think of as rational to inquire into. We far too easily begin our inquiries from what is a ‘problem’ for us and ‘how’ we think about it now (see entries on Preparing activities and Upstream thinking). The kinds of changes that are needed in our thinking are ‘deep’ changes, changes in our ‘ways’ of thinking, ‘ways’ of seeing, of hearing, ‘ways’ of ‘making connections’ between events, ‘ways’ of talking, and so on ― in short, they are changes not in what ‘we think’ but in ‘what we think with’ (see entry on Withness thinking) — as Rorty (1979) notes: “It is pictures rather than propositions, metaphors rather than statements, which determine most of our philosophical convictions” (p.12).
Genuine innovative changes cannot be produced in a person or organization in accord with a plan or strategy, i.e., it is not a matter of praxis, of conducting an ordered activity with a well defined end in view. It is a matter of poiesis — an originating creativity that goes beyond currently existing understandings, a creativity that just happens, which emerges only if the appropriate dialogic circumstances are in place (see entry on Attitudes, agency, and orientation). Pre-decided questions stand in the way of genuinely creative, dialogically-structured activities (see entry on Joint action the dialogical). Thus, to repeat, innovative change cannot be planned; but it can be occasioned or circumstanced.
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