Why Spend the Time and Money Doing a Masters?

Why Spend the Time and Money Doing a Masters?

You’re a smart, charismatic, stylish human – so why spend the time and money doing a Masters?

Stefan Bramble, NIODA Alumni

Helen McKelvie

You’re a smart, charismatic, stylish human – so why spend the time and money doing a Masters?

Before answering that 👆important question, stylish human, I should probably tell you who I am and why you’d listen to me. I’m Stefan Bramble and I graduated NIODA’s Masters in Management and Leadership in 2024. At the time of studying I was also in a Leadership position in a fast growing tech start-up that grew from 15 people when I joined, to 120 when I left 4 years later.

I studied and ‘start-uped’ at the same time as the COVID pandemic and worked in a role that was all about developing healthy, thriving work groups, welcoming new humans to the organisation and helping company leadership to create the kind of organisation we all needed and wanted. It was super cool fun. It was also really challenging and hard. So, I suppose you could say the whole experience was ‘super-cool-hard-challenging-fun’. A wonderful thing to experience.

I can hand on heart say, my time studying with NIODA was a major contributing factor to making the experience of my work so rewarding. I cannot recommend it to you highly enough if you want to truly develop your own skill in working with teams to help them thrive.

But we all like a good list, so here are the three things top of mind when I consider it’s impact on me as a leader working to help individuals and teams get stuff done with more quality and less pain:

Academic smarts, with practical thinking

Systems Psychodynamics is a fascinating, beautiful, insightful area of academia I did not know existed. Before being introduced to it, I worked on instinct. I knew ‘things’ were going on in the groups I worked with, and I knew I could do some ‘stuff’ that helped get them back on track, but I had no words for what I was doing. This meant that I could not think about my practice and hence I could not hone my craft. Beyond that, I could not share my skills and increase the capacity of the groups I worked with. Don’t get me wrong, I did good ‘stuff’ to help, but I knew I was missing something and felt that wonderful itch when you want to step up and increase your skill by diving into some unknown thing. Best way I can describe the feeling is in star wars terms: I was a padawan in search of a Jedi master. Or maybe Harry potter is better: I was muggle born waiting for a letter from Hogwarts. Oh wait! Matrix is way better: I was Neo waiting for Morpheus. Yeah, that’s the one. Regardless: I was a student waiting for a teacher. Then I met the staff at NIODA (specifically Wendy Harding), and she sat me down and kind of set my student brain on fire with talk of Systems Psychodynamics and all the wonderful insight it held into all the ‘things’ that I was feeling in the groups I worked with. AND ALL THE THINGS HAD NAMES! And academic elders who had studied groups, and that study was still going!

Beyond that, what I felt then and can confirm now, was a deep academic rigour that would ‘pull no punches’ while at the same time supporting me to sit with the fear I held that ‘I was not smart enough for academic-ness’.
What I did not know then was just how much the program would transform this ‘academic learning’ into insights that could be practically applied as I was studying. As someone who comes from an education and teaching background – it’s really really smart. The course itself invites participants to bring their lived experience of the academia to every class. And to work with the concepts as they show up both in both your personal work systems and the classes itself. It’s kinda genius.

Confidence to ‘know what I know’

‘During the study at NIODA some magic happened…I began to trust myself.’

I sort of allude to this above, but before I studied, I knew some ‘things’ about groups, but because it was all garnered from experience, and I didn’t have the words and I didn’t feel I was ‘smart-enough’ to actually say what I thought and advocate for what I believed. During the study at NIODA some magic happened. Because I worked hard, because the teaching staff created a space for me to learn and because my fellow students ‘kicked ideas around’ with me, I began to trust myself.

Don’t get me wrong, I still doubt myself, but even that feels different – that doubt becomes a fuel to learn more and perhaps even change my opinion (I know, big concept to swallow in our current culture, but it’s totally a thing one can do, who knew? 🤷). At NIODA we’d call this being authorised. And in a weird way, NIODA created the conditions for me to authorise myself, to know what I know, to hold my opinions lightly, and to put words around those thoughts and feelings. With all that I can think with others about the here-and-now situation to figure out what might be going on and co-create potential actions we could take to improve work life and do great stuff.

Of course all of this could have happened without studying at NIODA, but it was waaaaaay more fun and effective than me trying to figure all this out on my own.
Which leads me to my final point…

Joining a community of ‘group dynamics nerds’ who care about this stuff

I’m going to go out on a limb and say ‘finding your crew’ is a thing we all yearn for at some point in our lives. I have been lucky enough to find my theatre crew, my clown crew, my crew that loves British comedy of the 60’s. But it wasn’t until studying at NIODA and meeting teachers, staff, students, alumni and affiliate organisations that I found my ‘group dynamics nerd’ crew. And what an amazing group of people we are! People who care about the potential of groups to solve big problems. People who care about making group life suck less and engage more. People who want, nay, LOVE to talk about the reality of a situation and see if from multiple perspectives – and from that make some kind of sense that serves the needs of the here-and-now. It is a rare thing to find a supportive community, where individuals strive to grow while also supporting the growth of others. They respect each other enough to challenge and champion ideas you might hold, by giving to the honour of their wisdom and time to ‘knock an idea around’. Plus, we are all so weird and wonderful; proper ‘good chat’ and brilliant ‘bants’. NIODA goes out of its way to foster this connection and build this community. It’s a very special thing.

So, here ends my rant. If you are considering the course, I know NIODA would love to chat with you about it, and as an alumni, I also encourage you to reach out to me – cos I believe in what I learnt – it’s going to take a lot of us out there advocating for the power of healthy groups to make big, wonderful, much-needed change in the world.

 

Stefan Bramble, 2024 Graduate of NIODA’s Masters of Leadership and Management (Organisation Dynamics)

June 2024

You’re a smart, charismatic, stylish human – so why spend the time and money doing a Masters?

About NIODA

The National Institute of Organisation Dynamics Australia (NIODA) offers internationally renowned post-graduate education and research in organisation dynamics, and decades of experience consulting with Australian organisations. 

The study of organisation dynamics brings together socio-technical and psychoanalytic disciplines to explore the unconscious dynamics that exist in every group, team or organisation. Learning more about these theories, and reflecting on the experience of them, can support leaders and managers to unlock great potential in their organisations, tackling issues through a whole new light.

PO Box 287, Collins Street West,
Melbourne  8007  Australia
+61 (0) 414 529 867
info@nioda.org.au

NIODA acknowledges the Kulin Nations, and respective Traditional Custodians of the lands we work on.
We pay our respects to Elders past and present, and recognise their enduring sovereignty which has, and continues to, care for Country.
NIODA welcomes the Uluru Statement from the Heart’s invitation to walk with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in a collective movement for a better future.

Systems Psychodynamics – A Way to Understand the Chaos at Work

Systems Psychodynamics – A Way to Understand the Chaos at Work

 Systems Psychodynamics – A Way to Understand the Chaos at Work

Ruth Robles-McColl, NIODA Alumni

Helen McKelvie

Where does one start with writing about a transformative learning experience? How do you evaluate the change that has occurred when it is all-consuming and feels so intense?

Perhaps you start at the very beginning…this, the first of three personal reflection blogs, intends to provide the reader with a snippet of how NIODA’s Master of Leadership and Management (Organisation Dynamics) has fundamentally changed and shaped my approach to leadership.

Systems Psychodynamics – A Way to Understand the Chaos at Work

In professional settings, particularly within governmental organisations, I often find myself drawn to leadership roles embodying an ‘outlaw’ spirit. Guided by a sense of social justice and an unwavering commitment to the marginalised, I’ve found myself defying the rules of conventional hierarchies, trying instead to work in ways that ensure the ‘greater good’. Embracing what I think of as ‘guerrilla tactics’, I’ve navigated power dynamics, sometimes leveraging charm and subtext to drive outcomes, especially in the male-dominated construction sector. My inclination towards rallying peers to challenge and change institutional inertia reflects both a personal tendency and perhaps an intergenerational approach to life, stemming from an ancestral tradition of speaking truth to power.

The Gift of a Theory and Language

This is why when I first encountered NIODA and the work of systems psychodynamics, my heart sang. During the two and a half years of intense learning through experience and action, I discovered meaningful explanations that helped to make sense of past experiences. My studies at NIODA have provided me with the gift of a theory and language to make sense of some of my difficult experiences in work roles over the past 25 years. In my work life, I’ve noticed a recurring theme: I often find myself in the role of the resilient one, capable of enduring and persisting through significant adversity. Whether it’s navigating through moments of pain, shame, guilt, or blame during the execution of demanding projects, I consistently step up to the challenge. I put in the utmost effort, pouring in blood, sweat, and tears to overcome obstacles and steer projects back on track. This dedication is typically met with admiration and praise from all quarters. However, it’s disheartening to find that when circumstances take a turn for the worse, I can also become the focal point of criticism and scapegoating. Smith and Berg write about the paradoxes of group life and their definition of courage resonates as they posit that it takes courage for the scapegoated individual to understand and navigate the projections placed upon them without internalising the blame.

Reflecting on my approach however, it has been just as insightful to find and acknowledge the potential downsides that such a stance can have, both for myself and for the dynamics within the organisations I operate in. My inclination towards ‘speaking out’ and employing ‘guerrilla tactics’, while rooted in a deep-seated sense of justice and resilience, has occasionally led to unintended consequences. This approach has sometimes created friction in environments where consensus or a more measured approach is valued. I see now that my strong advocacy and determination to challenge existing norms has at times overshadowed more subtle perspectives within the group, potentially leading to a dominance that stifles the diversity of views and approaches.

In the complex and often rigid environment of government work, siloed hierarchies and entrenched institutional practices can often obscure what’s really happening beneath the surface. Systems psychodynamics has not only helped me understand the complexities of these challenges but has also equipped me with the tools to address them head-on.

You may be wondering, what is ‘systems psychodynamics’? It is indeed a term that warrants further explanation.

At its core, systems psychodynamics is about understanding the ‘unseen’ forces that shape how people behave in groups or organisations.

This approach is the intricate confluence of three interconnected domains: psychoanalytic theory, group relations theory and practice, and open systems theory*. Each domain intertwines to form a comprehensive approach, allowing for a nuanced exploration into the complexities of human organisations. It is this interconnection that fosters a deeper understanding of collective psychological behaviour, unravelling the myriad of motivating forces and interactions that transpire within and between diverse groups in a social ecosystem.

And how does that help us make sense of the chaos in organisations?

Sometimes, in organisations, particularly within government, things get a bit muddled because of all the different hierarchies and ‘old school’ way of doing things. Systems psychodynamics gives us tools to figure out what could be going on beneath the surface. One particularly user-friendly tool is called BART, standing for Boundary, Authority, Role, and Task**.

BART Framework

The BART framework is essentially a tool to analyse and understand the dynamics within groups and organisations. In my experience working within large bureaucratic organisations, I’ve found the BART analysis to be a real game-changer. It’s like having a map to navigate through a maze of hidden agendas, unspoken rules, and complex relationships.

Boundary

Let’s start with boundaries. In an organisational setting, boundaries are more than just physical lines; they encompass time, tasks, and territories. These are the invisible lines that define our responsibilities, the resources we manage, and the timeframes we operate within. Understanding these boundaries is crucial in managing our roles effectively and respecting others’ spaces and limits.

Authority

Moving onto Authority. There’s a fascinating aspect of how we exercise our power, both formally and informally. It’s not just about the titles and positions we hold but also about how we assert ourselves in various situations, even when we’re not in a designated position of power.

Role

Roles, both formal and informal, are another vital piece of this puzzle. Each of us plays multiple roles, often without even realising it. Some roles we inherit by our job title, while others we take on or are assigned to us informally by our team dynamics. Recognising these roles and understanding our own ‘valency’ – our tendency or inclination to take up certain roles – can significantly influence how we function and interact within our organisation.

The role aspect of BART has helped me identify not just my official/formal responsibilities but also the expectations others have of me, and perhaps more importantly, the unspoken roles I take up within the organisational culture. I have learned to ask myself what might be happening for an individual within a group that has picked up a particular approach/role (devil’s advocate, the soother, the challenger, the leader, the silent one etc.) Who/what are they serving by taking up that particular role?

Task

Finally, Task – this element has been essential in keeping focused on the primary objectives amidst the challenges of organisational complexity. Understanding the tasks at hand, both at an individual and organisational level, has been crucial in maintaining clarity and direction in my work and, in turn for my teams. Again, it is about stopping to consider, wonder, what is happening with this task? Do we understand what the task is, are we still ‘on task’? Sounds really simple when you think about it, and therein lies the key – you need to take the time and make the space to think about it – a deliberate act of reflection that allows you to pause and consider what else might be going on with the people/group you are interacting with.

Recently I presented the BART model to a group of plumbers and carpenters at a workshop, and I asked them to consider what identity boundaries they hold – things like, ‘apprentice’, ‘senior carpenter’ and ‘qualified plumber’ came up and we then made connections with changes to their boundaries, in particular their ‘turf’ depending on what job site they were working at. These tradies were very invested in the conversation, and it led to many discussions about how they can improve the way they work together. It was encouraging to see that BART can be so accessible for a small business looking to improve collaboration within their teams- just as much as it is applicable to my work in large bureaucratic organisations.

Making sense of the unseen

So, next time you find yourself lost in the maze of office politics, unclear roles, and overlapping responsibilities, remember BART. It helps you understand where you are, who has the power, what your role is, and what you need to accomplish. It’s about making sense of the unseen, the unsaid, and the undercurrents that shape our work life. It’s a practical, insightful tool that helps you make sense of the organisational chaos!

Ruth Robles-McColl, 2023 Graduate of NIODA’s Masters of Leadership and Management (Organisation Dynamics)

May 2024

* Fraher (2004); Nossal (2007); De Gooijer (2009); Sher and Lawlor (2022)

**The following section on BART is mainly sourced from Green and Molenkamp (2005)

 Systems Psychodynamics – A Way to Understand the Chaos at Work!

About NIODA

The National Institute of Organisation Dynamics Australia (NIODA) offers internationally renowned post-graduate education and research in organisation dynamics, and decades of experience consulting with Australian organisations. 

The study of organisation dynamics brings together socio-technical and psychoanalytic disciplines to explore the unconscious dynamics that exist in every group, team or organisation. Learning more about these theories, and reflecting on the experience of them, can support leaders and managers to unlock great potential in their organisations, tackling issues through a whole new light.

PO Box 287, Collins Street West,
Melbourne  8007  Australia
+61 (0) 414 529 867
info@nioda.org.au

NIODA acknowledges the Kulin Nations, and respective Traditional Custodians of the lands we work on.
We pay our respects to Elders past and present, and recognise their enduring sovereignty which has, and continues to, care for Country.
NIODA welcomes the Uluru Statement from the Heart’s invitation to walk with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in a collective movement for a better future.

Address to 2023 Graduands

Address to 2023 Graduands

Address to the 2023 graduands

Thomas Mitchell

By Rhianna Perkin, alumnus, 2021 recipient of the John F Newton Award for academic excellence

Thank you for having me tonight – it is such a privilege to be speaking to you and celebrating with you.

In thinking about what to say tonight, what I would share with you, I thought I would draw on an approach my best friend took when I gave birth to my daughter – the sharing of the three quotes to live by….

“this too shall pass”
“do what you have to do to get through”
“don’t strive for perfection – you just need to be good enough”

No, just kidding, whilst these might hold some insights, they are the parenting mantras my friend gave me. Whilst there are many many useful concepts and quotes connected systems psychodynamics, the one I found myself often drawing upon and still come back to is from Bion.

Bion said “to dare to be aware of the facts of the universe in which we are existing calls for courage”.

Let me share with you some of my journey and why I have found this so useful. Almost 5 years ago, I had a conversation with my supervisor at the time about what was next in terms of my career development. I told him I was really interested in understanding more about teams and groups and the dynamics that I had seen play out. My supervisor gave me a couple of names to google as he had come across their work and thought it might be a good fit. The names were John Newton and Susan Long. Of course, it didn’t take me long to find NIODA from there. The following day I had submitted an enquiry, a brief conversation with Wendy Harding the day after that, and four weeks later I found myself sitting in a large room with four chairs in the centre facing each other (one of them empty and representing an absent classmate I had met once) and being told to “study the dynamics of the group as they arise”. This was a far cry from the lectures I attended in my previous studies…had I landed in some sort of rehab or group therapy by mistake? And how was I meant to “study the group dynamics” when there was only myself and one other member present?

What I haven’t shared here is that in between that fateful conversation with my clinical supervisor and sitting in that very small study group, I was told that my work role was being made redundant. This was a huge shock to me. I’d been with the organisation for over 10 years and, whilst I had taken up many different roles, I had in fact only worked for two organisations. It felt a bit like being told I was being kicked out of home. I wondered if stepping into further learning was the best idea right now.

Carl Jung once said, “until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call if fate.”

 I felt my connection to NIODA was fate. What I didn’t realise then but have come to understand is that curiosity and learning is my port in the storm. When I feel at sea, I fear being lost forever, so I seek stability in the wisdom of others. Perhaps you too can think of times in your life when you have felt at sea – is that what brought you to NIODA? Fortunately for me (not least because COVID-19 would hit Australia 6 months later) a role was created for me and I was able to continue to work as an internal consultant whilst I studied. I had found my port for now and dropped anchor.

But it wasn’t just in the beginning that courage was needed. Studying in this field requires courage. Not just to return to studying whilst juggling work and other aspects of our lives, but because studying in this field requires us to look internally in order to make sense of what is happening externally. It requires us to develop negative capability – the ability to tolerate the uncertainty, the doubt, the not knowing. It requires us to acknowledge that our own behaviour may be “in service of the group” in a way that might leave us feeling manipulated, powerless. And yet it is often through these vulnerable moments, when we are able to lean into discomfort, complexity, and confusion that we learn the most.

This courage to lean in, with curiosity and an openness to understanding more deeply, has never been more necessary than now. In organisations, in Australian society, around the world, we can see evidence of defensive reactions to complex problems – the desire to look away or stick our head in the sand is strong. This is where systems psychodynamics comes in, where you come in!

But we cannot go it alone. I recall that when I sat where you are two years ago, I found myself really struggling to be fully present with the various speeches and celebrations. I was experiencing a bundle of conflicting, intertwined emotions. For example, on the one hand I was incredibly excited to have finished the program and proud of what I had achieved, but I was also nervous for what the future might hold, how I would go out into the world on my own with this new lens? How would I remember it all? Would it enable me to work with organisations to create change? Somebody really needed to remind me that Bion also said “without memory or desire”!

The reality is that you are not alone. You are part of one of the most unique and special communities of thinkers and practitioners – a community that speaks your language, shares your courage to lean into discomfort and complexity, and will willingly give their time to reflect and explore with you. I have a memory of Brigid suggesting in a session on how to reference in academic writing – think of yourself as in conversation with the authors of the papers you are drawing upon. We are not just in conversation with them now – we are part of that community – attempting to make sense of the messiness together. I hope I am speaking your “unthought known” here!

Upon finishing my studies, I was head-hunted for a role consulting to the corporate sector. This was a huge stretch for me, away from my for-purpose roots! This time I set sail with the knowledge that I was part of a community that I could draw upon, laugh with, learn from and grow with in an ongoing way. I’ve often drawn upon my learnings, applying the thinking in coaching and my consulting work. I’ve also drawn upon the community for supervision, peer reflection and further learning. It’s impressive when I see the progress those I graduated are making – some into more senior roles including director and CEO roles, some started or building their own businesses. I know it is said a lot, but this unlike other Masters programs – you are not leaving with a set of tools and frameworks that will date. You are leaving with a new lens to view the world and I’m sure, like me, the courage to use it, to lean in.

Finally, I want to congratulate you on this wonderful achievement and wish you each all the best for whatever comes next.

About NIODA

The National Institute of Organisation Dynamics Australia (NIODA) offers internationally renowned post-graduate education and research in organisation dynamics, and decades of experience consulting with Australian organisations. 

The study of organisation dynamics brings together socio-technical and psychoanalytic disciplines to explore the unconscious dynamics that exist in every group, team or organisation. Learning more about these theories, and reflecting on the experience of them, can support leaders and managers to unlock great potential in their organisations, tackling issues through a whole new light.

PO Box 287, Collins Street West,
Melbourne  8007  Australia
+61 (0) 414 529 867
info@nioda.org.au

NIODA acknowledges the Kulin Nations, and respective Traditional Custodians of the lands we work on.
We pay our respects to Elders past and present, and recognise their enduring sovereignty which has, and continues to, care for Country.
NIODA welcomes the Uluru Statement from the Heart’s invitation to walk with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in a collective movement for a better future.

The shadow of our limiting beliefs

The shadow of our limiting beliefs

The shadow of our limiting beliefs

Sunitha Lal

The shadow of our limiting beliefs

At a Group Relations Conference two years back, the Primary Task was: to study the exercise of authority in the taking up of roles through the interpersonal, inter-group, and institutional relations that develop within the conference as an organisation, within its wider context.

During this conference, the identities I was recognized by were ‘woman’, ‘middle aged’, and ‘brown’. What struck me is that these labels are given as a limiting force by the system. I agree that I am brown and I am middle-aged – but that defines ‘what is’; it does not limit me.
Here is my experience regarding two separate incidents at this conference, in the space of these identities:

Incident 1:

In the Large study group where the entire group met, the seating arrangement was that of two spirals in double-coil format. For a few days, men took the centre of the spiral. Nothing moved forward in the group, we were neither exploring nor discussing, and there was this feeling of being stuck. With some planning, one fine day, we women took over the centre of the spiral.

As we were sitting in the centre and enjoying what we have achieved, the group started slowly waking up to the reality of what happened. A new reality. Some were congratulating us, some were seeing us in a new light; there was some recognition and appreciation. The earlier occupants were stunned and were lamenting how the middle-aged women took over their seats and that they were feeling emasculated. There was also a discussion on how all the women sitting in the centre were middle-aged, and the young women were left out.

At that moment, one voice from the further end of the spiral asked

“Are you planning to do anything? I understand you took over the space but what are you going to do now?”

She was young and I could sense disappointment. When men occupied the centre-stage, nothing more was expected, but with women occupying it, something more was demanded. That too from other women. There was disappointment for not achieving more and ambivalence towards the formation of alliances with the older women.

The ‘middle-aged women’- I wonder what we represented – the mothers they resented? Shame if we were not cool enough or effective enough? Is it envy or competition? Also, in patriarchal systems, men use women as gate-keepers to keep the outliers inline – no one should stray, no one can reach forward, no moonshots.

Incident 2:

In a separate inter-group event, my colleague and I went to the group that called themselves a diversity group. As I started speaking, they were looking at my colleague and responding to her. It was almost like I was not there. Later, I went to the same group requesting them for a meeting. I shared the need for the meeting, our request, the task, venue and time. But when we met them, they asked basic questions as if I had not shared all the information earlier. It was puzzling. My colleague and I explored this with the members from the diversity group.

The three women from the diversity group accepted that they were not able to see me in a leadership position, as I was brown. They were able to respond to my colleague who was Caucasian and were not able to acknowledge what I was saying. Interestingly, two in that group were from the UK, the colonizer, and I am from India, the colonized. Later, one of them apologized profusely.

Reminiscence

When we are in a group it is not about the self, it is about what’s happening in the group, the organization, or institution. Where is the intersecting point? When you can’t see me or hear me, where will we meet to know each other? There is an unconscious and immediate negation of mutual recognition. That was the question that haunted me.

Moreover, I had a choice in whether I wanted to feel limited, labeled, judged or cheated. But in many ways, these identities are part of what I am. I felt proud and centred as I embraced them. Also, what I am today does not stop the million possibilities of what I can become in the future – and it is into this beautiful future that I walk forward and onward.

Sunitha Lal

October 2021

The shadow of our limiting beliefs

Finding our Moorings during Uncertain Times

Sunitha Lal, MLM

NIODA Group Relations Conference staff member

 

Sunitha Lal is the CHRO at Ather Energy and has more than twenty-five years’ of experience in the space of organisational development and people practices. She actively engages with and contributes to forums and platforms that focus on building Culture, Diversity & Inclusion, Mindful Leadership, and Organisational Behaviour. She has participated in GR conferences and workshops as a member and staff since 2015 and is an Associate Member of Group Relations India. She is a strong proponent of the oral tradition of storytelling and is the author of the book ‘Dotting the Blemish and Other Stories’, a collection of short stories about women’s lives embedded in patriarchy.

Complexity, Creativity and Community in a Networked World

NIODA Group Relations Online Working Conference

Introductory Session: Familiarisation with the technology
Wednesday 3 November 2021

3 – 5 pm Melbourne 🇨🇰
4 – 6 am London 🇬🇧
12 – 2 pm Singapore 🇸🇬
12 – 2 am New York 🇺🇸
9:30 – 11:30 am New Delhi 🇮🇳

Live Interactive online Conference:
Monday 8 – Wednesday 10 November 2021 and Friday 12 November

10 am – 4 pm Melbourne 🇨🇰
11 pm – 5 am London 🇬🇧
7 am – 1 pm Singapore 🇸🇬
7 pm – 1 am New York 🇺🇸
4:30 – 10:30 am New Delhi 🇮🇳

FEES
Full fee AUD$1,500
NIODA Alumni/AODA Members/ Group Relations Australia Members AUD$1,200
2 or more people from the same organisation AUD$1,200

BURSARIES
Please contact Ellie Robinson, Director of Administration for
information about partial bursaries for those unable to meet the full amount.
GRC@nioda.org.au

About NIODA

The National Institute of Organisation Dynamics Australia (NIODA) offers internationally renowned post-graduate education and research in organisation dynamics, and decades of experience consulting with Australian organisations. 

The study of organisation dynamics brings together socio-technical and psychoanalytic disciplines to explore the unconscious dynamics that exist in every group, team or organisation. Learning more about these theories, and reflecting on the experience of them, can support leaders and managers to unlock great potential in their organisations, tackling issues through a whole new light.

PO Box 287, Collins Street West,
Melbourne  8007  Australia
+61 (0) 414 529 867
info@nioda.org.au

NIODA acknowledges the Kulin Nations, and respective Traditional Custodians of the lands we work on.
We pay our respects to Elders past and present, and recognise their enduring sovereignty which has, and continues to, care for Country.
NIODA welcomes the Uluru Statement from the Heart’s invitation to walk with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in a collective movement for a better future.

Working collaboratively during COVID-19

Working collaboratively during COVID-19

Working collaboratively during COVID-19

Eradication or controlled suppression of COVID-19 is the difficult choice facing Australia right now. Almost 100 researchers have been tasked with analysing the consequences of the options of maintaining restrictions and eradicating COVID-19, or easing restrictions and letting the disease run.

Working collaboratively during COVID-19 by Jennifer Burrows

Eradication or controlled suppression of COVID-19 is the difficult choice facing Australia right now. The Weekend Australian (April 18 2020) described a project being undertaken by almost 100 researchers from Australia’s Group of Eight universities who have been tasked by the government with analysing the consequences of the options of maintaining restrictions and eradicating COVID-19, or easing restrictions and letting the disease run.

Working collaboratively during COVID-19

An innovative process was used to create the draft report, called the Roadmap to Recovery, within a two-week timeline. The members were asked to work anonymously using pseudonyms so ideas were judged on merit and not impacted by reputation or hierarchy, which encouraged risk-taking and honest debate. The participants included established academics and also talented early career researchers and PhD students which supported a diversity of opinion and a variety of thinking. The members were drawn from a wide range of disciplines including medicine, epidemiology, health sciences, economics, psychology, political science, education, and other social sciences.

The problem was split up into 10 interrelated questions flowing from the first: which model should Australia follow, eradication or controlled suppression of COVID-19? A specialist software platform supported members to work collectively on the questions and used “collaborative reasoning” techniques to come to a consensus view and produce a short report from a complex collection of information. No one was nominated to be a leader or told what part of the problem to focus on. The developing work was available to all members so they could comment on drafts, rate the readiness of completed work, offer assistance and invite co-authors. This group-sourced intelligence encouraged contending analysis and a better product.

This process is a remarkable shift from the usual way of working in traditional academia, which is often slow, individualistic, and hierarchical. It is an example of collaborative thinking being used to address the collective need, which is being practised at macro and micro levels as a response to the pandemic.

At the macro level, it is seen in the sharing of data and breakthroughs by scientists working across the world to find ways to fight the virus, in Germany taking France’s most critical patients, and in the establishment of the Australian National Cabinet. At the micro level it is found in communities (physical and virtual) connecting to share and support each other through the crisis, the level of compliance with social distancing to protect the most vulnerable, and people reaching out to help family, friends and neighbours.

With collaborative thinking to respond to the collective need being widely practised, and the benefits experienced by so many of us, what might we learn about this way of working that we might continue to use in our families, community, workplace and globally? The Roadmap to Recovery project contained a clear purpose, task and timeline, merit-based recognition, a diversity of thinking and tolerance for difference of opinion, self-management and emergent leadership, transparency of the developing product and an emphasis on both the individual and collaborative contribution.

Could the Roadmap to Recovery project be an example of being able to find a balance of both the individual and the collective engagement, so they can be integrated to produce a unique solution? The contribution required of the individual is their expertise, the ongoing finding of their role in the project and the ability to offer leadership as required, their willingness to share resources and the vulnerability of making draft work visible and welcoming feedback. The value of the collective is in the diversity of contribution, thinking and the clash and building of ideas leading to a co-created outcome. The shared purpose, held by all, for a collective benefit provides the glue to unite the members in the face of the inevitable challenges of working in this way.

My hope is that having practised this way of working and experienced the benefits of it we will not return completely to our old ways of working after the crisis but will endeavour to bring the experience of collaborative thinking and a collective perspective to our future relationships, leadership and work.

Jennifer Burrows

Jennifer Burrows
Symposium Committee Member, NIODA

24 April 2020

Working collaboratively during COVID-19

ps Leaders and managers are invited to think deeply about working collaboratively into the future at the 2020 symposium: Working into the Future: Building Individual and Organisations Culture Beyond 2020

Working collaboratively during COVID-19 by Jennifer Burrows

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