The irrelevance of OD in combating racism

OD has absolutely nothing to bring the table to combat racism.

It is very “in” to try to lend a helping hand to combat racism, especially since the Floyd incident was recorded on an I phone.  “Social justice”, whatever that means, is often adopted by OD practitioners who are prone to try to change the world, not content with changing the organizations that they support.

Not only does OD has absolutely nothing to bring to the table; even worse, OD can do lot of damage by signing up to help.

Here are 3 major reasons why OD has no value to add.

Here is some of the damage that OD can bring to table in trying to combat racism.

 

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15 thoughts on “The irrelevance of OD in combating racism

  1. Messy space, if we overlay constructs from one place where they are more contextually integral, on other contexts, where, not as relevant. Like Mexicans, dare not experiment with asafoetida in salsa, or Malayans with chipotle in their Nasi Goreng! Nonetheless, the body may still ‘digest’ the mix.
    OD was not conceived originally to scale into social revolution, all right; but it is in community it was born, where groups of all leaders could learn to express, forgive, and / or even disagree in ways that heard different drums in the same space of community. If that learning is typically Western, then it is largely because, it could leapfrog over prejudices that are germane to Occidental societies. Irrespective, like bio-medical concepts of dormant viruses, deeply hidden or suppressed tendencies rear themselves, when conditions so enable them again, even in Western societies.
    Social struggles find ripples in the organization pond. Denying it, is to avoid the anxiety of quests for equality, justice and participatory opportunity within organizations. In work that OD was known to embrace, acknowledging the milieu in which quests for truth, justice and social progress is sought is mindful practice. So, the ripple of race needs comprehension there for the community or organization needs to be effective.
    Large scale interventions take longer to gestate such ideals, since the arcs of change are scoped wider and longer. So, if America Speaks were one attempt, in USA; Bhaagidari was another in Delhi. Whether for government or for entire political landscapes, the methods of engaging participants en masse get more unwieldy.
    There’s possibly a clue from neurology in this – we process learning, new information, et al in smaller chunks than we imagine we could. Learning at scale could well be contemporary civilization’s Achilles heel. The ‘cultural lag’ that wags its tail at the ‘technological’ lag, is yet another sociological construct we tend to overlook. Sociology, is where cultural relativism was first understood, whether from anthropological traditions or otherwise.
    In OD’s enlarging tent, the pegs that need pegging are indeed exerting tensions unknown to its canopy. Weaving the inter-disciplinary, the socio-cultural, adn what else so invites us into the facilitative art of OD, has rarely been as challenging.

  2. In social-psychological thinking, the end point is anomie. The antidote is education. The time scale is generations.

  3. I am a little confused, how are you using Occidental values? I take Occidental values to mean Western Culture. And with OD bias towards Westen values how does it hold them in contempt?

  4. Irrelevant is a just word to qualify O.D. as an intervention when it applies to racism. As a linguist, the word takes its origin in lower latin and implies some form of capacity to lessen. O.D. has no tooling capable of lessening racism. In fact, racism supplants the O.D. practitioner as s/he may find him/herself one of its agent or object (which I have experienced).

    After three days of working with a management team in Southern Ontario, while everyone believed my family name was of Italian origin (Madore), one member enquired on which part of Italy my family was from. « Oh, said I, I am French Canadian. » Sudden silence in the room. At coffee break, my partner who had an English name, took me aside and informed me the director could no longer work with me. Stunned, I enquired as to why. He was honest enough to let me know the real reason. « Well….it has to do with you being French. » Enough said. This was a painful reminder of a still unending saga in Canada.

  5. Like the provocation.

    Having read the post, whilst I also share concerns at the overwhelming whiteness and Western flavour to much of OD, I disagree with a number of your points, mainly because you make sweeping generalisations and assertions.

    If we thingy-fy OD, that is a problem to start with. The idea that OD is an entity in and of itself is flawed. It is a collection of practices, theories, models, tools etc. Is ‘it’ diverse enough? No.

    I was struck by three things. You say:

    “OD itself has acute western biases and holds many Oriental values in contempt.” I can go with the former, particularly in US and Europe. The proliferation of the idea of VUCA change is a good example of that. Evidence for the latter? Not my experience.

    “The profession is in denial of these biases.” Just because I do not agree totally with you does not mean I am in denial or not willing to change my mind with evidence/data.

    “Compromise, listening, patience and tolerance may very well be dysfunctional to social change.” Depends on your idea of social change. Would it not be true to say that Martin Luther King embodied some of the former?… Total success, evidently not. Progress, yes, long way to go.

    “Neutrality and facilitation legitimize suppression.” That I really cannot wrap my head round. What is your evidence for that?

    • “The profession is in denial of these biases.” Just because I do not agree totally with you does not mean I am in denial or not willing to change my mind with evidence/data.
      If you examine OD textbooks, you see ZERO value attributed to critical elements of eastern or mid eastern cultures.

      “Compromise, listening, patience and tolerance may very well be dysfunctional to social change.” Depends on your idea of social change. Would it not be true to say that Martin Luther King embodied some of the former?… Total success, evidently not. Progress, yes, long way to go.
      That was yesterday’s hamburger.
      And the more progress there is, the more the left over gap will create turbulence.

      “Neutrality and facilitation legitimize suppression.” That I really cannot wrap my head round. What is your evidence for that?
      Meeting in the middle is most often promulgated by facilitation.
      THAT is a western concept. https://www.blog.gr2010.com/2014/01/30/

      • I have not read all OD text books, so not sure how true that is. I agree there is a dearth, and that is I suspect because it is a field with its roots in the US and latterly Europe. Think you have a valid point, it is the absolutism I struggle with.

        Yesterday’s hamburger? Maybe we will have to disagree on that one. I agree that leftovers create turbulence, and hasn’t that always been the case?

        Depends on your facilitation and philosophical stance. I agree that facilitators CAN do that, but not all. I have no need in my work to ensure groups/clients meet in the middle. Will I help them to collaborate and where possible reach some form of agreement? Yes. That is not a synonym for middle. So it ALL facilitation you have an issue with, or how you see it sometimes being done?

        • I agree that leftovers create turbulence, and hasn’t that always been the case?
          Leftovers can create turbulence, but they can also disappear. For example, the leftovers of a legacy culture in an acquisition creates mere background noise after 4 or 5 years.

          Will I help them to collaborate and where possible reach some form of agreement? Yes. That is not a synonym for middle.

          You are correct, but some how it seems to appear so on the ground.

          So it ALL facilitation you have an issue with, or how you see it sometimes being done?
          By most.

  6. Allon, You have kicked the hornets’ nest well with this one. Good for you for being the voice that continues to call us, practitioners in the OD space, to look at ourselves honestly.

  7. Allon, whether I agree or disagree with your comments is for me not particularly important. That you have (to borrow a phrase)- spit in the soup, is I believe where OD can and often does add value in creating provocation and encouraging us all to examine our beliefs, baises and behaviours as none of us are without these.

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