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05 July 2022

Babel Tower

Visiting the Tate Modern few weeks back, in a back room there was this work of art created by cildo meireles - Babel, 2021 - 'A tower of radios playing at once, addresses ideas of information overload and failed communication' (Tate Modern).

We all know (I would think..) the story of Babel in the Book of Genesis as the origin of conflict and failed communication between humans, whereby as the story goes, God caused the Babylonians who built the tower, (regardless of which interpretation is followed as to why it was built) - ended up as a result of God's dissatisfaction with them building this tower speak in different languages causing people to no longer be able to understand each other and move from being one united nation speaking one language to a variety of nations speaking different languages in multiple locations across the world.

cildo meireles ingeniosity is in creating this work of art from old and new radios, all tuned into different stations. So when you enter the room - all you hear is auditory chaos! You can use your imagination of what this would sound like! And you must have experienced this before in meetings you sat in!

In teams and organisations, we have the same challenges. Even if we are a bunch of extremely sophisticated, clever people - we still have our own 'map of the world' - how we understand ourselves, others, and the world we live in. We have our own experiences which shape our values, morals, standards and ways of communication.

Many times, we find that others do not communicate as we do - and instead of being curious about what others mean when they say something we don't like, we react and respond in ways that often cause further distancing from those we decide to dislike.

This behaviour can be seen everywhere and in organisations - it can be hugely costly not just financially, but in the inability to build trust, collaborative partnership and relationships, and effective ways of communication between team members, staff and management and even within the management and leadership layer.

Next time, when you hear someone speak a different language to you - check in with yourself:

- Am I dismissing this person because I don't like/ agree with what they are saying?

Or -

- Can I become curious and ask them what they mean by X so that we can start having a conversation about it?

- If I can put my assumptions about this person aside and follow the latter - what new possibilities and opportunities may become available in this conversation and this potential partnership?

The work of a System Coach is just that!

Helping team members find the path to effective communication when conflict and disagreements are always somewhere ready to jump up. If we can't get away from it, why shouldn't we work with it?

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