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Coaching to a Las Vegas State of Mind

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Frans Johansson (2004) is another, somewhat more contemporary, advocate of multiplicity’s benefits.  Deriving his analysis from the cultural history of Florence Italy during the Renaissance (the Medici Effect), Johansson offers many examples of how diverse perspectives and disciplines can productively intersect and converge to create highly innovative and valuable ideas and products. Having offered these persuasive examples, Johansson (2004, pp. 97-98) goes on to present a couple of reasons for the power of the Intersection of perspectives and ideas (the Medici Effect):

Why is the intersection of disciplines or cultures such a vibrant place for creativity? . . .  It increases the chances that an idea will be good because it brings together very different concepts from very different fields. . .  [There is another, stronger, reason for its power. When you connect two separate fields, you also set off an exponential increase of unique concept combinations, a veritable explosion of ideas. Or, to put it succinctly, if being productive is the best strategy to innovate, then the Intersection is the best place to innovate.

As coaches, are we in the business of helping our clients find these points of Intersection? Do we help our clients identify underlying unification in their life and organization? Is our job in part to help our clients find some underlying theme, pattern or personal identity while living in a postmodern, Las Vegas? Do we help our clients find creativity in a cave with multiple and shifting openings, complex images on the wall and a cacophony of interpretations? Are we trying to help our clients realize the Medici Effect – and turn Las Vegas into the Renaissance of 16th and 17th Century Florence?

Challenges: In Over our Heads

While Kegan’s unified source of illumination and Johannson’s Medici Effect are inspiring and worth pondering as a coach and as an organizational leader, it is also important to identify the challenges being faced while living in the Las Vegas state of mind. These challenges exist at several different levels. At one level, as Gergen has noted, the challenge concerns our own coherent sense of self. Carol Gilligan (Gilligan, 1990; Brown and Gilligan, 1992), who is one of the leading researchers on the lifespan development of women, writes about the splitting that occurs in the lives of young women during their pre-adolescent years. There is one “self” that is the “good girl” who does and thinks what society expects. There is another “self” that relates to what the young woman actually thinks and feels (and would like to do). In an interview with Charlie Rose, Gilligan speculates that this splitting many occur even earlier in the lives of young men.

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