Making the impossible possible — organizing a Reinventing Organizations conference in Bulgaria
By Bilyana Georgieva for Enlivening Edge Magazine
The story begins in May 2015. I am at an event about coaching, listening to a presentation and scribbling down titles for articles to write sometime in the future when it suddenly hit me: I want to organize a conference about Authentic/Transformational leadership in Bulgaria. Ideas just came flowing out of my head onto the page, without too much detail, but still as clear as could be. What should do I do next? I did what I have always done: I started sharing the idea with people I thought would support it.
Two things happened. I met with skepticism and lack of support which I took as a sign that now was not the right time to initiate such a thing, so I should wait until I met the right people. At the same time I just couldn’t give up, and I continued talking about this idea in general and what it meant to me. This is how I ended up learning about the book Reinventing Organizations. The rest of the story is a beautiful tale of synchronicities.
Sharing my dream with the world
It is now Christmas 2015. I have read Laloux’s book. I am more inspired—and utterly confused about what to do next. So I do what I have always done: I start researching, connecting with people and sharing what I find. On Christmas Eve I published an article on LinkedIn entitled “I have a dream … about leadership”. This was my way of sending a message to the world, expressing my frustrations and hopes.
It started with a couple of questions like: “Is it possible that business is more humane? Can it be done by humans led by something bigger than profit, money and bonuses? Is there a company in Bulgaria in which the mission, vision, and values come from all people and are lived by them every day? Is there a leader in Bulgaria who is Human before s/he is a Manager, and who acts driven by values such as trust, honesty, and integrity?”
The end of the article read: “My dream is that this Christmas a new community is born, of people who share similar views, and together we craft a forum in Bulgaria so that these ideas reach more people. My goal is to meet these leaders, and give them the chance to discuss their ideas and inspire each other.
That would inspire other Bulgarian leaders and companies who have the will to change but who need support, or those who see the business benefit in trusting people and would like to learn more.”
The power of synchronicity
In May 2016, with a dear friend—someone who spreads knowledge about innovative management practices in Bulgaria (Tania Boyajieva)—I attended the Integral European Conference in Hungary. We got there by synchronicity, and in my heart I felt this is the exact place I needed to be. I met some great people. Although I was there to crack the secret behind how to transform an organization into Teal, I ended up going to sessions about Spiral Dynamics and Integral theory, experiential body work and constellation sessions, and again more theoretical workshops. I followed my intuition.
The night before Jos de Blok’s keynote speech I spotted him in the lobby, approached him, and said maybe the strangest pick-up line he had ever heard: “Are you Jos de Blok? You have fans in Bulgaria!” It was actually true. For the last two months I had been meeting with two business owners who wanted to transform their companies, but needed someone with experience who had been in their shoes to share thoughts and problems with.
So I found myself on a mission in Hungary: meet Jos de Blok. And this I did. We spent some time that evening talking about Teal, Buurtzorg, his dreams and aspirations, Bulgaria, and my dreams and aspirations. I ended by inviting to him to speak in Sofia in the future.
The emergent network
I came back to Sofia with a persistent feeling that something would happen. In the meantime, Tania and I organized monthly events through STOOS Network in Bulgaria to showcase leaders who are innovative and people-oriented. We gathered a colorful, vibrant crowd of about 30 people each month, and we reached our peak in April with around 60 participants who were eager to hear Damyan Damyanov, a pioneering visionary leader, inspired by Semler, who has been practicing democratic management for four years using trial and error.
The power of appreciation
Now was the time for Susan from Enspiral with her message of “thank you” to show up. I got to know her in March when I shared her post on LinkedIn and received a “thank you” message. It was the first time someone thanked me for sharing something of theirs. So I promptly replied, and we got to know each other better. In June she shared on Facebook that she was coming to Europe and would love to get ideas for places to visit. I just could not miss the opportunity of inviting her to Bulgaria and to the event which started forming in my mind. Meanwhile Jos de Blok confirmed he was coming, the date is set to 12th of October, 2016. Now I am organizing the core team and the event itself.
Incubation and letting go
Yes, you read that correctly. Only as recently as the beginning of July did I start sharing the info about the conference and assembling the core team. From what I know about Teal now, I haven’t used a very Teal approach! For example, we haven’t gone on a sensing journey or co-presenced the emerging future.
Still, the way it has worked is very much how things work for me. Once I get an idea, I start sharing while still raw so that I can refine it for myself. This is a very intimate process for me and during this time I work best when I am one-to-one with a person or with the idea only. I cannot function fully in team mode. I call this my “incubation time”. When I feel it is finished, I am ready to share the idea fully and also to see it modified beyond recognition. So, beginning of July was when the time came to share.
Trusting intuition and the core team
Of course a lot of people warned me about time constraints. There is a great chance we will run into many unexpected complications. Yes, I am aware of all these complications. Yes, I keep them in my mind. Still, I am willing to go forward. What gives me this conviction that the event will happen in the best way possible? Two things – the team and (yes, you guessed right) synchronicities. The core team consists of people who are enthusiastic, committed and diverse in background and abilities (Tania Boyajieva, Zornitsa Nikolova, Desislava Baneva, Chris Djumak, Georgi Danchev, Ekaterina Yosifova, and Nadya Tasheva). The wider circle of friends is comprised of companies, friends, and organizations.
Whatever comes out of our joint efforts is a small step towards a better world. Our goal is to have the event organized in a Teal mode so we want to experiment and push our own limits as well. We want the organization and budget to be transparent to the team and supporters. We are learning ourselves along the way. We want to have fun, do something meaningful, and get something out of it for ourselves as well.
Pro Action Learning Research
Due to another synchronicity inspired by George Pór on 27 July, the Pro Action Learning team (Naomi Raja Boean, Vihra Dincheva, and Rainer von Leoprechting) held an action learning set session for the core team which was our first meeting outside the communication we have on Facebook. We spent 2 hours together and managed to have some meaningful conversations, enjoy an outsider view, hear some provocative and great questions, and decide on next steps to bring us forward. I cannot thank them and the core team enough since for me it is clear that the event will happen in the best way possible once we are able to share our aspirations, concerns, hopes, and determination openly.
The following is what emerged in answer to the crucial question: “Why do you want to be part of the organizing team and not just a participant?”
“We strongly believe in the need to have a different model of organization that supports people into finding their motivation at work and living a happy life. There is a lot more value that can be created by motivated people who participate actively.
“So, we want to see more companies adopt this new way of thinking and culture (doing meaningful work consciously in a non-traditional and non-hierarchical organization), and creating a new way of communicating between people.
“We would like to nurture a community of change makers, people who deeply connect with each other and make dreams happen that are creating a more beautiful reality in Bulgaria and in the world.”
You are all welcome to support and/or join us in person or in spirit.
So, 12 October 2016, is the date, Sofia is the place, about 100 participants is the target, and the title is: “Reinventing organizations: It is time to transform the way we work together”.
I create environments for people and organizations to find their own source of inspiration. I do coaching and consulting on Creativity, Change and Organizational transformation which I unite under the idea of having meaningful conversations with my clients. I am a catalyst and changemaker by vocation; cognitive, social & organizational psychologist, MBA, organizational consultant, HR, entrepreneur, mother and Montessori pedagogist by education and experience; manager of processes and creator of art by nature. Co-creator of InSpiral – www.inspiralty.com.