Isn’t it funny how even when you have heard it before, it doesn’t actually “hit” you until some later date? While it rang true before, the noise is a lot louder today for the meaning of this statement: when planning a meeting, we are really planning a harvest.
4 mates and I are preparing for an Art of Hosting (and Harvesting) gathering in Edmonton, Alberta next week http://berkana.org/pdf/AoH_Edmonton_Feb_2010.pdf. And of course, now that we are getting into the design of the gathering, we are contemplating what it means to harvest the conversations we will be having. We are contemplating this diligently in service to the invitation we have extended to explore how to cultivate Albertans’ collective ingenuity in order to renew and sustain Alberta’s communities.
When in conversation with anyone, including myself, meaning is generated. There is the tangible meaning, such as a record of what decisions are made. In addition, there are the impressions we make of each other, the conflict we carry, the assumptions, the sabotage, the agendas, as well as goodness and love. Yet we struggle with our conversations – especially the ones we choose not to have. Bad feelings are clearly a pattern, and this leaves a lot of conversations never held.
But what if we are more than that? What if instead of leaving the fruit to rot on the tree, we choose to enjoy it? What if we consider every apple, blemishes and all, as a sweet treat? What if we planned for that when we gather? More importantly, what if we planned to explicitly expose those sweet treats for us all to see? What if we held the intention to fully harvest the abundance that is just sitting there – each apple, and all the things we can make together?
A harvest is about both content and process, the tangible and the intangible. The content is not about a message to be delivered to others, but about pulling out of ourselves what is just sitting there waiting to emerge. Our unconscious, or semiconscious knowledge. In terms of contemplating a harvest, content is about knowing what the conversation is for: is it to explore ideas, or to nail down a plan for action. To build a common sense of direction, or generate a diverse range of options? Knowing the overall purpose of the conversation assists greatly with ascertaining the appropriate design for the conversation – the process- as well as sense of harvest (to design for) that is in service to the intention. Intention provides clarity for both content and process.
The form of a harvest is various and unlimited: photographs, a movie, a song, a poem, a report, a picture, a performance, a document. The harvest at times tangible and explicit (such as a report or document) or more intangible and implicit (a song or poem). Both add value and meaning when aligned with the purpose and context of the people gathering.
Skillful design for conversation is the process, and when aligned with the purpose/intention, conversation will provide wonderful fruit for harvest. Our design choices dictate whether we gather effectively the collective wisdom. The quality of our presence in the gathering will dictate what we notice – whether one apple, the whole tree, the whole orchard, the ecosystem, etc.
Whether from an individual or as a collaborative effort, the harvest takes the unarticulated and unconscious to the articulated and conscious that is an expression of value and meaning. It is an expression of learning.
In times of abundance or scarcity, just like an apple, the harvest of conversation is nourishment.