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Towards WE & BEYOND – Impressions from a shared journey Part XV

It is quite interesting: we started the blog partly because when we were trying to map out our book project we did not really get anywhere. Then we decided to uncover our shared journey by shaping and developing our book in a blog - and this now is Blog number XV! Each time we write a blog, thoughts for new ones pop up; some times one, some times a few. If it is a few we put them in order, starting to plan and plot again - only to find that by the time we get beyond the next things start to change again, and we shuffle things around. We find it quite interesting that, once we decided to take one small step, more started to emerge! Another reminder that if we are operating in complex contexts one step at the time, continuing to move, and moving slowly - yet with a steady end goal in mind - produce amazing results :-).

When we finished our last blog on dialogue it was no different, by going a little deeper into the meaning of dialogue we unearthed the six dialogue skills,* which now give us our next blogs (we are curious to see whether they stay in order - or whether something else wants to be told first!).

The art of Holding. What does it mean to hold an idea, concept, interpretation? Well, who has not had an idea and felt the immediate need to voice and share it! Our enthusiasm and concern for sharing our idea as soon as we have it can make us oblivious to the context. It is like having a pack of seeds and, overly keen to put them into the ground, we forget to check what kind of position the plant would like and needs to grow, whether the ground is actually ready to receive it, and whether we are in a position to support and sustain it once we have put it into the ground.

holding space 2.001.jpg

[We have found this picture online which we thoughts captures the essence of holding so beautifully on the following website: and hope not to infringe any copyrights with this!!!]

There is actually a lovely word the ancient Greek used for the right or opportune moment (the supreme moment): Kairos. The Merriam Webster dictionary defines Kairos as " a time when conditions are right for the accomplishment of a crucial action". Kairos is about allowing time to lapse, creating a moment of indeterminate time in which everything happens. Kairos stands in contrast with Chronos, which is about chronological or sequential time. While Chronos is quantitative, Kairos has a qualitative, permanent nature.**

So holding is about on the one hand waiting, giving space, allowing emergence, manifestation and maturation of a thought before it is being voiced; it requires us to reflect on our idea and challenge ourselves. So we need to keep an open mind, and have patience - plus, so we feel, a few other things beyond:

  • A willingness to relinquish control, and ‘go with the flow’ instead,

  • A willingness to let go of a sense of self-importance and desire to show how clever we are (right now) in favour of being able to make a (more) meaningful contribution (later on),

  • A willingness to re-develop the skill of unconditioned, unprejudiced child-like curiosity.

On the other hand we need to listen and observe the context into which we indent to plant out idea so that when we finally voice it, this is done in a way that resonates, and hence enables our idea to fall on receptive ground; it means our idea is meaningful, and can lead to action.

The holding might take a few seconds, a few minutes, or days and months. The point is to provide some space for the thoughts to form and grow, and to sense the 'readiness' of the context before 'letting it go'.

The importance of 'the right moment' (or might 'the most appropriate' be even better?) is something that is reflected in the saying and proverbs of many cultures. For example, in the English speaking context we have,

  • "Everything has its time." Portuguese proverb

  • “It’s always about timing. If it’s too soon, no one understands. If it’s too late, everyone’s forgotten.” Anna Wintour

  • “The right thing at the wrong time is the wrong thing.” Joshua Harris

  • "The right word at the right time is like a custom-made piece of jewellery" (from the Bibel, proverb 25:11)

  • “Patience is power. Patience is not an absence of action; rather it is "timing" it waits on the right time to act, for the right principles and in the right way.” Fulton J. Sheen

  • “Patience is the calm acceptance that things can happen in a different order than the one you have in mind.” David G. Allen

A big question is of course, how much time? How much patience? If we wait too long the moment has passed; the opportunity is missed. How do we know when the time is right?

This is something intuition tells us. Developing an intuition for the right moment, however, cannot be learned through reading a book or going to university. This ability to judge the right moment will grow with experience. And what is behind ‘experience’? A lot of time, discipline, willpower, stamina. Stamina to live through obstacles, grow beyond fear of seeming stupid or failing. Willpower to start at the beginning when things did not work out. Discipline to stick with an idea despite rejection, ridicule, and possibly more pleasurable distractions. Time of devotion where you focus on your intention, on your primary goal, and are willing to postpone the rest to a later moment.

So our fifteenth insight is herewith: If we want to succeed with the introduction of something new we are well advised to understand and embrace Kairos and develop the art of HOLDING.

Just to make sure, we are not promoting that each and every decision should be taken in this way! Everyday routine and related decisions should follow the Chronos logic and are simplified by proper planning and implementation discipline.


* You can find out more about David Bohm's work on dialogue that inspired us on a website dedicated to him.

** By the way, the difference between the time concepts of 'Kairos' and 'Chronos' was topic of one of the contributions to the book 'The Future of Innovation', a collection of over 150 thoughts pieces on the future of innovation, co-edited by Bettina, together with her lovely friend and colleague Anna Trifilova. Online you can read the contribution on Kairos and Chronos as well as by now over 400 other thoughts on The Future of Innovation.

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