What Metaphor are You Living In?





(YES my blog told me it needed a vacation. So I listened. AND It's good to be writing again, And I'd love to hear from you! )

There's four of us sitting around a table and there's only one piece of pie left. There is a limited amount, and four people who love pie. This is one metaphor, and often used to conceptualize resources (think pie chart).


An alternative image is that of a raspberry bush. The more you pick it, the more it produces. Left unpicked and neglected it won’t produce as much as one that has been attended to.


The first metaphor can lead to a scarcity mindset. We only have so much. And it’s not enough. (I have nothing against pie charts mind you. I'm wondering if they are always the best tool to conceptualize what we have.)


The second metaphor is one of abundance. As we attend to this living resource – the raspberry bush – it actually produces more.


In the nonprofit world scarcity-thinking is prevalent. We don’t have enough. We have tight budgets. There is not enough for us to invest adequately in our staff. As a result staff overwork, burnout, leave. Yes this happens. And it’s not the only story.


What if we attend to the living resource in our nonprofits – our people?


Healthy nonprofits do this and it staff feel the difference. And they stay. When we invest in our people, and they feel supported, they have the freedom to be creative, when we do the work to make our teams cohesive, with high trust, we get in the flow together and have the ability to have a larger impact in the communities we are meant to serve.


The problem is that we are stuck.


Our neural pathways as individuals, organizations, and the nonprofit sector (including the donors) have formed around thinking low overhead is our goal, rather than maximizing our impact over the long term.


How do we form new neural pathways?


We make new choices, form new pathways, in small, safe “containers” where we experience connection, support, possibility, creativity, joy, and abundance in an embodied way. As we taste it, we can begin living it in larger ways. And when we embody that way of being as organizations, we are making it possible in larger realms, not least of which are the populations we serve.




*Watch Dan Palotta's TED talk on maximizing impact versus minimizing overhead.


#organizationalhealth #appliedimprov #neuralpathways #nonprofithealth #scarcitythinking #abundancethinking




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©2020 David Westerlund