Sharing and building Solution Focused practice in organisations
When I first read on the list about the SF summit in Malmo about the future of SF, I immediately wrote to Björn and asked if I could be included. I knew that they could only host 30 guests and therefore it would be a high profile meeting. I was hesitant to ask since I’m a “baby” in the SF world and said so to Björn. He replied immediately that if I wanted to come I was probably the right person. And so I went to Malmo.
What an experience! We were invited to climb a mountain to the summit and get an overview of the SF landscape. What a view! Here is my bird’s eye view of it. Through Harry Korman’s presentation on micro analysis of therapeutic conversations I gained a new appreciation of how effective and important the SF approach is. It is not to be reduced to one or two factors but must be seen in the interplay of a variety of factors. Of all the many factors the most important to me is probably the fact that SF practitioners are very tentative in their interactive approach to clients and customers and thereby open up space for customers and clients to enter into and unpack their needs. Through the discussion that followed the meeting started to identify markers in the rumor or narrative about SF that can be part of the paradigm.
Mark McKergow presented us with his views on SF as a paradigm and practice. We looked at the pros and cons of trying to formulate a SF paradigm and at the connection between SF and other fields. We asked ourselves if it is possible to formulate a paradigm and what would be part of the SF paradigm. As a work in progress it is sometimes easier to say what SF is not. What seems to me to be uncontested is that SF is a highly successful interactive approach to change. There are lots of studies and research to proof that SF presents a huge challenge to conventional wisdom about people and how they work. How come then that there is little common understanding about SF in academic circles the world over and that SF has little academic clout in comparison to other approaches and models to coaching and therapy? There is no shouting about SF thought. Hasn’t it become time that we start formulating the relationship of SF ideas to one another and form a generally accepted paradigm of SF? From the conversations we had I gleaned a need that some of us have for a conceptual framework within which scientific research can be carried out. It would be especially useful if this research were to be done by non-SF people in the academic world.
Gale Miller presented us with his ideas about where SF thought and practice is today. He thinks SF might be three things simultaneously. We find it first in the narratives or rumor about SF that circulates in the SF community. From amongst the entire collection of narratives one becomes eventually a paradigm which the community embraces on the grounds of formal logic and empirical evidence. From this follows an imaginary as spoken and unspoken orientations or assumptions to its existence. The imaginary is grounded in the paradigm and projects into the future what it is going to be. In a sense it rewrites the paradigm. It also forms the background to practice. As I understood it, this means first of all that we must ask ourselves where is SF at in this moment in time. Secondly that without a SF paradigm there can be no SF imaginary. And without a SF paradigm and imaginary it becomes difficult to distinguish SF as an applied methodology from other approaches. Talk about the future existence of SF practice then becomes almost impossible.
In reflecting on everything we heard and talked about we asked ourselves the miracle question about the future of SF. What would it look like? Then we talked about what is already there in terms of the miracle that has brought us to the present. What is working and should be continued? Then we moved on to next small steps in promoting the future of SF. I was impressed with the creativity and wide range of thoughts that was generated by the different groups and I won’t even try to summarize what has been said.
What I would like to do is to stress a few of the thoughts that resonate with my own needs as an advocate for SF in South Africa. This is only a sort of personal bird’s eye view I registered in Malmo. I think that it is highly important that we have a paradigm of what SF is and do even if we define it only in minimum terms. There is to my mind already a paradigm. What I would like to see is that it is defined in a less ambiguous way. Much of what is sometimes claimed to be SF is not SF. A paradigm is also important in the market place to “sell” what we practice. Success stories of SF practice should also become more abundant. It still surprises me in how many spheres of life, inside and outside the workplace, SF has made a significant impact. These stories however are mostly known only within the SF community. We should find ways and means to make it known to the world. We should publish and tell more stories in media outside the SF community. I am of the opinion that our tentative approach to clients should not be carried over into our advocacy of SF. We should be more assertive on the benefits and positive results of SF without being argumentative or offensive to other traditions. We have something worthwhile to offer the world. We could perhaps look into how others professionally market their “products” and have a public relations strategy to reach decision makers in the public and private sector. More research into SF should also be done and published and perhaps this should be done by people outside the SF community to give greater credibility to SF in the academic and business world of today. We could also start talking about the possibility of creating grants for research by people inside and outside our community. Over the years thousands of people were trained in SF but many disappeared from the SF scene. We should ask ourselves what needs to be done to create a new generation of SF practitioners and what can be done to actively involve them with the SF community. Doing more visible pro bono work in our immediate social communities could also enhance the public profile of SF. Some great initiatives of the recent past, like SFCT and the journal Interaction, should be embraced and expanded. These are but some of the ideas that stimulated me in Malmo. Others would probably write about different things and hopefully will. What I think is important is that we should discuss the future of SF more. Personally I will also take responsibility to promote SF more and better.
A warm thank you goes to Björn and Eva for organizing this wonderful initiative so excellently. And last but not least thank you to my fellow attendees for being so supportive and sharing to the “baby” in the group.
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