Leaving Immersion?

What makes a technique useful is that it responds to problems of the focus domain. An expert, who is using techniques is useful, if she is responsible and cares about the object of this expert domain. For example, a good project manager cares about everything that is involved in a project: people, the project goal, the means to achieve it, the timeline it requires. In every community obviously there are some who care more and some who care less. The challenge is: Why do we care? Wouldn’t we be better off if we just cared for ourselves, and just appeared to be caring while we would just be caring for ourselves?

For those wo care, there is almost always an aspect of intrinsic motivation in caring. It’s not the only aspect, no doubt, but what often makes the difference between an average expert and a good expert: Wanting to make things good is a goal on it’s own, and can be emancipating, because one realizes for oneself that these things, that are going beyond the assigned responsibilities of the job description, make a meaningful difference. Very often these things are invisible, because they are not articulated, they don’t occupy discussion space and time for the team, but rather get things done. That these practices were present but are now missing is discovered only when they are not occurring any more. Vera incessu patuit dea, sozusagen.

On the other side, this attitude is a perfect substratum for exploitation, once realized. Wanting to make things good immerses the expert. At some point the borders between organization and individual get blurred. Is it you that is controlling a part of the organization or is it the organization that controls parts of you? Most probably there is a co-evolution and a co-dependency to some degree, or at least that is what the expert could believe.

Leaving immersion deliberately for a while is hard to achieve. I know many people who want to do something else but cannot find the energy to make it happen. There are always very good reasons not to change. And while this interdependencies between an organization and an individual are stressful and give you less freedom at times, they are also comfortable because there is no time to decide how you are going to spend your free time, because there is hardly any free time, most of it is scheduled, and for the rest you just respond to emergencies and necessities: Eating, Drinking, Sleeping, Meetings, Task Forces, Family, Sports, Holiday. Granted, structure and constraints are necessary for meaningful decisions, but there need to be degrees of freedom in order to make decisions.

A. Leaving Immersion, But Don’t Leave the Situation

One way to evaluate the option of leaving immersion deliberately is considering that it is not needed to leave the situation. No matter where you are engaged, there are in many situations degrees of freedom that let you influence things. And if there are none, it is possible to create them. Will the influence be sustainably? Sometimes a system has certain attractors. In order to influence something, you need to invest significant energy to change. When you are leaving immersion and hyperinclusion, the attractors sometimes move back to their original place. In companies this is what is called “corporate culture”, the embodied practices, the way to speak, the way to critize, when not to speak, whom to promote, etc. follow patterns, structures and rhythms that are hard to change. When you create practices in small scale that deviate from corporate culture there are two possibilities:
1. The deviation gets viral. Suspicion is justified. Why did the deviation go through without resistance? Most probably there is some hidden benefits of the status quo that you have just not realized.

2. The deviatioin will be a temporary phenomenon . Some things can be kept open only as long as you make an effort to keep them open. They don’t remain open just on it’s own. It requires maintenance effort, it requires a set of people who want to be in that space. Practices can vanish. There is no natural law that guarantees responsibility and care. Decaying or fading is a possibility, if the tradition is not continued.

B. Is Leaving the Situation Egoistic?

Another way to see it is that leaving immersion deliberately will increase your degrees of freedom significantly, but less of your decisions will matter because they don’t affect anyone, not of those in the space of immersion that you have left. Leaving a set of constraints after long time is therefore an egoistic act. It leaves others behind, who relied on you, your attention, and your way of doing things.

C. Detachment

A third way is to understand that leaving immersion deliberately can be happening temporary. Thinking from an individual perspective: Threads can be picked up after a time of discontinuation, which will gives them fresh impression after a phase of detachment. Some problems cannot be solved by continued immersion. They need distance, they need to be left on it’s own for a while.

On the level of communities: Some properties skip a generation. History is a palimpsest, where some layers are just waiting to be rediscovered.

Andreas Kirchner

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