Beloved Leadership #5 - Source from Multiple Ways of Knowing

Beloved Leadership #5 - Source from Multiple Ways of Knowing

Welcome back to the Beloved Leadership series. This series explores practices that directly contrast most organizations' typical extractive and toxic working methods. In their book Beloved Economies, Jess Rimington and Joanna Cea identified and researched these practices and detailed how they elevate creative and effective output when people work together.

I know I’m not the only person delighted by articles with footnotes full of references and books with lengthy bibliographies. So much wisdom is missed and suppressed when we go all-in on praise of the written word and exclude other ways of knowing.

When overly reliant on “technical training from formal learning institutions,” we miss out on wisdom pulled from “lived experience, intuition, physical sensation, and spiritual practice.” The point is that these types of knowledge and attunement are different from the traditions of technical or academic training - not that they are replacing them.

The goal is to create an organization that values multiple ways of knowing. This is achieved by unraveling the biases against certain ways of knowing. Another critical part is breaking down the power dynamics that hold people back from sharing intrinsic knowledge. The result is an epistemic shift in how we venerate technical expertise while welcoming other sources of guidance.

To do this well, it is essential to “proactively welcome multiple ways of knowing.” This means creating intentional structures to counteract biases toward technical/formal traditions. Trust-building may need to be done between groups with different knowledge traditions. By explicitly encouraging contributions from multiple ways of knowing, people are more likely to share their wisdom. Structures, practices, and intentional facilitation to promote this sharing also mean that the organization creates more inclusive and accessible spaces where everyone can participate in meaningful ways.

By affirming “everyone’s authority on their own lived experience,” organizations can crack the barriers between who has “the right” expertise for any issue and instead approach challenges with a deeper and broader array of information, tools, and processes, resulting in more effective solutions.

Rimington and Cea note that this doesn’t mean prioritizing multiple ways of knowing above formal education or technical training. They discuss the dangers of going too far by completely excluding formal training and academic expertise, resulting in “an absolute lack of documentation, which can create new problems, such as a lack of transparent information-sharing, or creating unwanted power dynamics or access issues.” Getting the balance right can be tricky.

Getting the balance right requires “building team capacity for greater awareness.” When the goal is to spark more expansive thinking, creative organizations look for inspiration in a few places.

One of those places is emotion. By affirming emotions as a valuable source of knowing, people are freed from the confines and preconceived limits of “rationality.” Creativity blossoms.

Embodied knowledge and attunement to the senses can be accessed through movement practices and by cultivating awareness of physical sensations. This, in turn, can help with problem-solving as “care and ample movement, coupled with dedicated attention to signals from the body and determination to interpret them, can open up new awareness and knowing.”

Art can help group members tap into a sense of play and unleash creative insights that people cannot articulate verbally.

Creating space for multiple ways of knowing and practices to build awareness of this wisdom results in participants being holistically present and fully engaged in addressing the challenges. Increased appreciation for the diverse sources of knowledge feeds more creative and fundamentally more effective problem-solving.