I had the wonderful opportunity to present to the Union Pacific Asian Employee Resource Organization at their annual conference this week. I am consistently looking for cool and interesting analogies for The Spiral of Accountability. I spoke of how easy spiraling down is compared to spiraling up. One participant mentioned it was like “gravity” in that it is always easier to go down in favor of gravity vs. go up against gravity. That sparked my interest and as a closet science geek I needed to explore this idea.
As I thought about the concept of gravity further, I realized that yes, escaping it is harder than working within it but it has a quality that I think works in both directions in The Spiral. Gravity is the invisible force that draws objects together and holds them together. I think this really is the heart of momentum that both sides of The Spiral indicate as the loops get larger.
In spiraling down, as we generate commiserators we become the drawing force of that destructive behavior and we build momentum that perpetuates the misery. In a sense, we become gravity.
In spiraling up the same phenomenon applies. As we work towards building collaboration we will draw people to us and grow productive momentum.
As we have learned over the past 50 years of space exploration, we sometimes need to escape one gravitational force in order to explore and reach for another gravitational force. In addition, we often do not know what that other force will be like and there is real risk. I believe the same with spiraling up. There is risk. I also believe the risk is well worth the journey as it is the only way to learn, grow and discover what’s next.
When you look at gravity as part of a system, in connection with all the other forces, things get more complicated. Organizations are also quite complicated. Thus, the added difficulty in navigating spiraling up. This is where such things as emotional intelligence, vulnerability-based trust, productive conflict, and dialogue skills play a huge role in setting an individual, a leader, a team and an organization up for success in spiraling up. This is the development I see that surrounds the use of The Spiral. What ideas do you have?