About Me

My photo
Making innovation work for good. T:@inspirechilli

Saturday 1 June 2013


This week was the birthday of the great filmmaker Rainer Werner Fassbinder, the self-styled ‘romantic anarchist’ who made films about the lives and issues that the rest of society did not care care about. Fassbinder possessed a rare ability to explore the edge of human understanding, to expand our consciousness through the camera.  In his films one finds the gaze of attention on those who don’t normally have a voice in our political system. Fassbinder was a director of the frontier.

I was in Utrecht on Thursday to offer a workshop on Talents, our new developmental process for organisations to experience the concepts of Open Talent and Advantaged Thinking.  Fassbinder was not in my mind, but I suddenly made the connection when people were trying to interpret the language of ‘disadvantaged’ and ‘advantaged’ into Dutch. This, they said, was about borders and frontiers.  While they believed in the positive principles of the vision, they found it hard to maintain its energy and focus in the negative restrictions within which they worked.  In many ways, Talents is about the journey one can make to liberate practice from such shackles, so the interpretation made sense.  However, the language of frontiers has other resonances that are worth exploring.

In America, the psychology and political significance of frontiers was famously documented by Frederick Jackson Turner in his influential Frontier Thesis of 1893. Jackson claimed that the moving frontier line in America, populated by early pioneers in search of fortune, led to the foundations of American democracy and personality (both good and bad). The frontier was a place where the institutional mindsets and hierarchies of European settlers were transformed through experience into the free-thinking individualism of American liberty. 

Putting the political theory to one side, we are left with the idea of the frontier as a place of personal and social transition for those pioneers who dare to explore it.   The connection of Open Talent and Advantaged Thinking with this image has a compelling significance.  As concepts, they challenge the restrictive deficit-based approaches that have grown up in our social system, with the optimism that we possess the assets to create sustainable solutions.  We are all the children of Maslow’s hierarchy, but now we are being asked to turn our focus on supporting needs upside down and embrace the freedom of investing in positive risks.

Advantaged Thinking is a new frontier for those in search of a different way of working.  It cultivates the liberty of talent, and the revolution that we actually all possess it, no matter what stereotype society has given us to live through. Fassbinder would have understood this very well.  He would have said - we need to keep telling the story.  I am sure in the Netherlands it is just beginning.

No comments:

Post a Comment