1st Edition

The Elephant in the Room Engaging with the Unsaid in Groups and Organizations

By Lotte Svalgaard Copyright 2023
    246 Pages 17 B/W Illustrations
    by Productivity Press

    246 Pages 17 B/W Illustrations
    by Productivity Press

    246 Pages 17 B/W Illustrations
    by Productivity Press

    Continue Shopping

    A group is working on a business challenge. The group members are under pressure. They have a lot to accomplish and a limited amount of time. After first attempting to develop an overview of their common task, they try to make a plan to ensure an efficient group process. The planning is proving difficult. We’ve all been there. We are in a working group or at a meeting, discussing a topic or a challenge, and all the while, as a separate track running underneath our conversation, there is a subtext that no one explicitly addresses. This is an example of ‘the elephant in the room.’ Most of us notice the elephant, it gets in the way, and it’s difficult to deal with until someone points at it and says, ‘There it is, let’s take a look at it and reduce its impact.’

    With an engaging use of examples and questions, the book addresses how we can best deal with the elephant and thus promote job satisfaction, creativity, and productivity. In the context of action, what we notice often recedes into the background and gradually slips out of focus until we eventually reconnect with our need to reflect and recreate a space for it. This book addresses the challenge of focusing on, holding on to, and acting on what we notice ‘in the middle of it all.’ Maintaining a simultaneous focus on task and process – what we do and what we notice – is what I define as ‘double awareness.’ Double awareness is not only a core capacity but also a core challenge.

    The aim of the book is to promote understanding and awareness of this core challenge and to inspire both reflection and action in anyone wishing to improve their capacity for double awareness. How can we define and understand the practice of mindful avoidance? And can we, as members of groups and organizations, begin to practice mindful action by engaging in and acting on what we notice, in real time?

    Theme 1: Double Awareness

    Chapter 1: What is double awareness?

    • The importance and challenge of reflective spaces
    • The double task
    • Challenges related to the double task
    • The challenge of the reflective space
    • Why is the reflective space in the middle of it all so essential?
    • Recommended reading

    Chapter 2: Being mindful of what is above and below the surface

    • Process awareness of what is below the surface
    • Practising mindful awareness
    • Emotion as data: above and below, inner and outer
    • Reading and carrying
    • Engaging our assumptions
    • Deep underlying assumptions as competing commitments
    • Recommended reading


    Chapter 3: Difficult feelings, negative capability and defenses

    • Embracing and examining all sorts of feelings
    • The challenge of not-knowing
    • Defenses and defensive routines
    • Anxiety, doubt and uncertainty as aspects of learning
    • Practicing negative capability
    • On the look-out for defense mechanisms
    • Recommended reading

    Theme 2: Mindful Avoidance

    Chapter 4: The practice – and consequences – of mindful avoidance

    • Willful blindness
    • The challenge is not mindlessness
    • How can we tell that we are practicing mindful avoidance?
    • Why mindful avoidance?
    • Navigating without data
    • Recommended reading



    Chapter 5: Emotions as disturbance and loss of control

    • Putting emotions into words
    • Keeping emotions pent up
    • The short-term reward of pretending everything is fine
    • Worrying about emotional and relational messiness
    • The pressure to act quickly
    • Recommended reading


    Chapter 6: Not-knowing as a competence

    • Questions as a condition for learning
    • Acting means fixing
    • How can we act on not-knowing?
    • Recommended reading

    Theme 3: Mindful Action

    Chapter 7: Truth

    • Insight into truth in the moment
    • The past is included in the present moment
    • Making data accessible
    • The feeling of succeeding with mindful action
    • Recommended reading


    Chapter 8: Transparency

    • Transparency and clarity
    • Being authentic
    • From splitting to transparency
    • Mindful action does not mean acting on everything that moves
    • Rock the boat, but not so hard that you fall out of it
    • Mindful alertness
    • Recommended reading

    Chapter 9: Trust

    • From doubt to trust
    • Daring to embrace vulnerability
    • How trust emerges and is maintained
    • Having control
    • Recommended reading



    Theme 4: From Avoidance to Commitment

    Chapter 10: Identifying and avoiding mindful avoidance

    • Mindful logs
    • Assumptions versus facts
    • Life stories and role biographies
    • Immunity to change
    • Awareness in action
    • From brainstorm to question storm
    • Recommended reading

    Chapter 11: Mobilizing the three T’s

    • Meaning as you see it
    • Reflective spaces as daily routine
    • Putting emotions into words
    • Handling difficult taboos
    • Dynamic tension
    • Transparent rather than polite feedback
    • Setting the pace
    • Recommended reading


    Chapter 12: Consequences for leadership and organizational development

    • Moving from parallel to simultaneous tracks in design
    • Training double awareness
    • Your own negative capability
    • Recommended reading


    Lotte Svalgaard holds a Phd and a MSc in Business Psychology. Her research investigates how individuals can be awake and aware, show up and engage with challenges outside of their comfort zone. Her writing has appeared in Management Learning, Action Learning – Research & Practice, Socioanalysis and SAGE Research Method Cases. Her passion, to contribute to create more passionate and mindful organizations, makes up the platform for her work, her research and her authorships. She is a global leadership development professional with extensive experience within group dynamics, experiential leadership development, and organizational consultancy. I is currently a senior leadership consultant and executive coach at INSEAD, consulting and coaching on senior executive leadership programs across multiple industries around the world. Besides her work at INSEAD, she is a senior partner in Action Lab, where she designs and implements business driven action learning programs for global companies. Since 2001, she has been an associated professor, lecturer and supervisor at the ‘Master of Psychology in Organisations’ at Roskilde University, Denmark.