Meetings: A Swampy Terrain for Adult Development

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This article introduces a model of “modes” of experience as a tool for making sense of some of the complexity in meetings. Although derived from theories of adult development, the mode model presented here assumes that individuals are more internally diverse than they may appear through the lenses of some stage theories. The article includes vignettes of meetings in various organizational contexts to illustrate the dynamic nature of modes, and it suggests that an individual's psychological development may be fruitfully viewed in terms of both an evolving repertoire of modes, and a growing capacity to exercise judgment about when to shift and when to stay in a mode. Seen in the light of a mode model, meetings bring nearly continuous opportunities to foster collective creativity and constructive risk-taking. Constructive approaches to using modes are described, as well as risks, such as that of attempting to pigeonhole individuals. The concept of modes is best used as a “background” way of thinking and relating with the ultimate aim of fostering conditions that support organizational and individual development over the long term.

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