Last week’s Omaha Organization Development Network (ODN) monthly meeting prompted recognition of numerous roles for conversation in the field of organizational culture and learning & development. It was stimulating to hear the views of those working hard within this professional field, as we shared areas of interest, concern and aspiration.

An ODN expert spoke about the retirement planning program being developed at her organization. This large local business, employing around 2,250, needs to help its employees approaching retirement do so with diligent consideration. Retirees can find troubling the transition into retirement because of the unexpected nature of their experience. The approach to alleviating this anxiety typically is development of a plan for what life in retirement could look like. I wonder if the success of that approach would be amplified if accompanied by attention to the opposite of a plan: Embracing uncertainty.

Charlie-Chaplin-in-the-Modern-Times-moviePart of the fear and discomfort of transitioning into retirement is the lack of the routine, which a working life usually provides. From birth to death, however, life is inherently unpredictable. If, instead of solely substituting one routine with a plan for another, we created capacity to find joy in the unexpected, retirees may discover new experiences and fresh perspectives. Openness to that mindset is aided by an attentive, deliberate awareness of our approach to and use of conversation

The transition of so many employees to retirement also raises the issue of latent knowledge departing the organization. Of the retirees from this business, hundreds consider themselves still “connected” to the organization. Aside from tools and systems to capture and share their knowledge, it is clear that a vibrant conversational culture should feature heavily.

Another ODN expert mentioned an interest in leadership development and cultural competencies, such as an ability to get the “right people in the room.” It occurred to me that getting the right people would not be an issue in an organization that has a healthy culture of conversation. Moreover, as I said in the post, Conversation is Knowledge Management, “In organizations where people talk, they share insights, practices, experiences and ideas.” These organizations render the need to get people into the room increasingly redundant.

The ODN exchanges are a compelling way to stimulate your thinking. I’d encourage you to go when you can.