Today I’ll introduce a new practice we’ve invented, or perhaps evolved by combining existing practices with new intent. The punny working title is “Edge Cases.” Edge in used in the sense of developmental edge - the edge of our capacity to handle and hold situations we face in our lives, where we experience tension and uncertainty and the pull to grow bigger and better able to meet our challenge. The word “case” comes from Presencing Institute‘s (a.k.a. Theory U) Case Clinic practice, which forms the structural shell of supporters in service of a case giver. And of course the edge case neologism already refers to boundary conditions that stress-test a system, which seems quite apropos here. This practice currently has about four parts:
First, the giver brings forth their case, describing their developmental edge: where does it show up, what feelings does it bring, what can they see and not see about their response. They are supported in this by a reflector in the style of Empathy Circling, who every minute or so reflects back a summary of what they are hearing as straightforwardly as they can. This allows the giver to hear how they are being heard, and the opportunity to re-steer their explanation towards the most salient bits.
The rest of the group listens deeply to the case description, letting it interact with what arises in themselves, and then after a few minutes of silence take turns translating back what feels resonant to them. This could be a picture, a metaphor, an analogous experience in their own life - not giving advise, but sharing connections. (This part aligns closely with the Case Clinic step.) With these translations, the giver can see an expanded set of ways to look at their situation.
Thirdly, the case giver turns their camera off (inspired by Troika Consulting) while the supporters collaboratively tell the story of the giver and their case. In combining their perceptions and interpretations, this is a fictional story - a projection, as all interpretations are, which does not claim to be the truth. The giver, listening invisibly during this time, can themselves identify any truths they see in the storytelling, or ponder what might have led to interepretations they see as inaccurate. By hearing about themselves as a character in a story, the giver also gains more of an outside perspective on their behavior, supporting a possible subject-object shift.
The fourth and final part of the practice is open discussion, led by the giver and whatever insights they’ve gained so far. This is a time to integrate and solidify new perspective, then with closing words to condense learning into solid takeaways for the giver to apply in their life.
So, there you have it. A practice with four distinct phases is probably squarely in “advanced” territory within the domain of relational practices. Learning and experiencing all these pieces individually, as kata, has allowed our community to so easily combine and amplify them. Yet we’ve also found that it’s easy for someone new to all of these practices to ride along with a group and participate fully, learning by doing alongside the others.
After two weeks of edge case practice, we asked ourselves a few questions like, “What makes an edge, really?” and “How do I go from a vague unease to identifying a developmental edge?” Thus our adventure this Sunday will be edge finding, possibly another practice that would lead in to this one.
If this kind of interactive innovation appeals to you and you’d like to join in, we have an orientation call coming up, Saturday August 7th, 1:00-1:55pm Pacific Daylight Time (4pm Eastern, 8pm UTC)