Shaking the tree

It’s just like old times, Dave Snowden is providing great food for thought over on his own blog while inadvertantly upsetting the neighbours on theirs. A really interesting piece on whether values should be expressed explicitly or simply (complexly?) shared in the form of short stories.

I remember when we were producing a DEFRA publication on Knowledge Sharing about 5 years ago and we all submitted our ideas and stories and I submitted the story that follows and it was unanimously rejected by all but Mike (who just happened to have been part of Dave’s original cynefin team). Anyway if I was to have a story that encompassed my values this is it:

A priest was in charge of the garden within a famous Zen temple. He had been given the job because he loved the flowers, shrubs, and trees. Next to the temple there was another, smaller temple where there lived a very old Zen master.

One day, when the priest was expecting some special guests, he took extra care in tending to the garden. He pulled the weeds, trimmed the shrubs, combed the moss, and spent a long time meticulously raking up and carefully arranging all the dry autumn leaves. As he worked, the old master watched him with interest from across the wall that separated the temples.

When he had finished, the priest stood back to admire his work. “Isn’t it beautiful,” he called out to the old master. “Yes,” replied the old man, “but there is something missing. Help me over this wall and I’ll put it right for you.”

After hesitating, the priest lifted the old fellow over and set him down. Slowly, the master walked to the tree near the center of the garden, grabbed it by the trunk, and shook it. Leaves showered down all over the garden. “There,” said the old man, “you can put me back now”.

From the website Zen Stories to tell your neighbours with a great collection of the different reactions this story has evoked, and many more intriguing stories.  

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