How the process of Sketching Tomorrow has changed me…

How the process of Sketching Tomorrow has changed me…
Desmond McGetrick

Desmond McGetrick is the highly committed Program Director of the Mastère Spécialisé® Manager des Projets et Programmes at SKEMA Business School in Paris. With a mission, he embodies the program both physically and spiritually. So much so that the program itself has changed his life.

I have been asked to share how conceiving SKETCHING TOMORROW, the movement I have set up within my program embodied by the event that will take place at SKEMA on April 6th, has changed me. This is my story.

My earliest memory of SKETCHING TOMORROW dates back to the 1970s, a story we were read in primary school about a successful businessman who also contributed to his community. Next I saw the flash of a report on investment in Africa, which I understood as benefitting the local community while benefitting the investor. My teenage attention was caught by the performance in a television series of a certain Michael J. Fox, embodying hard work and achievement.

Then Life happened.

My corporate life as a project manager included the hard work for which I was prepared but without the immediate rewards promised by American TV. Yet, it was an American manager that finally promoted me, quickly followed by a second promotion to project manage a virtual worldwide team in view of the reference event for the industry.

Then Death happened.

Before my brother died, he encouraged me to go back to school. An MBA reconnected me with a Michael J. Fox-type memory, as did traveling to India, China and the United States.

Life happened again, with the birth of my son, and later my daughter.

I chose teaching, or teaching chose me. Grueling hours of classtime, broken up only with time to rake the leaves in the garden of our new home.

The notion of “Doing Well By Doing Good”, or aligning private interests with the Common Good, became a conference topic in Marrakech and Philadelphia, as well as the subject of my Executive Doctorate in Business Administration, or DBA.

Teaching and consulting around “Business in Society” enabled me to debate and challenge emerging ideas. However, it was the community of changemakers in the ecosystem of Theory U (aka. Awareness-Based Systems Change) that revealed the next level of awareness and action:

  • Awareness of Others: looking out for others during COVID lessened the focus on my own ego.
  • Awareness of Self: in the presence of newly-found other, I could recognize (and progressively let go of) unhelpful mental models, like the need to succeed oneself before helping others.
  • Awareness of Planet Earth: connecting to some sense of meaning larger than oneself.

At SKEMA Business School, I got to accompany 140 students in Organizational Development around the concepts of Theory U, a remarkable human experience which changed my life.

Life happened, for real!

I found myself in the immediate company of these wonderful human beings. Less than one meter separated us across our respective computer screens. In one session, we played music videos, one of which I continue to replay to incoming students at SKEMA, Rachel Platten’s “Fight Song.”

It was like each young person (and myself) was fighting to reconnect with a meaning for life, when life seemed suspended.

When 52% of students claimed that the process had changed their lives, I proposed to SKEMA to take inspiration from the course for a year-long program: the Specialized Masters in Project and Program Management.

Life sparked life.

We co-created: each recruitment interview to join SKEMA became a creative conversation, enriching and giving body to an emerging vision, making the connection between SKEMA Strategic Plan (SKY 25) and the program in Project Management. We first called it UPMOST: Using Project Management On Societal Transformation.

Jointly launched by Faculty, Programs, Innovation & Learner Experience, Quality, Alumni and students, the process was quickly enriched by connections to the Project Management Institute (PMI).

Life as co-creation.

We invited students to collectively connect the dots between classes. We built relationships. The delegates became co-creative partners. The notion of student ambassadors appeared, first from admissions, progressively to optimize the interface with each function of SKEMA.

Teams of 5 started to look out for each other, for Health & Safety, then for Groupwork, next to support aspirations to graduation and beyond.

A conference series emerged, first led by the Program Director, progressively student-led.

A full academic year went by before students formally shared how much the experience meant to them. Colleagues that I had failed to stay in touch with reminded me that they had always been there, supporting morally and materially.

Life’s magic happens.

Then one day you wake up in a world where co-creative energy is the norm. Everywhere you turn, there’s a smile, and encouragement, a helping hand.

Finally, you are becoming the helping hand of others who have taken the lead.

Like a bike race, you find that you can support the group from behind, occasionally taking turns at the front. The group of cyclists travels faster and further than any cyclist alone.

One of Life’s little ironies is that the more that one looks out for one’s self interest to the exclusion of the others’, the more it escapes you. Like chasing the horizon, or roughly grasping a bar of soap.

SKETCHING TOMORROW doesn’t negate self-interest. Indeed, the marketer that I once was might call it “enlighted self-interest”: it’s about sense-making, connecting to co-creative energy and thereby accompanying an emerging future that makes sense.

Read also : A leader is above all a person who is aware of her body

Desmond McGetrickProfessor of Organizational Development, SKEMA Business School

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