We are settling down in Austin (Texas). We continue our study tour from the lovely and big two-bathroom house in Holly Street.
Tacos for breakfast
Austin is totally different from New York in a number of ways. We only noticed how much we had gotten used to the rhythm of New York, when we arrived here. We quickly discovered that there are no yellow cabs to hail down, and we noticed that walking from one place to another is quite an unusual activity. We very much enjoyed our first walk through the streets of Austin though; it was extremely sunny and we admired all the Halloween decorations. We even passed a front yard where a family was just about to start skinning a pig. Luckily, this did not ruin our appetite for a nice Texan breakfast: Tacos with avocado, black beans and cheese. And although we had to wait a bit longer for our breakfast to arrive than in New York, we enjoyed it a lot.
It is not only the pace that is different, but also the size of things. Everything seems to be bigger: from our dinner portions (we have finally used ‘doggy bags’ for the first time) to the cars on the street. As researchers and anthropologists, we quickly adjusted to our new context and are now driving around in the biggest car either of us has ever seen.
Connection before content
Interestingly enough, we seem to be having quite some small talk here in Austin. We all notice that we feel more connected to people in that way. As Nancy Dixon says: “connection before content”. We truly experienced this feeling of connection, when the five of us were invited to Nancy’s home in Austin. We had a beautiful reflective conversation about our week so far: what did we learn? And perhaps even more importantly at that moment, how did we experience the themes we are studying, such as conversation and connection, in our own way of working and the encounters we had? At one point Nancy shared a number of stories from her youth while sitting in front of a beautiful family heirloom she had shown us before.
Last but not least
Our reflection on our experiences so far, and the different pace of Austin, enabled us to design the next conversation with care. Our final one of our study tour, with a group of knowledge managers from different organizations. The careful preparation most definitely added to the quality of the conversation we had later on. In this conversation – which took place at Nancy’s home as well – everything came together. Our insights in the content, the way we were working together, and the connectedness between us.
We ended the day by getting used to the Austin rhythm in a different way: listening to some live music in Rainey Street while eating our delicious dinner. And in that way getting a glimpse of that what Austin is most famous for around the world: it’s (live) music scene. It will be hard leaving this contagious rhythm of summer Austin.
This weblog is part of series of blogs. At this moment, Mara Spruyt, Joeri Kabalt, Suzanne Verdonschot, Marloes de Jong and Lieve Scheepers visit the US. During this study tour we visit various organizations and scholars to learn more about the way organizational conversations contribute to change. We are conducting this research in cooperation with Nancy Dixon, a US researcher who studies and writes about collective sensemaking (nancydixonblog.com) in organizations. In this series of blogs we share our experiences.