A reflection on juggling

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Now that I have just finished working my way through the ball chapters in Ison’s book.  I wanted to bring together my current perspective on the juggling that is systems practice. Can’t decide whether it is taking the imagery a little too far but nothing ventured….

I am a juggler.

The air that I breathe is the air of postmodernism.  The world – particularly where humans are involved – has characteristics that make it confusing, ambiguous, uncertain and dynamic.  There is no single neutral truth because “any account reflects the observer’s […] partial understanding and special interest” (Taylor, 2001, 12).  Everyone’s interpretation is inevitably partial.  Language here is not neutral – it creates the world as we describe it.  Knowing is part and parcel of what we do in interacting with the world.

I juggle four balls.

The first ball acts like a mirror and reflects my image back at me. When I am aware of it, I am reminded of my traditions of understanding and my emotions and how they impact on my practice in the here and now. I am also reminded of my responsibility to act ethically – opening up, rather than closing down options for others.

The second ball is a lens with glass that changes colour quite regularly. When I am aware of it, it reminds me of the choice I make about the way I bring forth a situation. I am also reminded to treat the lens as a way of learning about the situation whilst avoiding reification.

The third ball is a sack full of concepts, methods and tools. They form the components, which I craft together to form a methodology in the here and now of acting in the situation. Each time the lens changes colour, a different blend of components are necessary. When I am aware of the sack, I am reminded of the duality of systematic and systemic thinking and the fact I can choose which one to use. I am also aware of my responsibility to fill the sack over time by learning from what other systems practitioners have done.

The fourth ball is a little TARDIS. When I interact with it, I am immediately above myself looking down on me in the context in which I am juggling – I see the whole so I can manage the whole performance. The TARDIS gives me a view backwards in time so I can see the unfolding of change in myself, other stakeholders and the situation. It makes me aware of my responsibilities for maximising opportunities for change in the future – maximising the likelihood of my own change through a disposition of action ‘r’ research and maximising the likelihood of change in others and the situation through creating conditions for emergence and self-organisation.


Taylor, S (2001) ‘Locating and conducting discourse analytic research’ in Wetherell M., Taylor S., and Yates, SJ (2001) Discourse as data: a guide for analysis, Open University/Sage, Milton Keynes/London

4 thoughts on “A reflection on juggling

  1. Hi Helen

    I really appreciated this posting. I was wondering if you would mind me copying it and sending it to my colleague Pille Bunnell, who was a great help to me in writing the book. I think she would really appreciate seeing what you have written.


    • Hi Ray
      More than happy for you to copy or send the link to your colleague. I am glad you enjoyed reading it



  2. Dear Helen
    That was a beautiful way of explaining it – this for sure is not hinder but a great help to understand the juggling in practice. Nice!


  3. Hi Helen
    Now that I am reveiwing how to describe juggling in my EMA I was blown away by your lovely description. Thank you or this

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