Where the alternative meets the mainstream…

We welcome this guest blog from Toby Lindsay.

Toby is a tenacious, adventurous and creative developer of people in organisations. He blends ten years of experience in the education sector, as a leader and teacher, with his Master’s degree in People and Organisational Development, to offer client focused, inquiry based routes and solutions for the development of people and organisations. Toby is absolutely committed to work for and from, his client’s needs. He works, in partnership, to discover and implement,  meaningful and effective strategies for lasting change. Toby is fun, challenging, supportive and resourceful and is delighted to have conversations,  exploring how he could possibly work to help others, and their businesses,  grow, develop and profit.

Where indeed? And of course, what is meeting, and what is it, to meet?

First, when considering the mainstream, what are we talking about? In reading these terms what thoughts have come into your mind? Will they be similar to mine, or perhaps different? On an abstract level, for me, I guess the mainstream is something around, the usual and the expected. I think of something which we don’t find too challenging or difficult to accept and that we can engage with easily. I guess, mainstream practice is that which is done by many, is unsurprising and, perhaps, just moderately effective? It seems to point to the, tried, tested and safe, though that says as much about me as it does anything else, doesn’t it?

So if that, for me at least, is the mainstream, then the alternative, by definition, is that which is different to the above. The alternative only exists in relation to what we define as the mainstream. So for this piece, we are then looking at something that is maybe challenging, new and surprising. Presumably it is practiced by few, untried, untested and with more radical and potentially dynamic results?

Make sense, or do you disagree? Of course, what I offer above is only my sense of the terms, what are yours? Whether we agree or not, all I have really offered so far are some abstract concepts. Maybe it would be useful for me to fill them with some of the content that I experience as mainstream and alternative?

For me, mainstream leadership stuff is around 360 feedback, coaching, Kotter’s 7 steps to lasting change, systems thinking and diagnostic, planned and linear development programmes. The alternative, takes me towards embodied leadership, complexity theory, leadership as the agency of disciplinary power, work in the vein of Ralph Stacey and DaCapo theatre consulting group. Of course anyone who knows me will not be at all surprised. Again, thinking of you, where is your mainstream and where is your alternative?

I imagine that if we share our thoughts, we will have a pretty interesting and diverse picture. With a great range of where this mainstream is and what is alternative. Something I think that would be fascinating to map out and reflect on. There certainly is a great range as I experienced this week when I spent an extraordinary two hours with a deep and very intellectual thinker, who took me through the last eight years of his work. To be frank I could barely keep up, for him my alternative was his mainstream starting point, his edge, his alternative, his new and radical was to me, way developed from anything I have thought before. Pretty cool and pretty tiring!

So what’s new? OK, we may all have different sense of mainstream and alternative and these often are defined, both in us and between us, as opposing points of view, things to choose between, one, not the other.

However, the title of the post asks about meeting. Where do the alternative and the mainstream meet?

Well where does any meeting occur?

We meet each other, ideas and concepts meet within us however, what is real meeting and what is just shared space?

As you read this and think about your mainstream and alternative, are they meeting or just contrasting.

Think about it.

When you meet with another, really meet, making the fullest contact possible, what has to happen?

In meeting, we have to open ourselves up to the possibility of difference, of novelty and of newness. If, when meeting, we do not, then we simply meet ourselves, projected onto another’s form. What we see is more of ourselves, than of any other. In true meeting, we let go of our assumptions, we embrace otherness and we learn.

In the field of practice, or ideas, the same thing happens. Meeting requires openness and acceptance, rather than rejection and narrowness, of difference and the welcoming of the opportunities to learn and change which are then presented.

Embracing and meeting otherness, opening dialogue and exploring in meeting, leads to new awareness, change, development and growth. In meeting others, we are developing ourselves, we change, and identity reforms, shifts and emerges anew. Choosing to be ourselves, in states where we are open to learn, also means experiencing risk and encountering loss. Whether or not we take these risks, accept and come to terms with loss, and grow, develop and learn, is really, up to us.

Wherever our mainstream and alternative lie, in allowing them to meet we allow the possibility for novelty, creativity and the emergence of the new.

Where does this happen? Meeting happens within us and between us, in relationship with our own selves and with others. And in such meeting, all that is real occurs.


For whom

Perhaps these concepts are individual


So where do they meet?

Within us

IN our relationships

In conversation and expression with others


So what is meeting





All real life is meeting


These concepts

Mainstream alternative

Power humility

Strength weakness

Order chaos

Insight naivety

Clarity confusion


Need each other to exist


They meet when we explore difference, together in real meeting.


What happens next is novelty and creation.

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