Posted in Learning Edge

November 16, 2010

Theory U – The 2nd Proposition


Click here to see the 1st proposition

The 2nd proposition of Theory U reads:

(1)   The leadership process requires three movements: (1) establishing the horizontal connection (“observe, observe, observe”), (2) establishing the vertical connection (“connecting to Source”), and (3) acting from what emerges in the Now (“acting in an instant”).

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November 9, 2010

Theory U – The 1st Proposition


I am a huge fan of C. Otto Scharmer’s Theory U.  It is one of the most powerful frameworks for understanding the essential shifts we need to make as we step into this paradigm shift.  Scharmer sums up his Theory U with seven propositions, I’m going to write a series of blog posts taking a closer look at each of them: Read More

November 4, 2010

Surfacing Systems


|Image from Pegasus Communications||

Systems thinking is in the air.  This past weekend I was delighted to have the opportunity to teach an introductory course on the topic with John McGah of Give Us Your Poor.  Together we took 17 graduate students in the UMass-Boston MSPA program through an intensive and interactive look at the world through the systems lens.  Even before we got things rolling on Saturday morning, the pre-reading (Donella Meadows’ Thinking in Systems) had provoked two people to say that they were already seeing the world differently (and more clearly).  By the end of our 36 hour romp, which included guest presentations by David Peter Stroh and Paul Plotczyk, students were saying that all public sector employees, nay EVERYONE, should be required to take a systems thinking course.  All of this enthusiasm comes just a week in advance of Pegasus Communications’ annual systems thinking conference here in Boston, which has a focus on “Fueling New Cycles of Success.”  I am very excited to attend, and look forward to building upon the wisdom I’ve gleaned thus far about surfacing and living with systems (human and otherwsie), which includes these gems: Read More

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October 27, 2010

Geiger Counters for Quality


|Photo by marcomagrini||

“We don’t talk about what we see,

we see only what we can talk about.”

– Fred Kofman

This week I’ve been rereading Donella Meadows’ Thinking in Systems and really savoring it.  Each time I look at it, I pick up something new, not just about systems thinking but about life in general.  I’ve been focused primarily on Meadows’ chapter “Living in a World of Systems,” which considers how we can work with complex systems while acknowledging that even when we understand them better, we cannot predict or control them.  One of her suggestions is that we learn to pay attention to what is important, not just what is quantifiable.  This is not a question of throwing out what we can quantify as being somehow overly reductionist. Rather, it is a matter of not giving up on what we cannot measure and making quantity more important than quality.  How important this is for our social change work!  Read More

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October 8, 2010

Patterns for Change, Part 2

Pattern 2

|Photo by James Cridland||

Picking up from yesterday’s post, the question I left off with was how do change agents identify and work with patterns in complex human systems where control and predictability are elusive.  This is where Holladay and Quade offer up Glenda Eoyang’s CDE Model.  This model names three different conditions that change agents can analyze and work with to shift constraints within a system so that it can achieve more optimal fit with (and thrive in) its environment.  Below are an explanation of these conditions and examples of what can be done to either tighten or decrease constraints in the direction of more organized or unorganized surrounds. Read More

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October 7, 2010

Patterns for Change Part 1


|Graphic from Human Systems Dynamics Institute||

What do you do when you cannot control or predict?  For many people I’m sure this question raises just a little bit of anxiety.  After all, having some sense of autonomy and mastery is reported as being key to our mental well-being.  And yet increasingly we find ourselves in complex and changing situations that are beyond our grasp and where the outcome is very much uncertain.  Of course this is not the case with everything.  Some of our work falls within the ordered realm.  But how do we work outside of this tidy zone? Read More

September 10, 2010

The Complex and the Quantum


|Photo by kevindooley||

I was recently sorting through some of my thoughts and feelings about complexity and social change when I arrived at a question to gnaw on – What is the difference between taking an “emergent” versus a “quantum” approach to complex problems? We are told that complexity does not lend itself to existing, linear, cause-and-effect responses.  The multiplicity of factors contributing to complexity make it difficult for traditional kinds of expertise to grasp.  So what is one (or many) to do? Read More

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September 9, 2010

Accentuate the Positivity, Take 3

positive 3

|Photo by mattwi1s0n||

Another school year begins and with it we students of life are filled with excitement and perhaps some nervousness about what will be asked of us.  For me, I look forward to work that will keep me deeply aligned with purpose and, yes,  challenged.  No doubt there will be moments when my outlook will be buffeted.  I will admit to being someone who in the genetic cortical lottery was not bestowed the rose colored glasses.  It’s not that I didn’t get a winning ticket, I just have to work for my earnings.

And as I have blogged about in the past, I am aware and research shows that keeping a net positive outlook can be critical to heightening collaborative outcomes and staying engaged in the tough times.  So what are some steps for staying on point without veering towards disconnected or disconnecting pessimism? Read More

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July 26, 2010

Time for Some Action

good intentions

We have Clary Shirky talking about Cognitive Surplus and the distinction between communal benefit and civic benefit when it comes to collaborative action.  We have Daniel Pink talking about Drive and the search for meaning which inspired me to write about the Purpose Bubble.  And just last week here on the IISC Blog, my friend and colleague Curtis Ogden was talking about the need “to recognize the change capacity of the marketplace” and creating mechanisms to reclaim markets.

It is with this context in mind that I finally get to the Lloyd Nimetz opinion piece in the Stanford Social Inntovation Review – “Information Overload, Action Deficit.”   Read More

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July 16, 2010

The Biology of Social Change

I was alerted to this slide show by the Leadership Learning Community, for which I am most grateful.  I appreciate how it brings together considerations of complexity and living systems for organizational leaders.

By way of summary, here are the 11 “enabling rules” that the presentation highlights for leadership to work in better alignment (and sustainably) with dynamic systems: Read More

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June 28, 2010

Trust on the Rise


|Photo by joi||

Our colleagues at Interaction Associates have done some wonderful work on the importance of trust in the workplace and what leaders can do to cultivate this, especially under uncertain circumstances the likes of which seem to be omnipresent these days.  More recently, former IBMer Irving Wladawsky-Berger has taken this conversation to a new level in a post that looks at trust as “the most important operational resource in our society.”  In our increasingly complex, interconnected, and distributed world, he says, one’s reputation as an individual or institution is foundational to what we might call success.  This observation contributes to his sense that we are in the midst of a values-based generational transition as potentially profound as the sixties.

Without rehashing the entire post here (I encourage you to read it in its entirety by going to this link), I want to point out some of the more interesting parts and ask what folk engaged in the social sectors and social change work think Read More

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June 17, 2010

The Least You Can Do

“When you improve a little each day,

eventually big things happen.”

-The late John Wooden

small step

|Photo by aldoaldoz||

Since February I’ve been experiencing back pain in a constant and distracting (though not quite incapacitating) way, a result of having poor posture at the computer, not taking enough breaks while sitting, lifting too many small children, and being another year older.  A couple of months ago I went to a chiropractor and he did his best to wrench me back into alignment.  This worked for a few days, and then things were back as they were.  I enlisted the help of a “deep tissue” masseuse who went after my back muscles with steady steam rolling force.  Again, for a few days I was on top of the world, and then it was back to square one.  Then, about two weeks ago, I started seeing a physical therapist, who has given me some gentle stretches and postural shifts and done light massage on my left shoulder.  Et voila, real progress!  Small and subtle shifts have yielded major and lasting results.

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