My colleagues and I went to see Daniel Pink when he came to speak in Cambridge. We had all read his book “A Whole New Mind- Why Right-Brainers Will Rule The Future,” and found that it gave us a framework and vocabulary to describe what we were finding in our work, which is that we are not only straddling era’s, we are straddling between the sides of our brains. We are discovering that in the work of social change most of the ideas, the data and the numbers are all available to solve many of our most intractable problems. What’s missing in our approach as outlined by Pink in “A Whole New Mind” resides in the right side of our brain: inventiveness; empathy; meaning and our capacity to design our way to wholeness.Leave a comment
Posted in What We Are Reading
Thanks to the Harvard Bookstore, I had the pleasure of joining some of my IISC colleagues at a Daniel Pink talk last week at the Brattle. In Drive, his latest book, Pink argues that aside from the commonly understood motivators of need and desire for reward, we are specially motivated by our desire for autonomy, purpose and mastery. In his talk, Pink pointed out that the baby boomers are now reaching a stage in life that is defined by purpose, the desire to do something meaningful, to contribute to something grater than their selves.
I suspect that many boomers reading this blog have devoted much of their lives to the work of social change and so they might not be dealing with the same angst. Nevertheless it is worth noting that since boomers comprise the largest population bubble, they are the ones that have defined the last few decades. Read MoreLeave a comment
I’ve spent a fair amount of time these last few days exploring the book Presentation Zen: Simple Ideas on Presentation Design and Delivery by Garr Reynolds. It’s an amazing book – and he spends quite a bit of time teaching about how to avoid “Death by PowerPoint.” I’m totally intrigued – and want to rethink (and perhaps more importantly, re-imagine and mess around with) some of the many ways we get information across in presentations – and in the written recordings we make of meetings.
Reynolds rightfully shows that what we do in PowerPoint is often driven by the software itself, rather than by thinking through the most important aspect of the idea we’re trying to get across. We follow the template and create slide after slide of bulleted lists of text that say what we’re already saying. But here’s the question: what is the most important thing we are trying to say? And how can we work with images to bring our words to life? Read MoreLeave a comment
I’ve recently been reading Bernie Mayer‘s new and game-changing book, Staying With Conflict.? A frequent leader in the world of conflict engagement, Bernie Mayer has spent many years working on large scale collaborative change and conflict processes, many of them in the environmental field. He is also a strong proponent of the need to be clear and transparent about the assumptions behind practice. With John Paul Lederach and Leah Wing, Bernie Mayer is one of my favorite practitioners and thought leaders in the “conflict resolution” world.? A couple of years ago, Bernie came out with a book called Beyond Neutrality that loudly and strongly asked for those in the conflict engagement field and those facilitating collaborative processes to cease and desist with the concept that we practice as “third party neutrals.”? In this new book, Bernie is pushing forward, changing the basic understanding of “conflict resolution.” He calls us to understand that, in fact, much of what is needed is not resolution, is not decision-making, agreement-building to overcome deep seated conflicts, but rather approaches that help people build the adaptive capacity and platforms from which to act – to stay with the tensions and conflicts that are an essential part of the human experience, to engage in a way that brings human dignity and that allows us to really stay in the difference. Read MoreLeave a comment
If you don’t know the kind of person I am
and I don’t know the kind of person you are
a pattern that others made may prevail in the world
and following the wrong god home we may miss our star.
I, for one, could not be happier that we have as our President a man with such apparent capacity of careful thought, measured analysis, and poetic expression. The other day I reread a passage from Barack Obama’s Dreams From My Father and was bowled over by its insight and beauty. The passage comes at a point when Obama is reflecting upon his work as a community organizer in Chicago, which became all consuming as he often spent his social time with community leaders and residents, immersing himself in their lives. He writes:Leave a comment
It is difficult on this Labor Day 2009 not to worry and fret about our collective ability in this country to do what is best, even in our own best interest. The two major policy debates of the day – health care and unemployment – came together this weekend in a heap of statistics, misinformation and just plain rage that leaves me, like so many, wondering: how will we move in the right direction? What is right action?
Heartbreaking stories of financial ruin and despair from job loss and crushing unemployment caused by the recession or untreated illness and bankruptcy from the effects of a completely broken health care system. And, at root of both issues we find the profit motive and really bad policy choices over the last two decades. Read MoreLeave a comment
“With the sophisticated mental apparatus we have used to build world eminence as a species, we have created an environment so complex, fast-paced, and information-laden that we must increasingly deal with it in the fashion of the animals we long ago transcended.” – Robert Cialdini
As Alfred North Whitehead once suggested, one of the main conundrums of our evolution as a species seems to be that it has largely depended upon our ability to engage in more and more activities without thinking about them. Hence a world built upon scientific discovery, full of ever declining numbers of people who are scientifically literate. Hence a world of increasing complexity that we often meet with relatively primitive automaticity.
In her book, The Canon, Natalie Angier provides an entertaining primer on the hard sciences for adult non-scientists and along the way makes a strong case for the need for more of us to bring greater rigor and discipline of thought to the day-to-day. She illustrates how we often operate with models of physical reality that are simply false. In many cases, these models were ingrained at an early age and remain stubbornly embedded, owing to certain neurological tendencies. Not understanding these tendencies, we remain convinced that we are more critical in our thinking than we actually are. Read MoreLeave a comment
I recently finished reading “Lust for Life” by Irving Stone, and it really stirred my soul! The historical novel about the life of Vincent Van Gogh is one of those big books that invite you deep into the artistic psyche. I became overwhelmed by Vincent’s struggle, his compulsive drive, personal sacrifice and willingness to let go of so many conventions. But it’s not until we are three quarters into the book and six years into Vincent’s quest that we come to what is one of the most amazing scenes I’ve ever read.
Vincent finally makes it to Paris and he sees the impressionists for the first time. The scene is one of total awe, the beauty is like nothing he had ever seen before, like nothing he imagined, these were paintings that broke every rule, 300 hundred years of tradition suddenly gone bright with light and color, it was something absolutely beautiful and new. Vincent had worked day and night on his art, he had gone hungry for his art, he had been rejected by artists and non-artists alike, and suddenly here he was, for the first time seeing his burning desires manifest before him, he was awed, he was emboldened and he was inspired. Read MoreLeave a comment
In the final chapter of “What Would Google Do?” (recently referred to by Marianne), Jeff Jarvis makes a provocative statement about the future and promise of a networked world. Many of the points Jarvis makes appear to turn things on their head, at least compared to the way that many of us might first react to developments in our ever more densely connected and information-rich world.
A few things to ponder:
1. This current generation is growing up with an ability to stay in touch with nearly everyone they meet throughout their entire lives. Whereas those of us who grew up pre-Facebook may have lost track of old childhood friends and college buddies, this generation has the possibility of always being more directly in touch with the different chapters of their lives. Scary? This seems profound to me, and yet I don’t really know exactly how. What might this do to the very nature of relationship?
2. The flip side of TMI (too much information) is greater transparency. Young people are putting so much more of themselves and their lives out for public consideration. Often this gets construed as risky and/or a kind of exhibitionism. However, if more people are playing the same game, then perhaps the rules will enforce greater overall acceptance and safety of full and liberating self-expression. Jarvis quotes author David Weinberger – “An age of transparency must be an age of forgiveness.” Wow.
3. And what about all of that apparently inane information that people share about their bunions or the mold growing on the bathroom tile? Well, how about the benefit of “ambient intimacy” (Jarvis quoting blogger Leisa Reichelt –www.disambiguity.com), swapping the small details of our daily lives? This may just help us to develop stronger relationships as we come to know more about people who would otherwise be just acquaintances, or grease the wheels for the next time we physically see one another or talk by phone (less catch up time).
Throughout these and multiple other points, Jarvis seems to be suggesting that more integrated lives and more widespread trust are a result of living in the Google age. Given that collaboration thrives on trust, and that collaboration may be our saving grace as a species (see Charles Darwin and my post “The Group Effect” – ), shouldn’t we all be striving to be fully exposed and (wireless) card carrying members of Generation G?Leave a comment
I keep returning to the cover article of the New York Times Magazine of a few weeks ago entitled “Why Isn’t the Brain Green?” Other than being a fascinating piece on what might prevent people from getting into a more environmentally sustainable mindset (and therefore sustained sustainable behavior), it makes a very strong case for collaboration as a smart (and potentially species saving) decision-making process.
Author Jon Gertner has spent considerable time with behavioral economists, looking at the limits of individual decision-making when it comes to long-term trade-offs. For example, researchers at the Center for Research on Environmental Decisions at Columbia University have pointed to the shortcomings of two different ways individuals process risk: (1) an analytical approach that seems to have less tolerance for delayed benefits and (2) an emotional approach that is restricted by one’s lack of experience with certain phenomena (such as rising sea levels). Both approaches disincline individuals from making choices that have short-term costs (reduced consumption, paying a carbon tax) but may ultimately be better for the planet. Hence, say some decision scientists, the tragedy of the commons – the overgrazing of land, the depletion of fisheries, the amassing of CO2 in the atmosphere.
Just when Gertner is ready to say, “We’re screwed,” he points to other research that suggests that an answer to our individual failings on the front of risk assessment may lie in our associational tendencies and community-based intelligence. For instance, Michel Handgraaf has conducted studies in Amsterdam that show that when people make decisions as a group, their conversations gravitate more to considerations of “we” and delayed benefits. Similarly, anthropologist Ben Orlove at UC-Davis has studied farmers in Uganda and observed that when they listened to rainy season radio broadcasts in groups, rather than as individuals, they engaged in discussions that led to consensus decisions that made better use of forecasts – collectively altering planting dates or using more drought resistant seeds.
In other words, it may behoove us all to collaborate more, and with a twist. Evidence suggests that it is best to begin thinking through decisions in groups, rather than weighing them as individuals and then coming together. This just might get us more quickly to the “group effect,” to a collective identity and ability to think and act long-term. As Jon Gertner puts it, “What if the information for decisions, especially environmental ones, is first considered in a group setting before members take it up individually?”
What if? Why not? How to? What say you?Leave a comment
What Would Google Do? is a question that I have been asking myself for a number of reasons lately, not the least of which is because I am reading the book right now. I am reading this book and multiple blogs (Meg Hourihan, Clay Shirky, Deb Kantor, Kris Krug, Z Plus) really in the hopes that I can locate myself, our organization and the clients with whom I work squarely in the “new paradigm, “the quantum age” repeating the mantra as I go, “do what you do best and link to the rest”.
This mantra was ever-present for me as I worked this week with a group of folks who are at a most critical juncture in their effort to build a field, the goal of which is to increase awareness and funding to address the root causes not the symptoms of social injustice. A core of the larger global network has been convened, knowledge and product gaps identified, and a commitment to moving forward together has been made. This group was then tasked with figuring out “whither next?” Now what?
Their task is to create a road map that will involve the appropriate people and resources to increase the knowledge and expand the network. As the collaboration-centered process “experts” building collaborative road maps that creates the container for creative engagement, emergent thinking and right action for greater social impact is what we at IISC do but the question remains: what would Google do?
As in most of my life-long searches, I look for some basic princples: the Ten Commandments; the Four Noble Truths; the six articles of faith; burn more calories than you eat and I found some. Here are a few (and like all basic principles have the quality of…..duh…until of course you really, really contemplate their meaning and worse, their implications for your life)
- make mistakes well – admit them, share them, learn from them;
- life is beta – everything is a work in progress and can always be improved; when you make a mistake iterate your way out of it, learn your way;
- be hon est – be direct, authentic, say what you mean;
- be transparent – make your process explicit; hand over control through openness and information
- collaborate – include, include, include….co-create
- don’t be evil – well, here we’re back to the Ten Commandments, the Four Noble Truths etc….
My own answer to the question is: learn, connect and of course, Google!Leave a comment