The Longest Journey

January 29, 2014 3 Comments

The Longest Journey

In our collaborative capacity and network development work at IISC, there is considerable complexity to hold.  This can create quite a mental exercise for everyone involved – What is the system we are trying to develop/problem we are trying to solve? What are the contributing factors?  What is our desired future state? Who should be at the table? What are the systemic leverage points and associated strategies?  Etc.

This is necessary work, and it can become incomplete or rather one dimensional when it only taps some of our collective faculties.  There is something more to access, other and deeper senses of motivation, intention, purpose, knowing and connection.  As William Carlos Williams once wrote,

“It is difficult to get the news from poems yet men die miserably every day for lack of what is found there.”

This is how I interpret Chief Joseph’s quote above; that we can get stuck in certain kinds of conversation and approach that ultimately do not support our intended aims.  And I would say that it is one of the reasons we uphold “love as a force for social transformation” as one of the three lenses for our work, as Mistinguette discussed in another post recently.

So how do we help people to make this journey?  For one, I like sharing poetry and inviting others to do so (for a great collection, check out Leading From Within: Poetry That Sustains the Courage to Lead), as well as other kinds of significant offerings.  This helps to validate multiple forms and sources of expression.

At IISC, we also like to invite people to share reflections on “check-in” and “check-out” questions that open up a broader and deeper expanse of consideration.  Things like: What has brought you to this table?  Why do you do the work you do?  What drives you?  What brings you to life? Where are you now that you were not at the beginning of this conversation?

What are some of your favorite poems and questions that have helped you to both open up the landscape and make the journey of change and development?


  • Cynthia Silva Parker says:

    I often use William Stafford’s “A Ritual to Read to One Another” as an introduction to work around diversity, equity and inclusion.

    A Leadership Blessing: For the one who holds power by John Donohue is another favorite.

  • Cynthia Silva Parker says:

    I like your questions above. I’m also a fan of Peter Block’s 6 Conversations that Matter, though they are not all meeting starters.

    Invitation conversation.
    Transformation occurs through choice, not mandate. Invitation is the
    call to create an alternative future. What is the invitation we can make
    to support people to participate and own the relationships, tasks, and
    process that lead to success?

    Possibility conversation.
    This focuses on what we want our future to be as opposed to problem
    solving the past. It frees people to innovate, challenge the status quo,
    break new ground and create new futures that make a difference.

    Ownership conversation.
    This conversation focuses on whose organization or task is this? It
    asks: How have I contributed to creating current reality? Confusion,
    blame and waiting for someone else to change are a defense against
    ownership and personal power.

    Dissent conversation. This
    gives people the space to say no. If you can’t say no, your yes has no
    meaning. Give people a chance to express their doubts and reservations,
    as a way of clarifying their roles, needs and yearnings within the
    vision and mission. Genuine commitment begins with doubt, and no is an
    expression of people finding their space and role in the strategy.

    Commitment conversation.
    This conversation is about making promises to peers about your
    contribution to the success. It asks: What promise am I willing to make
    to this enterprise? And, what price am I willing to pay for success? It
    is a promise for the sake of a larger purpose, not for personal return.

    Gifts conversation.
    Rather than focus on deficiencies and weaknesses, we focus on the gifts
    and assets we bring and capitalize on those to make the best and
    highest contribution. Confront people with their core gifts that can
    make the difference and change lives.

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