Category Archives: The Social Brain

Fuel – As You Contribute to the Future

Emergent_Strategy

This book: Emergent Strategy: Shaping Change, Changing Worlds was written in 2017 by adrienne maree brown, a young (in my eyes, under 40 is young) activist who has much to say about contributing and building a brighter future for all.

This book was gifted to me.  Gifted is a special way – I had many options on a table of items that meant something to the person who put them on the table.  I too had placed something I valued on the table and waited for it to find its new owner.  I chose this book because I was attracted to its subtitle – Shaping Change, Changing Worlds.  I ‘signed on’   for the mission of ‘Change’ when I was a teenager during the civil rights movement. So, this subtitle spoke to me.

The book is a journey as opposed to a straight path to some very clear predetermined destination.  And this journey was one that I found to be very meaningful.  I have so much appreciation and respect for the components of the journey that brown took me on.

Her focus is rich.  She understands that adaptation has to be intentional when you’re working for change.  She is totally respectful of the necessity of interdependence among people and the decentralization of power/control in order for progress to be significant.  She gets it, that change is not an event!  It is a process and therefore – change agents must be resilient and essentially and deeply committed to focusing on and creating possibilities. Shaping change and changing the world is the work of bringing life to possibilities.

These are all concepts that many of the established leadership resources* focus on and they focus on them in a more formal, researched based manner.  I find brown’s presentation to be conversational, situational, inspirational, developmental, and ‘possibility’ oriented.  In addition, I see her approach to be authentic and potentially valuable to those wanting to grow their leadership.

I think this book is a good read for any and all people who wish to lead, are leading and/or ready to be a significant be part of forward looking change.  As an almost 70 year old white male who has benefited from all forms of privilege to gain both an education and positions of responsibility in my of life – I found this book to be enlightening, challenging and provocative as in causing discussion, thought, even argument).  We, all of us, need books like this. This book invites a thinking reader, who is willing to become active, to enter a journey to shape and bring about change.

Brown writes, “I will admit here that even some of my closest loved ones find me naïve for holding a vision of the humanity with no enemies.  I can imagine that though, and in fact, it seems like the only viable long-term solution.  We need to transform all of the energy we currently put into war and punishment – into creating solutions for how to continue on this planet.  The time, the energy, the money – we actually have all of that in abundance.  What we lack is will.”

What an important, bold challenge!

This challenge and several others from the book – speak to me loudly.  Brown invites new leaders and established leaders to tackle that which many people avoid because they consider the task impossible.  She encourages us to create more.  She says, “At the human scale, in order to create a world that works for more people, for more life, we have to collaborate on the process of dreaming and envisioning and implementing that world.  We have to recognize that a multitude of realities have, do, and will exist.”

She’s right, from my point of view.  She gets it that we have to think bigger than we are thinking and we have to act on our determination to arrive at a preferred the future rather than settle for not having all of us move forward into a preferred state.

I recommend this book to people who want to make a difference: People who do want to shape change,  people that want to change worlds.

There is no pretense that this book has all the answers.  In the introduction she clearly states that this “book is not one that will teach you all about hard science.”  It won’t, she is right AND it will present a tapestry of observations, learnings, understandings and sincere inquiry that potentially can fuel you as you contribute to the future.

I hope you enjoy Emergent Strategy: Shaping Change, Changing Worlds as much as I did.

 

*As examples – such as: Servant Leadership by Robert K. Greenleaf 2002, The Leadership Challenge by James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner 2017, Primal Leadership: Realizing the Power of Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman, Richard Boyatzis and Annie McKee, 2002, Appreciative Leadership: Focus on What Works to Drive Winning Performance and Build a Thriving Organization by Diana Whitney, Amanda Trosten-Bloom and Kae Rader, 2010, Leading Change by John P. Kotter, 2012, or The Practice of Adaptive Leadership: Tools and Tactics for Changing Your Organization and the World by Heifetz, Grashow and Linsy, 2009

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Bringing People Together to Think Interdependently Toward a Common Good

WHAT IS A COMMUNITY OF  THOUGHT? A community of thought embraces a “process through which parties who see different aspects of a problem, can constructively explore their differences and search for solutions that go beyond their own limited vision of what is possible.” —Barbara Gray, Collaborating:  Finding Common Ground for Multiparty Problems

WHY COMMUNITIES OF THOUGHT? There is an established method for accomplishing this aliveness that values all voices in the room, uses the small group even in large gatherings, and recognizes that accountability grows out of co-creation. —Peter Block, Community: The Structure of Belonging

WHAT MAKES THINKING  INTERDEPENDENT?  “A strong community helps people develop a sense of true self, for only in community can the self exercise and fulfill its nature: giving and taking, listening and speaking, being and doing.” —Parker Palmer, A Hidden Wholeness: The Journey Toward an Undivided Life

HOW ARE CAPACITIES FOR INTERDEPENDENT THINKING DEVELOPED?  “If it is a [credible] process that is, it has integrity and a fair chance of producing results, and an open process that is an honest and receptive to dialogue – openly expressing different points of view; then people will invest the energy needed.  It can require an enormous expenditure of energy necessary to make collaboration succeed. Creating and nurturing this open and credible process is extraordinarily important for those who are initiating collaboration.” —David Chrislip & Carl Larson, Collaborative Leadership: How Citizens and Civic Leaders Can Make a Difference

HOW ARE COMMUNITIES OF THOUGHT SUSTAINED?  Because questions are intrinsically related to action, they spark and direct attention, perception, energy, and effort, and so are at the heart of the evolving forms that our lives assume. —Marilee Goldberg, The Art of the Question

~ Creating Communities of Thought Skills, Tasks, and Practices by Laura Lipton & Bruce Wellman, From The Power of the Social Brain: Teaching, Learning and Interdependent Thinking by Arthur L. Costa and Pat Wilson O’Leary, 2013, Teachers College Press

Bringing People Together

A Time for Striving To Understand Our Neighbor

 

From my point of view, it has always been essential to understand the thinking of our neighbor’s. I am not saying that it is a common practice or that I am good at it.  And I do believe that to appreciate how others feel about being ‘included’ or ‘not so included’ in the community is a big part of what it takes to make a community. To be aware of their view of the future and possibility that may lie ahead for them, their family or their friends.

Now, in February of 2017, it is becoming more and more clear to many of us that we don’t have access to our ‘neighbors’ thinking other than through parody or even mockery.

I have been looking for accessible voices of those that might be able to help me understand how it is that so many of my American ‘neighbors’ choose to support Donald Trump.

We benefit from living in East Lansing: and one of the many benefits is that each February, at MSU, there is the Slavery to Freedom lecture series open to the entire community.  It is a tremendous resource! Last week’s speaker was Jonathan Capehart, Washington Post opinion writer, MSNBC contributor, and he made several excellent points provoking thought and discussion.  The comment that stuck with me is when he challenged us all to seek out voices other than the voices that we agree with in an attempt to learn more, understand more and appreciate more.

Jonathan has a podcast, Cape Up and as I was listening to some of his interviews, I came across this recent one.   Arthur Brooks explains on January 24th how dignity links Trump to Obama.  I found it fascinating and thought provoking.  I started to think a little deeper than I had been about how others chose to vote for Trump.

Go to iTunes, or whatever you get your podcasts and search for Cape Up and then listen to Jonathan’s conversation with Arthur Brooks from January 24, 2017.

To anybody who wants to explore a thoughtful new podcast, I recommend Cape Up with Jonathan Capehart.

jonathan-capehart

Inquiry Combined With Deep Listening

conversation_002Exploring with others through sincere and effective inquiry combined with deep listening for understanding are great tools to develop for working well with others. Often small or large groups of people are faced with working through what seem like insurmountable challenges.

How we ‘show up’ matters: It is worth considering that reframing the situation into many possibilities and opportunities rather than insurmountable challenges is a potentially more proactive platform to be working from.

I do believe that we are in charge of our own perspectives and that any group of people is in charge of their own perspectives. And that our perspectives influence how we navigate opportunity or, as some may see it – insurmountable challenges.

Further, I believe that the questions we ask can be powerful in setting a ‘frame’ for our thinking and actions. Great questions are valuable for the person who asks them – if that person is ready to listen deeply and consider what is shared. Great questions are valuable to those who take them seriously by pondering and responding to them.

Michael J. Marquardt puts it this way: “Great questions cause the questioner to become more aware of the need for change and to be more open and willing to change. The questions themselves may actually cause the leader to become a change catalyst. The leader who leads with questions will more likely champion new ideas heard and developed in the course of inquiry. New ideas and perspectives enable the leader to make strong arguments for advocating change.” Leading with Questions: How Leaders Find the Right Solutions by Knowing What to Ask, Revised and Updated, 2014, pages 42-43.

Marquardt also states that: “A questioning culture strengthens individual and organizational learning; it improves decision making, problem solving, and teamwork; promotes adaptability and acceptance of change; and helps empower people by strengthening self-awareness and self-confidence.” page 6

These are the kinds of questions that may have the power to help a leader or participant of a group to deepen and improve the culture and quality of thinking and work:

If you were to overhear an honest conversation about this intuitive 30 months from now – what would your highest hopes be for what you would hear? What do you believe you would actually hear, given the current trajectory of the project?

How would describe the way you want this project to turn out?

What resources might we tap into that we haven’t used before or not using currently?

What crucial or vital behaviors can we target that seem to provide the greatest leverage for dramatically advance our goal?

How can this team become more efficient and productive while also supporting its members in the pursuit?

What inspires us about this work?

What happens if . . .?

Have we ever thought of . . .? (This question and the two directly preceding it – may be good ones to go around the group and have everyone add in their ‘. . .’ and then go around again and possibly again to generate new and potentially provocative thinking)

For any of these or other such questions to have value a culture of open shared thinking must be supported and the questions must be asked with sincerity and listened to with a commitment to strive to understand and appreciate the perspective(s) being shared.

How might we make possible what might have seemed unthinkable?

What will bring us together?
How can we – with others, especially others that look at things very differently – develop a shared preferred future?
What keeps us from working across differences toward the common good?
What happens when we do nothing at all to attempt to impact the status qou, even when we believe that the status quo is not serving the common good?
What stops us from embracing our dissimilarities and our similarities while tackling the challenges that are important to all of us as we move toward a shared preferred future?
How can we hear all voices and listen for and appreciate what is unique about the points of view of others?
How can we build trust and rapport across differences?
How can we get better at seeking to understand others and exploring possibilities where none existed before – rather than to win over others?
Note*
In his book: David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits and the Art of Battling Giants (2013) Malcom Gladwell explains that his major purposes for writing this book are connected what can happen when ordinary people (read you and me) confront giants. He sees two basic ways to frame these encounters with giants we all experience.
“The first is that much of what we consider valuable in our world arises out of these kinds of lopsided conflicts, because the act of facing overwhelming odds produces greatness and beauty. And second, that we consistently get these kinds of conflicts wrong. We misread them. We misinterpret them. Giants are not what we think they are. The same qualities that appear to give them strength are often the sources of great weakness. And the fact of being an underdog can change people in ways that we often fail to appreciate: it can open doors and create opportunities and educate and enlighten and make possible what might otherwise have seemed unthinkable.” (page 6)
Might the challenge of facing this ‘lopsided conflict’ the questions that opened this post focus on – be our “giants”? Might we embracing these questions and working through them be about ‘facing overwhelming odds’? And if so, might we ‘produce greatness’?
Might the confronting the shared work around the questions that opened this post uncover that the giants confronted are weaker than we thought? Might moving forward on the engagement and sorting out which will follow from the sincere connection to these questions potentially ‘open doors and create opportunities and educate and enlighten and make possible what might otherwise have seemed unthinkable?’

Conversation_001
*Some of these questions were influenced by Michael J. Marquardt’s work: Leading With Questions: How Leaders Find Right Solutions by Knowing What to Ask Revised and Updated (2014)

For Learning to Occur Neither the Organization or Its People can be Stationary

people_and_Organization_boarderIf you want your organization or your group within an organization to grow, change and develop – it is a good idea to help build a culture of learning.  Adaptation requires learning.

The people in the organization need to be willing to learn, grow and develop and, the organization must support their learning.

“Learning” is not a ‘straight line’ activity for individuals or the organization. To move ‘off’ the status quo and into new patterns of behavior and culture is adaptive.  We grow our strengths and develop a new normal.

Actually, this kind of adaptation and forward movement is not only for organizations.  Our families and social groups will also benefit from developing cultures of learning and adaptation.

Yes! To be willing to adapt and learn requires an experimental mindset.  We have to be willing to try things to see if they work and be willing to let go of things that don’t work and further develop things that show progress.  We, in our work and in our families, will benefit from embracing an experimental mindset.

Heifetz, Grashow and Linsky define experimental mind-set as “an attitude that treats any approach to an adaptive issue not as a solution, but as the beginning of an iterative process of testing a hypothesis, observing what happens, learning, making midcourse corrections, and then, if necessary, trying something else.”

“It is not surprising that in organizations with significant adaptive capacity, there is an openness and commitment to learning

Adaptive challenges cannot be solved by taking a course, hiring a consulting firm, or copying other companies’ best practices. Instead, people throughout the organization must open themselves to experimentation, giving up some old truths that have become irrelevant with changes in business, social or political landscape.

What does a continuous-learning mind-set look like in action within an organization?  Here are some signs:

People who make mistakes or experiment with new ways of doing things are not marginalized.

When something bad happens (a client is lost, a bid is rejected), the news is acknowledged and the event is debriefed for its lessons, not treated as a cause for punishment.

Communications and interaction are nurtured across all formal and informal boundaries.

People view the latest strategic plan as today’s best guess rather than a sacred text.”

Today’s challenges require more than a technical response.  We must be willing to adapt, learn and discover our future.  Further, we must be ready to go on this journey with others.

 Tomorrow is an opportunity

Tomorrow belongs to those that can create an adaptive culture

Tomorrow’s promise is complex and welcomes learners striving to thrive

People and organizations that learn will realize tomorrow’s opportunities

Pages 105-107 of The Practice of Adaptive Leadership by Heifetz, Grashow and Linsky 2009  and the definition of experimental mind-set from page 304