How We Think about Leadership

Over recent months I have been designing and sharing in a research project to identify what are the perceived gaps in leadership across Thailand as it prepares to join the Asean Economic Community (AEC) in 2015. AEC will be a single regional common market of 10 nations and over 600 million people. The envisaged free flow of goods, services, investment capital and skilled labor will impact on every dimension of the Thai nation. Asking questions about leadership in its most holistic (systemic) sense before the launch of AEC is considered to be very important. … [Read more...]

Leading in a Waldorf School: Is There Another Way?

As a Waldorf graduate, a former staff member, and a substitute teacher, I’ve had ample experience in learning the complex realities of being part of a Waldorf community from multiple angles. Waldorf schools are notoriously volunteer-heavy and are a complex networks of leaders, or leader-like, individuals who are trying to manage the school community. Unfortunately, a lot of Waldorf schools try to run on good intention—which isn’t a healthy operational for, and it's certainly not sustainable. Further down the line, good intention runs out and then a school is left in the lurch—and … [Read more...]

The Only Constant for a Systemic Practitioner are the Principles of the Systemic Approach

From time to time it is important for those of us seeking to work systemically to go back to the roots of the tools and techniques that we use everyday. It is important because we can often get caught up in the belief that a particular tool or technique is the answer to all crowdsourcing or perspective participation needs we are dealing with to build probes for complex issues. When a new person is working with me in a few systemic consultations they often get annoyed with me because I am using a tool or technique differently from the last time they saw it, “How can I learn these … [Read more...]

Why College is So Hot: The Complexity of a Post-Secondary Education

It's becoming a hotter topic by the minute, or so it would seem if you're tracking the media in the way that I've been doing lately: to go or not to go to college--and why. We're preparing for our next community workshop series, which aims to look at complex social issues and address them using Critical and Systemic Thinking methods. For this one, we're rethinking college in our times. I've heard--and known--people who've pretty much done it all, indicating that the answer to this question is not so simple. The expectation of going to college is out there; we live in a society where having … [Read more...]

An Essential Aspect of Leadership: Intellectual Humility

During this last week I have found myself writing about the concept of ‘intellectual humility’ to two different clients facing the failure of ‘a single answer approach’ to working with a complex issue. Further, I expect to draw attention to this issue many times in the weeks ahead as various leaders and managers try to resolve complex issues using techniques based exclusively on ‘scientific enquiry’. … [Read more...]

“Command and Control” Won’t Work Anymore

I  just finished watching Ken Burns’ series on World War II. It was illuminating and exhausting at the same time. It is available as a DVD set from our local Sacramento Library. What was significant, for me, was the need and justification of “command and control” thinking as we fought incredibly complex wars on both sides of the world. And what also was compelling was the massive waste and loss of lives and material....and how so much was obvious after-the-fact that was not obvious in the moment. … [Read more...]

The Birth of Conversation Mapping

Conversation Mapping

The development of many of the Systemic leadership techniques we work with, with businesses, governments and not-for-profit organisations started their life through efforts to support small rural communities perplexed by the rapid changes disrupting traditional practices. The Conversation Map now used in boardrooms around the world was first conceived in a squatter settlement outside Port Moresby in Papua New Guinea. Leaders of this settlement (known as the Horse Camp) were trying to get a U.N. development agency to install clean reticulated water. At the time a U.N. policy factor and a … [Read more...]

We the People: Civic Engagement as a Systemic Process

One of three conversation maps from the workshop.

We’ve all seen it: photos of young and old people of all colors and sizes holding up incisive and sometimes sassy cardboard signs commenting on or accusing big business, government, the Man of all the things that are true and relevant about our times that need to change. And these days, there is a surge of these photos far and wide from cities all across the world. What are they doing? They are participating in an egalitarian process that is known as the Occupy Movement. There is a strong legacy of civic engagement stemming back to the 1910s and the Suffragette Movement, the 1920s during … [Read more...]

What is a Healthy Relationship to Money?

imagesofmoney (taxbrackets.org)

To live in the world today requires us to form a conscious connection to money.  Do we have money, or does money have us?  What role does money (or the lack of it) play in our imagination of our dignity in the society, or our security in the macro-economy? What is our family’s history and “story” about its relationship to money?  Does that story continue to unconsciously influence us?  What percentage of our waking consciousness is devoted to money or the lack of it….or how we use it to meet our needs and wants?  What pressures exist on our feeling life tied to money? … [Read more...]

Systemic Thinking an Essential Tool for Leading in a Complex World

Only a few years ago the term systemic was one that rarely occurred in news reports and only occasionally in technical and academic articles. Today it rolls off the tongue of President Obama and other world leaders at regular intervals as they reflect on world issues and the approach required to address them. The change has been brought about by the realization that thinking and working within narrow perceptions of the world has failed. We cannot make significant improvement in complex issues from a single worldview. Agencies working to address these complex problems need to meld multiple … [Read more...]