Push Me Pull Me: How We Experience Higher Dimensions

Sometimes I feel the strong radiance of the sun, or a beautiful performance, or just looking at the face of my wife and kids.  I experience this radiance coming out of them, like it is pushing its way to me, and I bask in its outward rays.

I also experience an attraction in these same experiences.  A desire to be closer, more connected in the experience.  I experience this attraction as a pull, like they are pulling me towards them.

A push I get.  A pull I get.  A push and a pull at the same time?  How can that be?  Mustn’t it be coming in or going out, pushing or pulling?

When I experience something that I am part of, I feel both its radiance, its vibrancy, and I feel its attraction–the desire to engage more deeply in it.  If I think of the essence of these experiences as geometries with higher dimensions, with dimensions that include my four-dimensional experience of it in space (3D) and time (1D) and dimensions that include the experience of energy, of deeper shared purpose, of reflection, of witnessing, of the creative process, then I am experiencing many more than four dimensions in the direct experience I am having.  I know this higher-dimensional experience, and I know the experience of the simultaneous push and pull.

Now, what if I try to make sense of this experience from my “normal” 3D or 4D world?  In lower dimensions, I feel apart from the higher dimensions.  They are not “here now” with me, in my four dimensions.  They feel like something else, out there.  I can see and touch the table in front of me or the face of my child.  I experience being with them over time.  Those other dimensions are not here right now in the same way.

Feeling separate from them, I feel the push from them and the pull to them.

And, when I simply sit in the higher-dimensional experience, I feel like a part of it–no push and no pull, rather one with.  So, maybe I experience the push from something and the pull towards it when I bring only the lower dimensions of the experience into my awareness.  When I bring the higher dimensions into my awareness, I feel at one with.  Not apart, rather a part.

Hat tip to BB for sparking this insight.

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Sacred Hospitality

Sometimes we human beings seem to be remarkable at bringing people together to achieve something, and many times we are not remarkable.  Sometimes we are very clear on what we want to do together, on why we need each other, and how we will interact to have the impact we desire.  Most people describe these experiences as highly engaging.  Whether an afternoon in the country with some friends or landing a robot on Mars, we are capable of uniting our efforts in beautiful ways.  I have been sitting for years with the question of why these uniting, high impact resilience, energizing moments are less frequent than most people want.  If we prefer this experience, then why don’t we do this all of the time?  If we need to collaborate to achieve some of our larger societal goals, why don’t we more often?  One answer I have found has to do with how we treat ourselves and others.

Everyone I have met over the last two decades, in over a dozen countries, has told me that they have had the experience of being highly engaged, energized in human interactions.  As I ask about their experience, it seems that in all of their stories, they experience being well hosted.  They experience higher vibrancy in how they are hosting their own self, in their being hosted by and hosting of the other, of the group, by a creative process, where they experience being connected to a creative flow.  Eventually, my colleagues and I saw that they were expressing the experience of vibrancy in five primary relationships (self, other, group, nature, spirit).  What we also began to notice was the level of co-hosting in each of these relationships, the recognition that other people were also hosting with them and with the processes of nature and spirit.  A whole lot was happening in the interaction–it was being hosted simultaneously by many different people, processes, and structures.  We started calling this co-hosting.

Recently my colleagues and I have become more aware of the deeper capacities in excellent co-hosting, where people more consistently are able to co-host higher levels of vibrancy experienced in the five primary relationships.  We are experimenting with this “sacred hospitality,” co-hosting with greater intention and attention, with the clarity that one is inviting a harmonic.

As we put the art of sacred hospitality into practice in our fieldwork at the Institute for Strategic Clarity and at Vibrancy, we are learning more and more about what people do and experience in this deeper practice of co-hosting, as well as learning more about the much higher levels of impact resilience available through deeper co-hosting.  So far we have found the following practices to work reliably:

  1. Nature and Spirit — your experience of the creative process and source
    • Ask yourself, “What do I experience when I connect in the creative process?”  Since this exercise is with you by yourself, I invite you to be honest with what you actually experience.  This is where the learning comes.  Looking at what you actually experience, comparing that actual experience with what you want, and adjusting what you do, repeatedly.  This is also the art of resilience, the ability to learn and adjust.
    • Ask others what they experience.  Share with them what you experience.  Ask them about what they experience. Do you see any similarities? Any unique differences?
  2. Self — your experience of your sacred hospitality of your own self
    • Ask yourself, “How do I experience my own sacred hospitality of myself?”
    • Share with someone else.  Share what you see, with someone you trust.  In this sharing, look for: (1) what you see in yourself, when you hear yourself sharing; (2) what you see in yourself, when you look at the other person you are talking with; and (3) what they see in what you share.
  3. Other — your experience of your sacred hospitality of another.
    • Ask yourself, “How do I experience my sacred hospitality of another person?  Of the capacities they already bring, right now?  Of the potential I can see in them?”
    • Share with someone else.  What do you see about your co-hosting of another?  What do you see about how the other person co-hosts another?  When we see it in another person, we are seeing own selves in them, in capacities we also already have or in emergent capacities that we could develop further.
  4. Group — your experience of your sacred hospitality of a group, of a we
    • Ask yourself, “How do I experience my sacred hospitality of a group?”
    • Share with someone else.  What do you see in common with their experiences?

These practices seem to work everywhere, and they are very efficient.  The questions for yourself can start with 5-minute reflections.  The sharing with someone else can start with 20-minute conversations.  We find that starting this simply often leads to great insights.  That is a high return on co-investment, a few minutes of reflection and conversation leading to transformative insights.  These practices are part of a toolkit of collaboration basics that we are developing through our observations and fieldwork.

In essence, we start by getting clear that those of us involved in the process want better experiences and better outcomes, and that there is a deeper shared purpose that brings us together.  We then agree that the process starts with the self, with how I co-host myself.  I can only invite the levels of experience with others that I am willing to invite with myself first.  We then agree that we prefer the experience of abundance to that of scarcity, that we have choices in our agreements, and that we want to experience more deeply the co-hosting of the vibrancy available in each of the five primary relationships, at the same time.  Through a process of reflection, sharing, inquiry, and feedback, we are able to see what we want, what we actually experience, the difference between the two, adjust what we do, and repeat.  This is the process of tangibilizing the potential we see, through specific pathways to outcomes, which provides evidence about the potential and pathways we saw, adjusting, learning, and evolving.

Sacred hospitality.  Sacred comes from the PIE root *sak “to sanctify” to make holy, and holy comes from the PIE *kailo“whole, uninjured” or health.  Hospitality comes from the Latin hospitalitem for friendliness to guests.  So, sacred hospitality is how we invite greater health–better experiences and outcomes–through relationships, to the self, other, group, nature, and spirit.

We all want better experiences and results than we usually achieve, on a more consistent basis.  We like being well hosted, and we enjoy hosting others.  Whether or not people have been consciously capable of consistent sacred hospitality in the past, my colleagues and I find, across the world, the emerging capacity and desire in everyone to experience deeper levels of co-hosting.  It starts with each individual, taking on the sacred hospitality of their own creative expression, doing the same with others, and consciously choosing in the groups where they interact to co-host each other and the group.  The experience is far better, as are the results and the resilience of the impacts.  If we can do it, and if we prefer it, then maybe it is time to starting doing it.

4 Strategies for Tangibilizing Societal Agreements — Recommended Reading

Waddell, Steve. “Four Strategies for Large Systems Change.” Stanford Social Innovation Review 16, no. 2 (2018): 40-45.

To achieve societal outcomes for everyone, everywhere, everyday within any given social system requires bringing together peoples with access to different economic resources, different political decision making and enforcement systems, different values, and different organizing forms.  It requires uniting in collaboration at a whole new level.  Long-time action researcher of societal change, Steve Waddell, shares in the reading referenced above what he observes in how people end up weaving together four large-system-change strategies to achieve a desired societal impact resilience.

In ecosynomic terms, the first step in any societal effort to change the agreements at the foundation of human interaction is to understand the deeper shared purpose, the love for a future to which people give their will. The second step is to bring together the people who are necessary for realizing that deeper shared purpose.  Dr. Waddell finds four strategies for who is necessary to change societal agreements to achieve that deeper shared purpose.  These four strategies are based on two continua: from confrontation to collaboration; from destruction to creation.  One can work to shift agreements working apart (confrontation) or together (collaboration), and generating new agreements (creation) or removing old agreements (destruction).  The article provides two case studies of large systems change, where all four strategies played out in the system over time.  A key insight is that changing major systems of agreements probably requires a range of pathways to tangibilize the deeper shared purpose–different ways to achieve the same impact.  These different ways require different capacities, ways of interacting, ways of seeing the world.  In large-systems change, the entrepreneur, the warrior, the missionary, and the lover–the four archetypes Waddell identifies with the four change strategies–all bring their particular worldview, organizing forms, and energy at particular times.  One form is not superior to the others, rather they each bring a part of the overall game.

The ecosynomic strategist, tangibilizing agreements field potentials, pathways, and outcomes, would do well to appreciate and embrace these four forms, seeing how they weave together to change foundational societal agreements.

Too Much Resilience?

Can you have too much resilience?  It seems to depend on how you define your system.

To have energy resilience, in the form of calories available for your body, you need more calories available to you than you use.  That is the definition of resilience–the ability to continue to function when the environment changes.  You need to have enough calories available to burn in activities, given whatever activities that changes in the environment will require of you.  You can store those available calories inside or outside your body.  Inside your body, calories are basically stored as body fat.  To be more inside-body calorie-resilient, you need more body fat.  And, too much body fat, when you are out of calorie-balance, impedes proper body functions and leads to many diseases.  You can also store calories outside your body, in access to food.  To be more outside-body calorie-resilient, you need more access to food.  Since food goes bad quickly, you need access to continuously-replenishable food sources.  We do this by spending more time on getting food, having more people work on getting food, or by having more preserved food available.  It takes energy, the burning of calories, to increase calorie-resilience, whether we store the energy inside or outside our bodies.  And this increased use of calorie-energy for accessing the calories leads to the requirement for even more access to calories.

To have energy resilience, in the form of creativity available to do work, you need more human creative energy available to you than you use.  I am currently working on a model of human creative energy, which I call Homo lumens, where humans are beings of light energy, which comes straight from physics.  One challenge with energy resilience in human creativity is that the creative energy seems to dissipate very quickly.  We seem to have a creative moment, whether thinking of new possibilities, answering a question, or seeing how to apply a screwdriver to a screw.  They all take an instant of human creativity, of lumens.  To be resilient, we need to have enough lumens being generated to use in all of the required applications.  If this creative energy dissipates quickly, then essentially all of the lumens energy generated goes either into a specific activity or it is dissipated, used in some other way.  Following this logic, having more creative energy generated than is engaged in specific activities leads to more creative energy being dissipated.  This is inefficient.  Putting more energy into the system with the same output is less efficient, a waste of creative energy.  This probably leads to burnout, to people being disengaged or otherwise-engaged.

Energy resilience, whether in calories or lumens, seems to lead to a question of resilience versus efficiency.  Since both calories and lumens dissipate relatively quickly, we need to have constant access to them.  The activity of accessing them requires even more access to energy sources.  Having access to more than we need becomes inefficient.  We spend energy accessing energy that will dissipate before we can use it–wasted food, wasted creativity.  Not very smart.  Not having access to enough leads to low resilience, the inability to continue to function when the environment changes.  Not very smart either.  This suggests that to be smart, we have to figure out how to increase our access to energy, whether calories or lumens, without increasing the energy used to access it or losing lots of energy to dissipation.  One way to do that is by increasing the ability to access and tangibilize the potential energy available, without expending much more energy.  Until we need the energy, it remains in its potential form.  When we need it, we tangibilize it.  I explore how to do this, through our agreements fields, in a previous post.

Weak and Strong Agreements Fields

Agreements Fields.  Fields are systems where people interact, where there is a coherence that holds those interactions together.  An agreements field then is the coherent capacity of interactions to tangibilize the potential energy available in those interactions.  Experience seems to show that people experience weak agreements fields and strong agreements fields, which is supported by Agreements Health Check survey responses from 124 countries.

Weak Agreements Fields. When agreements fields are weak, we experience little capacity to making something with the available potential energy.  Though we might see the potential in individuals and in the group, our agreements make it hard to work with that potential: we tend to focus more on getting the required outcomes, and much less on developing capacities and relationships or on seeing and engaging potential.  To be responsible to the resilience of the group’s efforts, in weak agreements fields, we tend to try to increase resilience by increasing the flexibility of our capacity to get people to do work–our resource of human bodies.  From this perspective, we need to be able to scale up and down the number of human bodies available to do work.  When we need more output, we contract more bodies, and when we need less output, we contract fewer bodies.  We can do this more efficiently by contracting that pool of labor–bodies to do work–and keeping investment in their training and benefits low.  This leads us to focus on having flexible financial capital to be able to scale the number of contracted bodies available.  Does the liquidity of this flexibility of capital reduce the return on investment, since it needs to be more readily available?

Strong Agreements Fields. When agreements fields are strong, we experience a high capacity to tangibilize the potential energy available in our interactions, by definition.  We see potential, pathways to manifest that potential, and we use the outcomes of those pathways as feedback about the potential and pathways we saw.  In strong agreements fields, we seem to increase resilience by increasing the capacity of our interactions to leverage our inputs, by working with the reenforcing and balancing feedback loops in our interactions and in the viral nature of our social networks.  We study our interactions to find leverage through the nature of social systems.  This allows us to scale efficiency, achieving much greater outputs with the same inputs, the same number of people with the same level of financial capital.  By keeping the same people, we want to invest in their capacities and their benefits.  This leads us to focus on being more strategic, more systemic, and more collaborative, as a way to engage and learn from the potential energy available to us in the strong agreements field.

If agreements fields have within them the capacity to tangibilize the potential energy available in the individuals present and in their interactions, strong agreements fields seem to engage our intention and our attention–what we do for what reasons and what we focus on–in very different ways than do weak agreements fields.  I am curious what you find in these two different settings.

Shocking News! How We Treat Other Beings Might Influence What We Find

Connecting three dots.

  1. Vast amounts of people, globally, are disengaged at work.
  2. Some people are highly engaged at work, and get far better results, sustainably.
  3. Treating lab animals poorly seems to be decreasing experimental reproducibility of science.

In a piece just out in the prestigious academic journal ScienceStanford University researcher Joseph Garner suggests, “We’re trying to control these animals so much, they’re no longer useful…If we want animals to tell us about stuff that’s going to happen in people, we need to treat them more like people.”  Seeing how most people treat other people in the workplace (see earlier reference to the vastly disengaged workforce), maybe these scientists are arguing that people should treat lab animals better than most people treat people.

If the challenge with lab animals is how to ensure that the animals being tested are in similar conditions, to maximize reproducibility, thus the desire to minimize the number of variables in their living environment, might the challenge with how to treat people also extend beyond energy-depleting cubicle farms?

If nobody had ever tried to figure out how to treat lab animals well AND get good, reproducible results, and if nobody had ever tried to figure out how to celebrate the creative contributions of every individual in a group, then we would really be in deep trouble.  What to do?  Fortunately, there are many people who are figuring this out, and they have been for decades.  We just need to find them and to understand what they are doing.  This is the next frontier for science, at least with people.  How do we need to understand human interactions and human agreements to be able to find, study, and share what those on the forefront are learning.  They experience what we want to experience.  Let’s find them.

Leadership — How We Get to What We Have and Where We Could Be

Leadership.  While everyone has a different definition of what leadership is, how one achieves it, and what it does, it might be much simpler than that.  You know it when it is there, and when it is not there.  From the perspective of the choices we have in the agreements we either unconsciously accept or consciously choose, what does leadership look like?  Can this picture help us see how we ended up with the leadership examples we have today?  Can it help us see where we could be?  Let’s see.

To lead is to get someone to go with you.  This is an agreement, an interaction between two or more people.  In an interaction, there is a future possibility–a desired state–a pathway towards that desired state, and an outcome.  Elsewhere I refer to these as the three levels of perceived reality.  We can look at this interaction through four lenses, big questions that millions of people dedicate their whole careers to: how much resource is available in the interaction; who decides and who enforces; what values are used to decide; and what are the principles of the interaction, the rules of the road?

Where are we today with most leadership?  We can take the three levels of perceived reality (possibility, pathway, outcome) and the four lenses (how much, who decides, what values, what rules) and see how simplifying assumptions give us much of what we experience in leadership today.  Let’s start with what we can see from the three levels of perceived reality.

  1. Most leaders focus primarily on outcomes.  What did you do today?  Did you get the desired results?  Leaders like this are typically given authority to represent the whole group, of whatever size, and they are held responsible for the outcomes.  Get the results however you need to.  Do what I say.  No potentials or learning here.
  2. Many leaders have begun to focus on the outcomes and the pathway to them.  How can we learn and adapt to get the best outcomes, given the changing landscape?  These leaders try to bring out the best of the people and processes they have, learning over the time and space available and developing capacities with the whole and for the whole.  They try to increase the efficiency with which the work is done.  No potentials here.
  3. A few leaders focus on the outcomes, the pathways to them, and the potential.  What can we see that is possible, what pathways can get us there, and what feedback do we get from the outcomes along the way?  These leaders bring people together to see new possibilities, sets of relationships to achieve them, and then focus on what feedback they can get from intermediate outcomes, so that they can adjust the possibilities they see and the pathways they use along the way.

This simple formulation shows us that as we begin to subtract levels of perceived reality from our leadership model, we move from potential, pathways, and outcomes to pathways and outcomes, to outcomes, losing the capacity to choose how we adapt to what we have learned about ways to manifest, to make tangible the possibilities we saw.  When we focus only on outcomes, we lose access to possibilities and to learning.  While many say that they don’t have time for anything other than making sure they get the results–we don’t have time for seeing possibilities and learning–good engineering practice shows that these people spend most of their time correcting for easily avoidable mistakes, and they greatly increase the risk of becoming obsolete.  Learning and adapting does not have to take much more time, and it helps avoid extraordinary wastes of time in correcting mistakes late in the game.

Now let’s see what happens when leadership uses only one of the four lenses.

  1. Some leaders focus primarily on the economics of how much resource is available.  How much do we have, how much do we need, how much do we generate?  What is the net result?  How do I control more of the resources?
  2. Some leaders focus principally on the politics of who decides and who enforces.  Who has the right to make what decisions in the hierarchy?  Who enforces them?  What power do the decision makers and enforcers have?  How do I get more of that power?
  3. Some leaders focus on the cultural values used to decide.  What do we most care about?  How deeply do people live into these principles?  Do the people clearly understand and live by these principles?  What culture do I think we need?
  4. Some leaders focus on the social rules of the game.  What are the rules?  Does everyone know them and obey them?  How can I work the rules of the game to my benefit?

This simple formulation shows us that we can easily focus our leadership on the economic, political, cultural, or social forms within our interactions.  And that we do this at great risk, losing the value of the other perspectives.  With any one lens, we easily go astray.  We try to get power through resources.  We try to get resources through values.  We try to set the rules through power.  We try to set the values through the resources we control.

Does this mean that we are doomed as society with leadership that tends to focus on the outcomes level of perceived reality and only through one of the four lenses?  Maybe.  And, we see that are many examples of leaders who are beginning to do something that is actually easier to do and gets much better results.  They are starting with the assumption that they are leading with other people who actually care and have something to contribute.  From this perspective, they co-host people coming together to look for the possibilities they can see from the richness of perspectives they each bring, finding pathways they can use together to manifest those shared possibilities, and then see what they learn from the feedback they receive in the outcomes they achieve.  What happened?  What did we learn?  How can we adapt what we initially saw, given what we learned in the process?  These leaders also use all four lenses, at the same time, to ask one question, using the four lenses to see the subtleties:

  • how do we manifest the possibilities we see, with the resources we have and can develop in our potential and in our learning,
  • each making decisions for ourselves, for each other, for the group, and for the process, as is appropriate along the way,
  • with a deeper shared purpose and a set of values for those decisions that bring out the best we have to offer, in our potential, in our learning, and in our outcomes,
  • collaborating towards this shared purpose, uniting our best contributions, potentials, and learning.

This is not more nuanced than any other form of leadership.  All leadership forms take great energy and lots of resources.  Some just achieve far less impact, far less engagement, and far less resilience than others.  And it does not need to be that way, as leadership is more natural to human beings when it acknowledges possibilities, development, and outcomes, as seen in what resources are available, who decides and enforces, with what values and what principles of interaction, all at the same time.  It is not harder, it is built into who we are as human beings, if we can only see it and choose it.

Collaboration Basics: Essential Agreements

posted with Ruth Rominger, CHOICE Fellow and Garfield Foundation’s Director of Information and Network Design–Collaborative Networks

Those of us in the social sector hear a lot of talk about the value of collaboration. Why do so few actually do it? Because it is hard?  Because it takes too much time?  Or is it because we are operating out of old mindsets and assumptions?

Our research over the past three decades suggests that most people know how to collaborate and yet, they don’t. The evidence points to some common assumptions that get in the way, and a handful of key behaviors that show up in most authentic, effective collaborations. It is our observation that when you become aware of these assumptions and behaviors, you are poised for productive collaboration.  

What We See

People who collaborate effectively are actively engaged with others to co-create the time, space, and purpose for working together.  They share responsibility for hosting explicit processes to achieve desired outcomes. These include:  co-investment, integrated conversations, deep shared purpose, and uniting design.  We call this collaborative co-hosting. Here is a brief description of what these ideas mean:

Co-investment. People in effective collaboration come to the table with the attitude of a co-investor. Co-investors who take responsibility for process and outcomes, and want to bring all their available resources to the table. Collaborative co-investors look for opportunities to learn and grow, share their capacities, and see greater potential. It is possible to increase the effectiveness of any collaborative group by recognizing evidence of co-investment and reinforcing it.

Integrated Conversations. Collaboration is strongest if people who don’t typically interact with people in different sectors of a given system have small-group conversations that overlap with other small group conversations that build to whole group conversations, and continuously engage with each other through all phases of work. The behavior seems to maintain the flow of information throughout the system, which helps inform decisions at the core, in nodes (small groups), and at the periphery (with those people loosely involved, on the front lines, or highly impacted). And it makes it possible for decisions to be made at the most appropriate level, by informed and trusted individuals, pairs, or groups.  

Deep(er) Shared Purpose. There is nothing that motivates a diverse groups and individuals to collaborate more than identifying a deep shared purpose. Co-hosts create the opportunity to find and name a deeper shared purpose.  They welcome others who connect with that purpose.  They invite the contribution of each individual’s own purpose to the shared purpose, and the contribution of their unique capacities to the collaboration.

Uniting Design. Co-hosts design interactions and activities to unite, connect, reinforce, and reciprocate contributions of others sharing the deep shared purpose. They create the space to build trust, and see, with others, who their efforts can benefit. The collaboration focuses on learning together by seeing possibilities, testing them, and learning from the successes and failures.  More than looking for the one right answer to all of the problems, the focus is on continuously exploring the next step to generate common understanding of the subject.  And they contribute to others, to create a “whole greater than the sum of the parts.”

What We Do Instead

Even though most of us know how to co-host collaboration, we tend to overlook the potential, learning and growth, and unique capacities in ourselves, in others, and in whole groups.  Instead we focus on outcomes, attributing direct cause and claiming credit. What results did the work produce? Who gets acknowledged? The common practice—to directly associate an action to its outcome—tries to isolate one dimension, or one data point, at a time. At best, the use of logic models, good strategic planning, assessment, and evaluation of isolated data falls far short of what is needed to effectively change a complex system, and often lead to unintended consequences.

Instead of making explicit the group’s deep shared purpose and core values, we tend to focus on the values of one or a few key stakeholders, subordinating all others, often unconsciously.  We too often attribute value to a single success factor, a preferred group, or ultra-individualism in the name of freedom, to the exclusion of seeing and valuing the rest.

Why We Do This

Research shows two dominant reasons for why we continue to do this. We do not recognize scarcity-based assumptions that are embedded in the system and limit our ability to see other possibilities. We unconsciously accept that our world has scarce resources, and thus see scarcity in our life, at work, with strangers, friends, and family. This is just the way it is: there is not enough to go around, and we have to compete with others for what little there is.  Our research, based on an Agreements Health Check survey (http://instituteforstrategicclarity.org/take-the-survey/) with responses from 124 countries, shows that people unconsciously accept and selectively see scarcity.

We also tend to accept that most of our environments are energy depleting. Research in sociology shows us that underlying agreements of how we treat each other are deeply embedded in our social systems, which makes them very hard to see.  For example, we tend to design our companies hierarchically for efficiency. We measure efficiency by the value of outputs earned from the cost of inputs. We seek efficiency to maximize profitability for shareholders.  And we accept maximizing shareholder values over other stakeholders, because the current system is designed for shareholders to decide who has access to their capital. We have accepted an agreement that capital is the most important resource, over all else. Most of us are not aware that these are only agreements, and these agreements and their consequences are embedded in the current system. They exist only because we have unconsciously accepted that this is the way it is, and by doing so, we miss the opportunity to create something different.  While most agreements that exist today simplified reality to so that we could achieve the great contributions to society of the past two centuries, these same, simplifying  agreements now limit the capacity of our society to make the next step many collaborative efforts seek.  With gratitude we acknowledge where we have been and step towards where we need to be.

We Can Build Other Agreements

We have the ability to shift our reality.  When we recognize the agreements underpinning current reality, we can shift them. For example, we can build new agreements about what types of resource and collective potential are available to work with. We can choose who makes decisions. We can choose what values we base our decisions on and how we enforce them.  We can choose how we interact with others.  

We can choose the benefits of co-hosting collaboration.  We can shift from old agreements to collaborative agreements.  Following is a guide we have developed, based on our experience to date, to  assess and strengthen strategic, systems-changing collaboration.

Assessing Collaborative Strength

Collaborators’ Basics

Value Is there evidence that collaborators… Evidence
1 Co-investment
  • Bring a variety of resources  to the table
  • Invest in their own development
  • Tap into their full potential
  • All collaborators co-invest
  • Co-investors bring full complement of their resources: their capacities, their learning, and their potential
  • Clear model of Return on co-investment, from greater impact and resilience, for each co-investor
2 Integrated conversations
  • Integrate the parts of the system through overlapping conversations, where representatives from one conversation are part of another
  • In and across the parts and phases of work
  • Information flows through their system, intentionally and fluidly informing decisions
  • Decisions are made at appropriate levels, by trusted individuals, pairs of individuals, or groups
  • Structure of integrated conversations directly related to the deeper shared purpose
  • Clear structures and processes for continuous information flow through integrated conversations
  • Clarity of what perspectives need to be in each conversation
  • Participants demonstrate 100% responsibility for being prepared and engaging in each conversation
  • Rapid learning and adaptation within and across integrated conversations
3 Deeper shared purpose
  • Identify the deeper purpose that motivates action
  • Invite others motivated by the purpose to contribute what is unique and specific for that purpose
  • Statement of deeper shared purpose that deeply motivates co-investors
  • Direct connection of each integrated conversation to the deeper shared purpose
  • Clarity in each integrated conversation of how it is connected to and furthering the deeper shared purpose
4 Uniting design
  • Design interactions and activities to unite
  • Design to reinforce unique contributions of each person towards the purpose
  • Clarity of specific, unique contributions needed for each integrated conversation
  • Each integrated conversation inquires into and brings out the best of needed  perspectives

Delighting in Hard Ideas — Recommended Readings

Strogatz, Steven H. The Joy of X: A Guided Tour of Math, from One to Infinity. 2012, New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Randall, Lisa. Warped Passages: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Universe’s Hidden Dimensions.  2006, New York: Harper Perennial.

Kant, Immanuel.  The Metaphysics of Morals.  ed, Mary Gregor, 2007, New York: Cambridge University Press.

Some ideas are really hard to grasp.  Advanced math.  Particle physics.  Moral philosophy.  Or at least the ideas seem to be hard to grasp.  Most of the time, I seem to buy into the idea that only highly trained experts can even begin to have a clue about some of these ideas.  I no longer believe this to be true.  I find that it is more a matter of storytelling.  I do not need to understand all of the nuances of something to find it interesting and to be able to relate to it.

I find that there are a few ways to tell stories.  Three of them make it almost impossible to engage with the hard ideas.

  1. Some writers water down the ideas.  Just the bullet points, in 140 characters or less.  I think of this as the “American coffee” story.  Not much there.
  2. Some make the ideas hard to swallow.  Let me show you how smart I am.  This is the “cod liver oil” story.  Not much fun to take in.
  3. Some overwhelm the senses.  The 18 secrets to success.  Everything that I randomly can think  of to tell you about what I know.  This is the “half double decaffeinated half-caf, with a twist of lemon” story or the “notice the aged cinnamon in the roasted jalapeño Oaxacan chili mole” story.  Too many details I cannot connect, so it is also off-putting.

Then there are storytellers that engage me, awaken my interest, and help me make connections that I did not have before.  They do not water down the ideas; they dig in quite a bit.  They do not make the ideas hard to swallow; they sweeten them up with anecdotes, with context for why this is meaningful to know in my life, and even a few little insider secrets.  They do not overwhelm the senses, rather building up my understanding through a scaffolding of insights.  At the end, I see something I did not see before, and I have an engagement with the ideas that I did not have before.  While I could be upset that years of formal education did not give me the insights gleaned from a few hours of reading, I decided to be grateful that I have them now.

I have just finished reading the three books listed above.  They all do a great job at this.  Cornell University professor of math Steven Strogatz gave me an overview of the world of basic math principles, from grade school through graduate school, and an appreciation for how I can use it for my own understanding of the world and in my research that I did not have.  I had the tools, which I now grok at a whole new level.

Harvard University professor of theoretical physics Lisa Randall gave me a deeper understanding of particle physics, string theory, and multi-dimensional realities than I had gained after reading dozens of books on the subject.  What I had as a bunch of somewhat disconnected ideas, now fit together into a clean, clear picture.

I had never tried to read the great philosophers until recently.  While some are very hard to read, Immanuel Kant’s very structured logic and careful building of a frame works very well for me.  Not only was I able to see farther into the world of Kant’s philosophy and its repercussions through the years, I also benefitted from his structuring of a very challenging idea, of a moral philosophy for humanity.

It is a joy to explore the often-hidden depths of what it is to be alive, and it is even more fun to follow those warped passages when guided by great storytellers.

The Future Is Already Here

“The future is already here — it’s just not very evenly distributed,” said cyberpunk pioneer William Gibson.

Prolific management author Peter Drucker observed, in October 1989 in The Economist, “The trends that I have described..are not forecasts (for which I have little use and scant respect); they are, if you will, conclusions.  Everything discussed here has already happened; it is only the full impacts that are still to come. I expect most readers to nod and to say, ‘Of course’.  But few, I suspect, have yet asked themselves: ‘What do these futures mean for my own work and my own organisation?'”

McGill University professor Elena Bennett has found over 500 vibrant social initiatives, which her lab describes as “seeds.” “Seeds are existing initiatives that are not widespread or well-known. They can be social initiatives, new technologies, economic tools, or social-ecological projects, or organisations, movements or new ways of acting that..appear to be making a substantial contribution towards creating a future that is just, prosperous, and sustainable.”

Through the Institute for Strategic Clarity‘s fieldwork in 39 countries and survey research in 124 countries over the past decade, my colleagues and I have identified 457 highly vibrant groups.  We have worked with 149 of them.

The point is that the seeds of our future are already here.  People are figuring out how to live and interact in ways that are more consistent with their own values, their own deeper shared purpose, developing energy-enhancing solutions that result in much greater impact resilience.  The Global Initiative to Map Ecosynomic Deviance and Impact Resilience (MEDIR), working with community leaders, academic institutions, networks, and consultancies around the globe, is (1) identifying these seeds of the future that are already here, and (2) developing agreements field mapping (pactoecographic) frameworks, lenses, and processes to understand what people all over the world are learning about making vibrant, energy-enhancing, culturally-relevant choices within their local contexts.  Learning with and from people who are already figuring out parts of the “how to” can accelerate our capacity to find high impact-resilience solutions, solutions that work for everyone, everywhere in our systems, everyday.  That future that we prefer is already here.  The task now is to find it.