4 Steps to Create Inefficient, Ineffective, Obsoleting, Disengaging, De-energizing Groups

It turns out that, as humanity, we have excelled at learning how to create inefficient, ineffective, obsoleting, disengaging, de-energizing human interactions.  We have it down to four simple steps.  First, focus only on outcomes.  Second, git-r-done.  Third, experience life elsewhere.  Fourth, stick with the process in “the book.”  That’s it.

Now, you might think that nobody does this.  Not really.  Evidence seems to indicate otherwise.  See the links above.

And, we have found lots and lots of groups, all around the world, that are doing the opposite.  They are evolving ways to create smart, cool, in-service-to-purpose, witnessing, inviting-engaging, energizing collaborative spaces.

So, it is not a given that we have to do not smart and not cool.  Many normal people have figured that out.  Let’s start doing smart and cool, like them, and stop doing not smart and not cool.


Hidden Bugs, Hidden Agreements

Like when germ theory replaced miasma theory, the intuition was right, the deeper cause was hidden.  It is in the environment, just not the way miasma theorists thought it was.  New technology made it visible, the microscope.

Likewise, low engagement, low creativity, and higher returns from automation are all signs, correctly interpreted, of a deeper, hidden problem.  Like bugs–the hidden germs and the “undocumented features” in software–the hidden agreements are there too.  These bugs embedded in the social soup, like germ-bugs and software-bugs, can be exposed, understood, and chosen.

The intuition about what to do is relatively right, the understanding of what drives it is being updated.  The bugs are no longer hidden, with the right technology.  The bugs in our agreements no longer need to be hidden either.  We have the technology to see them, and to choose our relationship to them.

Really Real–What You Know About What Is Already Born, An Ecology of Nature

You have superpowers.  You share this with some people, and not with a lot of others.  You can see or sense things that many others don’t seem to see or sense. The question is not whether this happens at all, or whether it only happens to a few people, everyone has some form of these.  It is natural.  The question becomes, what is natural, what is nature, what is the ecology of nature we live in, and that we each seem to have the ability to access in different ways?

Here are two ways of entering into an understanding of this nature; what you already know about what is already here.  Let’s start with nature.  The word nature comes from the Latin nasci “to be born.” So this is an ecology–the relationships of organisms with their surroundings and each other–of what is born.  A system of what is real.  A system of dimensions of reality that are always present, in everything.  What do you know about what is already born?

One way to look at this is through your experience.  You experience creative thoughts, insights.  They seem to come from somewhere.  Some people are better at knowing how and where to access them, on a sporadic or more continuous basis.  Possibilities are there for us to access.  There are specific ways that groups of us see how to manifest possibilities.  It seems that each group of people develops its own way of making meaning out of experience and of finding particular pathways to manifest those possibilities.  We often call this a culture.  You experience the difference in these cultures when you move from one group to another, whether meeting people in another town, another discipline, another country.  Some people are better at seeing the nuances in culture, and others at moving across cultures.  You experience outcomes, nouns, things that seem to be “already completed.”  These are forms that we see, which we can use for other purposes.  A piece of paper, an apple, a profit.  Something that, for an instant, is here now, a noun.  These forms that we can see and engage with also change over time.  Technical and social innovations constantly produce new and obsolete forms.  Some people, such as designers and artists, are able to see forms in possibilities and how to shape them.  A smart phone, the internet, speed dates, slaves, feudalism.  New forms come, old forms go.

You experience extension over space and time.  A fabric in which we live.  Some of us perceive these dimensions in very subtle ways, some perceive over great spans of spacetime, and some of us experience the expanse of spacetime more unconsciously.   You experience movement through space and time.  Some of us are more subtle in our awareness of this movement and some more expansive.  You experience the ability to witness, to experience that something is happening.  You experience this as learning, as change, as evolution.  You are not the same person as ten years ago, or as one year ago, or even as one hour ago.  Things have changed.  Some people are very attuned to this evolutionary process, the cyclic spiral of coming back to the same experience from a new place in spacetime, seeing it anew.

You experience things in their reflections.  We perceive things in their reflection off of something else.  We do not see light: we see the reflection of light off of something else.  Psychologists suggest that we also learn about ourselves by seeing ourselves reflected off of others.  Some people are very aware of these reflections, experiencing very subtle dimensions of what is happening in the reflections off surfaces, off of faces, in body gestures.  You experience form and direction.  Something pulls you in life, to other people, to your avocation.  It is an attraction, a calling, a purpose.  Most people feel the attraction, the pull, and respond to it, consciously and unconsciously, all of the time.  Some people are highly attuned to this attractive force, to recognizing it, naming it, and inviting others into engaging with it.  You experience energy.  Whether it is the energy of life that sustains us, the energy in a relationship or an activity, the electricity in life, or the lack of energy in many groups, we sense it.  Some people are finely adjusted to different forms of energy, able to synch with it or be highly affected by its presence or the lack of it.  You experience love.  Whether it is the love of another person, what you do, a place, an animal, an activity, nature or spirit, you experience it.  Some people are deeply moved by this love, orienting their lives to its expression.

Ten properties or dimensions of nature that are present in everything always, some of which you access more consciously, more readily, than others.  They are all there, all of the time, properties if you will of what is already born, of nature, of your reality.  Whether you access them frequently or infrequently is more a question of your awareness and your practice.  They are there, so they are available, always.

Another way to look at what is already born, what is real, is through physics (from Greek for the knowledge of nature), which has developed supersymmetric string theory.  Through the math of physics, attempting to develop a theory that explains the phenomenon we experience, physicists have come up with 10+ dimensions of reality.  The first three dimensions are length, height, and depth.  The fourth dimension is time.  These first four constitute the spacetime fabric we experience.  The fifth dimension is a different expression of the same 4-dimensional spacetime, where other outcomes, cultures, and possibilities come into being.

The sixth dimension starts with the same initial conditions as our reality, allowing for a plane of different expressions of 4-dimensional space.  The seventh dimension starts with the same universal constants, allowing for different initial conditions.  The mirrors or reflections are constant, and the witnessing forms of evolution vary.  The eighth dimension starts with different universal constants.  Energy still reflects, but is witnessed in different ways.

The ninth dimension is a plane of all the different laws of physics possible, with different universal constants and different initial conditions.  Pure energy.  The tenth dimension starts with all possible reasons for existence of all possible forms, with different expressions of energy or not energy, other purposes, other pulls, the ultimate reason for existence.  After that, there is the before existence, the primordial (from the Latin primordium for the first beginning), the creative force.  Existence comes after or from this force.  

Each of these dimensions described by physics seems to relate to the dimensions of reality we experience, as described above.  Adding these dimensions up, I experience that I exist.  I have form that extends over space.  I evolve over time.  I witness my experience.  I co-create my experience.  I form the pull to love.  I am love and energy.  Subtracting these dimensions, I also feel the pull of intention, I see the calling, I experience a call, I experience change, and I am here now.

So, as beings of nature, we all experience all of these dimensions of reality, of nature, all of the time.  This means that they are part of us, part of everything in and around us, always.  The trick is to know how to work with these dimensions.  Each of us seems to be wired, whether through evolution, mutation, or curiosity, to be able to work directly with some of these dimensions more so than others.  And, there they are.  Available to all of us all of the time, if we want.  Part of what is already here, already born, and we already knew that.

Ancient Systems Thinkers, 2550 Years and Counting

At least since 570-550 BCE, twenty years that saw the birth of PythagorasSiddhārtha Gautama, Lao-Tsu, and Kong Qiu, there have been many great observers of humanity, who have named a reality that has had a major influence on society for hundreds to thousands of years.  These philosophers were all great systems thinkers, asking the big questions of human existence and developing whole systems to understand, live by, and live within these pictures of reality.

At least 2,550 years of philosophers, right up to today, have seen whole systems that describe:

  1. the basic stocks of life, those essential elements human life depends on — here they have developed the economic question of how much resource there is and how to get more of it
  2. the inflows and outflows of these basic stocks, influencing whether there is enough or not, over time — here they have developed the political question of who decides and enforces who has access to the stocks and the surplus of these stocks
  3. the information flows influencing the decisions made in the inflows and outflows, determining what criteria are used to decide — here they have developed the cultural question of what values are used to decide, and what symbols are used to represent those values and who are the identity holders for a group
  4. the relationships amongst the information flows, inflows and outflows, and basic stocks — here they have developed the social question of how we interact, the principles, standards, and rules of the game

In designing these whole systems, with stocks, flows, information, and connections amongst them all, these philosophers, dating back at least 2,550 years have been master systems thinkers.  Systems thinking is not new, but it is complex, and the few people who have had disproportionately huge influences on how the rest of us live our lives, embraced this complexity and designed whole systems that addressed all four questions at the same time.  Pythagoras influenced western thought through Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. Siddhārtha Gautama created Buddhism. Loa-Tsu delineated Taoism.  Kong Qiu described Confucianism.  A pretty impactful twenty-year period, in the beginning of at least 2,550 years of systems thinking.  It is our turn to take the next step, to take on the design of the whole like they did so many years ago.

You Cannot Rule Resilience — It’s The Principle of the Thing

We want our efforts to have an impact.  If we invest a lot of effort, we want the impact to last longer.  The impact we want is the result of effort we put into a system: our family, our kid’s school, our church, our work, the local community, a regional initiative, a global change effort.  A sustained impact requires that the system we are putting our efforts into be resilient.

And, life happens. As life happens, things in the system change.  People get older.  New people are born.  People change jobs.  Local perspectives or conditions change.  New politicians are elected.  New products arrive in the market.  As all of these things continuously change, they change the system they interact in.  To sustain the impact of our efforts, the systems we put those efforts into need to be resilient to these changes.  Resilience, in this context, means the ability to adjust to changes (from the Latin resiliens, to jump back), to absorb these changes without collapsing into a qualitatively different form with a different set of processes.

Impact resilience, sustained impact from the co-investment of our efforts, requires that we rethink how we design, lead, and administer our systems. Many of the words we use to describe the design, leadership, and administration of human systems come from the same PIE root *reg- “move in a straight line.”  To rule, to reign, to regulate, and all of their derivatives, such as sovereignty, regimen, regulation, orient our designs, leadership, and administration towards directing in a straight line, towards stability, towards sameness.  And, life happens, which moves  us and the systems we interact in away from sameness and stability.  Impact resilience is about working with the changes, not against them.  The changes will happen, all of the time, in every system, so our efforts are more resilient when we work with the fact of changes.

One way to be more resilient is to shift from thinking about rules to standards and principles.  John Rawls, a moral and political philosopher, highlighted in his book, A Theory of Justice, the differences amongst the terms rules, standards, and principles.

Rules are straight lines, asking yes/no questions, looking for triggering conditions that something is changing, seeking predictability and certainty.  Ex ante, the thinking is that this rule should and will provide this stability.  Put it in place, and let it work.

Standards are balancing feedback systems, with a gap between a stated goal and the actual state driving action that changes the actual state, like a thermostat.  This system looks for balancing factors in a set of relevant considerations and options, providing a range of choices.  Ex post, this thinking asks whether this standard maintained the behavior within a desired range.

Principles are systems to be considered, providing guardrails for the feedback loops–standards–to include, and how the choices made in actions might be interpreted.  In reflection, this thinking asks whether the system of standards and rules under consideration increases resilience of the desired impact.

By working with principles, we are designing the systems we put our efforts into to embrace the changes that will happen continuously, constantly adjusting, asking the questions and considering the choices in actions that can be taken to continue to meet the standards we set.

There is nothing wrong with rules and standards.  Impact resilience comes from organizing our efforts in systems based on principles, where the standards and rules play their part in increasing the ability of the system to jump back, to be resilient to changes.  Low resilience often comes from focusing only on the rules, and not being clear about the implicit standards and guiding principles in the system.

This requires that we rethink all of the terms and processes based primarily on ruling, regulating and reigning, reframing them as principle-based systems that embrace the changes that will happen, because the system is alive.  We want our efforts to have impact, resilient impact: that is the principle of the thing.

How Do We Figure Out How To Pay Attention To The Needs of Everyone Everywhere Every Day?

Everyone has a different genotype. Therefore, for optimal development..everyone should have a different environment,” according to James M Tanner, an expert on body growth and development  (JM Tanner, Foetus into Man, 1990, Harvard University Press: Cambridge MA, p.120).  According to Wikipedia, the genotype is the part of the genetic makeup of a cell, which determines a specific characteristic (phenotype) of that cell/organism/individual. Genotype is one of three factors that determine phenotype, the other two being inherited epigenetic factors, and non-inherited environmental factors.  Not all organisms with the same genotype look or act the same way because appearance and behavior are modified by environmental and developmental conditions. Likewise, not all organisms that look alike necessarily have the same genotype.

In other words, we are all different, so the environment we each have, the systems and agreement structures that support each of us and we each support, should be designed to meet each of us.  Well, that seems like a hard problem to solve.

It seems really hard to figure out how to meet everyone’s needs all of the time.  Philosophers have been worrying about this for thousands of years.  Is it better to let everyone figure this out for themselves, which free-market philosophers love, or is it better to calculate the best good for the most, which utilitarian-collectivist philosophers love, or is it best to make sure everyone gets the same treatment, whether it is great, good, or not so good, which egalitarian-justice philosophers love?  While they all acknowledge that it would be better to satisfy everyone everywhere all of the time, it is just too hard to do, so they have developed self-acknowledged, suboptimal solutions, for which they have to make some rather radical simplifying assumptions.  Well, they say, it works for many folks much of the time, which is better than nothing.

Maybe it is time to let go of this assumption that it is too hard to do.  We have placed the robot Philae on a comet and the New Horizons probe has passed Pluto, while still sending back data and pictures over a very long distance.  We have grown the world economy to over US$100 trillion, we generate about 4 billion tonnes of food a year, and we have created a network of roads extending over 20 million miles across the globe.  These are amazing accomplishments, which we have achieved because people set themselves to figuring it out: they made it important.  It was very hard to figure out, and they did.  It took 100 years for a lot of people to figure out how to test part of Einstein’s theory of relativity, but they did, and for that some of them won this year’s Nobel Prize in Physics.

So if we can figure out these things, why can’t we figure out how to understand the needs of 7.6 billion people?  They are right here, and we can ask. Maybe it is because we don’t think it is important enough to figure out.  Maybe it is time we do, and maybe we now have many of the tools we will need to do so.  And maybe some people are starting to figure this out, and we should find out what they are learning.  We could start by understanding the memetic code of the agreements fields that most influence each of us, and then, like the influence of the genotype, epigenetic, and environmental factors, we could begin to understand the evolution of the metamemetics and epimemetics of the agreements fields that most influence each of us–how we unconsciously accept and consciously choose the interwoven set of mostly hidden agreements that most influence each of us.  That might be a good start, one we could take now.

You Are Different AND Relevant: That Is Why I Need You

“In a community of knowledge, what matters more than having knowledge is having access to knowledge”…”The different bits of knowledge that different members of the community have must be compatible” (Sloman, S, and P. Fernbach. 2017. The Knowledge Illusion, New York: Riverhead Books, pp.124, 126).

To know what I need to know, I can either input everything I need to know into my brain and remember it, or I can know that it exists and where to access it when needed.  It turns out that our brains are leaky.  We forget most things that we see, and we remember wrong many things we think we remember.  And we are relatively good at finding out where to access knowledge, according to Professors Sloman and Fernabch, who I quoted above.

From the perspective of collaboration and co-hosting, the need to include others’ perspectives is the second step of the O Process for collaborative co-hosting.  The first step is to identify the deeper shared purpose that brings everyone together, uniting their will towards a common future.  The second step is to include those voices, those unique perspectives, that are required to generate the possibility of this deeper shared purpose.  Most things that bring people together, like K-12 education, medical care, or food systems require many different perspectives to come together, in a specific way.  The second step of the O Process invites in those different perspectives that we need.  We need them because they are different, because they see the world differently, and they contribute a different perspective.

While this second step seems obvious to everyone I work with–the need for differently-minded people–most do not act as if it were obvious.  Most who say they get this, then fill the room with like-minded people, not differently-minded people.  I also observe that most people in most meetings are not clear why their specific perspective is needed in the room, nor are they clear on why the voices or perspectives of the other people in the room are needed.  Not being clear on why I or others are in the room leads most people to not listen carefully, to not listen intently, and to not inquire into the differences someone else is seeing.  Conversely, when we are clear that we need other specific perspectives, then we are intent on understanding what they are seeing, what they are uniquely bringing to what we are seeing together.  Completely different processes, experiences, and outcomes.

When I combine this observation with the three levels of collaboration I have described before, I see three ways people relate to their own knowledge and accessing that of others.

  1. When the group process is designed for segregation, I am clear that “I need” something.  I am paying attention to what I need to give and get from any given situation, at most looking to see what I can get from others, if they are aligned with giving me what I need.
  2. When the group process is designed for flocking, I know that “I need others.”  I pay attention to what I need and what others need, as we move in the same space, sometimes working on our own and sometimes cooperating.
  3. When the group process is designed for uniting, I see that “I need specific others.”  I am clear about what we are collectively trying to achieve together, our deeper shared purpose, and the need for very specific perspectives to achieve that deeper shared purpose.  I pay attention to the deeper shared purpose, to each person’s perspective, and to how these perspectives shine light on what we want to achieve.  I need each person to be different, united in a deeper shared purpose, and committed to collaborating with each other on that purpose.

I need you, because you are different, and because you are relevant, like I am, to what we want to give our will to, to the future we want to achieve.

Independent Action In An Interdependent Reality–Ecosynomic Agency

What does it mean to act on one’s own, making one’s own decisions?  It turns out that we do not have a single answer for that; rather a few, depending on who you ask.  A word we use to describe acting on one’s own, making one’s own decisions, is “agency.”  There are at least four major definitions of what agency is, each suggesting that their definition is the only and right one.  There are distinct definitions from economics, political science, cultural anthropology, and sociology: what I call the four lenses on one experience.  The problem is that they each have evolved to point at different aspects of the experience of agency, based on what they primarily focus on in the human experience.  I suggest that we can learn something by taking the dimensions of your experience that they each point at and putting them together into a greater whole.

Economic agency.  In economics an agent acts on behalf of a principal to influence the use of the principal’s resources, in ways that benefit the principal’s interests.  Agency theory in economics is seen as part of the field of contract theory, where the challenge is seen as designing a contract whereby the self-interested agent will act in the principal’s interests.

Political agency.  From a political science perspective, one has different degrees of freedom to decide for oneself and to enforce one’s own decisions, based on access to power.  Agency is, “the degree to which individual actors have the capacity to act independently and to make their own decisions…[with] access to political power, financial resources, and information” (2016, Matson, Clark, Andersson, Pursuing Sustainability, p 89).

Cultural anthropologic agency.  In cultural anthropology, one acts from a set of values, determined by one’s culture, and one’s actions influence how those values manifest.  From a cultural perspective, agency is “the temporarily constructed engagement by actors of different structural environments which, through the interplay of habit, imagination, and judgment, both reproduces and transforms those structures in interactive response to the problems posed by changing historical situations” (2000, Ratner, Journal for The Theory of Social Behavior, p 413).

Sociological agency.  In sociology, the ability to act on one’s own interweaves with the social structures in which one exists.  “Agency is the capacity of individuals to act independently and to make their own free choices.  By contrast, structure is those factors of influence (such as social class, religion, gender, ethnicity, ability, customs, etc.) that determine or limit an agent and his or her decisions. The relative difference in influences from structure and agency is debated – it is unclear to what extent a person’s actions are constrained by social systems” (Wikipedia).  What determines what you do? You, your social context, or a structure that interweaves the two?

So, agency is influencing the use of resources, yours or someone else’s, based on your access to power and resources, towards specific values, yours or someone else’s, within the context of your social structure.  While theories like Gidden’s structuration attempt to blend all of these, each discipline (the four lenses) continues to promote its primary focus (whether resources, decision and enforcement power, values, or contexts of interactions) as the only significant determinant of agency.

What we want to see about agency, ecosynomically, is that your ability to make choices depends on the agreements you see, from each of the four lenses, about:

  • what resources are relevant to what you want to choose, and which ones you can access (economic lens)
  • who influences the decisions, who enforces them, and what power you can have over both, whether you choose to play along or not (political lens)
  • what values guide the actions you take, for yourself, and the consequences of those actions on the values of others (cultural lens)
  • how the structure of agreements you are in–the written and unwritten rules of the game–influence the actions you can take, and whether you accept them (social lens)

These are four areas of choices you can make.  That is agency, ecosynomically.

Why We Start With Our Own Experience And Our Deeper Shared Purpose–I Wonder

Over the past two decades, my colleagues and I have found that people engage the most when we start with what they know from their own experience and with what they care about most.  This means that we start all interactions with these questions, in some form: What do you know about this, from your own experience?; and Why do you care so much about this?  With both questions, we have found that we can tap into each individual’s deeper curiosity, which it seems is deeply connected to the will they give to a future they love.

We find that starting with these two questions is infinitely more powerful than starting with answers.  Yet, most people seem to start with answers that they want others to understand and engage in than starting with questions.  You can try this for yourself, and let me know what you see.  What happens when you ask someone what they know about something they are working on with you, from their own experience?  Can you find a way to connect, through further inquiry, their experience to what you are working on?  What happens when you ask someone why they care about what they are working on?  And, why they care about that?

We find that very quickly we discover that people already know many things that they don’t realize they know, from their own experience, so you don’t have to try to convince them.  They just told themselves that they already knew that, consciously or unconsciously.  And when we ask people what they really care about, we find that people in a given situation are usually more deeply aligned than they originally thought.  We have two frameworks for working with these two questions.

In the 37-word diagram, we suggest that people interact, period.  In their interactions, they have an experience and they achieve outcomes.  What happens in these interactions is determined in great part by the agreements underlying how they interact.  From their own experience, they actually know a lot about the experience they are having, the outcomes they are achieving, and the underlying agreements they have consciously chosen or unconsciously accepted.  This framework works with the question of what do you know from your own experience.

In the O Process, we start with the question of what people in a given effort most care about, seeking the deeper shared purpose that pulls them tougher.  With clarity about this deeper shared purpose, we have achieved amazingly resilient impacts: without that clarity, people achieve very little and are usually highly disengaged.

So, on our better days, we start with a deep, “I wonder.”  That opens the space for our own reflections and those of and with others; a powerful place to start.

How to SCALE 1.0 — Strategic Clarity to Accelerate Large-system Evolution

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY.  The challenge is always there.  Our experience tells us that our current reality is not working.  It is not achieving the outcomes our deeper values tell us it should.  While we know that, in some way or another, we have agreed to the system that we have today, it is hard to see what will fundamentally change it.  This is true for our experience of health care, education, work, money, environment–many of the large systems that we live in and that directly influence our lives every day.  We therefore live with the questions of how can these systems evolve, how can we accelerate and scale that evolution?

Fortunately, many people are trying to figure this out.  And they have come up with many frameworks and processes that seem to work.  To find one that works for you, I suggest two guiding principles: SCALE and CRISP.  One principle for the what and one for the how.

  1. SCALE. The SCALE principle shows what the process needs to help you do.
  2. CRISP.  The CRISP principle shows how it needs to do it.



THE WHAT — What does the process you use to change large systems need to enable you to do?  Scale.  SCALE stands for strategic clarity to accelerate large-system evolution.

Strategic Clarity — To have strategic clarity is to understand what the system is and how to move it, and how to communicate that understanding.

What is.  You need to understand what system you actually have.  Approaches to describing the system follow 4 basic steps.

First, they start by defining the system of interest, which is bounded by the dynamics generating the experience you are having.

Second, they then take a macro-systems look to understand how the dynamics of the relevant parts generate the experience.  The method guides you to see which experience, behavior over time, parts, and dynamics are relevant.

Third, the approach then takes a micro-systems perspective to understand how each relevant stakeholder in the system makes sense out of the world, from their own perspective.

Fourth, the approach then provides a meso-systems perspective to show how the micro perspectives interact to generate the macro perspective, and how changes in the micro-level perspectives or meso-level interactions can generate a different macro-level behavior.

These four basic steps describe the system you actually have–what is.  It might also help you to think of the system as an agreements field, a field of agreements we have consciously chosen and unconsciously accepted that determines our interactions, and the subsequent experiences and outcomes.

Barriers to understanding what is.  Exhaustive research over the past 70 years has proven that we humans are strong in knowing what outcomes we want and what we experience, and we are weak in understanding the systems and dynamics that generate those experiences and outcomes.  Popularized in the past decade through behavioral economics, cognitive psychology, and the decision sciences, this scientific research shows that people tend to be quite poor processors of the types of complexity required for understanding systems.  This research has also found stellar examples of where people are able to overcome these barriers.  Three basic barriers to understand how to SCALE and methods for overcoming them include finding a deeper share purpose, seeing each perspective and its contribution, and holding it all together.

Defining a deeper shared purpose–people come together to achieve a deeper purpose that they cannot achieve on their own. While many say they have a shared purpose, they do not.  The approach should clarify what this is for the group, usually through inquiry, asking people why they care about the experiences and outcomes in the first place.

Seeing each perspective–most people think two things.  (1) They know what everyone else is thinking, or should be thinking, about any given topic, and (2) nobody else understands the richness of what they are thinking.  And, if I don’t know what I think myself, until I ask myself, until I think about it, how can anyone else know what I think?  Since most people do this, we all have mistaken pictures in our heads of other people’s realities.  The amazing technological breakthrough to crush this ubiquitous phenomenon?  The question.  Ask.  Inquiry-based approaches ask each perspective to describe their reality and then provide some form for validating it–confirming that the picture describes their reality, as they perceive it.

Holding it all together–most people are not able to hold more than a couple of moving thoughts in their head at a time.  Many graphically oriented processes, as described by the Strategic Clarity steps above, support people in building up a systemic understanding piece by piece, putting all of the pieces together graphically, so that they can all be held in the same space together.

Strategic decision making.  Once you overcome the barriers to strategic clarity, you have an understanding of what the system is.  The approach now guides you to decide (1) where to support what exists, and (2) where to start what does not exist.  Most of the existing parts of the system need to continue doing what they are doing–they are the basic infrastructure of the whole system–and some new things need to start, to shift the behavior of the whole system.  Support for on-going activities and initiation of new activities both require a process for all of the relevant stakeholders to decide how they will take on their respective roles.

Accelerating large-system evolution.  With this strategic clarity, the approaches now focus on how to accelerate the evolution of the large system.  Leading approaches draw from rigorous methodologies for collaborative tangibilization.

Collaboration.  To achieve the outcomes and experiences we all want, the approach is designed to unite us in going through a process to see what is, overcome the barriers, and achieve what we want for each of us and the whole.  Supported by the technical rigor of the strategic clarity steps described above, people are able to ask of each other, in these approaches, what do we know?  This is where human experience, intuition, and reflection excel.  Collaborative approaches interweave processes for accessing the individual and collective wisdom and the knowledge gained from the strategic clarity synthesis.

Tangibilization.  To tangibilize is to make tangible, to see a possibility, to see a pathway to manifest that possibility, to see an outcome along that pathway, and to adjust once one has witnessed what tangibilizes in the process.  This is evolution–learning along the way.  It  is about how to see what we want, a pathway to that outcome, while learning and adjusting as we evolve towards that outcome.  Tangibilization approaches build in evolutionary learning into the process, witnessing at each step along the way, what is being seen in possibilities, pathways, and outcomes, evolving as those in the system learn.  This is what we thought might happen, this is how we chose to test it, and this is what we learned, so now we will adjust what we think might happen.  Over and over again, by design.

The approach you take on should guide you to greater (1) strategic clarity and (2) accelerating large-system evolution.  For an example of a strategic systems-decision synthesis process my colleagues and I have developed in over a hundred change efforts over the past two dozen years, see Strategic Clarity 2.0.

THE HOW — How do the framework and process help you get SCALE?  CRISP stands for comprehensive, rigorous, integrative, simple, and purposeful.  As I did elsewhere, here I present the five CRISP criteria in a slightly different order.

Purposeful — The purposeful criterion of CRISP requires that the strategic process be clear why we are doing this process–the organizing essence of what we are trying to realize together. This is also known as the essential property of the system–the reason for which it exists, for which it self-organizes.

Comprehensive — The comprehensive criterion of CRISP requires that the strategic process provide a clear understanding of the boundaries of what is included as relevant and what is not included.

Integrative — The integrative criterion of CRISP requires that the strategic process make explicit the relationships among the different dimensions, perspectives, elements, and processes.

Rigorous — The rigorous criterion of CRISP requires that the strategic process be observable in reality, and reproducible.

Simple — The simple criterion of CRISP requires that the strategic process be simple enough to be understood.  This means that it must align with the rich complexity the human being is capable of understanding, not under or overwhelming them by dumbing down, oversimplifying, or overcomplicating the strategic process.

The CRISP criteria assess the degree to which a strategic framework and process support you, the strategist, in understanding what the system intends to achieve and how it works.

As you face daunting challenges, the SCALE and CRISP principles can guide your search for practitioners who provide large-scale-change frameworks and processes that can work with you to achieve the experiences and outcomes you believe are possible.