Reading Agreements Evidence Maps

What we want to see

Our daily experiences, outcomes, and the impact resilience of our efforts are deeply influenced by a set of deep, underlying agreements that we rarely see and usually accept unconsciously—a vast array of interwoven, socially embedded, economic, political, cultural and social assumptions.  If we want more engaging experiences, better outcomes, and more resilient impacts, we need to see these agreements, so that we can choose the ones we want.  These agreements are usually hard to see and unknot.  We have been developing the Agreements Evidence Map to help.

What the AEMap is

The Agreements Evidence Map (AEMap) provides four classic “lenses” on one experience—questions humanity has asked for many, many years—the economic, political, cultural, and social.  The AEMap focuses these four very different lenses on the same experience, highlighting very different aspects of that experience—how much is perceived to be available of what resources, who decides and enforces how those resources are allocated, what criteria are used to decide, and how everyone interacts.  The AEMap also distinguishes three “levels” of an experience: the possibility, development, and outcomes levels.  The AEMap process maps the “evidence” of the agreements in any given situation, as seen through these four lenses and these three levels.

What the AEMap shows us

When filled with the “evidence” of the agreements in any given situation, the AEMap gives one a deeper sense of what is possible in a specific set of agreements and what is still possible to gain from shifting the agreements.  Our research and practice over the past decade, applied in a dozen countries, coupled with survey results from 98 countries, shows that the agreements underlying groups that are disengaging versus engaging, attacking versus cooperative versus collaborative are completely different.

How to read the AEMap

In the AEMap we can also see, which agreements are well codified and in everyone’s awareness (colored green), which are frequently experienced often beacuse of specific people or processes (colored yellow), which are rare (colored red), and which ones have never been experienced (colored white).

By highlighting what agreements are evidenced in one’s experience, the agreements that would lead to a more engaging, more collaborative experience become obvious.  You can see many examples here.

Scaling Impact — What We Are Learning from BUILD UPON Cambridge, Madrid, and Brussels

In this 4th of a series of 4 blogposts, we share what we are learning, as co-investors with BUILD UPON and the European Climate Foundation, about: (1) co-hosting collaboration; (2) realizing the deeper shared purpose; (3) measuring impact resilience; and (4) scaling impact.

SCALING IMPACT

In BUILD UPON, we are working regionally, as Europe, across 28 member states, and within each member state.  We have spent the last two years working with thousands of stakeholder groups who influence the building renovation, renewable energy, and energy efficiency industries, across geographic, economic, political, cultural, and social diversities.  To scale the impact of all of this local, national, and regional work, we saw that six steps were necessary.  

“What it means to renovate the entire building stock. It means comfort.  It means better housing, more energy security. It means engagement.  We need to get industry stakeholders, policy makers, finance, all together, and that needs to be sustained over time.”

Celine Carre, Saint-Gobain

First, we need to identify the one, unifying deeper shared purpose that would bring us together to collaborate across all of these diversities.  We achieved a next step towards this with our Common Vision, developed with 100+ stakeholder representatives in Madrid, described in the earlier blogpost “Realizing the Deeper Shared Purpose.”

BUILD UPON social network analysis, EU member states

Second, we need to gather the people together, around this deeper shared purpose.  People who are committed to shifting the economic, environmental, health, and social impacts of energy and buildings in Europe.  We have a critical mass of those people engaged in BUILD UPON, ready to move forward together.

Third, thousands of positive deviants are figuring out many of the parts of this, within their own specific cultures.  We need to identify them, study them, and showcase them, so that others at the local, national, and regional levels can learn from and with them about their technical and social innovations.

Fourth, we need to gather with each other and learn from each other, taking advantage of the many platforms for learning with and from each other that already exist, are gaining broad support, and are evolving and maturing.

Fifth, we are now clear that through collaboration, we can achieve far more together than we can alone or through simple cooperation—more, in the same places, at the same time, regionally, nationally, and locally.

Sixth, we have already begun to experience the very tangible impacts and greater resilience of co-hosting this collaboration together.

So, now we are focusing simultaneously on regional, national, and local-level efforts, highlighting what we are learning about (1) our best efforts everywhere, (2) local positive deviants, (3) how to share insights across professional, industrial, geographic, and linguistic cultures, and (4) coming across with a simple and effective measurement system that allows us to focus on the impacts we want to generate and to track the collective effort at the same time we capture feedback to improve local and national initiatives.  We have to, because we agree that it is important to achieve our social impacts, and to achieve them we see clearly that we must collaborate.

We thank our colleagues at the European Climate Foundation (ECF), the BUILD UPON team, the co-hosts (link to previous blog in series on “co-hosting collaboration), the Madrid participants, the Institute for Strategic Clarity, and Vibrancy—all co-investors in this process together.

Measuring Impact Resilience — What We Are Learning from BUILD UPON Cambridge, Madrid, and Brussels

In this 3rd of a series of 4 blogposts, we share what we are learning, as co-investors with BUILD UPON and the European Climate Foundation, about: (1) co-hosting collaboration; (2) realizing the deeper shared purpose; (3) measuring impact resilience; and (4) scaling impact.

MEASURING IMPACT RESILIENCE

The potential we see.  With a shared deeper purpose that brings many diverse stakeholders together, across many countries and industries, the BUILD UPON effort is now ready to ground this abstract purpose, making it a daily reality for all of these stakeholders, showing how they can work together, from their own worlds, in achieving something bigger, locally, nationally, and regionally.  Measurement can support that grounding process, by clarifying:

  1. what we mean by our shared purpose, in very specific terms
  2. how we plan to achieve our purpose, with the unique contribution of each of our efforts
  3. how we can identify and highlight what we are each learning in the development of technical and social innovations

In many organizations, we measure because we are expected to measure, and we manage to the measures.  The reason to measure and manage to the measures is given, by someone else.  While the apparent simplicity of some measures might make them seem straightforward, they rarely are.  For example, profits are revenues minus costs.  For more profits, increase the revenues and decrease the costs.  Simple, until the methods for increasing revenues increase costs faster, or the ways to decrease costs also decrease revenues, such as lower product or service quality.  Or, to decrease the environmental impact of buildings, increase the number of renovated buildings, by increasing demand.  You can do this by making people do it through regulations or by making it cheaper to do through subsidies.  Simple, until the regulations make the technologies much more expensive or the subsidies outpace the supply.

From an impact resilience perspective, we are looking for a more systemic understanding that integrates the multiple stakeholder perspectives on the impacts we are trying to achieve.  With this integrated perspective, we can measure a systemic set of indicators that let us know how resilient we are in achieving our systemic set of impacts.  

To compensate for a lack of clarity of what we are trying to achieve amongst many stakeholder perspectives, we tend to believe that lots of measurement — lots of variable and lots of data — shows that we are very serious.  We measure dozens to hundreds of key performance indicators (KPIs).  To measure lots of variables, we tend to focus on easier to measure variables that are often means to an unspecified, higher-order purpose of the whole effort.  We also leave measures of creativity and collaboration out of the equation, since they seem hard to measure, yet they are critical to the generative processes of creative collaboration.

In the development of a scorecard for impact resilience, we look for a small set of measures that cover the higher-order impacts we want, the strategic areas we want to impact, and the processes that leverage our impact.  While this small set of 10-15 measures can be supported by more detailed reports, specifying how they were achieved in more detail, we want to focus on the most strategic variables and our narrative—our theory of impact resilience—of how they all fit together.  We want to use proxies that directly let us know how we are doing on the strategic variables.  In the impact resilience scorecard, we attempt to do this.

“Committing to measuring process, strategic, social impacts on local, national, international levels would allow the stakeholders joining multilevel collaborative platforms to see the whole and the meaning of their (and others) contribution, but also to improve the way those platforms can work together and, so, achieve greater impact. Sharing simple, meaningful proxies, would allow necessary flexibility, and to get a clear sense of the final purposes all over a complex group of groups. Moreover, and crucially, learnings from best practices could grow geometrically with the network’s dimensions, increasing the ability to be effective, and resilient over time.”

— Sebastiano Cristoforetti, International and Certification Manager, GBC Italia

What we might do.  To assess social, strategic, and process impacts across Europe, at the local, national, and regional levels simultaneously, we can develop a coherent set of a few measures that we can track to identify the common impacts and the specific innovations happening at each level.  As we saw in an earlier blog in this series [link to blogpost “Realizing the Deeper Shared Purpose,”] we developed a draft “Common Vision” with a wide-ranging group of stakeholders across the energy efficiency, renewable energies, and building renovation communities.  The following systems map captures the key elements of that Common Vision, showing how they all fit together (see the blogpost “Realizing the Deeper Shared Purpose” for a description of the systems map).

As these collaborative-process efforts drive the strategic areas and subsequently the social impacts, the growing demand and supply for renovation drives a scaling factor that accelerates social and technical innovation.  Having the clarity of the purpose we share and the dynamics of our system, we can focus the measurement scorecard on the critical variables that express the impacts we want to achieve together.

To measure these social, strategic, and process impacts, we can simplify the work of BUILD UPON into 12 high-level metrics, which can then be supported with detailed metrics, showing systemically how they influence each of the high-level impacts.

The metrics in an Impact Resilience Scorecard, exemplified in the figure above, highlight the social, strategic, and process impacts of a system that leads to greater resilience of the renovation system, at the local, member state, and European levels.  Proxies for each impact measure are provided, which could also include current levels and agreed-upon target levels.

After being exposed to this systemic and high-impact approach to measuring individual and collective success, the participants were asked to reflect on, “What would I need to know and share to fully step up and invest in the future we started to see together?”  The participants shared the need for more knowledge on positively deviating behavior of other members, to be able to increase their own success. Furthermore, they highlighted the importance of continuing the conversation on a strategic level to support their ability to increase their impact and strengthen their resilience. See movie footage here of what they shared.

What could happen.  Much greater collaboration is possible, and it means that the many stakeholders involved in energy efficiency, renewable energies, and building renovation have to see the value in it.  It has to become more than a nice exercise; it has to be interwoven into their ability to succeed individually and together. Collaborative impact is a simple choice, not a complicated option.  A choice we can make every day.  Like the groups we are finding around the world, members of BUILD UPON too can choose their experience and the outcomes they  achieve.
We thank our colleagues at the European Climate Foundation (ECF), the BUILD UPON team, the World Green Building Council, the co-hosts, the Madrid and Brussels participants, the Institute for Strategic Clarity, and Vibrancy—all co-investors in this process together.

Realizing the Deeper Shared Purpose — What We Are Learning from BUILD UPON Cambridge, Madrid, and Brussels

In this 2nd of a series of 4 blogposts, we share what we are learning, as co-investors with BUILD UPON and the European Climate Foundation, about: (1) co-hosting collaboration; (2) realizing the deeper shared purpose; (3) measuring impact resilience; and (4) scaling impact.

REALIZING THE DEEPER SHARED PURPOSE

The potential we saw. To achieve its goal of “cutting Europe’s energy use, reducing the impacts of climate change, and creating buildings that deliver a high quality of life for everyone,” BUILD UPON believes that, “changing the way we work together will lead to strong, well implemented renovation strategies over time. Success is therefore about establishing and maintaining innovative platforms for cross-sector collaboration and partnership.  Europe’s renovation revolution can only be achieved if governments, businesses, NGOs and householders come together: individually, our resources are insufficient to meet this challenge, but collectively we can achieve the impact needed to make our buildings the best they can be.”

“The process gave me the tools to progress in a direction that I intuitively felt was needed to build widespread support beyond the energy efficiency community. We need to engage with stakeholders that don’t yet see a direct benefit to their respective causes or objectives. This will happen most effectively by finding common ground, which starts with understanding their values and perspectives. We have seen good examples of such leadership in the campaigns and coalitions we have been supporting, demonstrating that successful engagement and alignment with a wide variety of stakeholders increases the overall impact of our advocacy efforts.”

— Patty Fong, Programme Director of the Energy Efficiency Programme, European Climate Foundation

To collaborate at this level, the BUILD UPON leadership believed it was critical to invite in a broad set of stakeholders, representing many different facets of the built environment and energy systems across Europe to see what the deeper shared purpose that could unite them might be.  To facilitate this broad set of stakeholders, 32 leaders from the BUILD UPON and European Climate Foundation communities went through a advanced leadership capacity-building process  together 3 weeks before, in Cambridge UK (link to previous blogpost in this series), to build capacity in how to co-host collaboration.

What we did.  At the BUILD UPON Madrid Leaders Summit, the co-hosts, two to a table, co-hosted ten other leaders representing other stakeholder perspectives throughout the energy efficiency, renewable energy, and building renovation communities across Europe.  The co-hosted conversation inquired into the deeper purpose they all shared that brought them together.  This far-ranging conversation covered very different topics at each table, depending on the stakeholder perspectives at that table, and they all converged on the importance of a set of four social impacts they all shared (increasing economic development, decreasing the environmental and health impacts of energy and buildings, and increasing affordable housing), supported by a coherent set of strategic impacts in regulations, financial risk sharing, social capital, and technical innovation.

“Stakeholders are important for the process, but if they are not involved and do not feel that they are taking part in the process, they will not grasp the importance of their role and their added value. This is what co-hosting brings to the table: a chance for everyone to be involved and take part in the process of exchanging ideas and thoughts.  No matter which function someone held (minister or junior project manager), people took the time to listen to each other (with the help of co-hosts).”

— Alan Perl, BUILD UPON Project Manager, Croatia GBC

A table conversation in the BUILD UPON Madrid Leaders Summit

What came out of that process.  Out of that process in Madrid, we synthesized the input from the 16 tables, including 150 stakeholder perspectives, into one “Common Vision” statement.   

The following systems map captures the core elements of this synthesized statement and how the elements fit together as a coherent set.

How to read the systems map.  In essence, the variables in green represent the social impacts that the group of many stakeholders identified in their deeper shared purpose, through the co-hosted session in Madrid.  To be determined a success, the work must have an economic impact of generating more projects for companies and more jobs for individuals.  It also must lead to an environmental impact of dramatically lowering greenhouse gas emissions.  And it must have a positive impact on the health of its citizens and make housing more affordable.  All four social impacts must be achieved.

The variables in black represent the strategic impacts of the BUILD UPON work, all of which are needed together to renovate the building stock, in a way that generates the four required social impacts.  The economic impact depends on the activity of renovating buildings.  The environmental and health impacts depend on the resulting stock of renovated buildings. As described by the groups in Madrid, the activity of renovating buildings depends on supply and demand.  Increasing supply strategically is primarily a function of lowering financial risk and increasing demand, the combination of which will lead to more companies providing renovation services and building sufficient capacity to meet any demand.  Decreasing financial risk depends on sharing risk across multiple stakeholders, not just the investors, and on stabilizing demand by generating regulations that require renovation.  Both of these factors are strengthened by the generation of policies and regulations requiring renovation. Increasing demand strategically requires the people knowing that they have to renovate because of regulations requiring renovation, that people see that everyone else they know is renovating–it becomes a social norm–, it make more sense to renovate because technical innovation provides cheaper, smarter solutions, and because renovation is a good thing to do, since evidence shows the proven social benefits of renovation.

The variables in blue represent the process impacts that leverage each local renovation effort across member states and across Europe by working on (1) cross-sector, cross-member state collaboration, (2) showcasing the thousands of cases of positive deviants in technical and social innovations they find locally, (3) the creation of a clear, generalizable and at the same time specific message of how renovation is becoming a social norm, and (4) the creation of a social-engagement movement that supports the deeper shared purpose.

“While applying the ‘O Process’ methodology, we enhanced our collective capacity to read and approach systems, as such, to support the systemic change projects that we deem essential to ignite a renovation revolution. Energy efficiency, though, is a means to an end. Better, to a set of interconnected ends. Systemic change affects where a system goes, what it does, who influence it and, crucially, how it works. With respect to this, we learned to outline shared purposes (Why), to identify together possibilities and probabilities (at an early stage, What), and to upgrade effectiveness through collaboration (How). The corresponding distinctions and relationships between social, strategic and process goals and metrics become clearer, thanks to the overall process we’ve been experiencing, led by the ISC team.

The systemic nature of the challenges we’re facing requires us all to establish collaborative multi-sectoral platforms on local, national and international levels, consistent with the very nature of the Green Building Councils and of their networks. Moreover, those platforms should be connected towards a collective effort, local to national and national to international. That appears to be the biggest process innovation, broadly considering many diverse countries.”

— Sebastiano Cristoforetti, International and Certification Manager, GBC Italia

What we came to call the “Common Vision,” while still in process, now integrates in one shared, deeper purpose, many different stakeholders, who have come together to achieve a coherent set of social impacts, through a process in the built environment, that meets many strategic impacts.  This depth and breadth was achieved in one morning, because of the skill and process of co-hosting collaboration.

We tend to believe that if we are in the same space or work together, we are collaborating–the assumption that networks equal collaboration is not true.

We thank our colleagues at the European Climate Foundation (ECF), the BUILD UPON team, the co-hosts (link to previous blog in series on “co-hosting collaboration), the Madrid participants, the Institute for Strategic Clarity, and Vibrancy—all co-investors in this process together.

Co-hosting Collaboration — What We Are Learning from BUILD UPON Cambridge, Madrid, and Brussels

In this 1st of a series of 4 blogposts, we share what we are learning, as co-investors with BUILD UPON and the European Climate Foundation, about: (1) co-hosting collaboration; (2) realizing the deeper shared purpose; (3) measuring impact resilience; and (4) scaling impact.

CO-HOSTING COLLABORATION

The potential we saw.  In the spring of 2016, in dialog with BUILD UPON and European Climate Foundation (ECF) leadership, we saw the potential for both communities to benefit from greater collaboration amongst their many members, within each community and across them.  Together, we thought that introduction to a proven collaboration-building process, like the “O Process,” (see figure below) could facilitate much greater collaboration, across the networks, by clarifying a deeper shared purpose, the need for diverse positions, and the ability to integrate the unique perspectives these diverse positions bring to the possibilities that can be seen and the commitment to actions that could be taken, together.

To foster this greater collaboration, we decided (BUILD UPON, ECF, Vibrancy) to co-invest in an advanced leadership capacity-building process with leaders from each community, building up their capacity to “co-host collaboration,” through the O Process, and then having them apply the newly acquired skills together at the BUILD UPON Leaders Summit and on their own in their own local organizations.

What we did.  In April 2016, we met with ECF grantees, inviting them into the process. Over the late spring and summer, individuals from the ECF and BUILD UPON communities were invited to participate in the co-hosting collaboration process.  In late August, 32 leaders from ECF and BUILD UPON met in Cambridge, UK for a 3-day advanced leadership capacity-building session.  Three weeks later, we all met in Madrid to apply what we had learned together in a long, morning session during the BUILD UPON Madrid Leaders Summit.  In mid-January 2017, we met in an on-line lab to share experiences and to provide peer-to-peer learning by discussing what we had learned from our work together and in our own settings, in co-hosting collaboration.

 

Cambridge Advanced Leadership Capacity-Building on Co-Hosting Collaboration and the O-Process, 29-31 August 2016

BUILD UPON Madrid Leaders Summit, 20-21 September 2016

Online Lab on Sharing and Peer-to-Peer Learning, 12 January 2017

The evidence we saw.  The 32 leaders who self-selected into the Cambridge advanced leadership capacity building  were able to connect and understand the fundamental skills of inquiry and co-hosting within one day, which allowed them to begin to co-host on day two a difficult exploration of challenging topics with stakeholders holding sometimes-conflicting positions, such as whether there is a deeper, shared purpose for why we all work in the space of energy efficiency, renewable energy, and building renovation, and why each perspective in that greater mix matters.  This showed the speed with which high-impact resilience leaders can learn to co-host collaboration.

“When I went through this process, I began to see the intense value that comes from understanding voices from other actors within our field. I began to understand the value that they can bring to what I want to achieve, and the O Process itself, with the way it is structured, allows guided conversations, which certainly, before I took the training, I would not have been able to do at a roundtable discussion or with a group of stakeholders whose values are not the same as mine.”

— Adrian Joyce, Director, Renovate Europe Campaign (0:35 – 1:08 – https://youtu.be/wIpZU73wEiQ)

One of the key difficulties in co-hosting collaboration is the passion and process for including the wide diversity of stakeholder perspectives necessary to achieve the identified deeper shared purpose.  It is far easier to work with the same, friendly colleagues as usual.  It is far more challenging to actually want to and to be able to honestly make a space of trust for the voices that are necessary and usually not included.  This is a process of deeply valuing “the other.”  These 32 leaders showed that they were able to take up this process, both in repeated practice in Cambridge and in a live situation together in Madrid.

We thought it would be best for the many stakeholders coming together in Madrid to be co-hosted by their peers.  This proved to be much more powerful than having the session facilitated by a group of experts external to their community.  The long tenure within the community, the credibility from many successful, large-scale projects, the passion for the aggressive goals of dramatically reducing the adverse impacts of buildings in Europe, and the respectful attention to co-hosting diverse perspectives led to a wide-ranging, efficient process for eliciting and integrating a deeper shared purpose, as expressed in the BUILD UPON “Common Vision.”

It was critical to develop these co-hosting collaboration skills in the context of a direct application together to a topic and community that directly influenced all participants.  The immediacy of the application, coupled with the capacity-building process, made the feedback from co-hosting peers ever more critical.  Approaching the whole process through the principles of transformative learning, we repeatedly hypothesized what we would do, tried it, reflected on what happened, gave ourselves and each other the feedback, adjusted, and tried again, learning and evolving along the way, together.

“Immersed as we all are in our very particular lives, we usually are not aware of how much collaboration, true collaboration, can transform our lives.  In fact we don’t even know what collaboration means to start with, so most of our work in BUILD UPON has been to try and give a sense, and a meaning, to it just by doing it and involving others in it, probably not knowing much at the beginning, but believing in it.  Through the process we have seen how powerfully this idea has opened new dimensions in all our minds: it is not only that work with–instead of work against–each other could be much better, in a linear way, so to say, what happened was that new, unforeseen possibilities would unfold right before our eyes.

Thanks to the help provided by the Institute for Strategic Clarity, through the Cambridge-Madrid-Brussels experience we’ve come a long way, from our initial rudimentary way of listening or, rather, thinking we were listening, to a much more profound listening attitude, which is the base of true collaboration.  I believe we are only at the beginning, but fully motivated to go on progressing, learning from others and from ourselves, learning from all ‘nos-otros’. Thanks”.

— Emilio Miguel Mitre, GBCe, BUILD UPON Coordinator

Finally, to continue to develop in their capacity to co-host collaboration, bringing people from across Europe together to collaborate, requires more than one workshop (Cambridge) and one application (Madrid). It needs continuous reflection and conversations in leadership-tangibilization circles (online/in-person).  We experimented with one such online experience, in a webinar in January, and an in-person experience together in February in Brussels.

“The ‘co-hosting collaboration experience’ gave me a new framework and skills for problem-solving. Some recommendations provided by our guides and other members of the team sounded a bit obvious at the beginning of our joint collaboration, but over the time became a ‘check list’ of all discussions I run. It helped me a lot especially in debates on sensitive topics such as ‘organisational values’.”

— Antoni Bielewicz, European Climate Foundation, Poland

We thank our colleagues at the European Climate Foundation (ECF), the ECF grantees network, the BUILD UPON team and network members, the World Green Building Council, the co-hosts, the Madrid and Brussels participants, the Institute for Strategic Clarity, and Vibrancy—all co-investors in this process together.

Are You Low-skilled Labor Or a High-quality Craftsman? Depends on What You See

From one perspective, hundreds of millions of people working on the manufacturing floor, in offices, and in service jobs around the world are low-skilled labor.  They are filling blue-collar jobs.  Applying the agreements evidence map to the agreements underlying this low-skilled labor perspective, we find assumptions that people only bring the capacities to do work that they have.  This is an expression of resource power, focusing on the nouns, the capacities available right here right now.  From this logic, whoever has more resources to bring to the game has more power.

The agreements evidence map points to another perspective, one where many of the people in these jobs bring capacity to do work and they are experts at their craft, bringing deep levels of experience in collaboration, and very high-quality processes to their efforts.  They know what they are doing, and they are very efficient at it, continuously learning and furthering the craft.  The agreements evidence map shows agreements based on network power, focusing on learning and development of capacities and relationships, as well as outcomes, the verbs and the nouns.

Are the people in these hundreds of millions of jobs, low skilled or high skilled, labor or knowledge workers, replaceable cogs or expert technicians?  Is a knowledge worker only a professional, or might it depend on the level of craftsmanship brought and the level of agreements underlying the position?  It might depend on what you see, on the underlying agreements.

Still Using Your 8-Track Player and Your 1950s-based Agreements?

Are you still using your 8-track player to listen to music or do you stream music online?

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Do you still use a 1950s washing machine?

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While some of you might, most of you are probably not.  Yet, many of you are probably still using 1950s agreements of what human interactions look like.

Why would most of us update our music and laundry technology and not the technology for human interactions?  We update the first, because the benefits of the newer technologies are obvious.  Much cooler and much more efficient access to much more music, or better clothes-washing care for the price.  When it comes to human agreements, we tend not to see the implicit, embedded assumptions in our agreements.  We still unconsciously accept the 1950s idea that most people are cogs in a machine that bring specific, interchangeable capacities to a task, and that they simply need to be contracted and compensated for the pound of flesh exacted from them at work.

Current research shows that, across the planet, people working under these 1950s agreements are disengaged at work and that the costs of this disengagement are huge.  Alternatively, we have documented tens of thousands of cases of groups that are working with 2010s agreements, updated technology, that assume people are quite competent, excited to engage, and ready to learn, all of the time, and that when they are treated this way and invited to contribute their best, they most often do, and that the net benefits to groups working this way are huge.

If you periodically update the technology that plays your music and washes your clothes, maybe you should consider updating the technology for how you interact with others at work.

Deep Collaboration Requires Three Kinds of Listening, Twice

Sometimes we find that no matter how hard we work at something, we are not capable of achieving our goals.  Our own experience and efforts are insufficient to the task.  We realize that we need others.  Other perspectives, other experiences, other energy to get it done.  In these circumstances, we find that we need to collaborate.  We need to bring our best, unique contributions together in a way that releases great synergies.

My colleagues and I have found in our field research in dozens of countries that this deep collaboration is best supported by three kinds of listening, each done twice in a continuous process, a process that we have come to call the O Process.  These three kinds are intentional listening, relational listening, and imaginal listening.  While there are many technical expressions of each of these forms of listening, here I will describe them briefly, what they do, and what they look like in practice.

Intentional listening.  Listening for intent, for the deeper shared purpose, for the motivating will force common to the group that brings everyone together to achieve one bigger goal that requires all of us to participate.  Here we listen for the “why” we are coming together.  It is most useful when made explicit, and when everyone gets clear on what it is and whether it is important to them.  When this deeper shared purpose is clarified, amongst all in the group, you have a very strong motivating force that also provides a container, a set of guidelines, for what is to be worked on as a group.  As the group moves into working together, they now have a clear standard to check whether the group’s exploration serves this purpose or serves another purpose.

Relational listening.  Listening for connection, for why each other individual in the group both (1) connects to the deeper shared purpose, and (2) what their unique contribution is to that purpose–why they care and why they are needed.  Since you already listened for the deeper shared purpose, you are now listening for why you want to be deeply curious about and interested in what this person has to contribute to your ability to achieve the deeper shared purpose, after all their perspective is critical, which is why they are part of the group.

Imaginal listening.  Listening for what possibilities the other people see from their unique perspectives.  Since their contribution is unique to the group, it is different from yours.  They are seeing something different, which begins to highlight different dimensions of the challenge the group is working on.  Through your listening, you can begin to see an image of what they are seeing, you can begin to imagine it.

As we come to the top of the O Process, we have used three different kinds of listening, with clarity now on why the group has come together, why each person is needed and what they contribute, and now what they see.  We can now begin to materialize–to tangibilize–what we see together.  We can now use the same three kinds of listening again, to now tangibilize, to make tangible, the possibilities we saw together.

Imaginal listening, part 2.  At one moment in the creative process of seeing possibilities together, we reach a point where we begin to see the same reality, and the possibilities converge into a probability.  At this moment, we bring our imaginal listening to seeing what each unique perspective sees of the emerging probability.  This emerging probability, which begins to feel real, has many different dimensions to it, which the different perspectives we have can help us see.  What image can you begin to perceive, as you build up the different dimensions each person sees?

Relational listening, part 2.  With a clearer image of what we are collectively looking at, from multiple perspectives, we can now begin to make this ours, to bring it into what we can each commit to.  Since what we are now imagining is in service of the deeper shared purpose we started with, which part of what we are seeing is mine to take up?  What part is yours to take up?  This is where we again use relational listening, to listen for how we each relate to the emerging image, each from our own unique contribution.

Intentional listening, part 2.  Now that we know how each of us is relating to what we saw together, we now move towards what we are going to each do, how we are going to each engage our own will, our own intentional force, to begin to do something to move this image into a reality.  Here we use the intentional listening to hear what each of us is going to do, the actions that we need to take up, aligned with our new commitment to our unique contribution to the image we are realizing.  What energy will I give to moving closer to the image we saw in service of the deeper shared purpose?  What will you give?

In this process, we see why we are coming together to collaborate, what perspectives are needed, what they can see, what we can see together, what that begins to look like as we manifest it, what we can each commit to in realizing that image, and what we can each do.  A great step forward in collaboration, supported by three kinds of listening, each used twice.

Seeing What I Actually Know

I know what I know.  Right?  Two authors I have been reading summarize research showing that we typically are not very good at knowing what we know now or recalling what we think we knew before.

In his 1976 classic Perception and Misperception in International Politics, Columbia University professor Robert Jervis summarizes research that shows, “People often not only have a limited understanding of the workings of others’ arguments, they also do not know the structure of their own belief systems—what values are most important, how some beliefs are derived from others, and what evidence would contradict their views.  Particularly dangerous is the tendency to take the most important questions for granted…This often involves..failing to scrutinize basic assumptions” (410-411).

Highlighting a vast amount of recent research into the neuroscience of memory in his 2015 book The Brain, Stanford University professor David Eagleman writes, “Although we don’t always realize it, the memory is not as rich as you might have expected…The enemy..isn’t time; it’s other memories.  Each new event needs to establish new relationships among a finite number of neurons.  The surprise is that a faded memory doesn’s seem faded to you…Our past is not a faithful record.  Instead it’s a reconstruction” (23-26).  “Our picture of the external world isn’t necessarily an accurate representation.  Our perception of reality has less to do with what’s happening out there, and more to do with what’s happening inside our brain” (38).

If we are not good at knowing what we know or remembering accurately, then what can we do?  These same lines of research highlight two human strengths: (1) our partial perspectives and (2) our error-correcting ability to calibrate.

Our partial perspectives.  We each perceive a rich world of sensations, inputs that we each are uniquely able to perceive and process.  Combining a set of rich perspectives different individuals have about an experience can lead to a more nuanced, multi-dimensional understanding of a given phenomenon.  This integrated set can then be tested against evidence: how the system actually behaves.  Systemic, multi-stakeholder processes, like the ones we have tested and developed, at the Institute for Strategic Clarity, are one method for capturing, integrating, and validating this kind of richness.

Our error-correcting ability to calibrate.  Our brains seem to focus on correcting errors in the mental representation it already has of the world.  The brain is calibrating.  “Instead of using your senses to constantly rebuild your reality from scratch every moment, you’re compaing sensory information with a model the brain has already constructed: updating it, refining it, correcting it” (53 The Brain).  ”The brain generates its own reality, even before it receives information coming in from the eyes and the other senses…(For example, the) thalamus simply reports on differences between what the eyes are reporting, and what the brain’s internal model has predicted…what gets sent back to the visual cortex is what fell short in the expectation” (51-52 The Brain).  This act of calibration is a strength.  Using evidence-based mapping, we can see what actually exists more rigorously and use that mapping to calibrate our individual mental representations, the mental models we use all day long to make decisions.

To apply these concepts of partial perspectives, weak memory accuracy, and calibration to complex social issues like human agreements, we need rigorous frameworks for integrating and validating what we know.  Especially since we also know that human agreements can be very hard to see, tools like Agreements Evidence Mapping are ever more critical for (1) capturing and validating partial perspectives, (2) integrating them into one whole, strategic representation that can be validated, around (3) often hidden agreements we have unconsciously accepted, that (4) we agree to shift.  Maybe I do not know what I know, most of the time, but I can.

Agreements Field Mapping

You interact to have experiences and to get results. That is why you do what you do. The agreements you consciously choose or unconsciously accept define how you interact. Those agreements are based on embedded, interwoven assumptions.

Our experiences, outcomes, agreements, and assumptions form an “agreements field.”  A field is the environment in which individuals or groups interact.  This concept is widely applied in physics, and less so in the social sciences.  By an agreements field, I suggest that in looking at our experiences, outcomes, agreements, and assumptions, we are describing one entity, from multiple perspectives–one field where we can perceive the outcomes and the experience of people interacting based on conscious or unconscious agreements founded on underlying assumptions.  One field.  One agreements field.

To describe the different perspectives within the agreements field, to map the social topography of agreements fields, we have developed and globally tested a set of mapping tools.

Together these four mapping tools describe four key perspectives of an agreements field.

Our work at the Institute for Strategic Clarity now focuses on further developing and applying agreements field mapping to map the global social topography of human agreements, through the Global Initiative to Map Ecosynomic Deviance and Impact Resilience (MEDIR).  With our colleagues around the world, we are beginning to see that the social topography of human agreements is as varied as our earths’s geological topography. Peaks and valleys in many forms. Treasures abound. Things we have never imagined around every corner. The flatearthers of human agreements are missing out–there is a lot of treasure out there, ready for all of us to discover, marvel at, and learn from. It only takes the quest(ion) to find it.  If you are interested in contributing to this global initiative, please contact us.