Gratitude to Awesome Cohosts — My EGADE MBA Strategy Class F2020

I was very fortunate to be able to invite some amazing leaders to visit with my “Strategy in Organizations” class in the EGADE Business School del Tecnológico de Monterrey program this past Fall 2020.

Purpose — Grateful to Jay Harris for speaking about his experience in leading with the power of purpose.

Leadership Ethics — Really enjoyed having Matt Lee of the Harvard Human Flourishing Program share his work on Ethics and Values.

Strategic ContextCarolyn McCarthy shared her experience in co-hosting the strategic systems-change process. How to determine the boundaries and content of your STRATEGIC CONTEXT, with systemic strategy. Carolyn shared her experience with Open Opportunity Massachusetts (https://lnkd.in/dXT2J2d), using strategic systems mapping and collaborative processes to identify the dynamics and stakeholders defining the “strategic context” of K-12 education for all children in the state of Massachusetts (USA).

Strategic Resources — Grateful to Luz Maria Puente for sharing her work in bringing systemic strategic clarity [https://lnkd.in/d4kRBcM] to an organization’s understanding and implementation. What are my company’s MOST STRATEGIC resources? How do we scale them and leverage their impact, while regenerating the resources we need to sustain this?

Strategic Leverage — I thank Annabel Membrillo for sharing her experience in getting a large group of stakeholders to identify strategic systemic leverage interventions and then implement them. LEVERAGE, the ability to get far more from the system than we put into it–much greater effectiveness and efficiency with the same inputs. Strategic systemic leverage is critical to move the dial on seemingly intractable, complex issues like education, health, housing, and energy [https://lnkd.in/ddmwEGe].

My Own Leadership. I thank Hernando Aguilera for sharing his experience in guiding leaders through this inquiry of “Designing Your Life”. Who is DESIGNING MY LIFE? I would like to think I am. When we look at the underlying agreements that determine what I do, who I interact with, and how I interact, we discover a high percentage of agreements I have unconsciously accepted [https://lnkd.in/daQpyTp]. This means that someone or something else is designing my life, at home and at work. I can change this, designing my own life, at home and work.

Shifting Organizational Agreements — With deep gratitude to Ana Cláudia Gonçalves for sharing her experience, in leading large organizations through shifts in their outcomes and experiences by experimentally evolving their deeper agreements about who they are, what they do, and how they do it [https://lnkd.in/dgpKX28]. We want different OUTCOMES and different EXPERIENCES. We are not living up to what we know we are capable of being and doing. How do we change this?The class was also deeply inspired by her example of a young person successfully taking up leadership of a large organization and proving far greater results with innovative, more equitable practices

Implementing Strategy — I am grateful to Fred Krawchuk for sharing well-tested practices for rigor-testing strategy implementation. Robust agreements–agreements that work when the situation is volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous (VUCA), our new everyday reality.

Strategic Information — Lots of gratitude to Michael Puleo for sharing what he observes as the state of the art in strategic information systems. Did it work? We had a STRATEGY–we saw a future state, we saw a way to it, we tried it. Did we get the FEEDBACK about whether it worked? What information do we need, to know if what we saw worked? How do we adjust what we see and what we do based on what we learned? What strategic measures help me see the effects of my strategy on my impact and on my resilience?

Leading in Wicked Problems — Deep thanks to Edward Brooks for sharing his insights on the fundamental shifts required in how leaders take up 21st-century “wicked problems” through human-focused organization. What is required to LEAD today?  What they taught my parents about leadership in business school was similar to what they taught me, a generation later–direct, divide, manage, and conquer through well-structured controls. Many schools still teach these same leadership principles, another generation later. The “wicked problems” leadership faces today are completely different than the “tame problems” faced by earlier generations. How does one lead when it is not even clear what the problem is, and it is not clear when the problem has been solved? These characteristics require human-focused, deeply collaborative leadership.

Values in Leadership — Grateful to Prof. Elliott Kruse for sharing the latest in research on the impact of values in leadership

Collaborative Leadership — Deep gratitude to Jared Duval for sharing his experience in leading the Energy Action Network in Vermont. Leading a set of very diverse groups of people, from different industries and different social-political-economic perspectives, coming together to address wickedly complex problems sounds impossible, or at least really hard, doesn’t it? It is, until it is not. It depends on (1) what you understand your leadership role to be and (2) how you choose to organize. with my “Strategy in Organizations” class in the EGADE Business School del Tecnológico de Monterrey MBA program.

The State of Art of Collaborative Networks: Recommended Readings

With almost 2 decades of experience in funding and deeply engaging in collaborative networks for systems change, our colleagues are sharing their observations.

Our colleague Jennie Curtis at the Garfield Foundation shares her insights from 16 years of leading foundation support for #collaborativenetworks of #systemschangeDigging Out of Philanthropy’s Entrenched Practices

Institute for Strategic Clarity CHOICE Fellow Ruth Rominger, who serves as the Collaborative Networks Program Director with the Garfield Foundation, reflects on why Garfield invests in the development and evolution of #systemsinformed #collaborativenetworksHow Living into our Questions Led us to Fund Networks

Saying YES! with Christian Ray Flores — Podcast Interview

Yes! Saying Yes!, a Big YES! to your life, to your work, to your contribution to a future you care about, makes all the difference. I am grateful to Christian Ray Flores and his team at Third Drive for hosting me on their podcast in this fun exploration of why saying Yes! to human creativity drives success, what we are learning in 100s of groups and in our research.

The Science of Abundance: 4 90-min talks (3 in Spanish and 1 in English)

Together we can take on huge challenges. I am grateful to my colleague Adrian Joyce for joining me in this 88-minute session with the Centro de Liderazgo y Tecnología UPM in Madrid. With our co-host Isabel Ortiz, we shared what we are learning at the Institute for Strategic Clarity (isclarity.org) about the “science of abundance” and cohosting societal collaboration. We specifically explored Adrian’s work with the Renovate Europe Campaign.

You can see the recording of this session and 3 others, exploring this “ciencia de la abundancia,” on the Centro de Liderazgo y Tecnología UPM YouTube channel [https://lnkd.in/dkAhmJB].

Spaces as Collaboration Enhancers

Space.  We occupy it, move through it, and have a really hard time understanding it.  While humans have debated what space is and our human relationship to it for at least as long as we have recorded history, we do know some important things about space.  There are spaces that make it much easier for us to experience our fuller humanity, where it is much easier to be fully engaged.  There are also spaces that make it much harder to engage, to work with others.

While there are many researchers exploring our relationship to space, we each know, from our experience, what kinds of spaces invite more from us, engage us more deeply, and which kind shut us down, disengaging us.

As the types of problems that humanity takes on increase in complexity, it has become critical that people come together, each contributing their unique capacities to a collaborative effort.  When people try to solve complex social problems on their own, they find that they are often lacking capacities that are key to shifting the dynamics inherent to the problem.  Sometimes it takes a village, a collaborative effort.

Much of what is written today on “collaborative spaces” refers to social media or office arrangements for letting people work in the same space.  Only some of it focuses on how the nature of the space affects the collaboration.  We do know that most people prefer windows, comfortable temperatures, fresh air, and connection with nature.  We also know that people prefer spaces where they can more easily align with their deeper purpose, the energy that motivates their love for the future, and where they can more easily relate with others, and have access to the vital structures and substances they need.  Said in the opposite, spaces are deadening when they make it hard to be physically comfortable, when they disconnect people from their deeper purpose, when it is hard to relate with others, and vital substances and structures are inaccessible.

People need to be able to experience themselves in the space, physically.  That is because people are physical beings.  When people are deprived of their senses, not sensing where they are, they can go crazy.  People need to have access to air, water, food, movement.  That is because people are also biological, living, and they need access to vital substances in their space.  People need to relate to other living beings.  That is because people are also social beings, they need to be in relationship with other things and people.  People need to be able to choose how they align their intentions, their deeper purpose, with their creativity, their thoughts, their feelings, their intentions, their action.  That is because people are also choosers, they need to have certain freedoms to express themselves.  There are spaces that engage more of this physical, biological, social chooser and there are spaces that disengage it.

So, while the human connection to space is still not well understood, clearly the spaces where we interact make a difference.  Interacting in spaces that enhance the collaboration that we so deeply need today is a choice.  If you know the difference, it is your choice.

How Influence Spreads Through Human Interactions — Recommended Readings

Centola, Damon. How Behavior Spreads: The Science of Complex Contagions. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2018.

Ferguson, Niall. The Square and the Tower: Networks and Power, from the Freemasons to Facebook. New York: Penguin Press, 2018.

How do networks work?  How does influence spread amongst people, through human interactions?

Historian Niall Ferguson digs into the archives, exploring how people have spread influence for thousands of years.  “Social networks have always been much more important in history than most historians, fixated as they have been on hierarchical organizations such as states, have allowed–but never more so than in two periods.  The first “networked era” followed the introduction of the printing press to Europe in the late fifteenth century and lasted until the end of the eighteenth century.  The second–our own time–dates from the 1970s, though I argue that the technological revolution we associate with Silicon Valley was more a consequence than a cause of a crisis of hierarchical institutions.  The intervening period, from the late 1790s until the late 1960s, saw the opposite trend: hierarchical institutions re-established their control and successfully shot down or co-opted networks.  The zenith of hierarchically organized power was in fact the mid-twentieth century—the era of totalitarian regimes and total war” (p xxv).  Professor Ferguson explores why different forms of human interaction are just different forms of networks–an arrangement of interrelated people.

Communications researcher Damon Centola explores the dynamics of how behaviors spread through social networks, mapping the pathways of network diffusion to accelerate social change.  “Diffusion, like schooling, is a collective social process that unfolds through the complex interactions of many independent actors” (p4).  The network dynamics that are required are quite different than what most people think: who is in the network, how they are connected, and how their influence flows, sustainably.

Extreme Human-Weather Effects

Is it normal for you to be engaged or to be disengaged?  By normal we mean that this is what you expect, what you expect of your life.  Do you expect, in any given day, to be engaged in what you do, in who you are, in how you interact?  By extreme, we mean furthest from a common point, furthest from the desired state.  Do you prefer to be closer to your desired state or the furthest from it?  Assuming that you prefer to be closer to it than furthest from it, why are so many people disengaged and disaffected today?  Maybe it is because they are experiencing the effects of extreme interactions.  How might we understand extreme interaction effects?  Let’s look at a parallel experience in extreme weather effects.

News about “extreme weather effects” is all over the news these days.  What is extreme weather? What are the effects of extreme weather?  Weather is the interaction of temperature and pressure changes in the air, water, and earth.  This is the interaction of the earth’s elemental spheres; the lithosphere, the hydrosphere, the atmosphere, and the biosphere.  Now these elemental spheres seem to be mixing, as they always do, in new ways, in extreme ways to which we humans might not be as resilient.

In parallel, a lot of attention is going to the globally disengaged workforce and strong political swings around the world.  The usual framing of disengagement and disaffection is to try to engage people, usually in the same, already-existing form of interactions.  Maybe it would be more helpful to realize that the reason so many people are disengaged at work these days is because they are experiencing “extreme interaction effects.”  Through more engaging experiences they have in other realms of their life, they now have an expectation that they will be treated like creative, contributing humans beings who learn, who are social, and who love to engage their deeper potential towards a purpose that moves them.  When the agreements field they are in becomes too turbulent, when the elemental spheres of human interaction mix in extreme ways, in ways that exclude the individual, the other, their unique, creative contributions, their learning and evolution, then they experience extreme interaction effects, human-weather conditions to which they are not as resilient.

Maybe people are more resilient in human interactions that require more and deeper connection, connection to a deeper, shared purpose, connection to their own higher self, connection to the other in support of their expression, connection to the gifts of the group, connection to the evolutionary process of creativity, connection to the infinite creative source.  Maybe disengagement and disaffection come from extreme interaction effects.  Maybe we can change the human-weather patterns, and thus increase our resilience and engagement, by choosing how we interact, away from the extreme interaction conditions of exclusion, scarcity, and collapse, towards the normal interaction conditions of inclusion, abundance, and engagement.  It is a choice, a choice you can make right here, right now.

What Power Is More Resilient, Coercion or Collaboration?

Why do some people coerce people into doing things?  Why do others invite people into creative, collaborative work together?  Which is more powerful?  Which one is more resilient?

Power is the amount of energy for a given period of time.  In physics it is calculated as the work done over a period of time.  More power can get more work done in the same amount of time.  Power, or the energy available, to get things done can be used to get things done for oneself or for others.

There is an old saying that power corrupts.  Having power often leads people to the power paradox: while they get their power–the energy to get things done–from others because of their work for others, they can also begin to use the power to do things for themselves.  In the power paradox, people who begin to use their power for their own ends, start to lose their access to and grip on power.  To maintain their relative power, they have three options.  They can get more power through co-benefit, by doing things that benefit others, who give them the energy to do work.  They can co-opt the energy of others through coercion, forcing others to give them their energy.  They can decrease the power of others, through coercion, tipping the balance of power back in their own favor.  So, people can increase their relative power by (1) doing good for others, (2) coercing others, or (3) decreasing the power of others.  With the first, power is co-generated–they get more power, and others keep their power.  With the second, power is diffused–they get more power, and others lose their power.  With the third, power is dissipated–others lose their power to heat, to self-preservation.  The first is generative.  The second and third are coercive and destructive.

Power gains that are based on destruction must be less resilient, over time, than power gains based on co-generation.  Resilience is the ability to continue to function when the context changes.  While coercion can appropriate the energy of others, it must be mostly in the form of the energy resources of others, the capacities they already have.  Energy gained through generative interactions often engages (1) the energy resources of others, and (2) their development of relationships and capacities over time, and (3) engagement of their creative potential.  While destructive forces can get (1), generative forces can engage (1), (2), and (3).  That has to be more resilient.

In our Institute for Strategic Clarity research on groups that focus more on coordination, cooperation, or collaboration, we find that collaborative efforts engage people around a deeper shared purpose, to which everyone contributes their unique gifts, their energy resources and learning and potential.  We find that cooperative efforts invite people to contribute shared resources, and that coordination efforts assign people to use their own energy resources to do their own work, which might be pieced together later.  In the three cases of coordination, cooperation, and collaboration, each group keeps their power, and is invited to contribute ever greater levels of it to the group effort.

In coercive efforts, the power of others is diminished.  It is co-opted by the coercive enforcer, taking the other’s energy, their will, and using it for the coercer’s purposes.  This can be done consciously and unconsciously.  In conscious coercion, the coerced know they are being coerced, that their energy is being usurped for another person’ purposes.  Bullying fits in this category.  In unconscious coercion, the coerced have often unconsciously accepted a set of agreements where their energy is used by the coercer for the coercer’s purposes, without the coercer knowing that this is what they are doing.  Many social settings fit this category, such as the use of fiat currencies to enrich the currency owners–we get loans and pay interest rates, with no clue as to how the monetary system works.

In collaborative efforts, the power of each individual and of the group is increased.  The energy is co-generated by the impact resulting from the engaging and leveraging of the unique contributions of each individual.  Everyone keeps their power and ends up with more.

In coercion, someone ends up with more, and others end up with less.  In collaboration, everyone ends up with more.  Which leads to greater resilience?

Top 4 Reads of 2018

The top 4, most-read blogposts of 2018 focused on the big questions that guide how we understand impact, collaboration, and leadership today.

Top 4 Blogposts

  1. 4 Questions that Changed the World, Again and Again
  2. From a Theory of Change to a Theory of Impact Resilience
  3. Collaboration Basics: Essential Agreements
  4. Leadership — How We Get to What We Have and Where We Could Be

The 1st blogpost looks at four questions that have repeatedly changed the world, continuously asking what resources we see as real, who decides and enforces how we interact, what values we use, and what rules guide our interactions.  The 2nd shows how these four questions highlight the linear, short-term logic of a theory of change, and that leading groups are actually working with a systemic, strategic theory of impact resilience.  The 3rd, with my colleague Ruth Rominger, describes what we are finding to be the basics of collaboration, why many groups do not collaborate, how they could, and the benefits of that collaboration.  The 4th differentiates three very different types of leadership, using the four big questions and three levels of perceived reality to show what leaders at each level are able to engage and transform into value.  This makes a set of explorations into how some people are beginning to lead their groups collaboratively towards great impact and greater resilience, by asking the big questions and choosing different agreements.

Confusing Unison, Harmony, and High Creativity

Recent studies suggest that too much harmony or collaboration is bad, killing creativity and value-generation.  They find that too much time spent agreeing with everybody else and minimizing differences leads to lower creativity and innovation.  While they might be right, I suggest they are confusing interacting in unison with interacting in harmony.

Unison means one sound.  Monophony.  This is where everyone makes the sound, the same note.  All the same.

Harmony means an agreement of sounds.  Polyphony.  This is where everyone makes different sounds, with different notes, that combine in a specific way.

It seems to me that the studies are criticizing too much unison and too much submission.  Too much process focused on getting everybody to the lower common denominator, where they can find something that they all agree on, and then submitting to someone else’s will, in honor of the group’s health, over-processing everything.  Unison and submission lead to people shutting down their creativity, their insights into new, unique contributions they can make towards the health of the group, and the others, and themselves.

It seems to me that the studies are then suggesting that people need to find ways to efficiently bring out their best, unique contributions, together, in a way that creates new value for those participating and for those who are recipients of the efforts.  These are the definitions of harmonizing and collaborating.  Bringing out the best of each other’s unique contributions (what makes us each different), each other’s own note, in a highly efficient way that generates something new.  To do this, efficiently and effectively, requires listening to one’s own voice, to the other’s voice, and to the resulting harmonic for the whole, continuously improving all three.  Not doing so is a waste of time.  So maybe the recent studies mean to say (1) that people are mislabeling harmony and collaboration [they mean unison and submission] and (2) that too little harmony and collaboration is bad, killing creativity and value-generation.  Maybe.