Is Somebody Else Using Your Will?

“A survey by the Workplace Bullying Institute found that 35 percent of employees had been bullied at work and another 15 percent witnessed workplace bullying, which was defined by repeated mistreatment and included behaviors such as threats, humiliation, and sabotaging employees’ work.  One of the most disconcerting findings about bullies of all ages is that they are not naive…(B)ullies have a better-than-average capability to mind-read and use their social fluency to manipulate others to achieve selfish ends…(When researchers) investigated the assumption that bullies have poor moral reasoning, which is to say that they have trouble differentiating right versus wrong…(t)hey found that bullies’ moral reasoning capabilities were just as sound as defenders’ and that both groups has moral reasoning scores that were higher than victims’.  However, bullies showed significantly lower levels of compassion and they were more likely to rationalize away their immoral behavior by seeing their selfish gains as taking precedence over the emotional costs incurred by victims” (p99), as described by psychologist Ty Tashiro in his book Awkward.  It is not wise to assume (1) that people do not use other people’s will inappropriately, or (2) that those who do are ignorant.  They are not ignorant.  That does not mean, however, that their actions are good for the group or for the impact the group wants to have.

What is the cost to any group of people interacting with one another in this kind of behavior?  What is the cost of shutting down the creative flow of others?  When someone’s will is used to someone else’s purpose, that FREEE energy is simultaneously highly inefficient and the risk of losing that person or at least their creative contribution to the group is very high.  Why would you invite people to engage in interactions with you, like the work context, to have their contribution collapsed to very low levels of energy, towards someone else’s purpose?  Not very clever.  And, that is from the perspective of the person who has invited people to engage in a group effort.

From the perspective of the person whose will is inappropriately being used by someone else, this is very disengaging, de-energizing, exhausting.  The documented physical and mental effects of this disengagement of the human being is clear, in the form of stress, fatigue, and poor physical and mental health.  Like every other use of your creative, purposeful energy, this is a choice.  Your choice.


FREEE Energy: Use It or Lose It

All the energy you need, for whatever you are doing, is Forever Right-there in Everyone Everywhere Everyday (FREEE).  [It is free, with an extra “e” thrown in, at no extra cost.]  It is all there.  If you engage it, you use it towards the purpose you invited it to serve.  If you don’t engage it, you lose it, usually at great cost to yourself.  Engaged energy is FREEE, lost energy is not.  Lost energy comes with a cost.

This is the exact opposite of what we are usually taught.  We are told that it costs something to use energy, and that not using it costs nothing.  Let’s see.  You already have the people in the room.  You have invited these people to work with you–to co-ordinate, co-operate or co-llaborate–towards a deeper purpose that you want them to share.  The ones who are there with you showed up.  Each person generates massive, seemingly infinite, energy, on any scale we can see.  They generate this energy by their existence, whether you engage it or not.  Now you need to engage that energy.  How you engage it and how much of it you engage depend on the agreements field you have generated.  Weak agreements fields engage very little of the energy available.  Strong agreements fields engage much of the energy available.  The point is that you are completely responsible for the use or loss of this energy, as well as the benefits or costs that come with it.

There is a massive cost to not engaging that energy.  The law of the conservation of energy, aka the first law of thermodynamics, applies here as well.  You have to account for all of the energy generated.  It has to go somewhere.  Purposeful energy, that which humans generate continuously, goes to one of three purposes: (1) the invited purpose; (2) another purpose; or (3) self-preservation.  Analogously, the energy will go into the invited activity, diffused towards other activities, or dissipated as heat.  The energy generated by the people in the room that is not engaged towards the invited purpose has high costs.

If the energy is diffused towards other activities with other purposes, it disengages the people present, which recent, global studies have shown to be very expensive.  They are not actively engaged in the activity, the purpose, for which you invited them.  Just because they are in the room physically, does not mean that their energy is serving your purpose.  They are thinking about something else.  And, that is for the diffused energy towards another purpose.  The energy that is dissipated as heat comes from those in the room who are trying to serve your invited purpose, or their own, and yet the agreements field you generated does not allow either form, yours or theirs, to engage in a healthy way.  This ends up in dissipated heat, which serves as self-preservation, which can be very destructive.  You know this form of energy loss as burnout, fatigue, distress, active disengagement.  It comes with huge costs, such as the costs of turnover and presenteeism.

So, there are no extra costs to engage the energy available in the room, and there are huge costs to not engaging it.  The difference between engaging it and not engaging it is a function of the agreements field you have generated.  There are 8 guiding principles for the strength of an agreements field.  While each principle, on its own, is relatively straightforward, strong agreements fields require all 8.

  1. Is the deeper shared purpose clear and inviting?
  2. Are the people invited into the room clear about and continuously connected to the deeper purpose? Is it consciously shared on a continuous basis?
  3. Is it clear to each individual why they and everyone else is in the room?  Why their individual contribution is unique and important in the service of the deeper purpose?
  4. Is each person clear on their experience of this relationship to their own self, to the other, to the group, to the creative process, and to the creative source?
  5. Do the group’s collective agreements consciously invite, acknowledge, and engage the potential, development, and outcomes available to the group?
  6. Does the system they work in leverage the efficiency of their direct actions, the effectiveness of the feedback dynamics they interact with, and the coordination of those different dynamics towards the deeper purpose?
  7. Are the agreements, that are embedded in the impact they generate for other stakeholders, agreements that the stakeholders want to and capable of engaging with?
  8. Does the system have the capacity to engage the amount of energy it needs to generate its desired impact, towards its deeper purpose?

All the energy you need is already available, right there in the people who are already there with you.  As Einstein showed over 100 years ago, the amount of energy in a very small amount of matter is far more than we typically understand.  The energy is there, in potential.  You just have to learn to work with it.  And, if you bring it in the room, it is there, and you have to account for it.  Use it or lose it, to your own benefit or detriment.  The only thing that is not cost-free is not using it once it is there.  Said another way, it costs you greatly to not use it.  How to use it is well understood and easy to do, as millions of people demonstrate every day, everywhere around the planet.

Moving Through Time or Space, Where Does Your Energy Go?

Do you use your energy mostly for moving through space or for moving through time?  Does it matter?  Is there a purpose to the question?  Yes and yes.  It matters how the energy is used, the purpose to which you put it.

A little physics helps us see why.  Einstein’s theory of special relativity showed that as more energy goes to moving through space and less to moving through time, time seems to slow down–as velocity (distance in space over a period of time) increases, perceived time slows down.  At the extreme velocity, the speed of light, a photon does not experience time.  Conversely, the more energy goes to moving through time and less through space, it takes more time to cover a specific distance, or less space is covered in a period of time–as velocity decreases, perceived time speeds up.

Here is the part that seems to be confusing.  As time seems to slow down for the observer, more time is passing for the other, the non-observer.  Time seems to be going very slow for me, and passes more quickly for others.  We will get back to what this means in a minute.

Translating this insight from physics, we see that energy is always purposeful, meaning that energy has an attractive force, a gravity, as shown by Einstein’s theory of general relativity, a force that makes it cohere.  This energy goes into movement through time and space.  According to the founders of quantum physics, the normal understanding and use of time is obsolete.  They suggest it is more useful to understand that what we call time is actually a series of instances, in which choices are made.  Choices where something reflected the purpose, the state of the environment, the state of the organism, and a choice was made, something happened.  Lots of these instances occur in what we normally consider to be a second of time.  Energy, by definition, changes.  A choice about its changes occurs every instance.  Somehow, something makes this choice every instance.  The series of choices we experience is what we call time.  We also experience this energy as a form with extension–it extends over multiple dimensions, such as the three dimensions of length, width, and depth.  This is what we tend to think of as space, extension.  In summary, we experience energy over time (a series of choices for each instance) and space (in extension).

When we experience our energy, our purposeful energy, going into time, it goes into our processes of witnessing what is being reflected of our purpose and our own organism, and we choose, consciously or unconsciously, what to do.  When we experience our purposeful energy going into space, it goes into form-in-extension.  Our purposeful energy goes into time and space, a mix of reflector-witness-choosing and of form-in-extension.

If time seems to be slowing down, more of your purposeful energy is going into space, more into the form-in-extension, and less into reflector-witness-choosing.  When time seems to be speeding up, more of your purposeful energy is going into time, more into reflector-witness-choosing, and less into the form-in-extension.

In plain English, this means that when time seems to slow down, you might be focusing your (purposeful) energy more on the outcomes in your immediate environment.  When time seems to slow to a creep, when it takes forever for a second to pass, most of your purposeful energy might be going to your awareness of the immediate outcomes in your surroundings.  You could take this as an opportunity to be severely bored or disengaged, like in that endless meeting, or you could take this as a signal to yourself that you are not giving enough attention to your purposeful energy, your awareness, to being aware of the alignment between your purpose and your choices.

When time seems to go by very quickly, when whole spans of time seem to have passed without you being aware, most of your purposeful energy might be going to your awareness of the alignment between your purpose and your own organism’s choices.  You can take this as an opportunity to be lost in reflection–witnessing the reflection of your purpose and your organism’s choices–or you could take this as a signal to yourself that you are not being aware of what is manifesting in your immediate environment.

Maybe the reason both extremes, time goes too slow or too quick, seem to be wasteful, is that you are wasting the opportunity to choose how much of your purposeful energy goes towards being aware of your purpose, your environment, and your choices.  Balancing these uses of your purposeful energy allows you to tangibilize, to see what you want (purpose), what is happening outside (environment) and inside (organism), and to choose your response (form-in-extension).  When you are not balancing these, you give yourself signals, time goes by too fast or too slow.

You can transform your purposeful energy into an alignment of purpose, reflecting, witnessing, choosing, and extension-in-form, learning from what happens from what you saw, and adjusting what you witness.  You can move your energy through time and space, as you choose.  It matters, and it has a purpose.

The Power of Continuity

Does it make a difference if you care about what you do?  If you are really passionate and committed to what you give energy, or if it is just something that you do, because there is nothing better to do?  I observe that it makes a huge difference.  When I am connected to the power of that passion and commitment, I experience far greater energy.

Does it matter how much you are connected to that passion and commitment?  From not connected at all, to only connected briefly at times, to connected frequently, to connected much of the time.  I experience that how much I carry the commitment and passion with me influences how much energy I give to that commitment.  When it is high, I am a continuous ambassador for the passion.  Like with my family.

In our fieldwork right now at the Institute for Strategic Clarity, we are developing measures of this continuity power–the power of being connected to the deeper shared purpose, the love of the future for which I give my will.  In understanding the geometries of agreements fields, we are exploring how to assess continuity power as one of the key geometries.  “Continuity power” relates to (1) the gap between the desired and actual states of the deeper shared purpose, (2) the utility one has for closing the gap, and (3) the time that one is connected to that deeper shared purpose, of closing the gap.

Using the analogy of power, which is the amount of work done in a unit of time, and where work is the force applied over a distance, we see that the distance is the gap, the force applied is the utility to close the gap, and the time is the time dedicated to closing the gap.  Power = Work / time = (Force * distance) / time, or Continuity Power = Utility * gap / time.  Graphing out this function in the three dimensions shows an interesting geometry, where not all ranges of each of the three variables is possible.  We will be mapping this geometry and sharing the mapping of what we find in the world of human agreements fields over the next months.

This formulation also leads to some interesting initial insights, which we are now in the process of checking in the field.  Let’s work through the three elements: utility; gap; and time.  If the utility to close the gap is weak, maybe because of other priorities, then the work to close the gap will seem to be too great, which will lead to the need to reduce the gap.  The easiest way to reduce the gap is to lower the desired state towards the actual state.  This is a classic systems archetype, known as drifting goals.  If you do not see or connect to the deeper shared purpose, then the time connected decreases significantly, requiring much more continuity power to get the work done.  If the work to be done seems to be too much, this is probably a symptom of a low amount of time connected to the deeper shared purpose.  If it seems to be just too much work to be done to shift the system towards the desired state, then the easiest solution is to reduce either the force or the distance, the utility to change the system by closing the gap or changing the gap.

Conversely, as the time increases that you are connected to closing the gap between the desired and actual states of the deeper shared purpose, the continuity power required to get the work done decreases.  This suggests that it takes far more energy to move the system (to close the gap between the desired and actual states) when not connected to the deeper shared purpose.  It is much more efficient to move the system when connected more continuously to the deeper shared purpose.  It does seem to make a difference if you care about what you do, and how much of the time you are connected to that passion and commitment.  We will be field-testing these insights into the geometry of continuity power in the agreements fields over the next months, sharing here what we are finding.


From I Interact to We Interact

I have been in many conversations recently about how we, as Homo lumens, experience higher dimensions, in what often seem to be paradoxical ways.  As we explored our many different experiences in these realms, and how we interpreted them, I started to see another pattern.  This world that includes higher dimensions seems to be real.  We all describe our experience of it in many ways.  Whether with my kids, my wife, in the park, hearing about a friend’s beautiful experience with the hospital staff.  I experience the radiance the experience gives off.  I experience the pull to the experience.  I experience myself as part of and a part from the experience.  All at the same time.

If I experience this, then in some way it is real.  At least to me.  If you experience it as well, then maybe it is real in another way.  What if this world made of higher dimensions–higher than the one to four dimensions we normally perceive–is real, and it is mine and yours and ours?

This brings up, for me, the observation from psychology that much of what I see in the world is a projection of what I am seeing internally.  I am projecting my internal movie onto an external screen, which might look like you, and I am saying that the projection is real.  In this case, is the higher-dimensional reality where I am experiencing the push, the pull, being apart from and a part of my reality, your reality, or our reality?  It would be dangerous to assume that what I experience as your radiance and your pull is shared.  It would be healthy if you too experience the radiance toward me and the pull towards you.  It would be pathological if I believe you are radiating towards me and attracting me, and you do not.  Can I know which it is?  I think so.

Three simple observations might let me know whether this experience is healthy or pathological, only mine or shared.  First, when I experience higher dimensions, in my world, I simultaneously experience being in its radiance and its pull, apart from it and a part of it.  In my world, the one I experience, it is real.  Second, I cannot have your experience of higher dimensions.  I can be with you with your experience, but I cannot embody it.  That is your sovereignty, by design.  Third, I can know with you whether you are also having the shared experience of the same higher-dimensional essence.  I feel pulled to be part of this particular school community, and so do you. We are both part of a shared experience, and we can know this through our sharing.

So, I can know my reality of the push, of the pull, of being apart from, and of being a part of.  I can be with you with your experience of the same.  You and I can be in a shared experience together.  We can both experience the energy radiating from the experience and the pull of the deeper purpose we share.

When I experience this world within me alone, I interact with it.  When you experience this world, and I experience this world, with you, we experience it together: we interact.  We interact with the experience together.  I experience this interaction in my separateness from–as apart from–and in my connection with–as a part of.  So do you.  And when we interact, I experience that I need your perspective of the experience to complete what I can experience of our interaction together.  I need you to be different and relevant in this shared experience, so that we can interact in this deeper shared purpose, bringing the best uniqueness we each have.  If we do not each experience our own apartness from, then it would be more difficult to realize that we each have a unique experience of the push and the pull.  We can then choose to contribute our apartness from as a part of.

That we experience higher-dimensional experiences through our ordinary awareness in fewer dimensions then seems to be a gift.  This allows me to experience more directly my apartness from, my unique experience of the push and the pull, of what the attraction to and the partness of mean to me and to my unique gifts.  I can then consciously choose to be a part of the experience, to contribute myself.  I become a part of it, one with it.  When we each do that, we come together, we interact, and we create a stronger agreements field, through our conscious choice together.  We can co-host this experience together.  We can shift from I interact with the experience to we interact with the experience, and a much richer world can open up with us.

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.

iCo–The Power of Co-hosting

Colleagues in the global Vibrancy community have been working for many years on the concept of co-hosting.  We have found it to be a very powerful way of inviting and leading much greater impact resilience.

First of all, what do we mean by co-hosting?  We started with the analogy of a party.  Are we holding a party, like a meeting, where we are trying to lift the whole thing by ourselves?  It’s heavy, because in the holding gesture we are trying to manage the whole and each of the interactions of the part.  Surely you have been to a party or a committee meeting where you were micromanaged.  How was it?  We realized that we liked parties that were hosted more than parties that were held by someone.  The host tended to create an environment for a fun party, guide us periodically with food, music, or occasional introductions, generally leaving us to our own devices.  By looking for great hosting, we began to notice experiences that were even better than being hosted, where we were invited to be co-responsible for the experience and the outcomes.  We were invited to be co-hosts, hosting tougher, with all of us being responsible.  That is when we started to play with co-hosting.

When we look at co-hosting through the four lenses of the agreements evidence map–the economic, political, cultural, and social lenses–we begin to see a coherent set of practices that we have observed in very vibrant groups that achieve very high levels of impact resilience.

Co-investing.  Through the economic lens, we see co-investing.  What are the light, verb, noun resources we each bring to our interactions with each other?  When we bring all of who we are and all that we can see to the game, we bring potential, development, and outcomes.  We each bring something.  I do not contract you to bring only the capacities you already have, rather I invite you into investing with me, co-investing, everything you bring and everything I bring.  We have found the co-investing gesture to dramatically change our agreements with each other and with the organizations and communities we engage with in our work.  We have begun to measure the outcomes of co-investing by assessing the return on impact-resilience co-investment–the increased return on our investment, in terms of greater impact and resilience from lower costs of scarcity achieved through more powerful agreements.

Integrated conversations.  Through the political lens, we see integrated conversations.  Our colleagues at THORLO call them ICCs, for integrated collaborative conversations.  With decision making and enforcement based on all five primary relationships, who decides and enforces–the political lens–depends completely on the specific relationship-context.  Is it a decision for the self, for the other, for the group, for the creative, tangibilization process, or for the source of creativity?  They each co-exist within an integrated conversation, each with their own principles and responsibilities.  In highly vibrant integrated conversations, we find people contribute freely, interact freely and with mutual responsibility, with the responsibility to participate fully, respecting, witnessing, and learning in the creative process, looking for the sources of creativity everywhere.  Doing this turns out to be easy, very practical, and highly engaging.

Deeper shared purpose.  Through the cultural lens, we see that people are united by a deeper shared purpose.  This deeper shared purpose is what brings us all together, in any specific circumstance, whether we are aware of it or not.  Being clear on what that deeper shared purpose is turns out to be very powerful, as it taps into the deeper values that guide our interactions and invite our greater commitment and contributions.  We have found that by being explicit about the outcomes and experience we expect from our interactions, we are able to consciously choose agreements that align with these deeper value and the ethical principles that guide our interactions.

Collaboration.  Through the social lens, we see that people design their interactions for segregation, for flocking, or for collaboration.  In collaboration we are united, each necessary for our unique contributions to achieving the whole that we all want and need each other to achieve.   While many people say they are collaborating, we find they actually mean something very different.  We have found processes for inviting in and presencing collaboration, which we have synthesized with the O Process. In collaboration, we have found that people are able to continuously evolve their agreements by witnessing what is happening at every step of the creative tangibilization process, from seeing potential, and seeing pathways to manifest that potential, to seeing the outcomes from those pathways.  All an experiment in multiple levels of perceived reality, learning and evolving along the way, a process we now call tangibilization.

In looking at our experience of co-hosting, we now see through the 4 lenses that successful co-hosting requires a coherent set of practices that integrate co-investing, integrated conversations, deeper shared purpose, and collaboration, as four different ways of seeing one experience, that of co-hosting.  When the evidence in the agreements evidence map shows that one of these is at a lower level of agreements, then the co-hosting set is not coherent.  A high level of co-hosting requires coherence of all 4 at the same level of agreements.  While this seems complex at first, in practice it is not.  It is a matter of holding oneself to these principles, leading to a much more vibrant experience and much better outcomes.  Greater impact resilience.

A colleague told me the other day that she thought of herself as a “co” person, because she found herself constantly working in collaboration and co-investment as a co-host.  A very powerful way to invite each of us to be at our best, making our best contributions in our interactions.  Maybe that makes her an iCo.

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.


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.

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.


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.

The Whole Agreements Field Is Always Active — Sometimes Towards Purpose, Often Not

All elements in an Agreements Field are always active.  Always.  This is the picture of Homo lumens interacting with the self, other, group, nature, and spirit.  All five relationships are always there, whether consciously included or not.  The three levels of perceived reality are always there, whether they are perceived or not.  People are having an experience of less or greater vibrancy.  The interactions are resulting in outcomes, of lesser or greater impact and resilience.  The agreements, whether consciously chosen or unconsciously accepted, are there.

Agreements Field Mapping 071916a

This means that the whole experience of Homo lumens is always present.  The whole agreements map is active.  That only part of it is seen by the people interacting means that the other part is active and not seen.

AEMap 072516a

In their latest book, An Everyone CultureHarvard professors Robert Kegan and Lisa Laskow Lahey, suggest that most people are actually engaged in two jobs at work: (1) the contribution they are hired to make; and (2) protecting themselves.  “Imagine you’re paying a full-time wage for part-time work to every employee, every day” (p.2).

“In businesses large and small; in government agencies, schools, and hospitals; in for-profits and nonprofits, and in any country in the world, most people are spending time and energy covering up their weaknesses, managing other people’s impressions of them, showing themselves to their best advantage, playing politics, hiding their inadequacies, hiding their uncertainties, hiding their limitations.  Hiding.

We regard this as the single biggest loss of resources that organizations suffer every day” (p.1).

In measuring the impact resilience of a set of agreements, we have identified the “costs of scarcity,” the costs of not engaging the full human being.  The costs of Kegan and Lahey’s “second job” are just the start.

Another way of understanding this is to realize that the agreements that are seen and in the group’s awareness might be aligned with the group’s deeper purpose.  Often they are not, but they might be.  Our recent research suggests that those agreements that remain unseen, that are not part of the group’s awareness, where Homo lumens is not fully engaged, are usually not aligned with the group’s deeper purpose.  While unconscious competence might generate temporary alignment sometimes, it is not resilient to perturbations in the system, which always appear.  This lack of alignment has huge costs, much greater than the costs of the second job Kegan and Lahey highlight.  People are expending energy towards a purpose other than the group’s–vast amounts of energy.

If all elements of the agreements field are always active, they are doing something.  The question is whether this activity is aligned with the intended purpose or not.  Whether it is moving the group towards the purpose or away from it.  Most, if not all, of the elements that are not consciously part of the agreements exact a huge cost.

This changes the question, from whether it would be nice to incorporate more of the learning and possibility experiences, to whether it is highly ineffective and inefficient, when interacting with human beings, to not consciously choose to incorporate all three levels of perceived reality.  The first assumes an outcomes-only reality is more real and the development and potential levels of perceived reality are nice add ons.  The second assumes that humans are always in the process of being in potential and development and tangibilization.  For the first, engaging people requires a huge investment.  For the second, not engaging people has a huge cost.  Our recent research, and that of Kegan and Lahey, suggests that the second better explains why some groups have much better experiences and impact resilience than most.  Which do you choose?