Introduction to new paper: Social Change Through Multi-Generational Dialogue

Social Change Through Multi-Generational Dialogue
The root of our global crisis, more frequently than not, is a crisis of leadership” (Pór, 2008a, p. 14). This very well might be the foundation of the difficulties we face as we approach social change globally. We are depending on old paradigms of leadership which fall short of what we need as we organize to address the complexity and challenges of our world. Depending on older leaders who bring forth the knowledge and experience of leading in a world that no longer exists to train and develop emerging leaders is one of the artifacts we need to challenge if we are going to be able to act effectively to create the needed social changes to create a healthy world. Older leaders stand to learn just as much from younger leaders as younger leaders have to learn from older leaders. This paper proposes that we can transform leaders of all ages by bringing them together in multi-generational dialogue to address the pressing questions that we as people, organizations, and societies face now and into the years to come. Pór, a pioneer in collective intelligence, explains the old paradigm as well as what we can expect by changing the paradigm when he explains,
In hierarchy-ridden social institutions [or any organization]….the meaning making function is attributed to the top. Times of exponential expansion of knowledge and complexity call for a new, more capable mode of the social organization of meaning. When this happens, we won’t be drowning in information while longing for wisdom (p. 11).
As we bring generationally diverse leaders into dialogue around questions that are critical to our future, we provide a framework for community intelligence to emerge. And when we add to this a global perspective that understands that all things are interconnected, we have the opportunity for global wisdom of the group to emerge and it is this group wisdom that will provide us the direction to move forward. As group wisdom is one of the important outcomes that this paper hopes to highlight, let’s define what we mean by group wisdom and why it is different than collective intelligence. Atlee and Pór (2006) provide a us with a picture of the difference between collective intelligence and wisdom. They start by explaining that collective intelligence is not always wise and it is wisdom that we need which then leads us into their explanation of collective intelligence and wisdom. They say
In relation to intelligence, wisdom can be viewed as an expanded perspective and motivation that embraces more of the whole of the situation being considered. Collective intelligence is wise, then, to the extent it successfully embraces whole systems in all their complexity and contexts; the interests, capacities and perspectives of all stakeholders and of the systems, themselves; full, relevant, and nuanced information about the situation; the whole of who we are as human beings; any emergent realities and creative possibilities; and so on. The more that intelligence — whether individual or collective — embraces the whole of relevant reality, the wiser we can consider it to be.

A time to reflect on the years conversations

With school, work, health, and family, this has been an incredibly busy year. I can honestly say that I do not remember a year quite like it. So many wonderful outcomes of the conversations that I have had as well. After four years in my current role at work, our site is performing and our leadership team is doing well. I have been coaching and mentoring our leadership team to coach through conversation using conversational leadership, engage with their direct reports, simplify messages, and create the discipline to have the right conversations at the right time and not procrastinate. Incredibly after four years they are doing it and it is paying off. Our staff is doing much better and morale is up. Our site feels successful. Wonderful.

My family is doing great. David is working as a barista and he has a wonderful conversational style with his clients. They love him and he is having fun.  Hazel and Kinnera are also doing well with my Hazel helping at school and again dance skating. Kinnera loves school and is one of the top students in school. She is an example why gaming is not bad for kids. She is a fantastic gamer,  a fantastic student, and socially very connected. A fantastic kid.

School is going well. I am finishing my coursework so that I can start my dissertation starting in May. I study so much it is incredible. But I love the work. My field is dialogue and deliberation and the focus of my thesis is going to be developing generationally diverse leadership in conversational leadership through sustained dialogue using The World Cafe. Very exciting work and I am excited to begin. I will be glad to have my coursework behind me and focus on my dissertation. Another exciting transition in my life.

I hope you have a wonderful new year. I know that I will.

November Systems Thinking Conference in Seattle

Another wonderful systems thinking conference produced by Pegasus Communications. This is my third year attending the systems thinking conference and it is a time to connect in conversation with friends and associates that I do not have a chance to see face to face during the year. The key note presentations this year were not only insightful but inspiring. In particular I enjoyed Peter Senge’s presentation and that of David Whyte, an author and poet whose message was heartfelt and transformative. Another presentation that I really enjoyed was from Linda Booth Sweeney as she wove her conversation into participation with the audience. The last key note was presented by John Seely Brown and he provided extraordinary insights into the transformation of our communities and the role of technology, gaming, and social networking. He really opened my eyes to the talents and capabilities of the generation that have these technologies as native to them. Graphic recording was excellent during the conference and weaving was provided by Gary Malkin between sessions. His beautiful voice certainly helped set the tone for the conference.

The conference theme was courageous conversations and as we progressed through the several days together, each speaker wove this theme into their conversation and by the end of the conference I began to fully appreciate the need for courageous conversations to not only set the tone for the future but to create the future that we envision.

As well this conference gave me a chance to delve deeper into the conversation community and meetings with The World Cafe team were powerful. What a committed, talented, and passionate team of people. I was disappointed to miss the national SoL meeting as I was involved in The World Cafe meetings. There simply is not enough time to do it all.

I left the conference with a new sense of connection to the greater conversation field and new friends and partners who all are dedicated to this wonderful work that we do.

John

Conversations and collaboration are the way forward…

if you are interested in creating a sustainable world. This is one of the core messages that I got out of reading Peter Senge’s new book, The Necessary Revolution. This book is a testament to the power of conversation and a must read for anyone interested in being a part of transforming our world. Please read the book review below that I wrote and posted on Amazon.com and on shelfari.com. My message to you? Buy the book and read it. Then act.

This long awaited book fulfills all of my expectations for a manual to help us create the conversations and collaboration necessary to reclaim our world’s health. Over the years there have been quite a few high impact books helping us understand the extent of the challenges we face as we look forward to create a sustainable world. “The Necessary Revolution” steps forward and outlines how to create the partnerships that are needed to unleash the pent up creativity that millions of team members across the world and in all enterprises have been holding back. Peter Senge and team from his organization Society for Organizational Learning come at the subject as world leaders in the austere world of business. It is going to be very difficult for business leaders across the world to read this work and write it off as rantings of an extremist. Peter is one of the top business minds in the world and I do not believe this work can be easily ignored.

For those of us who are disbursed across enterprises and feel like we have little impact on moving our enterprises towards a more sustainable future, this book provides outstanding case studies of work being done across the world by enterprises large and small. Some of the work and the visions of the leaders chronicled in this text are not only enlightening but surprising. After many chapters a “toolbox” is provided to help set the stage for the conversations and collaboration needed to move change forward. And of course, all of this work is set in a framework of systems thinking which is so necessary to be able to see beyond the silos so many are bound by.

“The Necessary Revolution” should be required reading for community leaders of all types, NGO, religious, Government, and corporate alike. As we start to create these critical partnerships and conversations focused on sustainability, I believe that we can quickly change the course that we are on. A must for every person who wants to see a change in our direction. Thank you Peter, Bryan, Nina, Joe, and Sara for this extraordinary work.

Keep up the conversations and let’s work to improve this speck of dust in space for our children and their children and the generations to come. They deserve it.

John

If you ever doubted the power of conversation, read…

Three Cups of Tea. What a life changing book. Not only is this book about a powerful strategy for healing the world, it is about what we should be doing, being in conversation with others in the world so that we can build bridges and schools rather that attack and demonize those who like us are simply trying to take care of their friends and families the best way they know how. What is absolutely clear to me is that the only way to understand others, to build relationships, is through conversation. As Margaret Wheatley says, “I believe we can change the world if we start listening to one another again. Simple, honest, human conversation. Not mediation, negotiation, problem-solving, debate, or public meetings. Simple, truthful conversation where we each have a chance to speak, we each feel heard, and we each listen well.”

This is indeed the essence of leadership. Simple honest human conversation. When was the last time that you had a simple honest human conversation with your team members, your family, your friends, or those you simply do not understand? This is a question that we must all ask ourselves. Only through conversations will we ever connect and help others grow, learn, understand, and thrive as humans. This is our opportunity as humans. As I read Three Cups of Tea I was struck with not only Greg’s passion and abilities, but his willingness to open his heart and simply be in conversation with others. Because he was able to listen and learn, his heart and the hearts of those he hoped to help were opened to possibilities. He saw possibilities and greatness in the people of Northern Pakistan. What if we all saw possibilities in those from other cultures, faiths, and traditions? Then simply engaged with them in conversation. We too could change the world.

It has been a while since I felt like something was so important that I needed to write about it. So in this post I suggest a call to action. Not simply an intellectual exercise, but a commitment to contribute our knowledge, our time, our heart, and our dollars to support the efforts of the Central Asia Institute and its mission to build schools to educate girls in this part of the world. We can change the world, one child at a time, one school at a time.

Engage in conversations around questions that matter. And then act to help change the world.

Your friend in conversation,

John

“You can not give away what you don’t own…

…anymore than you can come from where you haven’t been.” This quote by Larry Wilson founder of Wilson Learning and Pecos River Learning is one of the foundation pieces to my work in conversational leadership. If we do not engage those who work for and with us in healthy respectful conversations, how can we ever expect them to do the same with others. It is really quite simple. With the hundreds of books written on leadership you might think that this field is extrememly complex. I just do not see it this way. If we expect our team members to show caring and compassion for our customers and other team members and we do not provide that same caring and compassion for them, we are deluded if we believe they can give away what they do not receive.

Sure some people will simply deliver because that is who they are but we can not expect everyone to have that level of inner peace. And playing the “they should…” game is of no use. Sure everyone “should” have a healthy and robust personal tool kit but just because we wish it were so, does not mean it will be. If we want to be leaders, we must first own our responsibility to those around us to help them grow and develop into the “greatness” they have inside of them. With that level of commitment, our conversations will shift from the “You should have…” to the “I see in you..”. But back to the quote, if we as a leaders have no compassion, no love, no caring, no empathy, no spirit of service, how on earth do we expect to deliver the same to those who depend on us. And for us then to expect these same people to deliver what we can not or will not deliver to them is most certainly demanding of a reality check.

So again this is all quite simple. We need to reach out and engage others in conversations based on compassion, caring, love, empathy, and a spirit of service and once we do so, we just might be given permission to provide insights on performance improvement helping others be successful and helping them help the enterprise fulfill its goals and objectives. This is what conversational leadership is all about. A balance that can only be achieved with a open heart and an open mind. I wish you the best and continue the wonderful conversations.

John.

A Squidoo lens focused on how to lead through conversation

This new Squidoo lens provides a look at my work and interest in a variety of areas where conversation is the foundation. I welcome conversations on any of these topics and welcome ideas where we might be able to collaborate together to change the world.

Conversational leadership: This is where most of my current work as a Leadership Development Manager is focused. I have a deep seated belief that conversation is at the core of relationships and performance improvement.

Sustainability: Social and ecological responsibility are a passion of mine. I will explore and provide a lens into some of the better work in this critical area of focus.

Conversation: I believe that conversation can change the world. I again will explore and provide a lens into some of the better work in this critical area of focus.

read more digg story

Possibilities: I see greatness in you

Can you imagine the healing in our world if only everyone in leadership saw possibilities in their team members rather than deficiencies? Can you imagine if we all said to our team members, “I see possibilities in you. I see greatness in you. I want to reach out and help you develop the greatness I see in you.” Instead all to often we say to our team members, “You are not good enough. All I see in you are your inadequacies.” I can hear a collective human cry, “Please someone see what possibilities I have and reach out to help me develop my greatness. I do have greatness in me, I am just not sure what it is or how to access it. Please reach out and help me.” And quite honestly, this is the role of a conversational leader. How can you lead if you can not see greatness in others? I just do not see how that can be.

At the end of a three day leadership development course I teach within my organization, we play a video, “Leadership: an Art of Possibility” produced by Groh Productions. This is one of the most powerful videos that I have ever seen. We speak to possibilities throughout the workshop and this video drives home the message that if we were only to see possibilities in our team members, we could help transform their lives. If we can do that, we can help create healthy team member who will create healthy families and healthy homes for our children to grow up in. The possibilities are extraordinary.

I don’t know about you, but I long for someone, anyone to tell me that they see greatness in me and possibilities that I do not yet see. Sometimes I feel that just because people see that I have my “act together” that I don’t need a helping hand. Each of us can use a helping hand. A mentor to help us navigate the complex waters of the communities within which we work, play, and contribute. I can only imagine what it would feel like to have someone come to me and say, “I see possibilities in you. I see greatness in you. I would like to help you achieve that greatness.”

So my plea to you is to reach out and start this conversation with those who count on you for support. Your friends, your family, you significant other, your children, your employees, your students, and your peers. I believe that you can change the world through the act of engaging in these simple conversations.

I wish you the best and keep up the conversations.

John

Pegasus Conference

I attended the Pegasus conference from Sunday October 4th through Wednesday October 7th. The conference title Amplifying Our Impact: Strategies for Unleashing the Power of Relationship was well defined. The speakers, the break out sessions and the tone of the conference fully honored and supported conversation as the foundation for change in our world. And over and over again, I gained perspective on how I could personally amplify my impact on our world. In particular, I found the partnership with The World Cafe and the Society for Organizational Learning to be very powerful. I had the opportunity to participate in meetings and sessions with both organizations and came away from the conference with renewed hope for our world. I also came away from the conference with new friends and partners, all focused on the work that I love.

There were about 1000 participants at the conference all focused on building communities that focus on learning, systems, and conversation. What an extraordinary experience. I could not have asked for more from a conference. Some of the personal highlights for me included Otto Scharmer, Peter Senge, Juanita Brown, David Isaacs, Nancy Margulies and her wonderful graphic work and then Van Jones who is proving that we can change the world through a focus on solutions rather than problems.

I have provided a link to The World Cafe Blog where Amy Lenzo of The World Cafe has done a wonderful job of capturing the tone and essence of the conference. I will not even try to replicate this fantastic work. I highly recommend that you go to this blog and not only review this post but sign up and participate if your love is around creating conversations that matter.

One of my personal insights was about the emerging field of work around conversational leadership, see my Conversational Leadership model that I talk to, a field that I am fully engaged in and focused on. I first defined this field of work in my paper on conversational leadership, Con versare: To Dance Together, in my last year of my masters program in late 2002. It was so gratifying to know that this field of study is begining to gain some recognition.

Pegasus has another conference scheduled for next year in Boston on November 17-19, titled Systems Thinking in Action, a conference I will surly attend.

I wish you the best and keep the conversations going.

John