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

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

Creating a sustainable conversation

Conversations do have a life time. The life of the conversation generally is influenced by the question that is on the table. The more compelling the question, the longer the life of the conversation. Some conversations seem to last for years because they generate enough passion to keep going. Others can last only minutes. This is always of interest to me as some of the questions that I pose have short life times and I am absolutely certain when I pose them that they will generate an in depth conversation. Other times, a simply question will generate an unexpected conversation.

There is an art to learning how to pose questions that matter. I suspect that with practice and experience one can get better at asking questions that matter. I recently asked a question on a board for an e-learning course that I took. The board was almost void of conversation and I wanted to generate an online community so I posed the question, “What does it take to generate a conversation in an online setting?” and surprisingly this question did generate quite a conversation.

I have been actively participating in online communities for quite a while but still am frustrated with the lack of conversation within those communities. Some are of course better than others. Finding a community where you can share, learn, grow, and make a difference is no easy task and if one finds a community such as this, you are blessed.

I wish you well in your conversations.

Welcome to Learning Conversations

Welcome to learning conversations. My passion is creating learning in communities. All communities, from small to large. I do this through conversation. Conversation is not discussion, debate, or even dialogue, even though it is closest to dialogue. I use the word conversation deliberately. So I would like to set the stage for this blog and hopefully not return to the dry etymology of the word conversation.

Etymology (where did these words come from or what is the source of their meaning):

discussion – c.1340, from O.Fr. discussion, from L.L. discussionem “examination, discussion,” in classical L., “a shaking,” from discussus, pp. of discutere “strike asunder, break up,” from dis- “apart” + quatere “to shake.” Meaning of “talk over, debate” first recorded 1448. Sense evolution appears to have been from “smash apart” to “scatter, disperse,” then in post-classical times via the mental process involved to “investigate, examine,” then to “debate.”

debate – 14c., from Fr. debattre, orig. “to fight,” from de- “down, completely” + batre “to beat.”
dialogue – 12c., from O.Fr. dialoge, from L. dialogus, from Gk. dialogos, related to dialogesthai “converse,” from dia- “across” + legein “speak.” Mistaken belief that it can only mean “conversation between two persons” is from confusion of dia- and di-.

conversation – 1340, from O.Fr. conversation, from L. conversationem (nom. conversatio) “act of living with,” prp. of conversari “to live with, keep company with,” lit. “turn about with,” from L. com- intens. prefix + vertare, freq. of vertere (see convert). Specific sense of “talk” is 1580. Used as a synonym for “sexual intercourse” from at least 1511, hence criminal conversation, legal term for adultery from late 18c.

converse (adj.) – 1570, from L. conversus “turn around,” pp. of convertere “to turn about” (see convert). Originally mathematical.

Con versare: To Dance Together is a paper that I wrote that captures the foundation of my work in conversation. The one quote that captures this more than anything else is:

Conversation is the natural way we humans think together –Wheatley

Conversation is in essence an experiential feeling based exchange. It is not dry or matter of fact, it is as though you are in an intimate exchange with a friend. When you lose your self while talking with someone else you are in conversation. You are in a dance together. Tools I use include World Cafe, circles, and a myriad of other collaborative and cooperative tools and strategies. All of then drive conversation when they are at their best.

Learing is the outcome of conversation and that is why this blog is a learning conversation blog. I welcome a conversation about this important topic and maybe we all will learn a bit more about how we learn together.

If you would like to explore other links to sites that are learning organization, living systems, organic systems, complex adaptive systems, social systems, and self-organization based, you are welcome to visit my web links and explore. And of course pass on others that I can add to my collection.

So on with the conversation. Welcome to learning conversations.

John