Saturday, October 12, 2013

M2 : Belonging Is Fire [1]

Belonging rules the world. Most of what happens in life revolves around the bond of belonging.

And, that fiery, passionate place in our hearts where we deal with whether we belong or don’t belong to something/anything is the key to managing multiplicity.

As social animals, belonging runs us.  We crave the sense of identity, shelter, commitment and home that makes up belonging, a space where who we are and what we think and believe and know and contribute matters, a space where we will be listened to. Historically, belonging has meant survival, and it still does, even though it doesn’t always look as that’s the case.

We can belong to missions and causes or to people or maybe to both. But, we will seek and seek and seek to belong. It drives us.

A couple of posts ago, I talked about a professor, Dr. James Rosenau, who, among many others in the field of International Relations, predicted the slow demise of the nation-state and the rise of terrorism in the world. One of the foundations of that thinking was the shift of the sense of belonging from nations to smaller interest groups, and that included terror cells. 

Think about it: young people around the world looking for a sense of meaning, relevance and mattering, looking for something to hold on to. The fundamental desire is so huge that some of us will allow ourselves to be used as suicide bombers in order to experience feeling part of something. Do you see what I mean?  This is fire.

They did not feel that they were seen or could belong to their nominal culture. They couldn’t find a place to flourish.

High school shootings, followed by suicides. Reasons: Depression, separation, marginalization, exclusion, no sense of belonging. People lose arms and legs and lives over this.

So, if you, leaders, can create invitation and a possibility of belonging among great diversity… If lots of people from great levels of difference can feel they belong in a situation or community or an organization, you are managing multiplicity.

This is the big opportunity.

Belonging is fire. 


Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Dropping to the Heart

After the last post, I heard from a valued colleague who posed a question that has become the focus for today:

I love your recent blog post, Sallie.  These questions are part of my heart song.  How do we hold ‘I and Thou’ as Buber said?  How do we do we honor the ‘I’ and the 'we' of the system? I'm curious about the ways that you and others invite people into this multiplicity, especially the drop from head to heart.  

Here’s an expanded version of the answer I sent her.

Yes, the question you are raising about the 'drop to the heart' is the big one.  We can easily intellectualize the need for wholeness and see multiplicity from so high above the fray that it never gets real except as a concept.

I differ from many in the leadership field in that I believe that there are two macro ways to drop to the heart and that both are required, not in any particular order:

--Individually reflected WHOLENESS PRACTICE from the INSIDE OUT:  There are so many individual reflective practices that are recommended and commendable for generating heart connection.  Any of us can benefit from taking the time to focus and connect to all creation, in whatever way that calls to us.

For me, compassion meditation has been a life-changing and life-connecting practice: not focused on emptying the mind but on having compassion and kindness for the whole and for myself, choosing to picture those we feel have hurt us and forgive them. I was fortunate enough to get trained in this Cognitively-Based Compassion Training [CBCT] at Drepung Loseling Monastery in Atlanta through their Emory-Tibet Partnership program.  This is a gentle meditation practice, but by no means is it easy, at least for me.

I have frequently read leadership practitioners promoting some version of this essential practice. They speak about the importance of personal transformation as a prerequisite for group transformation.  Personally, I don’t think we have time to wait for our leaders to experience personal transformation, but I do believe that having a reflective practice is one path to perceiving and connecting to the Multiplicity and that that is a path to transformation.

--All invited WHOLENESS PRACTICE from the OUTSIDE IN: The other path is daily life--right now--working with others in specific, practical ways that help us do more together and reinforce the opening of the heart while we're at it.

For me the #1 wholeness tool and practice is thoughtful, exploratory and persistent inquiry, using questions to open doors and draw out the brilliance and the stories of others.  Hearing the experience and wisdom of someone helps us see them as us, and to appreciate the humanity and contribution of all, no matter how superficially different from us.

Managing Multiplicity and ‘dropping to the heart’ is more than anything the practice of continuous invitation into dialogue and belonging.  We can’t ask people what they think about something without acknowledging them as stakeholders and ‘belongers’. The invitation from one brings with it the opportunity [and requirement] for another to accept and step up and step in to relationship.

This may sound heady, but I know that many of you reading this have had the experience of asking someone a real question and inviting them into participation in a way that engenders a connection that amazes you both. Or, maybe I should say that it makes visible the connection that has always already been there in our interdependent existence. It can make for an immediate ‘drop to the heart’ and generate solutions at the same time.

Perhaps the greatest gift we can give ourselves and our communities is to keep creating situations where the whole system can show up and participate [since it does anyway].  Then, we can see what wholeness looks and feels like.  We can see the infinite power of the multiplicity--it can blow you over, take your breath away, connect up your heart, and scare you to death, or into momentary awakening.

From the Inside out; from the Outside in.

...the future well being of the planet depends significantly on the extent to which we can nourish and protect not individuals, or even groups, but the generative process of relating.  Ken Gergen, Relational Being, 2009

Monday, September 23, 2013

The Multiplicity and 'Me': Sliding Down the Intellect to the Heart

For weeks, this blog space was focused on the literacy of reframing reality and what it takes. Much of the beginning work of reframing can be done in the head, applying the intellect to looking from a different vantage point, shifting perspective to at least try on a new way of thinking.  But acting on new insights to change habits of thought takes intention, discipline and practice.  It also takes tuning into our feelings and sliding down the chute from our heads to our hearts [probably along the Vagus nerve]. So does managing multiplicity,

You can’t really manage the whole and the Multiplicity externally, out in the world of interactions, unless you are managing it internally.  And, that can only be done at the level of the heart, opening the heart.  It's one thing to intellectually understand the opportunity of so many minds and talents and perspectives coming together; it's another to actually open to what that looks like day-to-day.

Day-to-day, it looks like extending invitations to those around us--continuous invitations that takes us from I + Other to I + We. This goes way past the terms that I see in leadership books and leadership courses, where we are exhorted to offer:
  • ·       Respect
  • ·       Tolerance
  • ·       Listening
We throw these terms around like they are the answer. These terms in action may be a good start, but they’re not sufficient to the world we are living in now or the solutions we are stalking to big issues.

How do we move to a place of real invitation for others to come to our tables and work with us?

In the 1990s, I read Starhawk’s provocative novel, The Fifth Sacred Thing, proposing a possible future in a post-apocalyptic world. In the novel, a small enclave of people has escaped the [typical] society of militarized, enslaved repression to create an integrated ecosystem of belonging, earth-honoring, and non-violence.

I have reread the book at least five times over the years.  It’s not my favorite work stylistically, and the themes of the very different cultures and governance structures feel stereotypical by now, but the book still inspires me every time I pick it up.
I have carried one particular piece of it with me every time I facilitate a dialogue or a summit or a strategic planning session or a community encounter: in the story, when the soldiers from the oppressive regime invade the militarily defenseless eco-community, the ‘citizens’ continuously invite the soldiers to sit down with them and to join them in a meal, using the phrase,  “There is a place set for you at our table.”*

It’s their form of non-violent resistance, offering a clear image of 
the opportunity of human connection.  Think of it: In our megaworld community, we are constantly engaged in planetary meal making and consuming and replanting and reharvesting at the global table.  We are all called on to manage multiplicity and to find ways to sit down together, over and over again.

I am coming to the conclusion that MANAGING MULTIPLICITY probably has the highest learning curve and the highest stakes of the literacies I've been exploring.

Why?  Because it takes deeply integrating and practicing at least two of the assumptions that underlie all six literacies:
  • ·       We are interdependent and we all long to belong, [in fact, we all do belong.]
  • ·       We are both self-interested and capable of great compassion and empathy. 
Managing multiplicity is our greatest leadership challenge.  It is our work. And our Earth home is giving us lots of opportunities to see what working with wholeness feels like, to practice everyday, right now, to become literate, whether we want to or not. 

My long-time good friend, Ravi Pradhan, wrote the following comment on my Facebook page after reading the first post on Multiplicity—he writes about how we find the path and practices to manage multiplicity:

“The challenge is how do we actually generate it within our own mind/heart? Without a real "practice" it is not possible to do it just with intellectual understanding. Yet, many of us continue to believe in the superstition that an intellectual understanding will generate it…intellectual understanding can put you on a path, whatever tradition it may be. However, without a real practice, one cannot progress too far on the path.”

Yes, how do we generate the compassion and curiosity necessary to offer continuous invitation to one another?

Here's a question to consider and share your insights, if you wish, in the Comments section below:

What are your most vivid experiences of real invitation, extended or received? What are those experiences teaching you about how to live in a state of invitation?

*By the way, a film is being made now of The Fifth Sacred Thing, and they are looking for more funding.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Multiplicity and Interdependence

When I was in graduate school in international relations, I remember being struck by the varieties of bi-lateral and multi-lateral international, regional and global relations.  The idea of international interdependence was gaining traction in the 1980s, but as we looked at the nature of interdependence, professors talked about some countries being more dependent on other nations; countries were sometimes described as ‘center’ or ‘periphery’ nations, with center countries having more resources, stature and power.

In the early 1990s, I heard Dr. James Rosenau, then professor of International Affairs at George Washington University, shed welcome light on nation-state relations by talking about the turbulence of complex systems, creating an international system of ‘cascading, complex, asymmetrical interdependence.’  It seemed to me the best description of the layered relations that countries had to navigate. Within those relations were the issues brought on by absolutely essential resource needs, such as oil, that influenced all other commercial trade relations, plus immigration issues, educational exchanges, defense systems, foreign aid, political alliances, and issues of sovereignty infringements. The list goes on. 

Think about the complexity of the global conversation on Syria right now.

Being a head of state these days turns a person’s hair gray and adds lines to the face. Just grasping the edge of the complex implications of nation-state level decision-making seems to take a cast of experts, and the picture is still hard to see. Too many moving pieces.

Rosenau died in 2011. Interestingly, his last book, published in 2007, was PEOPLE COUNT! THE NETWORKED INDIVIDUAL IN ‘WORLD POLITICS.

In it, he made the leap from the power dynamics of nation-states to the emergent power of connected individuals.

Quoting from the Amazon book description,  “People Count! rests on a single but important premise: As the world shrinks and becomes ever more complex, so have people as networked individuals become ever more central to the course of events. The age of the nation-state has yielded to the age of the individual…”

Networked individuals—multi-faceted, multi-lingual, multi-cultural, multi-local, multi-committed, multi-believing, multi-generational, multi-incomed, multi-habituated, multi-believing, multi-framed, multi-valued, multi-spiritual and multi-religious, multi-gendered, multi-political, multi-techno, multi-networked, multi-desiring….. what other ‘multis’ might you add here?

The multiplicity in action.

And, It’s not just the interdependence and interconnectedness among humans but also with other species.

Managing multiplicity includes thinking about and connecting to not only our impacts on other species and plant life on earth but also their impact on us.

We are hearing that the ways we manage our chemicals and pesticides look like they have killed somewhere up to 60% of all honeybees and that the die-off has enormous implications for our crops and ecosystem balance, no small thing.

Just when, as leaders, we think that we can’t deal with one more variable, perspective or connected impact, another set surfaces.  That’s what managing multiplicity is about—we’re not able to be successful with a linear, incremental, partial inclusion approach.  It’s coming at us, whole cloth, all the time, in all its complex beauty.

The Multiplicity.

I’ll be commenting on some ways to think about and get more literate in managing multiplicity in the next posts.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

An Introduction to Managing Multiplicity

There are so many business and community challenges that need multi-perspective thinking, contribution and innovation, so being able to manage multiplicity and engage the whole is important for leaders.

If too much separation and lack of understanding other perspectives brings out our worst, what does wholeness do?

As the command/control way of governing gives way in the face of information proliferation and virtual connection, it is key for leaders [and all of us] to get better at navigating the multiple realities that make up our day-to-day environments.  We need one another to make sense of all that is going on around us, to make meaning together. This is more than just an appreciation of the value and potential of the whole but clear strategies and processes for tapping into the whole in ways that are open, dynamic and interactive.  It’s not just a nice thing to do; it’s absolutely necessary for organizational and community flourishing.

Leaders are often encouraged to ‘surround yourself with talent.’  The fact of the matter is, leaders are already surrounded by talent.   If that’s the case, the question becomes ‘How do you tap it?’

Inclusion of all frames and perspectives
When we want to attract the best thinking in our organizations and communities, it’s important to not think of top-down or bottom-up but of the whole, not just of a little representation or a little diversity but of the whole.
·      What is the configuration and pattern of completeness?
·      What can tap unlimited potential? 
·     What will bring fresh views of the truth to the table and elevate the conversation?

If it feels too messy to you, think of old-fashioned barn-raisings.  Why not do that now, in new ways? What new ways of thinking can you attract to build what your organization needs for the future?

We can invoke our own version of crowdsourcing. With the complexity of issues now, we need all the innovation and ideas we can tap.

As leaders, you’re going to have to relate to, include and deal with the whole system somehow, sometime on issues that have far-reaching impact.  Why not now?

People sometimes talk about participative management as abdication of leadership.  
But this kind of radical participation—bringing a whole plant together—is not abdication, 
but just the opposite.  Leadership is given life by relationship, by good conversation.  
The more relationship, the more leadership.  This is what the web of inclusion is about. 
Jim Staley, President, Roadway, Fast Company July 2001, p. 56

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Collective Work on New Habits

Here’s a comment I received from CrowbarJoe about last week’s posting on reframing and habits:

Yes, I think it is hard to change ourselves, but not because we don't see or believe in the new vision. 

I think it's hard to let go of the old. Sometimes we feel that letting go is the same as denying. But we can reaffirm the past value, and still move on - kind of like the abhorrent 3/5 compromise that got our forefathers temporarily past a divisive issue and on to creating a nation. (I'm guessing Egypt might benefit from a 3/5-type of compromise right now.)

So here's the script:
"Yes, it was an accomplishment. Yes, we felt good about it. It will always be there, and we can always be proud of it when we remember it. Now, let's figure out how to create this new structure to better leverage our new reality. Here's an idea: instead of starting the day with that first cup of coffee, how about a first glass of orange juice?"

Let's not be afraid to take a next (or first) step on the spiral.

I agree that the issue with changing isn’t that ‘we don’t see or believe in the new vision’.  That’s the most interesting part of it.  We get the importance, but we can’t seem to get over to that new reality that we can clearly see.

Letting go of the past is part of it, yes.  We often need to acknowledge the value of something in the past as we let go of it.  Whenever I attempt to leave my coffee habit behind, I have nostalgic memories of sitting in coffee shops in different parts of the world having great conversations.  I remember the way that felt, and I sigh because I don’t want to give it up.

‘Daily drift’ is another part of changing habits.  We tend to slide into certain behaviors out of habit, especially when we are focusing on something else.  At least, I do.  While I’m  working on something I want to finish and get out, I find that cup of coffee in my hand, even though I might have made the commitment to letting go of coffee.  I have to pay careful attention to some new desired behavior, especially when there is some element of addiction, as with coffee.  I have to practice new behaviors over and over to make new habits.

But, what makes that practice likely to succeed?  What has me keep up the practicing?  My experience is that it I succeed when I am part of a group that is practicing the same or similar new behaviors—I need the “we”.  I believe that we need the support of partners to accompany us along the way.  I have friends in my neighborhood to walk with in the mornings—if they go out of town or are unavailable, I am MUCH less likely to walk.  We have created a container for the practice of walking that supports us.

What does this mean for organizations?

It could mean that organizations have greater ease in acting on new frames and creating new habits. Organizations can set the direction of focus and co-create ways to practice new behaviors—together.

I worked with a wonderful organization a few years ago that wanted to increase engagement and staff satisfaction. The leadership demonstrated support for the project by getting the whole organization involved in our conversations and our reframing of what engagement looked like for different areas of the system.  We all agreed on behaviors that would make a difference, and each area chose an ongoing project of importance to them where they would apply the new behaviors.  This was the ‘practice’ portion.

Some changes occurred, and there was some slight shift in the organizational culture, just by virtue of having focused attention on the topic.  But the practicing of new behaviors never really occurred across the organization, even after the top team, managers and staff had co-created the process and agreed to the terms.  Practicing took too much time, attention and focus.  The project drifted, and when I pointed out the obvious drift, the response of the leadership was just like when we try to shift personal habits: we didn’t have time, I couldn’t focus on it, it was easier to do things the way we had always done them, even though we were not increasing staff engagement….

They weren’t really committed, together.  Commitment is different  from mandating. Mandating doesn’t usually change a company’s culture, but real reframing and commitment to new behaviors will.  Organizations have a tremendous tool at their disposal for making change—the collective—and if the  reframing captures the will of the collective, new practices will pay off.  Group habits will shift.

Here’s a simple way of looking at the move toward new habits:

  • ·      See the desired new [the reframe]
  • ·      COMMIT
  • ·      Acknowledge the old ways
  • ·      Practice
  • ·      Observe how the group is doing
  • ·      Pay attention to the benefits of the new practice
  • ·      Tweak systems and structures to support the new habit
  • ·      Keep supporting  the new habit

 What do you think it takes to move from new sight to new habits?