Monday, January 21, 2013

Leadership Literacies: Platformation #3

Assumption 3 [of 4]:  

Interconnected: Every individual and organization is a living system nested within larger systems and networks.  We are interconnected and interdependent.

All together now. All together now. All together now. All together now….
The Beatles

No human, organization, community, corporation, nation, or region is an island unto itself. Everything we do has impact and consequences somewhere, whether that strengthens or weakens the larger systems of connection and support.

Most of us would say ‘of course’ to the statement above, but do we run our lives and our companies that way? Do we really look at the systemic impacts of our resource and material use, our waste disposal, the systemic costs of how we eat? 

Can we make the leap to what I’m calling bio belonging--accepting that we belong to the planet/ the natural world, rather than it belonging to us as a resource to be used however we want? What are the implications for how we think of our systems and our responsibilities then? What does that mean for what leaders [and all of us] need to be literate in, as a matter of species survival [ours] vs. a political position on economic models?

Interconnectedness is an easy conversation topic but a tough real shift to make in our mental frameworks, worldviews and daily decisions and practices.

But, perhaps we can learn and practice together, taking advantage of our natural connections and thought contagion. As digital networks grow and connect more and more of us in the world around our interests, causes, concerns, and communities, we become more aware of the field of connection that pervades everything.

“…latest evidence from many disciplines—from neuroscience and biology to quantum physics—suggests that nature’s most basic drive is not competition, as classic evolutionary theory maintains, but wholeness….new research demonstrating that all living beings, have been hardwired to seek connection above virtually any other impulse—even at personal cost… ‘The individual’ is only the sum of an infinite number of inexactly defined parts, and the parts as we currently understand them are shifting and transforming at every moment…Nature’s most basic impulse is not a struggle for dominion but a constant and irrepressible drive for wholeness.” [Lynne McTaggert, The Bond]

We each have a sense of ourselves. Western cultural bias has us see ourselves as separate, individual beings who are distinct from others.  This is reinforced by our five senses, trained to see physical boundaries of our bodies.  Our education system rewards individual learning, individual performance, and individual responsibility. Our organizations typically reinforce competition by rewarding individuals with bonuses, raises, and promotions.  Individuals are acknowledged in sports, even when it takes a team. And yet, we are learning that we are “wired” for connection, collaboration, and social groups in some surprising ways.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Leadership Literacies 3: Platformation Continued

Platformation Assumption: Brain Neuroplasticity and Learning Agility

The next assumption that forms part of the leadership literacies platform continues to revolve around what we’re learning about the human brain.

Not only do we have great capacity for compassion, empathy and cooperation as noted in the last post, it turns out that our brains are also more malleable than originally thought—we can change our thoughts and thinking patterns, our habits of mind, all through our lives.  We can consciously sculpt the brain with our thoughts and focus.

In an article in 2007 [HOW THE BRAIN IS WIRED, Time Magazine, 01.19.07], science writer Sharon Begley brought these complex scientific findings down to earth for us:
“Something as seemingly insubstantial as a thought can affect the very stuff of the brain, altering neuronal connections in many directions.”  

She said that the brain’s structure reflects the lives we have led. We can do “mind sculpting”--we can sculpt the brain with our thoughts. If we change our thoughts, we change our brains.  That shows that we are capable of continued learning, of reframing our beliefs, throughout our lives.

My father used to tell me, when we disagreed about the state of the world and our views of it, that he was too old to change and to shift what he had always thought was true.  But he wasn’t.  Before he died, he had let go of so many limiting ideas, assumptions and beliefs that had informed his behavior throughout his life.  He was a different person to be with, and much of this occurred when he was in his eighties.

So, we do have the capacity for something very needed in times of great change--Learning Agility--learning, unlearning and relearning; the conscious ability to let go of what we thought we knew and embrace new ways. 

Our learning agility is enhanced in a cooperative sphere. Developmental psychology tells us that our minds only develop in relationship to other minds.  We co-create our reality and our world together. Our minds are actually fields that constantly interact with each other to create larger social fields and shifting social realities.

How is this important for leaders to know something about?  When organizations are being called on to deal with new developments, new markets, and new technologies everyday, what systems and processes best provide environments where we can think newly together, innovate, create, and reshape what we know and believe?

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Leadership Literacies 3

Assumptions the Leadership Literacies Are Built On

The system of leadership literacies [see the previous post--Leadership Literacies 2] works on a platform of assumptions and, yes, beliefs, that support the importance and viability of working with all six.  The platform is malleable and emergent; thus, the term Platformation:  platform in formation, kind of like our conceptualization of the world right now. 

  • ·      What do we believe about our world, civilization, organizations, planet and about our human role? 
  • ·      What are we discovering about ourselves?

Everyday, my sense of reality is shifting. I am less sure of things I thought I really knew.  I think it’s good to be questioning and growing, but it isn’t very comfortable most of the time.

So far, there are four elements to the L2 platform. The most fundamental one follows:

Human nature brings with it a capacity for good and compassion.

We’re not as bad as we’ve been taught to believe we are.

Some of you may have seen blog postings from Cheri Torres and me on the topic of collective intelligence [], or perhaps an issue of the Appreciative Inquiry Practitioner devoted to Appreciative Governance [November 2011] where we highlighted the importance of assuming human capacity for good.

If we stay with the common old refrain considered ‘realistic’ for so long--that humans are selfish and will always choose self-interest—then it makes it more difficult for any of us to embrace the new ways of organizing and accepting the powerful intelligence of the collective.  Managing for multiplicity, strengths and connection requires standing on a platform that humans can and will behave in self-serving as well as altruistic, compassionate, collaborative ways, depending on the many variables of how we work together and hold one another.

As I have noted elsewhere, research pouring out of universities and institutes around the world is demonstrating that humans are just as prone to goodness and cooperation as we are to defensiveness and aggression.  In fact, our species depends on cooperation, which requires a certain level of empathy and compassion for others.

In his research, Dacher Keltner has focused on the manifestations of compassion and how it shows up physically and neurophysiologically.  Using MRI technology, Keltner and others* have found significant evidence that compassion has a biologically correlated process that involves the brain and the vagus nervous system.  Their research suggests that compassion most likely enabled early humans to come together in communities and develop cooperative skills as hunter/gatherers, thereby ensuring their survival and evolution. [Dacher Keltner Jeremy Adam Smith, and Jason Marsh in The Compassionate Instinct: The Science of Human Goodness, WW Norton, New York]

That ability is just as important today.

More elements of the platformation in the next post.  What elements of a platform for leadership do you think are important?

Last call for registrations for AI and the Future: Emerging Leadership Literacies for this Century 15--17 January, Asheville, NC.


Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Leadership Literacies 2

Solution Stalking

That's what the six literacies I've been pondering seem to add up to--the importance of staying focused on framing and finding solutions when there is so much rapid change and background noise.

The literacies below have emerged in my work as what key factors help with stalking solutions, now in the 21st century, when we know that leadership is no longer about knowing the most, making the fastest decisions, or even inspiring the people around you.  It's been fun doodling and drawing these, making sense of how these areas come together.  

1.    R2: Reframing Reality
Examining and enlarging our frames, to see situations and people not only based on what we’ve always thought but also to consciously seek new vantage points, possibilities, and solutions in the dilemmas we face 

2.    M2: Managing Multiplicity
Inviting whole systems into powerful dialogue, valuing diversity and multiple ways of knowing

3.    S2: Surfacing Strengths
Paying attention to and magnifying strengths in people, systems, communities, and networks

4.    F2: Forecasting the Future
Scanning the 360-degree horizon for signals of the emergent future and pointing to the paths opening before us and closing behind us.         

5.    C2: Connecting the Collective
Tapping into connective dynamics and collective intelligence in a way that promotes cooperation, collaboration and collective action

6.     D2: Designing Dynamics
Understanding our organizations and communities as living systems within larger systems, with consequences resulting from our interconnectedness

These literacies sit on a platform of assumptions about the world and human capacities.  Stay tuned for more about that.

 If you are familiar with Appreciative Inquiry, you will see how useful the principles and practices of AI can be to the development of these literacies.  That’s what my upcoming studio workshop:  AI AND THE FUTURE: LEADERSHIP LITERACIES FOR THIS CENTURY is about.