Kategoriarkiv: Reviews

Book Review: Generative Scribing

Generative Scribing: A Social Art of the 21st Century by Kelvy Bird is, as the title says, a book about generative scribing, which is a visual practice and an art form, functioning in the moment, across boundaries, as a device for social seeing.1 The primary value of generative scribing is in-the-moment collective sourcing and reflection. Through scribing, a group can see a course to take and find their direction. The scribe aids the group to induce a greater vision and turn it into action.2

Generative scribing activates and makes visible the unseen—yet felt—inner life of the social field. This means that scribing only takes place within a group of people. It doesn’t depend on one scribe’s view, but on the input of many views. The drawing has the power to influence and to transform the thinking in the room.3 With the aid of seeing together, a group can more clearly choose and chart its path. Views become shared and problems become solvable.4

The book is intended as an approach to the practice of generative scribing and is divided into five sections:5

  • Be: Bringing forward your most authentic self. Being matters.6 When we draw, disconnected from interior knowing, we represent an interpreted reality and miss the opportunity to create from inside out.7 Scribes need to stay open and connected to the flow of meaning that wants to be mapped. Staying open, while listening and drawing, is a key skill and a real challenge.8 By staying open the scribe becomes a channel for what wants to come through, for something that wants to be seen.9 Scribes contribute to social fields by showing up from inside out.10 By being in touch with themselves at the truest level, scribes are in a position to meet the truth in the room through what they draw.11
  • Join: Engaging across boundaries. Boundaries dissolve when we activate our deeper humanity.12 Scribes meet intuitive knowing—beyond the literal understanding of words and concepts. Relaxed, scribes can receive and join as conduits for the flow-through of meaning.13 The meaning doesn’t come after the interaction. It comes alongside and involves listening. Listening is a through line to any generative practice.14
  • Perceive: Noticing with a broad, systems view. Seeing is how we perceive our way into thinking and structures, to reveal dynamics and shift outcomes. To see is to comprehend.15 Moving through uncertainty, we experiment. With experimentation, we experience and perceive. Through perception, we orient and choose. And through choosing, we direct our action.16 It is far too easy to inadvertently close our minds to what is actually going on. A closed mindset serves no one.17 If something is not clear, slow down.18 The framing of the mind influences the organization of the drawing. What others see influences their understanding of the structures in play.19 Reframing allows us to see things from multiple perspectives.20 It is directly related to seeing with fresh eyes.21
  • Know: Discern coherence to inform choice. In any moment, when we want to understand, we can inquire into the underlying order by asking: How does this make sense?22 Trying to see the greater context enhances our perspective.23 In generative scribing, we can impose structure and/or we can inquire into what is seeking new form. Seeking coherence demands trust. And trust encourages us to consider that this drawing or that conversation is exactly what is meant to unfold in this particular moment. It is a piece of the greater context that is becoming known.24 Scribes have to choose what to draw. Part of this is subjective, based on listening skills; part is objective, based on ordering ability; and part is generative, based on connecting with source.25 Listen deeply to the space between the words for what wants to be seen. If nothing comes, nothing is yet meant to come.26
  • Draw: Giving form to content. Drawing is a weaving together of multiple inputs from the social field. Through our drawing we have the power to represent the possible, and to help initiate it into the present moment. Scribing helps the unborn to birth, and brings a new reality to life.27 We draw what we must draw, in the present moment as it unfolds, in the right time.28 Generative scribing is a drawing process with which we open to the unknown to bring it to life.29 If our craft or practice is something other than scribing, then we can apply a generative approach to that too.30

To summarize, this is a book for all who care about how we exist together, and who want to explore our interior functioning, both as individuals and as a group.31 Generative scribing is fluid motion. The book can be read in the same way. It is written in such a way that it encourages the reader to jump around at will to find what is most needed.32 Kelvy Bird’s writing and drawing resonates deeply with me. This is the kind of book you don’t stop reading!

1 Kelvy Bird, Generative Scribing: A Social Art of the 21st Century (PI Press, 2018), p.1.
2 Ibid., p.5.
3 Ibid., p.5.
4 Ibid., p.10.
5 Ibid., pp.12–13.
6 Ibid., p.49.
7 Ibid., p.50.
8 Ibid., p.53.
9 Ibid., p.56.
10 Ibid., p.61.
11 Ibid., p.63.
12 Ibid., p.67.
13 Ibid., p.71.
14 Ibid., p.77.
15 Ibid., p.87.
16 Ibid., p.92.
17 Ibid., p.93.
18 Ibid., p.97.
19 Ibid., p.100.
20 Ibid., p.102.
21 Ibid., p.103.
22 Ibid., p.120.
23 Ibid., p.122.
24 Ibid., p.123.
25 Ibid., p.124.
26 Ibid., p.127.
27 Ibid., p.133.
28 Ibid., p.142.
29 Ibid., p.143.
30 Ibid., p.146.
31 Ibid., p.11.
32 Ibid., p.14.

Book Review: Walk Out Walk On

Walk Out Walk On by Margaret J. Wheatley and Deborah Frieze is a book about walking out of limiting beliefs and assumptions, and walking on to create healthy and resilient communities. The message is that more is possible, and that walking out walking on can propel us beyond the safety of our daily routines, the security of our habitual ways of thinking, and send us out into the world to find answers.1

The book is based on the basic insight that community is nothing like a machine, and that citizens rarely surrender their autonomy to experts. Exchanging best practices often doesn’t work. What does work is when team from one organization travel to another and, through that experience, see themselves more clearly, strengthen their relationships, and renew their creativity.2

In Western culture, the primary focus is to create easily replicated models and then disseminate them. This process is based on the assumption that whatever worked here will work there—we just need to get it down on paper and train people. The assumption is that people do what they are told. So instructions get issued, policies get pronounced. When we don’t follow them, managers just create more. When we still fail to obey, we’re labeled as resistant to change.3 People don’t support things that are forced on them. We don’t act responsibly on behalf of plans and programs created without us. We resist being changed.4

Change starts with a few people focusing on their local challenges and issues. They experiment, learn, find solutions that work in their local context. Word travels fast in networks and people hear about their success. They may come to visit and engage in conversations. There’s usually a lot of energy in these exchanges, but these exchanges are not about learning how to replicate the process or mimic step-by-step how something was accomplished. Any attempt to replicate someone else’s success will smack up against local conditions, and these are differences that matter. What others invent can inspire us to become inventive, and show us what is achievable. Then we have to take if from there.5

Many managers assume that people are machines, that they can be programmed, motivated, and supervised through external force and authority. This command-and-control approach smothers basic human capacities such as intelligence, creativity, caring, and dreaming. Yet it is the most common form of management worldwide. When it doesn’t work, those in power simply apply more force. They threaten, reward, punish, police, and legislate.6

People resist the imposition of force by withdrawing, opposing, and sabotaging the manager’s directives. Those in charge then feel compelled to turn up the pressure and apply even harsher measures. They seldom notice that it’s their controlling leadership that creates the resistance. And so the destructive cycle continues to gain momentum, with people resenting managers and mangers blaming people. This cycle not only destroys our motivation, it destroys our sense of worth. This destruction of the human spirit is readily visible in places where people have suffered from oppression. It’s also visible in rigid hierarchies where people, confined to closed spaces, can’t remember when they last felt good about themselves or confident in their abilities.7 Power of this kind breeds powerlessness.

The familiar weapon of control must be consciously abandoned. Communities have what they need. The human spirit can never be extinguished, even in the darkest places.8 The work of community change can be done with play without suffering, with confidence that our efforts will make a difference. What does the community need? What do you care about?9 When did we become estranged from work? Why do we deny human needs? How did we forget to who we are? Do you want to play at transforming the world?10

Margaret J. Wheatley and Deborah Frieze write that:11

  • Play is not a foolish waste of time.
  • Play is not a mindless diversion from work.
  • Play is how we rediscover ourselves.
  • Play is how we ignite the human spirit in which our true power lies.

To summarize, the book is a story of what becomes possible as we work together on what we care most about, discovering what’s possible when we turn to one another. This is a new story and an ancient one. The book is filled with insights for how we can work together now to create the future with want. It’s a future already being practiced in thousands of communities around the world.12 They share the following principles:13

  • Start anywhere, follow it everywhere.
  • We make our path by walking it.
  • We have what we need.
  • The leaders we need are already here.
  • We are living the worlds we want today.
  • We walk at the pace of the slowest.
  • We listen, even to the whispers.
  • We turn to one another.

Walking out is never easy. We have no idea where they will lead, what we’ll do, or what we’ll become. Yet our first actions are a declaration of our new identity. We accept the risk, step onto the invisible path and walk into the unknown. And there, we discover other people already bringing this new world into form.14

Walking on is often invisible. None of us can do this work alone. When we gather together, we learn quickly from one another, discovering new ideas and solutions. Little by little, our work becomes recognizable as evidence of what’s possible, of what a new world could be.15

This is a book full of deep insights on how to work together on what we care most about. See for yourself. See your self.

1 Margaret J. Wheatley and Deborah Frieze, Walk Out Walk On: A Learning Journey into Communities Daring to Live the Future Now (Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2011), p.14.
2 Ibid., p.35.
3 Ibid., p.44.
4 Ibid., p.45.
5 Ibid., p.46.
6 Ibid., p.68.
7 Ibid..
8 Ibid., p.69.
9 Ibid., p.70.
10 Ibid., p.72.
11 Ibid..
12 Ibid., p.219.
13 Ibid., pp.220–225.
14 Ibid., pp.227.
14 Ibid., pp.226.

Book Review: The Spirit of Leadership

The Spirit of Leadership: Liberating the Leader in Each of Us by Harrison Owen is an amazing book! Its message is perhaps even more valid today as when it was written 28 years ago?

Harrison Owen writes that ”leadership is not the exclusive property of the few or The One.” Leadership is, on the contrary, ”a collective and constantly redistributed function.” ”As long as leadership is viewed as the exclusive prerogative of the one or the few,” the relationships between leaders and followers will be ”some form of passive dependency.”

What I particularly like is that Harrison Owen is fully aware of that there is ”more going on than meets the eye.” His word for this is ”Spirit.” He writes that it’s one of those ”things” you know when you run into it, and you know when it is not there. What cannot be achieved by ”formula” may be achieved by attention to the ”flow of Spirit.” Structure ”follows Spirit,” and to reverse the order is to ”invite disaster.”

”To manage is to control; to lead is to liberate.” The leader’s work is not so much ”telling people what to do” as it is ”making connections and drawing out the implications.” There is no easy way of doing this. Encouraging ”appropriate structure to emerge is a critical function of leadership.” The function of leadership is to ”grow structure, not to impose it.” ”Appropriate structure increases focus, while removing eddies, distractions, and obstacles.”

The leadership we need is available in all of us. It’s up to each of us to liberate the leader within.

Book Review: Leadership Agility

Let me first say that I was provided with a complimentary copy of this book so that I could review it. I accepted writing this review since I’m interested in deeper generative organizing. The dance between leadership and followership is part of this dynamic. So, here is my summary of the book together with some impressions.

The core of Leadership Agility: Developing Your Repertoire of Leadership Styles by Ron Meyer and Ronald Meijers consists of ten opposite pairs of leadership styles.1 These ten dimensions represent many of the balancing acts leaders are faced with.2 Each dimension deals with a different leadership task, and each task differs in nature and scope.3 The focus is on understanding the qualities and pitfalls of each leadership style.4

The authors believe that leaders need to “have the capacity to switch between leadership styles, and adaptively master new ones, in rapid response to the specific needs of the people and situation they want to influence.”5 Keywords here are flexibility, adaptability, and responsiveness. Leadership agility is, in short, sensing into what is required in the situation, while attuning to people’s needs.

The authors explore the various leadership styles throughout the book. They also clarify what they believe is the essence of leadership,6 for example:

  • Leadership is about engagement instead of enforcement.7
  • Leadership can be exercised by anyone at any time depending on the situation.8
  • Leadership is helping people to make sense of the situation and themselves.9
  • Leadership is helping people to find their own meaning in what they do.10

As soon as we want to influence people to move in a certain direction, we are leading. We are, in fact, leading all the time. 11 This also means that leading is relational, involving two or more willful beings. The authors point out that getting people to follow requires more than key performance indicators. You can manage things, but people have a heart and mind of their own.12

All this sounds like music in my ears. The authors, furthermore, emphasize that formulating a ”leadership script” is useless and misleading. There are simply too many variables that need to be taken into account in order to arrive at a simple leadership formula.13

There are many ways of being an effective leader. You have to figure out yourself what works for you under what circumstances.14 This book may help you to expand your leadership style repertoire, but moving outside of your comfort zone is something you have to do yourself. You have to experiment and see what works for you.

The authors end the book with a few words on the “paradox of leadership and followership.”15 People are leaders and followers—at the same time. The ultimate test of leadership agility is combining leadership and followership.16

There are thousands of books on leadership — and agility has become a buzzword — so I was a bit skeptical when I first heard about the book. But it’s a great book. The focus is more on leadership styles than leadership agility. I particularly appreciate that the authors avoid formulating leadership scripts or formulas. I also share the human values expressed in the book. People are living beings and not things to be managed.

1 Ibid., pp. xx, 18, 21.
2 Ibid., p. 17.
3 Ibid., p. 19.
4 Ibid., p. 227.
5 Ibid., pp. xvi–xvii.
6 Ibid., p. 3.
7 Ibid., p. 7.
8 Ibid..
9 Ibid., p. 11.
10 Ibid..
11 Ibid., p. 13.
12 Ibid., p. 14.
13 Ibid., p. 16.
14 Ibid., p. 17.
15 Ibid., p. 258.
16 Ibid., p. 259.

Book Review: Reinventing the Sacred

Reinventing the Sacred by Stuart Kauffman describes a scientific worldview that embraces the reality of emergence.1 We live in a universe, biosphere, and human culture that are not only emergent but radically creative. Kauffman attempts to lay out the scientific foundations for agency and therefore value in the biological world.2 He has a great deal to say about organized processes, for they are less understood than we might think.3 We have as yet not theory for systems that do work to build their own boundary conditions, and thereafter modify the work that is done, and then modify the boundary conditions as they propagate organization of process.4

An organized being is […] not a mere machine, […] but it possesses in itself formative power of a self-propagating kind …
—Immanuel Kant5

We live our lives forward, often without knowing, which requires all our humanity, not just ”knowledge.”6 Much of what we do when we intuit, feel, sense, understand, or act is non-algorithmic.7 Stuart Kauffman emphasizes that the human mind need not act algorithmically,8 nor is it merely computational.9 A central failure of the ”mind as a computational system” theory is that computations, per se, are devoid of meaning.10 Agency, meaning, value, and doing are real parts of the universe.11 Astonishingly, ”order for free,” does exist.12 Life itself seems to maximize self-propagating organization of process. It’s a thought-provoking book!

1 Stuart A. Kauffman, Reinventing the Sacred (Basic Books, 2010), p.5.
2 Ibid., p.11.
3 Ibid., p.35.
4 Ibid., p.92.
5 Ibid., p.88.
6 Ibid., p.89.
7 Ibid., p.235.
8 Ibid., p.77.
9 Ibid., p.195.
10 Ibid., p.192.
11 Ibid., p.78.
12 Ibid., p.106.

Book Review: The Werkplaats Adventure

The Werkplaats Adventure by Wyatt Rawson is about Kees and Betty Boeke’s pioneer comprehensive school, it’s methods and psychology.1 The Werkplaats, or Workshop, aimed at making all types of education available. It seeked to give the children an understanding of all aspects of life – the world within as well as of the world without.2

The Werkplaats is an example of how ideals like freedom, democracy, and equality can be put into practice. It is very interesting to see how the Werkplaats succeeded in securing order without force, encouraged freedom and spontaneity, and maintained a sense of equivalence among the children and adults.3

The Werkplaats Adventure is not only a story about education, but also about ourselves and the values and attitudes that are needed for organizing and peaceful conflict resolution. Thirty years had passed since the school was started when the book was first published in 1956. The school contained 850 children at the time, and was recognized and supported by the Dutch government.4

Wyatt Rawson describes how the school was built up gradually, step by step. Wyatt Rawson first met Kees Boeke in 1935. Wyatt visited the school several times in 1954. He talked to teachers and children, and discussed the problems of the school with Kees. The contact with the life of the school and its founders made a deep impression on Wyatt.5 He eloquently shares his personal experiences of the school.

The book is divided into two parts. Part One describes the school’s origin, its working and psychological aspects. Part Two is more concerned with educational methods and the curriculum. The last chapter is about the personal influence which Kees and Betty Boeke have had on the life of the school.6

The Werkplaats demonstrates that just as children love freedom and spontaneity, they also love structure and order. The problem of school life is to find a minimal structure that supports maximal freedom. Order can, of course, be created by force, but fear puts an end to all naturalness and spontaneity. Some other way must therefore be discovered of securing order without the use of force. Thus came the principle of no compulsion to be established. The methods employed at the Werkplaats are based on this principle.7

Two things particularly impressed Wyatt Rawson when he visited the school: (1) The great friendliness with everyone, and (2) the ease and naturalness with which the school seemed to work. There was much natural ease and spontaneous laughter. The older children helped the younger. There was no litter, and no fights. There was an absence of pressure and no use of force – or the threat of force.8 Another noticeable feature of the Werkplaats was the quietness and calm that seemed to pervade it. There was no rampaging around.9

The secret of the school’s success lies in the way in which it dealt with the frustrations of school life. The Bespreking, or Talkover, embodied the spirit of the Werkplaats. The Bespreking arouse out of the family atmosphere of Kees and Betty Boeke’s original school. It was a gathering where all matters that concerned the school as a whole were talked over. Each member of the school had his or her say. And ideas were combined in order to find solutions which represented the common will. Kees and Betty Boeke got this idea from the Quakers and their gatherings, in which no voting takes place and where there is a search for the ‘sense of the meeting’.10

Although no force can be used at the Bespreking, and all decisions must be made by consent, there is no guarantee that the right atmosphere will prevail.11 Wyatt Rawson writes that its success depends upon a family atmosphere, where the minority opinion never is callously overridden. The family atmosphere also explains the spontaneous friendliness between the adults and children. It arouse naturally out of the circumstances in which the school was founded.12

Wyatt Rawson mentions that there is a distance between the staff and the children, but that it confers responsibilities rather than rights, and that it does not entitle the teachers to act as masters over the children. The essence is that children are to be respected like any other human beings. He writes that human beings deserve respect, consideration, and love.13

Wyatt Rawson writes that it’s impossible to wear a mask at the school. You may not want people to know how you feel, but you cannot hide it. Others will immediately know if you are disappointed, or if things have gone wrong in your work. Although being without a mask is not always easy, this spontaneity also gives great joy.14

The Werkplaats encouraged the children’s creativity. Activities in which the children wholeheartedly could throw themselves, ensured the atmosphere of vitality and joy in life.15 The point is to let the children’s interests bring them to the point where they wish to learn. And it worked. The effect was that the children felt that their individual needs were being met as far as possible. It’s also a feeling which was essential for maintaining the atmosphere of freedom at the school.16

Interestingly, an unexpected result of the freedom granted was the spontaneous acceptance of responsibility. Children took responsibility, even at those moments when the teacher was away.17 Human needs were seen and met in the minimum of time.18 Wyatt Rawson points out, however, that the children were not expected to organize everything themselves. Children and staff formed one group, one community. The only danger was that the adults could take over, and thus deprived the children of their own initiative and responsibility, so that the children couldn’t have any of the excitement of organizing and creating something.19

The balance between freedom and order has to be found if a community is to be healthy. The Werkplaats achieved this by combining three things: (1) No fear and threats; (2) friendliness towards wrongdoers; and (3) constant support.20 This does not mean that there were no sanctions, or that nothing was done if a child misbehaved.21

The point is that the child was not judged or condemned.22 Judging and condemning are worse than useless.23 No indignation was shown. The child was simply asked, ‘Why did you do it?’ The sense of guilt arises naturally. With it also comes the desire to make amends. The question then was, ‘What are you going to do about it?’ The absence of threats meant that there was no one to oppose.24 The choice of reparation was the child’s. Personal antagonism was avoided.25

Wyatt Rawson writes, however, that the moral pressure sometimes was so strong that some children felt it as oppressive and rebelled. A few even left the school, even though the vast majority were grateful for being helped with their difficulties. The school’s methods even helped children with mental disturbances to regain their balance. This took a term or two.26

The school community is a collaboration between children and adults.27 The underlying idea is that the children wish to learn, so it’s up to the children to preserve the order necessary for learning. There was originally only one committee, the Bespreking, which met one a week or more often if necessary. All other committees at the Werkplaats developed out of it.28

From the original Bespreking, the Ronde was developed. Its purpose was to deal with all matters of order. All members in the Ronde were equally responsible for solving a problem in which they all were involved. Wyatt Rawson points out that when there’s trouble, it’s usually not due to one child alone.29 The atmosphere of the group is as much accountable for something going wrong as is the lack of control of any particular member.30

Much of the organization of the Werkplaats was deliberately left fluid. Human factors were paramount and not technical points. This included the composition of the committees. The Ronde is, for example, an instrument of the Bespreking of the whole Werkplaats.  Committees arouse spontaneously as a result of the rapid growth of the school, when the organization became inadequate to deal with the large inflow of new children.31

Children do not always keep to the rules, even when they have made them themselves. They learn from their failures, so they must be given the chance to make mistakes. Conflict will always exist. When a solution is found, the conflict is usually shifted somewhere else. Children are spontaneous and will momentarily follow impulses without thought of others. More important than the order itself is the learning received.32 There are, however, children who don’t listen.33 And there is always a minority whom nothing seems to alter.34

Wyatt Rawson shares a rare special case of disorder where the staff actually decided to leave. At first, the children couldn’t believe the staff wouldn’t be coming back. A girl took action and called a general meeting, at which a number of rules were made, and it was decided that anybody who broke them must leave. After less than a week the school was back to order. The lessons had been learned.35 This is an interesting example of the latent powers of self-organization that the school could call upon, even when the staff was no longer available.

Spontaneity was expected at the Werkplaats. It is natural for children to act spontaneously. For those adults who resented it, the atmosphere became intolerable.36 The inflow of new teachers greatly increased these difficulties.37 Action and reaction were the order of the day. What we feel in our heart of hearts is what we do and say with every gesture and word.38 Nothing can prevent this, so an honest humility, together with a willingness to admit mistakes, is required.39 There was also the constant emotional strain that exists in all groups working together.40 Day-to-day difficulties arise in any group.41

The authority at the Werkplaats was vested in the group and not in the teacher.42 The Werkplaats principle of no compulsion compelled the teacher, as well as the children, to accept a part of the responsibility for whatever went wrong. This required the elimination of the personal element in the wrong-doing, and the willingness to see the whole situation without any recriminations.43 The Werkplaats took for granted that all want friendship, and that loving is a much happier condition than hating.44 Aggression melted away in the atmosphere of mutual give and take. Together we can make life finer and richer for all.45

The Werkplaats Adventure is a well-written book about an amazing pioneer school. It’s a story about how fluid organization arises spontaneously in a community based on no fear, friendliness, and constant support. It’s also a story about Kees and Betty Boeke’s unquenchable delight in life itself, and their reverence for all that is fine and beautiful in people, nature, and art. Their spirit shines through Wyatt Rawson’s words. Only when the mind is still and the heart at rest, can we enter into communion with the deeper rhythms of life.46

It’s a beautiful book!

1 Wyatt Rawson, The Werkplaats Adventure (Vincent Stuart, 1956), p.1.
2 Ibid., p.141.
3 Ibid., p.9
4 Ibid..
5 Ibid., p.10.
6 Ibid..
7 Ibid., p.16.
8 Ibid., p.31.
9 Ibid., p.87.
10 Ibid., p.32.
11 Ibid., p.33.
12 Ibid., p.34.
13 Ibid., p.37.
14 Ibid., p.38.
15 Ibid..
16 Ibid., p.39.
17 Ibid., p.41.
18 Ibid., p.42.
19 Ibid., p.43.
20 Ibid., p.45.
21 Ibid., p.47.
22 Ibid..
23 Ibid., p.149.
24 Ibid., p.47.
25 Ibid., p.48.
26 Ibid., p.49
27 Ibid., p.50.
28 Ibid., p.51.
29 Ibid., p.52.
30 Ibid., p.55.
31 Ibid..
32 Ibid., p.56.
33 Ibid., p.59.
34 Ibid., p.60.
35 Ibid..
36 Ibid., p.65.
37 Ibid., p.73.
38 Ibid., p.66.
39 Ibid., p.67.
40 Ibid., p.68.
41 Ibid., p.76.
42 Ibid., p.73.
43 Ibid., p.74.
44 Ibid..
45 Ibid., p.76.
46 Ibid., p.153.

Book Review: Mindstorms

This book is about how children learn ”a way of thinking”. Seymour Papert has a background as ”a mathematician and Piagetian psychologist” (p.166). He writes about ”what kinds of nurturance are needed for intellectual growth” and ”what can be done to create such nurturance” (p.10). The book is about children, but the ”ideas” are relevant to ”how people learn at any age” (p.213).

Two ”ideas run through” the book: 1) change in ”patterns of intellectual development” come about through ”cultural change”, and 2) the ”likely bearer” of this ”cultural change” is the ”increasingly pervasive computer presence” (p.216). It’s worth noting that the book was originally published in 1980.

Seymour Papert defines ”mathetics as being to learning as heuristics is to problem solving”. Principles of mathetics ”illuminate and facilitate” learning: 1) Relate ”what is new” to ”something you already know”, and 2) take ”what is new” and ”make it your own” (p.120). Different metaphors can be used to talk ”mathetically” about ”learning experiences”: 1) ”Getting to know ” an idea, 2) ”exploring an area of knowledge”, and 3) ”acquiring sensitivity to [subtle] distinctions” (p.136).

Jean Piaget’s contribution to Seymour Papert’s work has been deep. Piaget’s ideas have ”contributed toward the knowledge-based theory of learning” that Papert describes (p.156). ”For Piaget, the separation between the learning process and what is being learned is a mistake” (p.158). It’s not unusual that Piaget, at the same time, refers to ”the behavior of small children”, and to ”the concerns of theoretical mathematicians” (p.158).

Seymour Papert uses ”learning to ride a bicycle” to make more concrete ”the idea of studying learning by focusing on the structure of what is learned” (p.158). The conclusion is that ”learning to ride does not mean learning to balance, it means learning not to unbalance, learning not to interfere” (p.159). A deeper understanding of the ”process of learning” is, in other words, acquired through a ”deeper insight into what is being learned” (p.159).

Another example is that we can ”understand how children learn number” through a ”deeper understanding of what number is” (p.159). The Bourbaki school of mathematics sees more ”complex structures” as combinations of ”simpler structures” of which the most important are three ”mother structures” (p.160).

Interestingly, the ”theory of mother structures” is a ”theory of learning” (p.160). The ”knowledge of how to work the world” is the ”mother structure of order” (p.160). Jean Piaget observed that children develop ”intellectual structures” that are similar to the ”mother structures” (p.160).

Seymour Papert presents a ”mathetic” vision in his book, one that helps us to ”learn about learning” (p.177). He shows how a mathetic culture can humanize the learning experience and make it more personal. Papert’s philosophy is ”revolutionary rather than reformist” (p.186). He thinks ”seriously about a world without schools” (p.178) and discusses settings that are ”socially cohesive, and where experts and novices are all learning” (p.179). It is the ”very youngest who stand to gain the most from changes in the conditions of learning” (p.213).

Many of Seymour Papert’s ideas are still valid today!

Book Review: The Power of Eight

The Power of Eight by Lynne McTaggart is the story about the miraculous power we hold to heal ourselves, others, and the world. This power is unleashed the moment we stop thinking about ourselves and gather with others into a group.1 But what is it about a group of people thinking a single thought at the same time that produces such dramatic effects?2

Outbursts of passion in unison
The only thing that appears to be needed is any sort of group.3 Throughout the ages, small circles of people have held a special significance in many cultures and among indigenous groups.4 Prayer groups have been used in most religions.5 The greek word homothumadon is used to described group prayer in the Bible. The word itself is a compound of two words: homou (‘in unison’ or ‘together’), and thumuous (‘outbursts of passion’ or ‘rush along’). The word emphasizes group prayer as a passionate unity, with a single voice.6

When people are involved in a passionate activity […],
they transmute from a solitary voice into a thunderous symphony

A familiar feeling rarely experienced
Group meditation and prayer certainly promote a sense of unity among the participants, but usually not as deep as in homothumadon.8 In homothumadon, the participants move away from their isolated state of individuality into a pure bond with others. It’s a state that is familiar when felt, but rarely experienced.9 It has nothing to do with the outcome and everything with the act of participation.10 There is one essential element: other human beings.11

Working for the greater good
A sense of connectedness increases altruism. People have a natural desire to help when they temporarily step into a state of oneness.12 Working for the greater good produces more than just a warm feeling — it’s strengthening for both mind and body. There are health-giving effects in focusing on anyone besides yourself.13

Something about the desire to do something for someone else,
with no strings attached or personal benefit, has an impact on
health and wellbeing far and above that of anything else […]

Lynne McTaggart provides glimpses into what’s possible when we connect in homothumadon. A Power of Eight group is more than just a collection of separate individuals. They are not just connecting, they are merging.15 It’s as if the individuals in the group become one brain together. There’s something more going on here that we don’t understand.16 Some things in our lives are just beyond our explanation or understanding.17 It’s a fascinating book!

1 Lynne McTaggarts, The Power of Eight: Harnessing the Miraculous Energies of a Small Group to Heal Others, Your Life and the World (Hay House, 2017), pp. xvi–xvii.
2 Ibid., p. 53.
3 Ibid., p. 50.
4 Ibid., pp. 55, 107.
5 Ibid., p. 56.
6 Ibid., p. 57.
7 Ibid., p. 61.
8 Ibid., p. 95.
9 Ibid., p. 97.
10 Ibid., p. 98.
11 Ibid., p. 140.
12 Ibid., p. 179.
13 Ibid., p. 185.
14 Ibid., p. 186.
15 Ibid., p. 225.
16 Ibid., p. 231.
17 Ibid., p. 233.

Book Review: Human Dynamics

The underlying direction and purpose of Human Dynamics: A New Framework for Understanding People and Realizing the Potential in Our Organizations by Sandra Seagal and David Horne is to enhance the quality of life that people express individually and collectively.1 People are different both in how they process information, and in what information they process.2

Nine Personality Dynamics
Nine different personality dynamics are identified based on people’s mental, emotional, and physical capacities. The book presents five of them, which make up over 99.9% of the population.3 The authors claim that most people in West are emotional-physical (55%) or emotional-mental (25%), while most Japanese are physical-mental, and a majority of Chinese are physical-emotional. The authors suggest that the fundamental difference between East and West derive more from these differences in personality dynamics than from the differences in culture.4 What if it’s the other way around—or, at least, works both ways—that the culture influences each individual’s personality dynamics?

The construction of the nine different personality dynamics feels artificial to me. While reading, I couldn’t identify my own personality dynamic. Maybe it’s because I had difficulties in remembering each personality dynamic. Or, maybe, it’s because I’m in that 0.1% of the population which isn’t covered by the book? Anyway, the key takeaway for me is that people have genuine, and often drastically different, ways of looking at the world. Different ways of perceiving, processing, and acting. Talking about that and how we need to deal with each other is eye-opening, challenging, inspiring, and painful—regardless of the framework used.

1 Sandra Seagal and David Horne, Human Dynamics: A New Framework for Understanding People and Realizing the Potential in Our Organizations (Pegasus, 1997), p. 13.
2 Ibid., pp. 30, 32.
3 Ibid., p. 23.
4 Ibid., pp. 32–34.

Book Review: Anam Ċara

Anam Ċara: Spiritual Wisdom from the Celtic World by John O’Donohue is a book which is intended to be an oblique mirror where we might come to glimpse the presence, power, and beauty of both inner and outer friendship.1

John O’Donohue was born in Ireland and spoke Irish as his native language. Anam is the Gaelic word for soul, and ċara is the word for friend. So anam ċara means soul friend. In the Celtic tradition, the anam ċara was a person to whom you could reveal the hidden intimacies of your life.2

John O’Donohue writes that friendship is a creative and subversive force.3 He describes friendship as an act of recognition and belonging.4 Your forgotten, or neglected, inner wealth begins to reveal itself in the belonging between soul friends. The soul is the house of belonging, and the body is in the soul.5

Where you are understood,
you are at home

John O’Donohue not only explores outer friendship, but also the art of inner friendship. Solitude awakens new creativity within us. And when our inner lives can befriend the outer world of work, new imagination is awakened and great changes can take place.7 It is, however, very difficult to bring the world of work and the world of soul together.

Work […] should be an arena of
possibility and real expression

John O’Donohue contemplates our friendship with the harvest time of life, old age. He even reflects on death as the invisible companion who walks the road of life with us from birth.9

The book is a broad and deep reflection on friendship. John O’Donohue takes his inspiration from his Irish heritage. The book is, in essence, an inner conversation with Celtic imagination and its spirituality of friendship.10 It’s a beautifully written book full of wisdom. I will return to the book again and again!

1 John O’Donohue, Anam Ċara: Spiritual Wisdom from the Celtic World (Bantam Books, 1997), p15.
2 Ibid., p16.
3 Ibid., p15.
4 Ibid., p16.
5 Ibid., p17.
6 Ibid., p36.
7 Ibid., p17.
8 Ibid., p169.
9 Ibid., p18.
10 Ibid., p19.

Book Review: Walk Through Walls

Walk Through Walls by Marina Abramović with James Kaplan is a memoir. It’s the story of Marina Abramović’s life and how she became a performance artist. Marina grew up in Belgrade and was often punished for the slightest infractions. The punishments were almost always physical.

Marina Abramović’s mother and aunt used to hit Marina black and blue. Sometimes they would lock her into a closet. Marina was afraid of the dark and used to talk to the ghosts in there.1 Marina’s father was often absent but he never hit her. She came to love him for that.2

It’s incredible how fear is built into you,
by your parents and others surrounding you.
You’re so innocent in the beginning;
you don’t know.

Art was holy to Marina Abramović’s mother, so she encouraged Marina to become an artist.4 Actually, art was the only freedom Marina had. There was money for painting, but not for clothes.5 Marina Abramović realized however that two-dimensional art truly wasn’t her thing.6 Instead, she became interested in performance art.

A curator from Scotland visited Belgrade at the end of 1972, looking for fresh ideas for the next Edinburgh Festival.7 This gave Marina Abramović the possibility to visit Edinburgh.8 While performing Rhythm 10—which is a violent game with sharp knives—at Endinburgh a strange feeling came over Marina. She became one with the audience. A single organism.

Marina Abramović describes this feeling of total connection with the audience as she—at the same time—became a receiver and transmitter of a huge Tesla-like energy. The pain and fear was gone. She had become a Marina which she didn’t know yet.9 It felt as though the possibilities for performance art were infinite.10

Marina Abramović was later invited to Naples in 1975,11 where she turned herself into an object in Rhythm 0. There were several objects that anyone could use on her as desired. There was even a pistol with one bullet.12

At first not much happened, but then someone cut her neck with a knife and sucked the blood. A very small man put the bullet in the pistol and moved the pistol toward her neck. Someone grabbed him. The audience became more and more active, as if in trance.13 Marina Abramović realized after the performance, half naked and bleeding, that the public can kill you.14

In 2010, over 750 000 people waited in line for the chance to sit across from Marina Abramović in The Artist is Present. From the beginning, people were in tears—and so was Marina.15

…to achieve a goal,
you have to give everything until you have nothing left.
And it will happen by itself. That’s really important.
This is my motto for every performance.

The wall in the book title is pain. At first, the pain is excruciating, then it vanishes. That’s when you’ve walked through the wall and come out on the other side.17 Marina Abramović grew up with very much pain. She has spent a lifetime transcending pain through her performance art—not only her own pain, but also the pain of others.18 And sometimes there’s a deep connection on the other side of the wall.

1 Marina Abramović with James Kaplan, Walk Through Walls (Penguin, 2016), p.7.
2 Ibid., p.8.
3 Ibid., p.1.
4 Ibid., p.13.
5 Ibid., p.14.
6 Ibid., p.48.
7 Ibid., p.56.
8 Ibid., p.57.
9 Ibid., p.60.
10 Ibid., p.64.
11 Ibid., p.67.
12 Ibid., p.68.
13 Ibid., p.69.
14 Ibid., p.70.
15 Ibid., p.309.
16 Ibid., p.146.
17 Ibid., p.75.
18 Ibid., p.342.

Book Review: Freedom from Command and Control

Freedom from Command and Control by John Seddon is a book about a better way to make work work. The focus of the book is on the translation of the principles behind the Toyota Production System for service organizations.1

The better way has a completely different logic to command-and-control, and that, perhaps, is the reason it is difficult to understand. People interpret what they hear from their current frame of reference, so what they hear is not necessarily what is meant.2

The cornerstone of command-and-control is the separation of decision-making from work. Command-and-control is based on top-down hierarchies where managers manage people and money. Managers make decisions on budgets, targets, and so on.3

The command-and-control management pioneers were Frederick Taylor (scientific management), Henry Ford (mass production), and Alfred Sloan (management by numbers). The issue is not that command-and-control was without value, but that we have not continued to learn. The problem is a problem of thinking.4

Taiichi Ohno at Toyota developed a radically different approach the management of work.5 Instead of top-down command-and-control management, Toyota uses local control at the point where the work is done.6 This philosophy is fundamentally different. The attitude is no longer to make the numbers, but to learn and improve.7 It requires power-with, rather than power-over, and runs counter to the underlying hierarchical command-and-control philosophy.

People who work in a command-and-control environment become cogs in the machine. Management makes the decisions and manages the scheduling, planning, reporting and so on. It’s an environment that works with information abstracted from work.8 Integrating decision-making with the work produces a totally different management infrastructure.9

Measures are usually derived from the budget in command-and-control organizations. Moreover, connecting work to arbitrary measures creates the need to have additional people scheduling work, reporting on work, and making demands on those who do the work. Separation of decision-making from the work is the defining logic for command-and-control-management.10

Integrating the information needed with the work itself changes the point of control, from external to internal, and, consequently has a positive impact on motivation. Optimizing the flow leads to lower costs because you only do what you need. Moving the locus of control to the worker makes it possible for him or her to perform different work depending on what is needed.11 Moreover, if something goes wrong it can be seen and corrected at once.12

In manufacturing you ‘get away with’ command-and-control because the products you make are standard. Traditional command-and-control responds to variety by establishing procedures, standards, and the like. The consequence is enourmous amounts of waste when applied to service organizations.13 Maximizing the ability to handle variety is central to improving service and reducing costs. This can only be done by intelligent use of intelligent people, where workers are connected with customers in self-organizing relationships.14

Diversity of flow is the hallmark of good service. In managing flow the work itself is the information, and this in turn comprises the information required to direct operations in the work. It is an unquestioned assumption in command-and-control that managers should have and set targets and then create control systems to ensure the targets are met. In Toyota these practices simply do not exist. To make service organizations work better, they need to be taken out.15

The Toyota system exemplifies economies of flow, which is a step beyond economies of scale. The concepts associated with the economies of scale have governed management thinking for the last century and more.16 Economies of flow represent a challenge to current beliefs. It is a challenge of of such a scale that this becomes the most important hurdle for managers to get over. The ideas themselves are simple, logical, and practical. However, they are different, unfamiliar, and, as a consequence, often perceived as a threat. They are certainly counterintuitive to the command-and-control mindset.17

The management principles that have guided command-and-control are logical – but it’s the wrong logic. The better way has a different logic. John Seddon uses the entire book to eloquently explain this better logic.

1 John Seddon, Freedom from Command and Control: A Better Way to Make the Work Work (Vanguard Consulting Ltd, 2005, 2nd edition), p.23.
2 Ibid., p.8.
3 Ibid., p.8.
4 Ibid., p.9.
5 Ibid., p.15.
6 Ibid., pp.15–16.
7 Ibid., p.16.
8 Ibid., p.17.
9 Ibid., p.19.
10 Ibid., p.19.
11 Ibid., p.20.
12 Ibid., p.21.
13 Ibid., p.21.
14 Ibid., p.22.
15 Ibid., p.22.
16 Ibid., p.22.
17 Ibid., p.23.

Book Review: A Feeling for the Organism

A Feeling for the Organism: The Life and Work of Barbara McClintock by Evelyn Fox Keller is a story of the interaction between an individual scientist, Barbara McClintock (1902–1992), and a science, genetics.1 The book serves simultaneously as a biography and as an intellectual story. Evelyn Fox Keller shows how science is both highly personal and a communal endeavor.2

The role of observation in Barbara McClintock’s experimental work provides the key to her understanding. What for others is interpretation, or speculation, is for her trained direct perception.3 McClintock pushed her observational and cognitive skills so far that few could follow her.4 She talked about the limits of verbally explicit reasoning and stressed the importance of having a ”feeling for the organism.” Her understanding emerged from a thorough absorption in, and even identification with, her material.5

The word ”understanding,” and the particular meaning Barbara McClintock attributed to it, is the cornerstone of her entire approach to science. For McClintock, the smallest details provided the keys to the larger whole. It was her conviction that the closer her focus, the greater her attention to the unique characteristics of a single plant, the more she could learn about the general principles by which the plant as a whole was organized.6

Over and over again, Barbara McClintock emphasized that one must have the time to look, the patience to ”hear what the material has to say to you,” the openness to ”let it come to you.” Above all, one must have ”a feeling for the organism.”. ”No two plants are exactly alike. They’re all different, and as a consequence, you have to know that difference,” she explained. Both literally and figuratively, her ”feeling for the organism” extended her vision.7

For Barbara McClintock, reason — at least in the conventional sense of the word — is not by itself adequate to describe the vast complexity of living forms. Organisms have a life and order of their own that scientists can only partially fathom. No models we invent can begin to do full justice to the prodigious capacity of organisms to devise means for guaranteeing their own survival. It is the overall organization, or orchestration, that enables the organism to meet its needs, whatever they might be, in ways that never cease to surprise us. That capacity for surprise gave McClintock immense pleasure.8

Our surprise is a measure of our tendency to underestimate the flexibility of living organisms. The adaptability of plants tends to be especially unappreciated. There is no question that plants have all kinds of sensitivities.9 The ultimate descriptive task, for both artists and scientists, is to ”ensoul” what one sees, to attribute to it the life one shares with it.10 In short, one must have a ”feeling for the organism.”

Barbara McClintock had a holistic perspective and got a much deeper understanding than most scientists because she was interested in and got a ”feeling for the whole organism.” Barbara McClintock was awarded the 1983 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. I find her life and work most fascinating.

1 Evelyn Fox Keller, A Feeling for the Organism: The Life and Work of Barbara McClintock (W. H. Freeman and Company, 1982), p.ix.
2 Ibid., p.xiii.
3 Ibid., p.xiii.
4 Ibid., pp.xiii–xiv.
5 Ibid., p.xiv.
6 Ibid., p.101.
7 Ibid., p.198.
8 Ibid., p.199.
9 Ibid., p.199.
10 Ibid., p.204.

Book Review: Waking

Waking: A Memoir of Trauma and Transcendence is a book where Matthew Sanford shares his own story without judgment, protection, and sentimentality.1 It’s a book about appreciating and believing in your own experience.2

At the age of thirteen, Matthew was in a car accident that killed his father and sister. It also left him paralyzed from the chest down.3 Matthew met his yoga teacher, Jo Zukovich, twelve years later.4 This changed his life and lead to an exploration of the possibilities of yoga and paralysis together.

Jo Zukovich had the patience and foresight not to force the Iyengar system of yoga onto Matthew’s body. Instead, Jo had faith in the system’s underlying principles. Iyengar emphasizes alignment and precision. Jo and Matthew discovered that alignment and precision increase mind-body integration regardless of paralysis.5

The mind is not strictly confined to a neurophysiological connection with the body. Matthew discovered that if he listens inwardly to his whole experience, he can actually feel into his legs. It is simply a matter of learning to listen to a different level of presence, a form of presence that subtly connects the mind to the body.6 Matthew describes this form of awareness a tingling, a sense of hum.7

Although Matthew’s life has taken much away, it has also revealed a powerful insight. The outer layer of Matthew’s legs and torso have been stripped away through the paralysis, but he has also learned to experience a more direct contact with an inner presence of consciousness. The silence Matthew encountered within his paralysis is the nexus within his mind-body relationship.8

Matthew’s memoir is a page-turning story, which I find most fascinating. Life presents its purpose and beauty in all sorts of ways.9 The challenge is to step more deeply into our lives, to stay open to our own experience — to not deny it, but rather to simply have it.

1 Matthew Sanford, Waking: A Memoir of Trauma and Transcendence (Rodale, 2006), p. 245.
2 Ibid..
3 Ibid., p. xv.
4 Ibid., p. 161.
5 Ibid., p. 188.
6 Ibid., p. 193.
7 Ibid., pp. 194, 198.
8 Ibid., p. 200.
9 Ibid., p. 233.

Book Review: Focusing

Focusing: How to Gain Direct Access to Your Body’s Knowledge by Eugene T. Gendlin is a most interesting book. Focusing is a skill which was discovered through fifteen years of research at the University of Chicago. Eugene T. Gendlin studied, together with a group of colleagues, why therapy so often failed to make real difference in people’s lives. And in the rare cases when therapy does succeed: What is it that successful patients and therapists do?1

Seeking the answers, the researchers analyzed literally thousands of therapist-patient sessions. These studies led to several findings. One is that differences in therapy methods mean surprisingly little. Nor does the difference lie in what the patients talk about. The difference is in how they talk.2

The purpose of the book is to teach focusing. Most importantly, not only is focusing an internal act which is useful in therapy. It’s also useful in approaching any problem or situation. Focusing enables you to find and change where your life is stuck. It enables you live from a deeper place than just thoughts and feelings.3

Focusing is natural to the body, and it feels that way. There is an experience of something emerging from the body that feels like a relief and a coming alive.4 A few seem to use focusing intuitively now and then, but it is mostly unused in most people. Some people learn focusing fairly fast, while others need weeks or months.5

Focusing is a process in which you make contact with a special kind of internal bodily awareness, a felt sense.6 The felt sense is a physically sensed knowing. The body knows the whole of each of situation, vastly more aspects of it than you can think.7

body shift is a definite physical feeling of something changing or moving within, a tight place loosening. Often what is next for the body is not what would logically come next. Focusing is unpredictable.8 And it is something to be used every day, as part of the daily existence.9

Just getting in touch with one’s feelings often brings no change. One must let a larger, wider felt sense form, which at first is unclear.10 Intellectuals like to figure things out. What is important is that the body is allowed to take the first steps. The analysis isn’t effective before these steps.11 When your felt sense changes, you change—and, therefore, so does your life.12

A felt sense is a physical experience.13 Since it doesn’t communicate in words, it isn’t easy to describe in words. It is a deep-down level of awareness.14 An emotion is often sharp and clearly felt. A felt sense, being larger and more complicated, is almost always unclear—at least until you focus on it.15 It bypasses your thinking mind. But when you let the felt sense form, then you can work with more than you can understand. And when you attend to the felt sense, it will shift.16

Eugene T. Gendlin divides focusing into six main movements: 1) Clear a space. 2) Felt sense. 3) Get a handle. 4) Resonate. 5) Ask. 6) Receive.17 To think of them as separate movements makes the inner act seem more mechanical than it is. Gendlin starts by giving the focusing instructions in a brief manual style from. He then approaches the movements from several different angels and explains them in more detailed.18 Finally, he reviews the most common problems that interfere with people’s focusing, and suggests ways to get unstuck.19

At the end of the book, there is a Listening Manual which was written for people who simple wanted to help each other with focusing.20 Four kinds of helping are discussed: 1) Helping another person focus while talking.21 2) Using your own feelings and reactions about the person.22 3) Interaction.23 4) Interacting in a group.24

To handle ourselves and our situations, we need to get into more of our own experience. The more deeply we go, the more the unique individual emerges.25 Beyond feelings, there is a holistic body sense, at first unclear, that can form. It is sense of the whole meaning of a particular situation or concern. It is from this felt sense that body shifts can arise. This cannot be figured out. It has to be met, found, felt, attended to, and allowed to show itself.26

A person’s experience is not a pattern. It might seem to fit a pattern just now, but moments later it will fit another or none. In any case, the seeming fit will never be exact, for experience is richer than patterns. Moreover, it’s changing.27 New forms can come from inside each person, instead of being imposed from the outside.28

Focusing lets people find their own inner source of direction. Instead of static structures we need dynamic structure-making. If we accept ourselves and each other as form-makers, we no longer need to force forms on ourselves and each other.29 Adopting patterns, old or new, is not the way. A sensitive focusing approach can eventuate really livable patterns suited uniquely to each of us and our situations.30

The holistic felt sense is more inclusive than reason. It includes the reasons of reason, as well as feelings, and much more. That holistic sense can be lived further, and has its own directionality. It is your sense of the whole thing, including what you know, have thought, and have learned. What is first sensed holistically is more basic than thoughts, feelings, and ways of acting that are already formed, already cut into existing patterns.31

A felt sense is body and mind before they are split apart. Focusing is not an invitation to stop thinking. It begins with the felt sense, and we then think verbally, logically, or with images. When there is a body shift, our thinking come together with the body-mind.32 Thinking put in touch with what the body already knows and lives is vastly powerful.33

Lived experience is more organized, more finely faceted, than any concepts can be. And lived further, experience creates new meanings that takes account of, but also shifts, earlier meanings.34 Focusing is a really powerful skill! It’s a different way of thinking and approaching any situation.

1 Eugene T. Gendlin, Focusing: How to Gain Direct Access to Your Body’s Knowledge (Rider, 2003, first published 1978), p.3.
2 Ibid..
3 Ibid., p.4.
4 Ibid., p.8.
5 Ibid., p.9.
6 Ibid., p.10.
7 Ibid., pp.vii–viii.
8 Ibid., p.14.
9 Ibid., p.16.
10 Ibid., p.29.
11 Ibid., p.31.
12 Ibid., p.32.
13 Ibid..
14 Ibid., p.33.
15 Ibid., p.35.
16 Ibid., p.36.
17 Ibid., pp.173–174.
18 Ibid., p.43.
19 Ibid., p.64.
20 Ibid., p.117.
21 Ibid., p.118.
22 Ibid., p.127.
23 Ibid., p.135.
24 Ibid., p.141.
25 Ibid., p.155.
26 Ibid., p.156.
27 Ibid., p.157.
28 Ibid., p.158.
29 Ibid., p.159.
30 Ibid., p.160.
31 Ibid..
32 Ibid., p.165.
33 Ibid..
34 Ibid., p.166.

Book Review: Survival in the Organization

Survival in the Organization: Gunnar Hjelholt Looks Back at the Concentration Camp from an Organizational Perspective by Benedicte Madsen & Søren Willert is a small book and a quick read. The book is about Gunnar Hjelholt’s life with a focus on his time in a German Concentration Camp during World War II. I found the last few pages of the book most interesting.

What strikes Gunnar Hjelholt are the similarities between the concentration camp and organizations in general. ”Every position is connected to privileges. Salaries are dependent on the position in the hierarchy. You lose your privileges, if you don’t do your job. That is, unless you make sure that people below you in the hierarchy do their jobs and do not cause trouble. On top of it all you have the board of directors and the stockholders. In the concentration camp version, they were the SS. Their purpose is setting objectives and defining the task they want done. They determine how many resources can be made available for completing the task and then they appoint someone to be in charge of the operations … The rest takes more or less care of itself.” (pp.86–87).

Unfortunately, the really interesting question how ”a system would look like if God had created it” is saved ”for another time” (p.88).

Book Review: A Brief History of Thought

A Brief History of Thought: A Philosophical Guide to Living by Luc Ferry is, in a way, a beginner’s guide to philosopy. I particularly like that Luc Ferry addresses a nonacademic audience. I also like that Luc Ferry tries to place the different philosophical systems in the best possible light, without seeking to criticize.1 I agree with him that we must try to understand before making objections. And by understanding how others think, we get a perspective on our own thoughts.2 That is what I found most valuable with the book!

I’m somewhat surprised that Luc Ferry describes philosophy not only as ‘love’ (philo) of ‘wisdom’ (sophia),3 but also as a road to ‘salvation’ by the exercise of reason – if not from death itself, then from the anxiety it causes.4 Personally, I think loving wisdom – trying to live wisely – is a perfectly valid aim in itself. I also find reason to question reason itself. I have come to believe that reason alone will not save us and the world. Instead, we need to bring our focus ‘upstream’ to where reason and heart may work in common.5

1 Luc Ferry, A Brief History of Thought: A Philosophical Guide to Living (HarperCollinsPublishers, 2011), p.193.
2 Ibid., p.251.
3 Ibid., p.15.
4 Ibid., p.6.
5 The idea of moving ‘upstream’ is from Michael Jones. See Jones, Artful Leadership: Awakening the Commons of Imagination (Pianoscapes, 2006), p. xi.

Book Review: Artful Leadership

Artful Leadership: Awakening the Commons of the Imagination by Michael Jones is a most unusual leadership book. Michael Jones is a leadership educator, composer, and improvising pianist. He brings a unique and most profound sensibility to the art of leading in the now. We are all leaders and followers at the same time. This is such an excellent book that I’ve decided to provide an extensive summary together with some conclusions.

We need to play together and to learn to speak and listen to one another.1

The book has the form of a dialogue between Michael Jones and John Huss, a senior leader in a large corporation. The dialogue unfolded over a two-year period. Jones and Huss soon found themselves engaged in a search for different dimensions of leadership and the possibility for creating living organizations.2 I’m particularly interested in the latter. Their dialogue is most unusual in that they discuss the invisible structures that lie in the spaces between our thoughts and concepts. One might say that they bring their focus upstream to where the intellect and the heart may work together. It’s about tuning in to our senses so that we can receive what is coming in. More is given to us, than is created by us, in the abundance of imagination.3 Michael Jones dreams of a place of emergent creation which he calls the commons.4

Conversation is a practice field for finding our voice.5

Leading in turbulent times requires extraordinary presence and adaptability. Only in being alert may we find natural, unique, and unrepeatable ways of dealing with our challenges. The unpredictability of what is emerging suggests a third way of knowing – what David Bohm describes as a subtle intelligence – that reaches out and seeks the wholeness behind all things.6 By developing this ability, we reawaken our imagination, intuition, and inspiration. Together these serve as a counterpoint to the mechanistic view of the world. Technical knowledge is important, but it is only a part of the story. Listening, getting a feeling for things, engaging with others is the larger part of it.7

So much of the leader’s work is not about playing the notes,
but listening for what’s emerging in the space between.8

Connecting leadership to community and the common good puts unique demands on leaders.9 Michael Jones introduces a language for exploring this kind of organic leadership. he uses the following notions throughout the book:10

  • Gifts, which corresponds with qualities of identity, integrity, and being true to one’s self.
  • Beauty, which corresponds to perception and the ability to quickly make finely tuned adjustments.
  • Grace, which is related to the emergence of shared meaning.

Technically based leadership is built around realizing goals. Artful leadership, on the other hand, focuses on the flow of experience that leads towards a sense of wholeness and a less divided life. To find these moments we need to step out of our own habits.11

Acting organically is about being with the other,
sensing into what there is

Inquiring into the moment invites responses that are more reciprocal than those that occur when we simply try to impose our will.13 Planning, control, measurement are skills well suited to stable and predictable situations. These skills, however, keep us from being fully present to the space between.14 This space cannot be planned in advance. It only exists in the moment.15

Too often, we get busier instead of slowing down to reflect and gain a perspective from our own direct experience.16 Curiosity is naturally responsive to what spontaneously arises in the flow of our direct experience.17 By sensing and finding our way together, we deepen our collective awareness of meaning and connection. These, in turn, enable being and acting at the same time.18

We find a more engaging and creative way of conducting business if we can trust the power in the moment. However, this is more challenging since we cannot control the outcome.19 Feeling what is alive now, bringing it into words, makes a crucial difference. Our past experience benefits from a fresh reading of what is emerging in the moment.20 Until we speak, we often don’t know what those words will be.21 Everyone has something we love to do and in which we can be generative.22 When we shift our attention from trying to manage to learning, from coordinating action to sensing what is already forming, we open the way for deeper coherence.23

The basic principle is that creation creates itself.24

As problems and solutions grow in complexity, so does the subtle intelligence need to expand. We need to access the uniquely human ability to find meaning in experiences at the threshold of thought. This happens between when there is space for reflection and deep listening. It’s a movement toward seeing organizations as living communities.25

From the moment we stepped onto the school ground as children, we have unwittingly entered into a mechanistic cage. Many of us have been so long in this cage that we have forgotten that we are in it.26 We have come to believe that this is the true world and that there is no other. These are more than surface beliefs. They make up the deep structures in which we live.27

Michael Jones has identified four central myths that erode our trust in life:28

  1. Ultimate Truth, believing there’s a single right answer, giving up our own voice to experts, allowing others to define us.
  2. Separation, seeing the world, not as an extension of our living, but as a resource for our consumption.
  3. Efficiency, believing that everything will spin out of control unless we use planning and force.
  4. Scarcity, believing that for one person to win another must lose.

It’s the question that frees us, not the answer.29 We forget that there is something deeper that represents our real source of aliveness. We can only live half a life if we leave ourselves behind.30 Being with the question, discovering where it takes us, is what gives us life.31

When we live our gift, the world is fundamentally changed.32

Personal truth is rooted in a coherent presence that actively flows through us.33 The gift is never solitary. It needs to circulate in order to continue to flourish and grow. Creating a circle of those through whom the gift might be shared protects us from abusing the gift.34 Our true gifts are broader and more comprehensive than skills or abilities.35

Just as a healthy organism has a billion different cells, a wise organization knows that its vitality depends upon growing differentiated centers that are autonomous and interconnected.36 While organizations may claim to want innovation and creativity, its leadership and administrative structures often prove contrary. In organizations, we are often expected to dismiss our own inborn sense of what is right in order to fulfill someone else’s mission.37

If we use the garden and soil as metaphors for the soul of an organization, then we can see that what makes the difference between a healthy and an unhealthy organization occurs underground. The equivalence of the soil’s health is the tone, mode, and deeper identity of the organization.38 Being curious and reflective builds the soil. It gives the foundation to express beauty in its many forms. Beauty helps us to live more fully in the world.39 Beauty is transitory and dwells in relationships, in-between meeting places.40

Bringing a sense of aliveness begins with perception,
but it is more than simple observation.41

The root of respect means ‘to look again.’ Our journey into beauty begins with the realization that we must look again at the world. To look again is to value existence on its own terms rather than just on ours. We can’t look again if we don’t value existence and life. It’s hard, if not impossible, to create work environments where people can feel connected and alive without respect.42

Most of us have been educated for a world of separation. We live in an over-or-under world, where everyone is judged according to how superior or inferior they are in relation to others. We all share the responsibility for building our common life-giving soil. In holding the other as part of ourselves we learn respect and compassion for others. This teaches us how to enter into relationships with others without trying to change them. Being with is fundamental to the process of organic change.43 It’s about being with another while keeping ties to one’s own inner humanity.44

An organization’s routine way of doing things is at risk when it begins to embrace life. The real power in the world is beauty and creativity. When we serve beauty we get more beauty. When we judge, we inhibit the possibility for the world to transform itself through us. When we are vulnerable, we are willing to be touched deeply by what we see, feel and hear.45

With vulnerability comes compassion for suffering, and
out of engagement with suffering comes perspective.46

Beauty serves as a guide for living a more real life. It helps us to navigate toward creating a more humane and balanced world. Beauty represents a transcendent value that acts in concert with goodness and truth. If beauty is narrowed by the efficiency of the intellect, without the mediating influence of the heart, its distortion do great damage. Work need to be honest, just, and ethical to carry out its greater purposes.47

Nature is not a resource to be exploited, but a living process from which we can be nourished and enriched.48 Our greatest work is not to separate ourselves from nature or subdue it, but to engage with it in a way that opens a space between us and the other that is emergent and continuously unfolding. This space cannot be clearly defined, nor is it quantifiable, but it’s where beauty happens.49

A dead environment dulls our perceptions and shuts down our senses.
At best we feel bored. At worst we become depressed.50

Feeling bored or depressed is a natural human response for living and working in an environment that feels lifeless and inhuman. This act of separating ourselves from the world leads to a kind of psychic death.51 And we usually don’t know it until it is too late. It is literally the inevitable consequence to seeing value only in the context of economic objectives. It is a kind of denial of our existence.52

In music – and in leadership – you don’t impose a rhythm or order. You feel it coming from within and that, in turn, opens for other things. You stay with it, following that rhythm, and it leads you forward. It doesn’t repeat the past, but expresses its own authentic nature as it evolves and changes over time.53 It is a living structure that needs to feel right, natural, and in harmony with itself. You can’t work it all out in advance. It arises during the act of creation itself. We need to discover how to sense what is unfolding, rather than simply trying to execute a plan.54

Ultimately, it’s beauty that will change our world, not power. Power is fine if you know where you are going. But if you don’t, then it’s beauty that teaches you how to receive accurate feedback and to make the subtle adaptations required as we guide ourselves forward. When we plan, we try to fix things ahead of time. And when the unexpected happens, we just power our way through.55. The more natural living process is allowed to unfold, the more freely beauty flows into the world.56 The search for beauty causes us to see the life behind life, which we have not noticed before.57

The beauty we search for is the beauty of our own song.58

Grace is not in us, but between us.59. We need to listen deeply to each other, not only for the notes, but also for what it evokes in ourselves. By being alive to the situation at hand, we invent and reinvent as we play. It’s a reflecting in action, of being interconnected in ways we may not fully appreciate or understand. Each responds to the other with something that is not rehearsed or prepared beforehand.60 Anything can engage us in this process of constructing and reconstructing what we are doing as we are doing it. The key factor is that we have no other choice than to receive, reflect, and adapt at the same time.61

We depend on each other. As we acknowledge our interconnectedness, we become tuned to those around us in such a way that we can sense and anticipate each other’s movements. As we try to navigate the unknown, this connection becomes even more necessary.62 Musicians, for example, are joined by a common interest, following the leadings of the moment. This skill isn’t intellectual, but it does involve being able to listen for what is moving in the relationship, and building on that.63 This isn’t so much acquired as remembered.64

By putting so much emphasis on efficiency, we have separated ourselves from a more natural way of knowing. We believe that everything is up to us, and that it is necessary use effort and force or everything will spin out of control.65 Maybe we live in a perpetual state of grace despite of ourselves, trying to establish and keep control even as we are surrounded by a perfect order. The paradox is that our most frenzied efforts do not speed up the processes of re-creation but rather slow them down. Almost whatever we do in the name of efficiency interferes with or delays the forces of wholeness working on our behalf.66

Life chooses the timing of our actions.67

Rather than attempting to hold the world together, our most useful work is to hold a space in which creation may enter and fulfill its purposes through us. Many have been educated to value conformity and achievement as the keys to recognition and success. In this rational world the mystery of wildness, play, femininity, flow, and ease are set aside as irrelevant or childish.68

Our inspiration forms the core out of which all movement springs. This feeling-based capacity is not based on mastery over nature, but in attunement with it. This attunement cannot be matched only by the reasoning mind. Reason constructs knowledge through argument. That means it’s likely to diminish any kind of feeling-based relationship it encounters.69 To follow what you feel calls for simplicity and ease of mind and heart. When a plan does not work because the structures that support it aren’t stable, then leaders need to follow what they feel.70

We need metaphors that not only speak of doing but also of being,
of not forcing change but being the change you want to see.71

The idea of being the change you want to see makes room for the unexpected.72 The role is one of following, not imposing. It involves choices that must be made with little opportunity for analysis. It takes attention to follow an impulse without imposing one’s own will upon it.73 In a world where the future can be imagined but not foreseen, the only constant is our responsiveness to all that is changing. Our job is to maintain an attention so we can move in alignment with what is unfolding. We need to be careful to distinguish that which is occurring naturally from what we believe ought to be happening.74

To improvise authentically is a living process where we follow the aliveness that arises from the core of our own being in relation to the necessity of the moment in time.75 That which is most tender and forming in us needs to find its own inner resilience so that it can be soft and strong at the same time. This means staying in contact with the I don’t know.76 We need to learn to serve by yielding.77

Musicians know what potential is lost when one player dominates.
Musicians also know what is possible when they collaborate.78

The question we need be asking is not how to make a system do something that it will naturally resist doing, but how to work together in alignment with what is already emerging. When we align with what is already happening, rather than what we believe ought to happen, our most subtle actions can have significant results.79 So much of what is really important is done for its own sake and for no reward at all.80

The life in language is always between two people.81. Speaking from the space between is infinitely more challenging than speaking from a prepared text. It is to make wholeness visible. Everything of what the speaker is will be revealed in the voice.82 Authentic speech is to engage in the struggle of finding language equal to the meaning we wish to convey. True thinking is often incomplete, and so feels inadequate. In the most important matters, we are speaking of things where words cannot go. This requires the ability to access felt-understanding.83

We have been educated to convert our experience into abstractions, or fixed thoughts.84 Speaking about is objective and habitual. Speaking from is alive and fresh.85 To find an original thought involves being present to that no one expects. We don’t know that it is in us until it appears. It is the distinction between speaking about and from that represents the shift from second- to first-order experience. It is the shift from what I should think, feel and see, to what I am thinking, feeling, and seeing. We cannot speak from first-order experience unless we are in a place in which it feels safe to speak.86

To be present means to be with whatever we are experiencing in the moment. While our mind may fix itself on certain concepts, our inner reality is in a constant flow of experience.87 There will always be something that draws our attention. This something is something we are sensing into. By feeling our way into our inner experience we also acknowledge the body’s knowing. In this way we may discover a new perspective. By not trying to force our experience into existing constructs, we become alive to playfulness and the unfolding of new meanings.88

In a habitual world, we tend to work with finished and repetitive ideas.
In a living world, our experiences are free-forming and fluid.89

By trying to fit people into our organizational structures we have taken flexible human beings, and changed them into something fixed. We have changed ourselves into people engaging in highly repetitive activities with habitual patterns of thought and behavior. All that so we can perform tasks with consistency and reliability. One of the consequences of this is that it has disconnected us from our primary experience.90 Few of us feel safe enough to be generous with our ideas outside of well-defined contexts. As our language becomes dull our world is deadened as well. Given this feeling of absence, we move against the other to ensure our survival. This effect, as pervasive as subtle, creates our daily reality.91

Our living language gets buried in codes and rules that don’t enliven us. We find these codes around us in the form of prescriptive mandates and how to do it guidelines. They tend to suck the energy out of us and yet we overlook how deadening this can be. The question how to takes us out of the experience of the present moment.92 External knowledge may actually limit our perception and ability to see the whole.93

While we have freedom on the outside,
our inner life may be confined

We try to make up for having seen nothing with something. To be separated from imagination is like having a hunger that cannot be filled.95 The tendency to separate the whole into parts means that the world gets seen through eyes that focus on self-interest, defense of territory, and command and control structures.96 The mantra that what cannot be measured cannot be managed has led to the erosion of subjective qualities like courage, compassion, spontaneity, and self-expression. These qualities bring a sense of coherence and possibility to human experience.97 Unfortunately, they have been lost largely because they cannot be seen or quantified.98

Restoring environments in which we can listen for what is unfolding organically becomes more and more vital.99 The absence of such environments has been a source of indefinable but palpable unrest. It is like a hunger for which we can find no cause or cure.100 A story by its very nature is always forming and becoming. A spirit of commons offers a free and open environment where we may come together to speak of who and where we are in a manner that gives meaning to our life and work.101

Musicians listen to one another, and to themselves, sensing where the music is going, adjusting their playing as they go. As musicians feel the music, they make new meanings. And just as they capture it, the music changes. This way of playing, following the leadings of the moment, is a kind of commons space in itself. It’s an organic and feeling-based way of being with oneself and others.102

What needs to be heard now is too large to be heard only by individuals.103

What needs to be heard cannot be heard well until we restore the collective space for deep listening, where we can be fully present to its effects. What distinguishes the commons from the current status quo is immediacy. Most of our ways of coming together today are to fulfill a predetermined purpose or goal. But the commons is an open stage where life happens, for no other purpose than for the expression of itself in the now. Suspended agendas offer a safe vessel for engaged listening and unguarded presence.104

We always become part of what we see. The world does not so much belong to us, as we belong to it, and through it, to one another. This reciprocity is central to any living process. We are so used to taking so that which is received is seldom reciprocated. Our participation includes being attuned to being, including the many ways insight may come to us.105 It gives us the opportunity of bringing new insights into awareness, in real-time.106

As we engage, we also participate in the larger ordering of things.
Dialogue, stories, journaling, reflection, music, questions, being in nature
– all of these tap into collective wisdom.107

We have been programmed to demand clear outcomes that justify our commitments in time and energy. The primary metaphor in an industrial economy is the machine. And, still, the innate gift of presence should be valued more than purely financial concerns. Connectedness, uniqueness, originality, beauty – all need to be kept in balance to ensuring the long-term sustainability of the community. Most of us just consider this to be naïve and soft-minded.108. But if we only are focused on what we are trying to achieve in terms of economic gain and self-interest,  then social cohesion is disrupted.109

Some knowledge, particularly slow knowledge, is knowledge of absorption. It is knowledge absorbed merely by being in another’s company. The way absorption works, and why it is so important, is that it contributes to whole-body learning, an intuitive sense which enables us to be presence. When we do that, learning follows naturally.

Even if we begin with an initial structure, it unfolds within the context of the situation itself. This is why spaces that are already owned or programmed for certain outcomes are not very alive. It is the presence of wholeness that makes the difference in how alive we feel.110 And because wholeness is invisible, we know it primarily through its effects. For example, we may know that we are in the presence of wholeness when we feel ourselves to be deeply heard. This makes room for us to find our own thinking, and to follow our own feeling in a way that is free from any need for defensiveness or self-deception. This in turn makes the fuller experience of wholeness possible.112

Wholeness cannot ever be replicated. It comes to us
in a moment that is unique and unrepeatable.113

The focus is more on allowing each moment to complete itself than on trying to set an agenda. It is this spontaneity of speaking that reawakens our deep sense of wonder.114 The intent is to free us from prescribed action in order to connect with an organic impulse that can lead to more cohesive acting. It means going slowly enough so that we are guided by what feels natural and true. Replacing present-moment awareness with expectations of the future often impedes forward movement.115

It is a subtle but important shift to explore how to be in the moment instead of trying to figure out what to do. This is why it is crucial to notice what latent capacities are emerging rather than being certain of the way forward and convincing others to follow. To be open and accepting of whatever comes is to trust life’s natural forward movement. The reward is that by being open to the changing form of things, we become more and more like ourselves, as living examples of change itself. The primary influences do not come from the outside in, but rather from the inside out. A generative space is not designed to be or do anything outside of what unfolds within the structure itself.116

When we feel at ease, we are likely to sense and follow the seeds of possibility. It is hard for anyone to sense what is needed if the atmosphere is tense and critical.117 Sometimes we may prefer to push forward by ourselves, but we cannot do this independently. The complexity we are engaged in needs others. Whatever we bring into awareness is easily complicated if interventions are introduced that communicate tension or force. Complications also arise when we get ahead of the living process itself. All our engagements in generative processes are fragile. This is partly why we need to bring a more subtle intelligence to the processes we are involved with.118 While nothing may appear to be happening at one level, everything may be happening at another.119

It’s in the space between seeing and
being seen where wholeness lives.120

Wherever wholeness already exists, people will naturally go. The best development is to build on or intensify what is already working.121 We can discern what is trying to happen naturally by removing unnecessary clutter.122 Vulnerability brings us into true fellowship with one another. This means that we listen to the unfolding of the whole without trying to make things personal. By keeping our attention focused on the flow of our inquiry, we create a collective presence that may yield perceptions without precedent.123

The moment in time is enriched when our full attention is given to it. Disinterest is not lack of interest, but the suspension of self-interest, including the promotion of a dominant point of view, in order to create anew.124 Letting something unfold naturally can only occur when there is a shared investment in which no one person holds the sole influence in the possible outcome or end state. While self-interest is aligned with predetermined goals and outcomes, disinterest is more likely to arise in situations where the solutions are vague or unknown, and the appropriate responses seemingly untrainable.125

Set free from previous conditioning, we can create
our own space of presence and belonging.126

We have forgotten how to live in a world in which we do not control as much as we co-participate with the larger dimensions of life. It is based on listening and attuning ourselves to the presence of the larger world in which we are participating.127 There is something much more to learn here – also in our organizations – about the world as a vital force, unpredictable, powerful, wild and loving. To experience its presence is to restore our relationship with wholeness.128

Managing and leading are two different things. Many of us have been educated for a world of struggle and competition. We have been taught that the world is our adversary. And so, the idea of restoring a sense of uniqueness, beauty, and grace is a foreign work, but one worth doing. This is not the time to step back from the world, but to go more deeply into it.129 The greatest challenge is trust – the ability to engage in a process, the outcome of which cannot be predicted or seen in advance.130


This is an absolutely wonderful book! What I particularly like is that Michael Jones reminds us that beyond all techniques, leading ultimately is about being fully human. It’s about recognizing and nurturing what is most personal, while at the same time cultivating our awareness and sense of connection with each other, our work, and our world.

The leader’s work is, as we’ve seen, grounded in presence, deep listening, gifts, beauty, grace, and finding our own voice.131 It’s about becoming present to the ever-present organic flow of learning and change.132 The personal leadership journey is also a preparation for transforming our work environments, and communities.133

It’s worth emphasizing that the search for aliveness is the one thing that may draw us away from the dominance of a mechanistic world view. The search for aliveness can help us to find a more life-affirming way of being and leading.134 Beauty is inherent everywhere. We don’t need to introduce it. We just need to learn how to clear away the obstacles.135

1 Michael Jones, Artful Leadership: Awakening the Commons of the Imagination (Pianoscapes, 2006), p.ix.
2 Ibid., p.x.
3 Ibid., p.xi.
4 Ibid., p.xii.
5 Ibid., p.xv.
6 Ibid., p.3.
7 Ibid., p.4.
8 Ibid..
9 Ibid., p.6.
10 Ibid., p.7.
11 Ibid., p.8.
12 Ibid., p.9.
13 Ibid..
14 Ibid., p.10.
15 Ibid., p.11.
16 Ibid., p.12.
17 Ibid., p.14.
18 Ibid., p.21.
19 Ibid., p.31.
20 Ibid., p.32.
21 Ibid., p.33.
22 Ibid., p.35.
23 Ibid., p.36.
24 Ibid..
25 Ibid., p.37.
26 Ibid., p.39.
27 Ibid., p.40.
28 Ibid., pp.40–43.
29 Ibid., p.43.
30 Ibid., p.53.
31 Ibid., p.57.
32 Ibid., p.59.
33 Ibid., p.62.
34 Ibid., p.69.
35 Ibid., p.70.
36 Ibid., p.71.
37 Ibid., p.78.
38 Ibid., p.89.
39 Ibid., p.90.
40 Ibid., p.93.
41 Ibid., p.91.
42 Ibid., p.92.
43 Ibid., p.96.
44 Ibid., p.97.
45 Ibid., p.99.
46 Ibid., p.100.
47 Ibid., p.101.
48 Ibid..
49 Ibid., p.102.
50 Ibid..
51 Ibid..
52 Ibid., p.103.
53 Ibid., p.104.
54 Ibid., p.105.
55 Ibid..
56 Ibid..
57 Ibid., p.106.
58 Ibid., p.107.
59 Ibid., p.112
60 Ibid., p.113.
61 Ibid., p.114.
62 Ibid..
63 Ibid., p.115.
64 Ibid., p.116.
65 Ibid..
66 Ibid., p.117.
67 Ibid..
68 Ibid., p.118.
69 Ibid., p.120.
70 Ibid., p.122.
71 Ibid., p.123.
72 Ibid..
73 Ibid., p.125.
74 Ibid., p.126.
75 Ibid., p.127.
76 Ibid., p.128.
77 Ibid., p.129.
78 Ibid..
79 Ibid..
80 Ibid., p.137.
81 Ibid., p.139
82 Ibid., p.140.
83 Ibid., p.141.
84 Ibid., p.146.
85 Ibid., p.147.
86 Ibid., p.148.
87 Ibid., p.149.
88 Ibid..
89 Ibid., p.150.
90 Ibid., p.151.
91 Ibid., p.152.
92 Ibid., p.158.
93 Ibid., p.159.
94 Ibid., p.162.
95 Ibid., p.164.
96 Ibid., p.170.
97 Ibid., pp.170–171.
98 Ibid., p.171.
99 Ibid..
100 Ibid., p.172.
101 Ibid., p.173.
192 Ibid..
103 Ibid., p.175.
104 Ibid..
105 Ibid., p.176.
107 Ibid., p.179.
106 Ibid., p.177.
108 Ibid., p.179
109 Ibid., p.180.
110 Ibid., p.183.
112 Ibid., p.185.
113 Ibid..
114 Ibid., p.186.
115 Ibid., p.187.
116 Ibid., p.188.
117 Ibid., p.189.
118 Ibid., p.190.
119 Ibid., p.191.
120 Ibid., p.192.
121 Ibid., p.193.
122 Ibid., p.194.
123 Ibid., p.196.
124 Ibid., p.198.
125 Ibid., p.199.
126 Ibid..
127 Ibid., p.200.
128 Ibid., p.201.
129 Ibid., p.202.
130 Ibid., p.214.
131 Ibid., p.169.
132 Ibid., p.46.
133 Ibid., p.170.
134 Ibid., p.175.
135 Ibid., p.104.

Book Review: The Future of Humanity

The Future of Humanity: A Conversation by Jiddu Krishnamurti and David Bohm is a small book and a quick read. The book contains a transcript of two dialogues that took place between Krishnamurti and Bohm in June 1983. Bohm writes in the preface that these two dialogues took place three years after a series of thirteen similar dialogues.1

The starting point for the discussion was the question: What is the future of humanity? This question led in turn to the question whether mind is limited by the brain of mankind, with all the knowledge that it has accumulated over the ages.2 The book contains the essential spirit of the whole of Krishnamurti’s teachings, and throws further light on them.3

The book leaves me with mixed feelings. I can see how David Bohm continuously tries to understand what Krishnamurti is saying. Bohm repeatedly asks for clarity, and tries to summarize what Krishnamurti says. I really appreciate David Bohm’s search for intellectual clarity. He is able to pursue abstract thought to a far greater degree than most other people. Bohm also gives the impression of being a very gentle and kind person. Maybe too kind?

Because I can also see a Krishnamurti who I perceive as very assertive and rather evasive. Sometimes, when Bohm comes too close with his questions, Krishnamurti says he talks psychologically, or simply avoids answering Bohm’s question by answering another. I definitely lost confidence in Krishnamurti when he said that the activity of the brain really is like a computer.4 It’s a really poor metaphor! Just because someone gives the impression that he knows what he’s talking about it doesn’t mean that he does!

1 Jiddu Krishnamurti and David Bohm, The Future of Humanity: A Conversation (Harper & Row, 1986), p. 1.
2 Ibid., p. 2.
3 Ibid., p. 4.
4 Ibid., p. 54.

Book Review: The Art of Leading Collectively

The Art of Leading Collectively: Co-Creating a Sustainable, Socially Just Future by Petra Kuenkel is a book about the art of collaborating for a sustainable future. Collaboration is a form of co-creation.1 Kuenkel reminds us that everything we do, or do not do, contributes to the co-creation of the world.2 What we need to do is to co-create a better future that is both sustainable and socially just.3

Collaboration & Effective Action
Collaboration is not only paramount, but is the only way to successfully address the challenges we face.4 Isolated action needs to be replaced by collective leadership for the common good.5 We need to learn how to collaborate and take effective action locally and globally. The Collective Leadership Compass describes the competencies needed for successful collaboration. The compass consists of six dimensions and is based on years of experience.6 The purpose of the compass is not theoretical, but practical.7

Co-creation & Aliveness
Collective leadership breaks with the dichotomy of leaders and followers.8 Co-creation works best in a collaborative space where there is ”life” and a sense of aliveness. We all know how it feels to be alive. And we are intrinsically linked to the order of life within and around us. We are continuously being created by this order, as well as participate in creating this order.9

The Collective Leadership Compass
Petra Kuenkel has over the years identified which competencies are needed to shift people into a more collaborative space.10 None of these competencies are new.11 They are as old as humankind.12 It is the combination of them that makes a difference.13 The six dimensions of the Collective Leadership Compass are:14

Dimension Competency Attention
Future Possibilities Shape reality toward a sustainable future. Focus on opportunities, awaken passion, measure progress.
Engagement Build effective collaboration ecosystems. Build engagement, foster cohesion, deliver results.
Innovation Create novelty and find solutions. Nourish collective generation of ideas, pursue mastery, stay open to change.
Humanity Reach into one another’s humanness. Deepen awareness of reality, integrate aspirations, embrace perspectives.
Collective Intelligence Harvest difference for progress. Attend to quality of conversations, foster diversity, reflect into action.
Wholeness See the larger picture and stay connected with the common good. Connect with ourselves and others, enhance strengths, use gifts and assets.

Inner & Outer Paths
In building the capacity for leading collectively we need to travel an inner path and an outer path together with others. Traveling the inner path prepares us for the outer path. Traveling the outer path strengthens the inner path. Underlying both paths are our capacity to love, create, collaborate, reflect, organize, build, and to bring forth the world together.15

Intention & Urgency
Intention driven by urgency creates an energy field that attracts people and organizes life.16 The biggest investment in the beginning is fostering trust and visualizing a common goal. The capacity for initiating, creating, leading, and sustaining meaningful futures is within all of us.17 Collective leadership in work is typically characterized by:18

  • A big challenge.
  • An urgent issue.
  • People with different backgrounds, expertise, and opinions.
  • Conversations about the way forward.
  • Exchange of viewpoints.
  • Careful listening (even to what is not said).
  • Focus on the outcome.
  • Learning.

We operate as a network when we lead collectively.19 Dialogue and acute listening skills increase mutual understanding and respect. Outer action and inner development are dependent on each other and have a reciprocal effect both individually and collectively.20 Decentralized networks with timely access to information are not only able to adapt to change, but also generate change.21

Trust & Cohesion
Trust is co-created22 and helps the cohesion of the group.23 Relationships, communication, and collaboration are cornerstones of sustainability.24 Mental models shift and change through conversations. Awareness precedes insights, and insights precede action.25 Meaningful relationships are a cornerstone for better co-creation.26 Creativity is contagious and self-reinforcing.27

Humanity & Compassion
We are all part of life’s inherent tendency for creative unfolding.28 The future is constantly emerging through encounters among people.29 An important feature of natural systems is the ability to connect in networks with continuous internal communication.30 When people see the humanness in another person, they develop compassion that often leads to change.31  Developing our own humanity and taking care of the whole planet mutually reinforce each other. Our underlying humanity connects us all across the world.32

Mindfulness & Perception
We become more human as we become more mindful of who we are and how we have come to be. It frees our perception when we become aware of our fears, our need for self-protection, and our desire for recognition. And it helps us to relax, respect differences, and deal with conflicts.33 This is about appreciating the human being, the interests and the story. Then we can talk about the issues.34

If problem solving and conflict resolution in groups is increasingly important in our complex world, then the skill of dialogue becomes one of the most fundamental of human skills.35 Dialogue is as old as humankind.36 It allows the integration of different perspectives and interests.37

If we want to change the world: The first step is developing compassion for how people are. The second step is identifying the human competencies and building on their potential. The third step is practicing being together differently.38 The seeds of collective leadership are everywhere. Bringing about change is most often about setting free what is already there.39

Leadership & Values
We are all on a leadership journey that involves deeper values. It’s important that we align our actions with these values and the associated knowing. It’s a knowing which reaches us through people, nature, or whatever which resonates with our hearts. It doesn’t reach us through the intellect. We know it when we feel it.40 We intuitively know the ingredients for leading collectively. We need to live them consciously.41

Rules & Structures
The fact that we create the future together seems self-evident. Institutions, tools, and measurable results are important, but what people do and how they think, feel, work, and communicate are more important.42 Rules and structures are important, but overly formal structures drain the energy.43 Structures become an impediment if they take precedence over content.44 People need to connect and engage with one another in a meaningful way, and not just because the structures force them to.45

The most ignored aspect of collaborative change is the transformation of individual consciousness.46 Collaboration changes the way we see the world.47 We tend to resort to control by establishing structures, and forget that it’s human connection that will create a future we want to live in. Our contribution lack strength and spirit when our passion is missing.48

Creating Life
When passion is lost, we need to be willing to look into what we do not know or understand. It requires courage, and a willingness to listen to ourselves and others.49 Reconnecting with our heart and passion is a journey with no final destination.50 Conscious collaboration is a form of creating life. Whether we manage to bring a sufficient degree of aliveness determines whether we become successful or not.

Petra Kuenkel is very experienced and has worked with helping people to collaborate for two decades. The book is full of real-life stories.51 Petra Kuenkel concludes that we know deep inside how collective leadership works.52 The Collective Leadership Compass is the tool used to navigate deeper into each of the six dimensions of the collaboration journey. I particularly like that Petra Kuenkel not only discusses collaboration in terms of tools and structures, but also emphasizes the importance of creating ”life” and aligning action with deeper human values. Collaboration ultimately rests on our humanness. It’s a great book well worth reading!

1 Petra Kuenkel, The Art of Leading Collectively: Co-Creating a Sustainable, Socially Just Future (Chelsea Green Publishing, 2016), p.2.
2 Ibid., pp.2–3.
3 Ibid., p.16.
4 Ibid., p.4.
5 Ibid., p.5.
6 Ibid., p.6.
7 Ibid., p.59.
8 Ibid..
9 Ibid., p.15.
10 Ibid., pp.16, 53.
11 Ibid., p.16.
12 Ibid., p.49.
13 Ibid., p.16.
14 Ibid., pp.17, 60, 86.
15 Ibid., p.23.
16 Ibid., p.27.
17 Ibid., p.32.
18 Ibid., pp.32–33.
19 Ibid., p.35.
20 Ibid., p.41.
21 Ibid., p.227.
22 Ibid., p.47.
23 Ibid., p.46.
24 Ibid., p.42.
25 Ibid., p.45.
26 Ibid., p.94.
27 Ibid., p.97.
28 Ibid., p.50.
29 Ibid., p.51.
30 Ibid., p.57.
31 Ibid., p.64.
32 Ibid., p.66.
33 Ibid., p.102.
34 Ibid., p.106.
35 Ibid., p.107. See also Edgar Schein on dialogue, culture, and organizational learning, Reflections, 4(4), pp.27–38.
36 Ibid..
37 Ibid., p.199.
38 Ibid., p.117.
39 Ibid., p.120.
40 Ibid., p.129.
41 Ibid., p.131.
42 Ibid., p.151.
43 Ibid., p.169.
44 Ibid., pp.247–248.
45 Ibid., p.249.
46 Ibid., p.253.
47 Ibid., p.254.
48 Ibid., p.256.
49 Ibid., p.257.
50 Ibid., p.258.
51 Ibid., p.7.
52 Ibid., p.14.

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Book Review: Mind and Heart