I had a wonderfully stimulating lunch conversation with new acquaintance Lise Palmer of Spark Consulting recently.  She had the delightful ability to challenge everything I’m passionate about in a light, playful way so that we could both happily learn through the discussion.  Specifically, she was (and generally remains) skeptical about “the universal applicability of the living systems view of organizations.”  I’ve shared her three major objections below, along with my responses.   There’s more learning to be had, for sure, but I enjoyed the opportunity to articulate my current take on things. Read more

“You can’t plant a forest,” a friend said to me recently.  He was speaking in general terms, saying: it’s a physical impossibility.  After mentally wrestling with the concept for a moment, the phrase struck me with its deep, practical wisdom – and its vital implications for organizational leaders.

But wait, you might be saying.  What about the story that’s been going around about the guy who single-handedly planted a 1,360 acre forest in India?  Read more

Thrivability Montreal.  Thursday, February 21, 2013.  There are fifty of us gathered to explore what we’ve called The Power of Place.  More wanted to come, but the room couldn’t accommodate it.  We should’ve known it would be like this.  So many of us quietly hunger for something more than the anonymous, transactional relationships that make up our public lives.  We crave a sense of belonging and community, of rich expression and appreciation.  Just as much, we yearn to feel connection with the places we inhabit, to know that they shape us even as we shape them and that there is history, character and life woven into them.  We want to feel lovingly held by people and place. Read more

Thrivability is a worldview, a global movement, and an active practice.  Guided by what we know about living systems, it is a continual and purposeful drive to create the fertile conditions for life to thrive at the levels of the individual, the organization, the community and the biosphere.  Profoundly practical, it is distinguished by a deep understanding of how life works – and by intentional participation in that pattern.  The thrivability movement recognizes that only by aligning with life in the spirit of learning, compassion, contribution and play can we find the motivation and the means to collaborate and innovate at the levels required. Read more

This Art of Hosting stuff – it isn’t all rainbows and unicorns, you know.  There are bumps and bruises along the way.  Some they tell you about up-front.  But some they don’t.

The AoH community will tell you about the “groan zone,” for example – the middle point in a group’s creative work together, when they’ve let go of the shores behind them but they haven’t yet arrived at their destination.  Neither place is visible anymore – only clear horizon – and the group starts to feel lost, disoriented, panicked.  Any good AoH practitioner knows that you just have to push through this place, and that it’s actually a good sign that the group is on the verge of a breakthrough.  But it’s always an uncomfortable place to be. Read more

January 15.  Months ago, we were thrilled when Toke Møller agreed to come to Montreal to lead our Art of Hosting event.  But then he announced his three conditions – each of which would challenge our mental comfort and our egos.  He alone would choose the other two international hosts.  Together, we would all design the agenda in the two days prior to the event (not sooner).  And each of us on the local team would be called “apprentices.”

I have to say: it was this last condition that challenged us the most.  And yet, that was probably the one that was most valuable to us in the end. Read more

January 13.  This evening, we concluded Montreal’s first Art of Hosting event.  I’m exhausted after the three-day event and two days of preparation before that.  But I’m deeply satisfied.  Everything flowed smoothly, despite much complexity, necessarily last-minute preparations, and a challenging venue. The gathering felt important, like a catalytic moment both for the individuals present and for Montreal (and maybe even for Quebec).  Participants showered us with gratitude for the powerful learning and the experience of community.  And I felt proud to have helped offer this to them.

What stands out most for me, though, is the experience of the hosting team – both the eleven local organizers and apprentices and the three international hosts and teachers (Toke Møller, Chris Corriganand Tuesday Ryan-Hart).  We lived something special together.  The normal expression would be that we were like a well-oiled machine.  But it seems more accurate to say that we were like a well oiled organism.  Our work together was much more organic than mechanic.  It was creative, adaptive and emergent.  It was fast-moving and self-organizing.  And the “oil” was deep friendship and trust that began to resemble love. Read more

January 9. We’ve just finished the second day of preparation for a three-day Art of Hosting training to be offered to more than 100 participants. Though the training officially begins tomorrow morning, the learning has already been intense for our team of local organizers.  “Intense, joyful and nourishing” are the words I just shared on Facebook and Twitter.

We started this process nine months ago – an appropriate amount of time, it seems.  It feels as if we’ve gestated something together and are in the process of giving birth to it.  There were potent, creative forces at work. Read more

For many years, I’ve spoken about the great promise of seeing organizations as living systems – a view that charts a path to employee engagement, customer loyalty, and organizational resilience.  Every once in a while, though, someone will cynically point out that not everything is rosy in living systems.  “There’s competition in nature,” they point out.  “Fierce, dog-eat-dog competition.”  Yes, competition is part of life, I answer.  But this is always an unsatisfying response.  And the living systems view loses some of its luster. Read more

Co-creation is one of today’s hottest buzzwords.  It’s the idea that a collaborative process of shared creation leads to higher levels of engagement, innovation and resilience.  I should love the concept – after all, I’m working to promote a more complete understanding of life’s co-creative pattern.  But I have a controversial confession to make: when someone says, “Let’s co-create this,” warning bells go off.  There’s a saying that you should never trust a man who says, “Trust me.”  Secretly, I feel the same way about co-creation.  If you have to say it, you probably mean something that I don’t really want to be involved in.  However, I’m beginning to understand why I feel this way, why that’s important, and what to do about it. Read more