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Tag: appreciative inquiry

Catastrophizing – the question we are really asking but don’t want to ask out loud

Behind the Scenes Tour of G. Krug & Son by Baltimore Heritage via FlickrCatastrophizing

Do you have an area in your life where the slightest mistake fills you with foreboding?

Let me give you an example of catastrophic thinking:

  • You go to the shops and you drop a can of baked beans.   You think nothing of it.  You pick it up the can and put it back in your basket.
  • You go to the shops and you drop a can of baked beans.  You feel mild panic.  You’ve been told you are clumsy and here you go again.

Challenging your catastrophic thinking and re-framing

The standard psychological advice is to challenge your catastrophic thinking – be a critical friend and show yourself you are exaggerating.

That’s good.  Do it.  But also go a step further.   The problem isn’t ‘you’.  The problem is not what you are expecting from yourself or anyone else. There is a problem coming though.  You are losing faith in a relationship that is important to you.  Get your head around that now before your growing jitters sabotages what is left.

First, let me remind you of the conventional advice.  Then I’ll show you what I mean about your growing loss of confidence and the pointers to another task – reframing.

The 3 P’s of catastrophizing

Someone somewhere , I don’t recall whom, provided a handy heuristic to ‘parse’ the underlying mechanisms of catastrophizing.


In the first situation, the can of baked beans that you dropped was, well, a can of baked beans.

In the second situation, dropping a can of baked beans had personal significance: I am clumsy.


In the first situation, dropping a can of baked beans was chance – a one-off related to nothing else.

In the second situation, dropping a can of baked beans reminds us of another time where we were clumsy – the personal quality persists over time


In the first situation, dropping a can of baked beans in a supermarket has no connection to our prowess elsewhere.

In the second situation, dropping a can of baked beans in this place reminds us of when we’ve dropped something in other places – we feel a connection between otherwise disconnected activities.

How to use the ‘personal, persistent and pervasive’ heuristic to challenge your panic?

Personal, persistent and pervasive is a useful heuristic that helps us challenge our thinking.

  • Is this about us? (Not always!)
  • Is this really persistent? (OK, we suspect so, but what would be counterbalancing evidence to at least make our feeling neutral?)
  • Is this really persistent? (As above)

Challenging your thinking will at least give you a chance to take a deep breath and concentrate on what is well and good in your world.   Some times that is all that is needed.   Try this first and if all feels good, stop here and laugh at your temporary panic.

Our relationship with the world

But if you continue to feel bad, consider this.  We are feeling angsted by our relationship with the world.  We feel humiliated. Lessened. Devalued.

The real issue is that we feel an important identity has been challenged and challenged by someone whose attention and respect we sought.

Let’s play this out some more.

If a steward on a plane had said to me when I dropped my coffee, “You are so clumsy”, it is unlikely that would have gone with me to be remembered in a supermarket.

If my boss, or my sports coach or a lover had said “you are so clumsy!”, that would have been remembered.

The real issue behind catastrophizing

Who is making us care?

When we catastrophize, we do need to take not just one step back but two.  We have to go past personal, persistent and pervasive and ask ‘who is making us care‘?

Whose opinion do we fear?  And why do we fear this opinion so much?

What is the real issue behind our alarm?

Think of this.  If I am really so clumsy, my valued other should be

  • Trying to protect me
  • Helping me arrange circumstances so that my clumsiness hurts neither me nor anyone else
  • And if it is really bad, getting me some medical attention.

The real issue then is not my clumsiness (though it may be real).  The real issue is their bad temper.   What is irking them?

What to do about nagging criticism of a valued other?

It is hard to think straight when someone is attacking you but that is where our attention should go.  In my example of feeling clumsy when we drop a can of baked beans, we only notice the pattern of ‘clumsy’ because it was said by someone dear to us.

So let’s concentrate on that.  What relationship do we want with that person?

The question that we are really asking but don’t want to ask out loud

What relationship do we want with that person.  Or rather, why do we suddenly feel that we have significantly reduced faith in the relationship?

Isn’t the problem with us?  Aren’t we suddenly feeling “This can’t work”, or rather, “I am not sure I can be bothered to put the work in to make this work.”

That’s what we are thinking about, really. That we have to reframe this relationship.  Not jettison it or downgrade it.  Re-frame it.

We have to think about what we really want from this relationship and whether we have any faith in the relationship.

One thing that I do know and that I willing to stake my professional reputation on – any relationship is as strong as your belief in it.  It may be weaker but it is never stronger than your belief in it.

Be willing to take that second step back and re-frame

Examples of re-framing

Sometimes we find we have to reframe.

For example, on Saturday I noticed myself dropping things in the supermarket and because I was, I noticed that a lot of other people were too.  Mid-month and a lot of exhausted people on a Saturday morning.  I’ll read that into my assessment of the economy.

And then I noticed errors while I was working.  Some of which turned out not to be errors after all.  What was I saying to myself?

  • I was momentarily worried that I had lost my systematic ways of working.   I opened a few log books and slowed down and corrected that.
  • I was also asking myself whether I was committed to the project that I was working on.

I need to re-think where this project fits in to my life.  I don’t have the answer yet but once I did work for an organization for 10 years with the motto “Though they cannot support me, I will support it”.  I earned my own money and funded a lot of their operations and was nominally an employee of theirs.

Get it?  I knew what I valued and how much of a commitment I would make.   With the wisdom of years, i might phrase that now as “Though the cannot support me, I will support it while we are doing mutually valuable work together.”

How to re-frame?

By definition, re-framing is hard.  We are having to discover a new way of thinking.

That can take some long walks, some talks with close friends who might have different ways of thinking (not just their opinion of our lives!), and some reading of novels and poetry.

But we should stop worrying about the baked beans.  Our clumsiness may be real but it is not the issue here.  The issue is our self-esteem reflected in the eyes of someone we hold dear.

We need to think about how much we care about them, and whether we want to stay in the conversation if they do.  If we want to stay in, then stay – but only as long as the relationship is mutually valuable.

  • So do you believe in the relationship that is making you so unhappy?
  • What are the conversations that you are  having?
  • How are you bringing yourself to the conversations that you are having?
  • Are we doing mutually valuable work together?

Or to say this appreciatively:

  • What is it that we are doing together that is so valuable?
  • What are the immediate obstacles to our common activity?
  • What are we doing well and can do more of?
  • When we do more of what we do well together, are we doing what we find so valuable?

Sometimes a relationship is valuable but on entirely different terms than we originally supposed.


Dance in any way you know how

Let's Dance by zenera via FlickrI’m reading David Whyte‘s The Heart Aroused.  It’s profound. It’s illuminating. It connects all the many facets of contemporary management theory: poetry, the positive movement, the mytho-poetic school and hard core complexity theory.  It’s difficult to summarize though

Today, Bukik left a comment on this blog.  Most of his work is in Indonesian ~ which I can’t read.  But some is in English.

From Bukik’s site, I learned this:

“While I dance
I cannot judge
I cannot hate
I cannot separate myself from life.
I can only be joyful and whole.
That is why I dance.”

Hans Bos

I tried to discover who Hans Bos is.  Maybe an American living in Illinois?  I would like to know.

Thanks to Bukik, I have a good quotation to illustrate the contemporary quantum idea and older eastern idea that we are our relationship  with the world.  And almost paradoxically, our relationship with the world is good when we dance, and dance.

Dance in any way you know how.

A good thought for a Sunday morning and good respite from reading economic reports.

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Download resources from WordPress with a download manager

Download Manager

UPDATE:  It turned out that this plugin was difficult to manage as were both “Download Monitors” and “Drain Hole”.  I am now using Downloads Manager (with an s).  It works like a dream but there is one thing I am not sure about. Files are stored within the plug-in directory.  That may be a security hole – I need to check that out.  So if you take this route to get going, back up well!

Old version:

I discovered an excelleChristmas Gift Wrap byL'Amour Olivia via Flickrnt WordPress plugin that allows readers to easily download resources from a WordPress blog.

It’s easy to download and install.  There’s just one trick – to add  “download_page” at the end of the post.  But change the ” ”  to [].  I couldn’t put the square brackets here or the download page would come in the middle of the post.

Signature Manager

Instead, I also downloaded the plugin called FT Signature Manager and I’ve added the link to the download manager in my signature so I don’t have to remember reach time I write a post.

Pdf downloads

And while I was at it, I downloaded a plugin to allow people to convert a post to pdf.   I am not a pdf fan, but pdf is better than the long messy printouts that comes with printing from a browser.

I hope you find the plugins useful.  Any comments and feedback will be useful as I learn to make my blog more functional.

The first document that I added is a 6 stop ‘itinerary for exploring the vistas of appreciative inquiry and positive psychology for people who want to explore the opportunities and challenges of this paradigm.

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Management theory is reconsidering is philosophical rots

Offer your problems to God, and they may open opportunities that you never imagined.

I am not religious, and if they haven’t clicked away already, my friends who are ‘evangelical atheists’ will think I’ve taken leave of my senses

Management theory is reconsidering its philosophical rots

[Yes, I did mean roots but the typo is apt.]

I heard the idea of presenting one’s problems to God from a Rabbi on Radio 4 today and it is an idea that has been forgotten by management theorists for a long, long time.  It is being actively and vigorously revived though, and if you want to be involved in modern management education, “opening yourself to the imagination of the universe” is an idea that you have to get you head around.

Old school management sucked the life juices out of us

“Old school” management is goal-oriented, and fundamentally arrogant and negative.  It goes like this. “I define the goal and until you have completed it, you are not up to scratch.”

We might even say that old school management is evil. It is even evil even when we are setting our goals for ourselves and not others.  It’s  arrogant to believe that we know what is right, not only for today, but for tomorrow whose shape we barely know.  It is very arrogant to believe that we know and the other does not.  It is evil to undermine the worth of other people and to daily put ourselves and others in situations where we are not up to scratch.

But how do we open ourselves to the imagination of the universe?

For all my exploration of modern management theory, I am still a psychologist and I want to know “what am I going to DO?

“offering a problem to God”, as I understand it, does not mean letting go.  It means beginning where we are, with our sense that the present does not meet our sense of what is right and wrong.   We begin by accepting our negative evaluation, our arrogant assertion that on this matter we believe we are right,  and our overbearing willingness to judge others.  We accept that this is ground we stand on at this moment.  This is our reality at the minut.

Then, we put this evaluation on the table, probably privately, it is offensive after all.  And at last,  we listen to what the universe has to say.    What does the universe have to say about this problem?

We’ve raised the flag.  We’ve said we will hear.   Now we listen!

But are we predisposed to listen?

The difficulty is though, that in this mood, when we feel the world is wrong, and we are right and that we are allowed to tell others they are wrong, in this mood, listening to anyone is far from our minds.

Positive psychology, an overlapping school of positive organizational scholarship, kicks in now and has a lot to say on how to reach a point that we can listen and hear.

We begin by reminding ourselves that it is quite natural, housed in a human body, to feel alarmed when we notice something is wrong.   Our biology is programmed that way.  It is natural .  .  .  well .  .  . to exaggerate.  When times are rough, and we reel from trauma to trauma, or just from hassle to hassle, it is not long before we begin to shut down and focus solely on what threatens us, or simply annoys us.

Positive psychologists help us stay out of this zone of despair, cynicism and negativity.  We look to them to keep us in that positive space where we can notice that something is wrong (or a least not to our taste) and listen to the universe.  It is a tough balancing act.

Positive psychologists are not our only resource, though. Most world religions have rituals to manage this emotional housekeeping.   Balancing our ‘alarm systems’ and listening to others is such an important skill that all cultures have ways of explaining the challenge.    What is saying a brief prayer before a meal but a momentary regaining of balance where we take stock in an appreciative not panicky way?

In our secular world, we explain every thing more wordily but we are not necessarily wrong.  Just ploddy.   Two other very important factors in maintaining ’emotional tone’ are exercise and friends.

The contribution of positive psychologists

Positive psychologists advocate a simple ritual of a gratitude diary.  A few brief notes at the end of each day makes the difference between believing that we have to solve every problem ourselves and “hearing” what the universe has to offer.

Offer your problems to the universe and allow yourself to be delighted by opportunities you never imagined.

And to my evangelical atheist friends, if you are such an objective scientist, try it before you knock it.

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Lao Tzu to Contemporary Management via Psychology

Suspicious of poetry

As a young psychologist, I bought into the notion that psychology must tell us something that is not common sense.  Many leading psychologists still think this way.  I don’t think it is right.  The profession is setting itself apart from the world, above the world, beyond the world.   It is now other worldly.

We should be more like management scientists.  You know those tough guys who schedule the plans and manage the electricity grid so an airport never has more planes and people than it can cope with and the national grid doesn’t fall over when we all make supper at the same time?

Hard core scientists don’t set themselves up against common sense.  They support common sense.  Maybe they also read poetry.

Bridging the divide between poetry and management

That being said, maybe we need some prose to help people take the first steps.  Writing coach, Joanna Young, tweeted this Lao Tzu quote today.

Kindness in words creates confidence.

Kindness in thinking creates profoundness.

Kindness in giving creates love.


The core of contemporary management thinking

Sounds soppy, but these words from 1500 years ago are the core of modern management thinking.

Kindness in words creates belonging and the possibility of collective efficacy.

Kindness in thinking leads to creativity and strategic clarity and hence provides the bedrock of common action.

Kindness in giving creates the common ties that allow resilience and flexibility.

Some time on Google Scholar and you will drown in academic references.

Leadership, management, human resource management

Leadership:  who are we journeying with and why are they essential to our journey?

Management: which way are we going and what can each of us do to help?

Human Resource Management: who feels secure with us and will be with us tomorrow?

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Where is the bottle neck in your career? Worship that!

Do you remember the Theory of Constraints?

A system is only as good as its slowest part!

And because slow sections are a fact of life, we rally around the slow section part, not the fastest part, or the most talented!

Basically, the slowly part must never be left with nothing to do!

A faster section needs to be standing by to deliver their work just as they need it.  No sooner – there is no point as they cannot do it.  And no later because their downtime will hold everyone back.

We also need a signal to tell us that slow section is nearly finished what they are doing, and the signal should arrive just in time for the buffer to release the next lot of work.  Again there is no point in sending it sooner because they cannot do it and while work sits around, it costs us money.

So we won’t start our piece until we are reasonably confident that the slow section can receive it!  Remembering that they will sometimes take longer and sometimes take a shorter time, we must be ready to change our plans accordingly.

There are a lot of practical applications for the Theory of Constraints

  • Put the slowest child in the front of the line not at the back.  Everyone has to walk behind lest they leave the child behind completely!
  • Add resources to the slowest part of work until they are the slowest part no more!  And then work with the new slowest part.
  • Don’t bother to take on more work than the slowest part can do.  It cannot be completed no matter how hard others work.
  • And of course never be the slowest unit in a team because you will have to work non-stop while others watch you!

The Theory of Constraints and your Career

Tell me, where are the critical links in your career?  Where is the point through which everything else flows at least once?

Where is the point which holds everything else up?

Now focus on that point, and get it as efficient as you can.  Don’t hurry it and create a long “to do” list.  It does not help the work speed up.

Just find a way to make it more efficient and effective.

Rinse and repeat.

P.S.  Theory of Constraints is not inconsistent with a strengths based approach to psychology.  When we focus on what the slowest part does well and do more of it, the system runs better.  When we treat the slowest part as a nuisance and start harassing it with a back load of work – do this, do that! – then it will just get slower and the system slows down more.  Look at the strengths of the slowest part and we will all get along a lot quicker.   Quick people?  Wait.  We can’t go faster than our slowest teammate but we can have what they need at their finger tips just when they need it!

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Beautiful New Year Resolutions: Follow the beauty you discovered in 2009?

New goals to focus the new year

2010 is upon us.  2009 has gone fast.  I began the year overloaded.  I was stressed out in January and was working hard to limit my goals.  That’s the purpose of goal setting, right?  To reduce the number of things claiming our attention.

Do you achieve your goals?  I sincerely hope not!

In the end, I over-achieved some of my goals and under-achieved others.  Why?  Why can’t we arrive spot-on?

Because that is not our job.  Really it is not.

Events, dear boy, events!

Our job is to respond to events.  Events, dear boy, events, as British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan once said.  Or as the military say, no plan survives meeting the enemy.

Our job is not to press on regardless.  Or job is to be aware of what is happening around us, to understand what is valuable, and look after that.  We’ve had a good year when we’ve attended to who and what is important.

To be ready for unfolding events, it is a good idea to plan.  Plans mean we have information at our finger-tips and we find it easier to read evolving situations and understand what we need and want to do.

A good year is when our goals unpack themselves and we discover what is ‘good and true, better and possible”

But our job is to learn.  A good year is a year in which our goals unfold.   A good year is when our goals unpack themselves.  We come to understand the richness of the world and gaze upon it with respect and more curiosity bordering on reverence, not to forgive its wrongdoings but alive to what is ‘good and true, better and possible.”

So as we open our diaries for 2010, what has changed for us during 2009?  Putting aside the farce of bailing out banks to the tune of more than half out annual GDP and politicians who rifle the petty cash, for farce is what that is, what changed for us during 2009?

Looking around the world, what do we see that we never used to see?  What poetry & song did we hear this year, yet never heard before?   Whom do we know whose style and approach to life we truly admire?

What brings us alive and takes us bubbling with enthusiasm towards 2010?

Take your first small step that may be the giant step needed by mankind

Often what brings the light to our eyes is deeply personal. We don’t want to expose what we love to the harsh glare of spotlights and public scrutiny.  What we share is not for the sake of sharing.  It is for the sake of nurturing what we feel is beautiful and it is for the sake of encouraging what we would like to see more of.

Of the many beautiful things we have discovered, which are we able to move towards?  Which are we able to do more?  Where and how can we take part and in the process make them more beautiful?

We may have the smallest role to play in their beauty.  But it may be our role in creating a beautiful world.  That small step on the edges of our existence may be a large step for mankind ~ if only we would take it.

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For people who don’t get Twitter, Facebook, etc. Nice story ~ other people can read it too

This is a long story and a tame story in many respects, read on . . .

I am a psychologist. Any one who has majored in psychology knows that we are trained at university and college to be distant from our clients. We are even trained to call people “subjects” – or we were in my day.

We are also trained to see ourselves as people who have facts – to see ourselves as right, because we know the truth.

This is how we demonstrate to ourselves and our peers (other people trained like us) that we are right. We predict what will happen, and after what was supposed to have happened happens, we check whether we were right, preferably by counting something. Not all bad, but wait.

Positive psychology often continues this tradition. Positive or appreciative management goes further. The critical idea is one of generativity – that we engage with other people without defining our objective. So we cannot say what will happen, and because we cannot say what will happen, we cannot check whether we are right. That has psychologists of my generation heading for the hills! And that is a pity, because positive psychology has something to say.

Anyway, that is the back story – psychologists had to learn a way of thinking at college. We learnt it, and learnt it well. Now we encounter a new way of thinking, we find it hard – disorienting actually. Giddy making. It is difficult to follow what is good about appreciative management when it clashes so fundamentally with the way we learned to think early in our careers.

How 2.0 helped me

My task. I undertook to make a presentation on the new psychology to psychologists. Using the principle of going from the familiar to the unfamiliar, I wanted to keep in the step of checking results and I needed a reference or idea to fill the hole.

How did I do it? Fairly predictably, going to Google and Google Scholar didn’t help. What I did was check through my bookmarks and see what who had similar interests to me. And I found my paper on the evaluation of generative methodologies! Bookmarked by one other person! Amazing. In half-and-hour to an hour, using what I saved on for earlier projects, I found exactly the rare article I needed!

How was this different from the way I did things before? Wasn’t that what we have always done? Searched around libraries until we found something? Ah, I didn’t search around the Library. I searched around people I didn’t know and who don’t go to the same conferences and meetings as me. Not only did someone I not know help me, they helped me in good faith, that I would help the next person and the next person, etc. This is the O’Reilly principle that web 2.0 systems get better the more we use them.

So what did I need to do that I didn’t need to do before?

  1. I must join in with a view to finding like-minded people rather than experts.
  2. I must put a trail of my activity out there. The end of the rainbow is where my trail intersects with the trail of someone else – not lots of people – one person. At the intersection is the person who interests me – and it is very likely that I interest them.

Could I have been more 2.0?

Yes. I could have engaged and reciprocated! I could have written to the author, thanked him and allowed him to benefit from my project.

Sorry! I was still in 1.0!

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5 agreed points about happy prosperous work in the new economy

Mavens of work

FOUR loose communities of internet pundits are watching changes in work with great interest –

1 Professors and academics

2 Management consultants who specialize in organizational design

3 Social media gurus who explain developments

4 Marketers and purveyors of social media services who hope to stimulate demand

A FIFTH group, poets, might have a look from time to time but they probably find our prose dull.

What are we all looking for?

  • We know that the world economy is on a cusp. The industries of the 20th century have reached a point of diminishing returns. And we are definitely moving toward a future of new industries underpinned by advances in biotechnology and other sciences.
  • At the same time, we are communicating across countries and industries at the cracking pace made possible by the internet. Work has become quite different. And so has the leadership of organizations.

What are we pretty certain about?

I am yet to get my head around exactly which industries will boom. It is also not clear which activities will need formal organizations and which we will pursue as-and-when using social media tools like Facebook.

What is clear are the psychological “rules” of our new age.

The 5 points of appreciative inquiry originally described by David Cooperrider of Case Western seem to be repeated over and over again in different words with different examples.

As a case in point, a Thai blog quoted an Education Professor at Harvard who identified 5 competencies for the modern age.

What are the core competencies needed in this century? Harvard Graduate School of Education professor Helen Haste has identified five that we should begin teaching our students. We business managers should also consider how to bring these skills to our companies and careers.

Managing Ambiguity. “Managing ambiguity is that tension between rushing to the clear, the concrete, and managing this ambiguous fuzzy area in the middle. And managing ambiguity is something we have to teach. Because we have to counter the story of a single linear solution.”

Agency and Responsibility. “We have to be able to take responsibility and know what that means. Being an effective agent means being able to approach one’s environment, social or physical, with a confidence that one actually will be able to deal with it.”

Finding and Sustaining Community. “Managing community is partly about that multitasking of connecting and interacting. It’s also, of course, about maintaining community, about maintaining links with people, making sure you do remember your best friend’s birthday, that you don’t forget that your grandmother is by herself this weekend, and of course recognizing also that one is part of a larger community, not just one’s own private little world.”

Managing Emotion. “Really it’s about getting away from the idea that emotion and reason are separate… Teaching young people to manage reason and emotion and not to flip to one or the other is an important part of our education process.”

Managing Technological Change. “When we have a new tool, we first use it for what we are already doing, just doing it a bit better. But gradually, the new tool changes the way we do things. It changes our social practices.”

To make my point, how do these well phrased principles relate to the principles of appreciative inquiry?

The positive principle. Instead of assuming we now the solution and finding a plan to fit, begin with where you are now. Take the first step and see what you learn. (Managing Technological Change.) This is also know as rapid prototyping or Ready Fire Aim.

The social constructionist principle. There is no one view of the world which accounts for all our realities. We need to listen to all our points of view and look for the common linkages between us. These are ever changing as our experiences of the world change. (Finding and sustaining community.) Diversity and belonging are key to modern enterprises. If we neglect either, we rip the guts out of our organizations.

The anticipatory principle. We are doers by nature and like nothing better than chasing after a goal. To achieve a goal, we need to understand how things work, and pay attention to the results we achieve. Feedback, though, comes back to us from all angles and to disentangle what we are hearing, we have to learn about the world and our place in it. Our love of Agency and Responsibility is never clearer than in computer games were we pursue quests and test out our competence with others in competition with “forces of nature” and competing interests. We are being chided to take responsibility. We do so naturally. The trick is to figure out what is under our control.

The simultaneity principle. The world exists only in so far as we pay attention to it. This is not an abstract philosophical point. It is also a point in physics. It doesn’t mean we can ignore what we choose or make things up. It means things change their meaning and their essence when we notice them. And we change when we notice ourselves. David Cooperrider put the principle like this. We move in the direction of the questions we ask. To put this concretely, I don’t go to London. When I start asking where is London, I start moving toward London. If I ask the question a different way, how do I drive to London, I will probably do something different, such as not use the train. (Managing Ambiguity).

The poetic principle. The poetic principle is not poetic! But “the good, the true, the better and the possible” is. Most of us had poetic language beaten out of us at school and college Dry, wooden language became a mark legitimacy and is popular with the powerful because it conceals their motives. When we are firmly in charge, we reject the emotions and motivations of our audiences so we don’t have to acknowledge their interests. By using dry language, we can claim that our interests are truths – so convenient! Poetic language engages the interests of others. It is emotional. It is not deliberately emotional. It is explicitly emotion. And we use emotional language to find the common basis of our separate and sometimes conflicting interests. To say emotional language is honest negotiation sounds unpoetic – but that is what it is. Many people in power, including teachers, are disconcerted by the demands of Gen Y to approach issues from their point of view. How can this be organized, they cry? Well I have taught a 850 person class of Gen Y. They do evaluate every lecture with the question : what does this material do for me, right here, right now? They behave like 850 demanding CEO’s. Once we’ve got over our surprise, it works. Stand and deliver! We look at the emotion – their point of view – and the range of their points of view – and deliver the material accordingly. They learn more. They learn the substance. They learn what to do with the content we are teaching. They learn about the range of perspectives in the class. They apply the material. Isn’t that what we are asking for – engagement? To engage we have to come from their point of view – not ours which we concealed in pompous language.

We seem to be on a plateau of understanding

It strikes me that professors, consultants, gurus, geeks and poets have come up different sides of a hill and found themselves on flat piece of ground. We seem to concur, for now, on the essential ingredients of “new work”.

I’m sure these principles will be refined in due course. And it is good for each of us to rephrase them in our own words using our own examples. It helps us understand their nuances and limitations.

They are clear enough for now, and they appear in sufficient sources, though, to teach.

They are also clear enough to try out in practical projects.

The next goal

From now onwards, I am only going to scan theoretical pieces to see if they are saying anything new.

Otherwise, I am looking for examples of collective action and how the principles worked in practice.

I think I am interested in active experimentationhow we learn about these principles, deliberately or accidently.

If you have an example, do let me know.

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A day of awe

Do you remember this day?

Inauguration Day

Isn’t it quite astonishing that we welcome a politician with such excitement and anticipation?  I would so love to see pictures and videos of what you are are doing as you watch Obama take the oath of office and make his first speech as President.

Today, I chatted online with another “non-American” who added the usual “touch wood” caveat that I mentioned yesterday.  None of us want to be too excited “just in case”.  And to work through our anxieties seems  ill-timed.

Good leadership is about us

The level of our excitement teaches us an important lesson about leadership.  Good leadership is not about the man or woman walking in the leader’s shoes.  It is about us.  It is about our expectations of ourselves and of the people around us.

Do Americans trust themselves?

How much do we believe in Americans, and how much do they believe in us?   How much do Americans believe in each other, and how much are they willing to reach out to each other to show that commitment?

A day of belonging for many

Today is the day of those who have worked long and hard for this moment, and who lived their lives believing that this day would never come.  Today is the first day they believe they fully belong.  This day is theirs to celebrate and to cherish.

A day of reflected joy and marvel for us

Today is the day we get to bask in their reflected joy and to marvel at their resilience, determination, loyalty and generosity.  There are not many moments like this in a lifetime when we stand in awe of people who have accomplished so much.  It is a day of gratitude when we are happy for no reason than the world has taken us gently by surprise.

A day when we quietly wonder whether we are much better than we though we were

It is a moment in which we ask  – are we not a little better than we thought?