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Engaging Emergence

Engaging Emergence by Peggy Holman

Here are a few of my notes…

I use what I now call emergent change processes—methods that engage the diverse people of a system in focused yet open interactions.

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Just think of the possibilities if more of us knew how to bring together diverse, conflicted groups that creatively coalesce and generate innovative and wise outcomes!

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Though all change begins with disruption, not all change is emergent. This book focuses on emergent change because it is least understood and we need more effective ways of working with it. Knowing how emergence fits with other forms of change provides perspective on why we are experiencing more and stronger disruptions.

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After a Future Search, Marv and Sandra advocate regular review meetings so that people reconnect and share their activities. Thus you are less likely to hear, “Well, not much has happened since the event. Though we did this thing in my department/neighborhood.” When 30 or 50 people each name the little something they are doing and hear each other’s stories, they realize that remarkable change is occurring. It energizes and amplifies everyone’s work.

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With little or no seed money, the networks surrounding different emergent change practices—Future Search, Open Space, World Café, Art of Hosting, Appreciative Inquiry, Dynamic Facilitation—are growing. Thousands of practitioners around the world could be catalyzed into action should an intention of sufficient magnitude arise.

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As newspapers are discovering, denying disturbances leads to loss or death. Disruption has an interesting way of becoming more extreme when not adequately addressed. Ultimately, it forces our hand, and we acknowledge that business as usual is over. We mourn what is lost as best we can. We are well served to also let go of the operating rules from the past and admit that we don’t know what to do. We can even ask for help. We are in a special moment. Letting go of how things were opens the way for engaging emergence. What does it take to find the potential in the mess, to make it through the fear of loss or death?

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The practices are the conversational backbone for improvisation, enabling us to stay in the flow even if we don’t know the specific path we’re taking. Honing these conversational skills is how we engage emergence.

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Taking responsibility for what you love as an act of service is a great life practice. The next time you notice yourself acting from obligation, test it out. Maybe you don’t want to join the family dinner at Aunt Mabel’s. What matters to you? Perhaps when you think about it, the sense of family is worth the questions about when you’re going to get married. Or not. You choose. If you decide to go to Mabel’s, it’s guaranteed that your attitude will be different.

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With practice, we learn to moderate our responses, increasing our capacity to witness without the need to judge, fix, blame, correct, applaud, cheer, shout, or say or do anything else.

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I found an inquiry that served me well whenever I disagreed with something. I’d say, “That’s an interesting perspective. Tell me more.” The responses always took me deeper into another’s world.

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One of my favorite stories about the transformative power of listening comes from my longtime learning partner, Mark Jones, who developed a practice he calls HSLing (hizzling)—hearing, seeing, and loving.

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I turned to face the “mouthiest” of the group. I had determined that he was the leader and the one that I would attack if I decided to respond aggressively. In a friendly and interested tone of voice, I asked him to tell me his personal story about why he wanted to harm me, how I was an affront to him. I told him that regardless of the outcome of the day, it was important to me to understand him, his life, his suffering, his frustrations, and his dreams.

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But I learned an important lesson about people needing first to be heard, in order to be seen. And that lesson probably saved my life.

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Listening, through all of our senses, informs us. It equips us to engage. LISTEN WITHOUT JUDGMENT. By all means, notice your responses. Use them to understand the other person more fully. If, for example, you are shocked by what you hear, rather than reacting, ask a question that helps you to understand more fully. USE MORE THAN YOUR EARS. We can listen through all of our senses—ears, eyes, touch, taste, smell, intuition, and technologies that expand our senses. We are remarkable instruments for taking in information, finding patterns, making meaning. CHECK FOR UNDERSTANDING. Repeat what you heard and ask if you heard correctly. At first, it can take many tries before another feels understood. JOIN THE “HIZZLE” EXPERIMENT. Hear, see, and love everyone, including yourself. Listening often tunes us to another. It helps us to discover connections with each other and our environment. Connect: Bridge Differences and Bond with Others How do we link ourselves and our ideas with others similar to and different from ourselves? Surprisingly similar ideas surface over and over when people with different perspectives creatively interact. We discover that what is most personally meaningful is universal. And more, we discover that we are not alone but part of some larger whole. As we experience this discovery, something shifts. “I” see myself as part of a larger “we.” In this marriage of “I” and “we,” something else emerges. We relate not just to each other but also to the whole. A social system—a community—emerges. It has its own identity, distinct from the individuals in it. And we are part of it. We share a common story, common intentions. Because we know in essence that we want the same things, our differences

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Listening, through all of our senses, informs us. It equips us to engage. LISTEN WITHOUT JUDGMENT. By all means, notice your responses. Use them to understand the other person more fully. If, for example, you are shocked by what you hear, rather than reacting, ask a question that helps you to understand more fully. USE MORE THAN YOUR EARS. We can listen through all of our senses—ears, eyes, touch, taste, smell, intuition, and technologies that expand our senses. We are remarkable instruments for taking in information, finding patterns, making meaning. CHECK FOR UNDERSTANDING. Repeat what you heard and ask if you heard correctly. At first, it can take many tries before another feels understood. JOIN THE “HIZZLE” EXPERIMENT. Hear, see, and love everyone, including yourself.

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TIPS FOR TAKING RESPONSIBILITY FOR WHAT YOU LOVE AS AN ACT OF SERVICE This simple, radical notion liberates us to act on what matters most. Be aware: it is contagious. LISTEN TO INNER GUIDANCE. Ask yourself what matters to you. Discover, in essence, what brings you meaning. Consider the “shoulds” in your life. If they have no deeper meaning, let them go. Do what brings you joy, trusting that it serves the greater good. STAND FOR WHAT MATTERS TO YOU. Learn how to disrupt productively. You can make your voice heard, even on unpopular matters, if you do it with compassion. LEARN, CONTRIBUTE, HAVE FUN, OR LEAVE. Pay attention to your energy. If you have no juice for what is happening, do everyone a favor—be respectful and leave. BE GENEROUS. When we give ourselves room to follow our passions, it awakens a sense of abundance in us. Honor the space that others need to grow more fully into themselves.

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When people discover that they are the system, everything changes. Not only can they act, but they are eager to do so, even when the work is challenging.

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How do we equip ourselves to engage disturbance? Three practices—embracing mystery, choosing possibility, and following life energy—are particularly useful to cultivate.

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TIPS FOR EMBRACING MYSTERY Embracing mystery is less about doing and more about a state of being. GET CURIOUS. Curiosity is a desire to know, to learn. Open to the unknown. CLARIFY INTENTION. Why go to the trouble unless there is something you value? Intention—purpose—acts as a compass, setting direction while you travel in the wilderness. INVITE OTHERS WHO CARE. People notice different aspects of a situation. With a shared intention, more eyes and ears, hearts and minds, increase the chances of uncovering the gems. DEVELOP EQUANIMITY. Being calm in a storm increases the likelihood of surviving and bringing others with you. Personal disciplines—running, daily affirmations, practicing an art, regular meditation—are among the ways that people cultivate a capacity for facing the unknown.

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TIPS FOR CHOOSING POSSIBILITY Like embracing mystery, choosing possibility is a state of mind. NOTICE YOUR HABITS OF THOUGHT AND LANGUAGE. Are they filled with deficits: “don’t,” “can’t,” “not,” “isn’t,” “couldn’t,” “the problem is,” etc.? Shift your focus from what you don’t want to what you do want. REFRAME. Turn your thoughts and words around. If you’re thinking, “I don’t want that” or “The problem is that we aren’t old/wise/creative/strong enough,” ask yourself, “What do I want?” or “Given all that, what is possible?” HAVE FUN WITH IT. Because we’re surrounded by deficit language, I’m constantly turning it around in my mind. “State fails to pass budget.” I ask, “What would it take to pass a budget that meets our needs?” When we’re presented with possibilities, creative juices flow. As creative juices flow, we become more positive. BE PATIENT. It took years to form current habits. Give yourself time to develop new ones.

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Complexity scientists tell us that initial conditions are crucial in shaping what emerges.1 Welcoming conditions make the difference between a screaming mob and a circle of peace. Creating containers that foster creative engagement sets up initial conditions for engaging emergence.

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We are cued both consciously and unconsciously about how much of ourselves to reveal, how deep we are willing to go together. When the environment supports us in expressing what might be considered disruptive in other settings, disturbances tend to show up as far less toxic. In welcoming spaces, people take charge of their situation, compelling facilitators to move out of the way and traditional leaders to contribute as one part of a larger system.

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TIPS FOR WELCOMING Pay attention to the physical, emotional, psychological, and spiritual messages you send. SET CONTEXT. What do we need to be ready to engage? Knowing the purpose, why it matters, who is involved, is a good place to begin. Often, history is important. How did this get started? Who is hosting? Where does funding come from? Because so many elements can be part of the context, we won’t always get it right. Prepare for that. Create the means for answering questions as they arise. TEND TO THE SPACE. Be clear about the tone you wish to create. Create a physical space that says, “You belong,” to the diverse people involved. Be sure that the room is clean. Perhaps a “Welcome” sign would help. Or nametags. Pay attention to the emotional space and the psychic space. For example, are both the head and the heart welcome? Since we can never predict all needs, put the means for adjusting in place. IMAGINE YOURSELF ON THE RECEIVING END. What makes you feel welcome? Consider the diverse people—their roles, backgrounds, ages, and other factors—and stand in their shoes. What expectations do others have? If they are old, young, of another culture, of another discipline, what communicates hospitality? SAY “YES AND … “ In the heat of the moment, welcome what comes. Whether we like it or not, working with the unexpected as it arises increases the likelihood of a creative outcome.

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How do we decide whom to invite? The simple answer is: those who care. Involve those with a stake in what occurs. Marv Weisbord and Sandra Janoff, creators of Future Search, offer useful guidance based on the principle of getting the whole system in the room. They say, invite all who “ARE IN”: those with authority, resources, expertise, information, and need.

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TIPS FOR INVITING DIVERSITY Inviting the diversity of the system is a critical and challenging task for engaging emergence. DEFINE WHO/WHAT MAKES UP THE SYSTEM. What functions, constituencies, or roles are involved? What mix of race, class, gender, geography, and generation is important? Are there nonhuman elements—for example, the environment or animals—that need to be present in some way? GO WHERE THOSE YOU WANT TO PARTICIPATE LIVE AND WORK. If you wish to engage people from a different age, race, culture, etc., put yourself in their settings. Be humble. Listen. Learn. Reach out. They are more likely to join with you if they see that you are interested in a respectful partnership. CREATE AN ORGANIZING GROUP THAT REFLECTS THE SYSTEM. The more a hosting group includes the mix of people you wish to engage, the more equipped you are to invite them to participate. WORK WITH WHAT ARISES AMONG YOU. The organizing group is in the intensive course. The disturbances that exist in the system will show up in a diverse organizing team. Welcome the issues and work them through. Not only does it strengthen the group, but it prepares you for what’s to come as you increase the scale and scope of your work.

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Inquire Appreciatively: Ask Bold Questions of Possibility How do we inspire explorations that lead to positive action? If your first impulse when facing disaster is to ask questions that surface images of a positive future, your chances of making it through upheaval increase. It kept psychiatrist Viktor Frankl alive, as he continually sought meaning even in a concentration camp during the Holocaust.1 Ambitious, possibility-oriented questions are attractors. They bring together diverse people who care. They disrupt, but do so by focusing on opportunities for something better, more meaningful. They help to create a welcoming environment, opening the way to discover what wants to emerge. A useful general question is “Given all that has happened, what is possible now?”

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TIPS FOR INQUIRING APPRECIATIVELY Inquiring appreciatively is a life-changing skill. It helps us to find possibilities in any situation, no matter how challenging. DEVELOP THE ART OF THE QUESTION. Practice asking questions that focus on possibilities. Here are some characteristics of great questions: They open us to possibilities. They are bold yet focused. They are attractive: diverse people can find themselves in them. They appeal to our head and our heart. They serve the individual and the collective. Some examples: What question, if answered, would make a difference in this situation? What can we do together that none of us could do alone? What could this team also be? What is most important? Given what has happened, what is possible now? ASK QUESTIONS THAT INCREASE CLARITY. Positive images move us toward positive actions. Questions that help us to envision what we want help us to realize it. PRACTICE TURNING DEFICIT INTO POSSIBILITY. In most ordinary conversations, people focus on what they can’t do, what the problems are, what isn’t possible. Such conversations provide an endless source for practicing the art of the question. When someone says, “The problem is x,” ask, “What would it look like if it were working?” If someone says, “I can’t do that,” ask, “What would you like to do?” RECRUIT OTHERS TO PRACTICE WITH YOU. You can have more fun and help each other grow into the habit of asking possibility-oriented questions. But watch out: it can be contagious. You might attract a crowd.

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TIPS FOR OPENING Opening takes only a moment, but it may be the most courageous practice for engaging emergence. BE CLEAR ABOUT INTENTIONS. Openness requires boundaries. Intentions clarify focus and set direction. Clarity of purpose creates boundaries that guide us from the inside out. DO YOUR HOMEWORK; LET GO OF THE REST. Identify what matters and handle it. How we work with a crisis is a great teacher: we quickly discern what is critical and release everything else. TRUST YOURSELF. We can study, prepare, and practice forever. Ultimately, safety, confidence, and the ability to rise to the occasion come from within. Decide what you need, handle it, and step in. GO WITH FRIENDS. Challenges are best met with a diverse company of friends. Among you are more eyes, ears, hands, skills, and knowledge to respond. It is also more fun.

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“If we vote to approve this plan, I cannot be on board. I care about our parks too much. I couldn’t threaten to close one of them or do that to those who love them and use them as much as I do.” In my old facilitator mindset, with five minutes left, I would have ended there. Instead, I invited possibility. I asked, “Given that, what else might this group do?”

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TIPS FOR REFLECTING Reflection has two meanings. One meaning is to contemplate, to consider, actively seeking coherence. The other meaning is to be a mirror for another. Coherence arises in the process. BE A MIRROR. Help others to feel heard. Repeat speakers’ words to them. Describe their actions or expressions. Sense their feelings or deeper essence and tell them what you notice. Do it without judgment, with no strings attached, and without giving them advice. LET GO OF THE NEED FOR IMMEDIATE ANSWERS. Make time to explore the depth and breadth of diverse perspectives without requiring a coherent response. Ideas need room to percolate. Relationships take time to form. ASK QUESTIONS THAT SEEK CONVERGENCE. Reflective questions are different from questions that open us to face disturbances. Opening questions help us to discover distinctions by making space for wide-ranging exploration. For example, “What’s possible now?” Reflective questions are useful once explorations are well under way. They focus on understanding coalescing themes and patterns. For example: What are we learning? What themes are surfacing that excite us? What is working well? What gifts have we received from this experience? PAY ATTENTION TO THE TIMING. Checking for coherence too soon frustrates us. Waiting too long leads to fragmentation, the shadow of differentiation, in which we feel lost in our separateness. Casually ask a converging question—one that connects the dots. For example, what themes and patterns do you notice? What are we learning? What can we name now that wasn’t possible before? If people aren’t ready, the question is soon forgotten in the flow of interactions.

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TIPS FOR NAMING Emergence culminates in naming. It is the moment when novelty arises. CALL “IT” FORTH. Ask what wants to emerge. Then let go. It may not come. Yet I am amazed how often someone speaks unexpected wisdom that has everyone nodding yes. SENSE THAT RING OF TRUTH. Listen for that moment of surprise and elation, when the diverse people of a system say yes to what arises. Amplify it. Celebrate it when it happens. IF YOU FEEL AS IF YOU’RE WORKING TOO HARD, TAKE A BREAK. Naming can’t be forced. If you keep working it, sometimes names become more elusive. If there’s time, sleep on it. Social psychology offers a body of evidence showing that a night’s sleep supports our ability to sort through complexity. In what is called the Zeigarnik effect, we continue processing uncompleted or interrupted tasks.2 Our unconscious helps new patterns to form that are too tough for our analytic mind. We have all experienced the effect of “sleeping on something” and having it come into greater clarity in the morning. HAVE FAITH. Names arise in their own time. Though analysis may contribute information to the mix, ultimately, naming novelty into being is a complex, nonlinear act. Names arise spontaneously when conditions are

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TIPS FOR HARVESTING Harvesting tells the stories that are ripe, seeding new possibilities in the process. INVITE ARTISTS—BOTH DECLARED AND THE ONES WITHIN EACH OF US. Art—music, poetry, movement, visual arts—carries meaning. When artists are present or the artists within are invited to participate, they naturally harvest stories. MAKE TOOLS AVAILABLE. Anticipate the need. Have supplies on hand: paper, markers, recorders, cameras—whatever can serve the harvest. USE MANY MODES. Different people absorb meaning through different means. For many of us, the most effective stories are multi-modal. Use text, images, movies, audio, and more. SHARE THE ESSENTIAL STORIES. What meaning do we wish to share? What happened? How did it happen? Why does it matter? THINK ABOUT WHOM WE WISH TO REACH AND HOW BEST TO DO SO. A combination of advance thought and ideas that surface in the moment clarify who can benefit from the stories and the forms that work to tell them. Harvesting

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It sheds light on an important and elusive challenge of change: sustaining the gains.

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And my conclusion that when a government doesn’t want people to organize, it designs buildings without a place for them to gather in community.

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Approach sustainability with resilience in mind. Think of sustainability as the capacity of a system to remain congruent with changing realities.

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Leadership for engaging emergence involves stewarding shared intention and tending to the social fabric—both of which require welcoming spaces for conversation. Conversational leadership, like knowing how to engage emergence, invites us all into leadership work. This, too, is a turning of the spiral, redefining the who and what of leadership. We are in the midst of grappling with a new story that shifts leadership from tops of hierarchies to hubs of networks, a topic deserving of its own book.

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TIPS FOR ITERATING Emergence is part of a cycle of change. Doing “it” again … and again reaps rewards over time. STEWARD SHARED INTENTIONS. As events unfold, periodically affirm that our reason for being is still relevant and still fuels us. Revisiting intentions often reinvigorates and refreshes us, reminding us of why we said yes when the work gets hard. TEND THE SOCIAL FABRIC. When people feel they belong, they show up, bringing their gifts. Coupled with shared purpose, a sense of community keeps the fires of commitment burning, fueling ever more creativity and innovation. AS “IT” TAKES SHAPE, GIVE “IT” AWAY. The more attractive and accessible our outcomes, the more they inspire others to join in. New participants bring fresh energy and questions. Although disturbances are part of the package, we now know that just sparks creativity. Make it easy for people to get involved. KEEP THE FAITH. The effects of our actions need time to take root and grow. If it matters, stay with it.

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PRACTICES FOR WELCOMING DISTURBANCE Prepare EMBRACE MYSTERY: SEEK THE GIFTS HIDDEN IN WHAT WE DON’T KNOW. What does it take to be receptive to the unknown? Let go of the need for immediate answers. CHOOSE POSSIBILITY: CALL FORTH “WHAT COULD BE.” What do we want more of? Seek positive guiding images. FOLLOW LIFE ENERGY: TRUST DEEPER SOURCES OF DIRECTION. What guides us when we don’t know? Work with the energies that are present. Engage INQUIRE APPRECIATIVELY: ASK BOLD QUESTIONS OF POSSIBILITY. How do we inspire explorations that lead to positive action? Ask questions that focus on a positive intention and invite others to engage with us.

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Never tell people how to do things … they will surprise you with their ingenuity. —General George S. Patton, Jr., War As I Knew It

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The environment is quite good at giving us feedback. We just need to listen and adapt to the signals we receive. When all is harmonious, proceed with business as usual. When dissonance appears, interrupt the habitual with something counterintuitive. Here’s a radical way of thinking differently about a signal: What if we viewed a terrorist attack as the system shouting at us? What message could such a vicious act contain that would be useful to our well-being? Such a question would take us into unexplored terrain. It could provide different feedback about the root causes of and responses to terrorism.

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PRACTICES FOR PIONEERING FOCUS INTENTIONS: CLARIFY OUR CALLING. What purpose moves us? Tune in. Sense what is stirring in you, others, and your environment. WELCOME: CULTIVATE HOSPITABLE SPACE. How do we cultivate conditions for the best possible outcomes? Create a spirit of welcome—physically, socially, intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually. INVITE THE DIVERSITY OF THE SYSTEM. How can we include the true complexity of the situation? Reach out to those who ARE IN: witha uthority,r esources,e xpertise,i nformation, andn eed. TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR WHAT YOU LOVE AS AN ACT OF SERVICE. How can we use our differences and commonalities to make a difference? Get involved with what matters, listening and connecting along the way. LISTEN: SENSE BROADLY AND DEEPLY, WITNESSING WITH SELF-DISCIPLINE. How do we more fully understand each other and our environment? Pay attention using all of your senses to learn and adapt.

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Although we can’t tell a system to change, we can create conditions that support it in doing so.

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PRACTICES THAT ENCOURAGE RANDOM ENCOUNTERS FOCUS INTENTIONS: CLARIFY OUR CALLING. What purpose moves us? Tune in. Sense what is stirring in you, others, and your environment. WELCOME: CULTIVATE HOSPITABLE SPACE. How do we cultivate conditions for the best possible outcomes? Create a spirit of welcome—physically, socially, intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually. INVITE THE DIVERSITY OF THE SYSTEM. How can we include the true complexity of the situation? Reach out to those who ARE IN: witha uthority,r esources,e xpertise,i nformation, andneed. OPEN: BE RECEPTIVE. How do we make space for the whole story—good, bad, or indifferent? Be willing to be more in questions than answers. TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR WHAT YOU LOVE AS AN ACT OF SERVICE. How can we use our differences and commonalities to make a difference? Get involved with what matters, listening and connecting along the way. CONNECT: BRIDGE DIFFERENCES AND BOND WITH OTHERS. How do we link ourselves and our ideas with others similar to and different from ourselves? Listen for deeper meaning, to seek common ground.

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Harrison Owen, creator of Open Space Technology, introduced me to an elegant design question: What is one less thing to do and still be whole and complete?

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PRACTICES FOR SIMPLIFYING REFLECT: SENSE PATTERNS, BE A MIRROR. What is arising now? Get curious. Ask questions that tease out what is coming into being. Be a witness for another. NAME: MAKE MEANING. How do we call forth what is ripening? Be receptive to a leap that can come from anywhere. HARVEST: SHARE STORIES. Once meaning is named, how does it spread? Tell the stories. Write, draw, sing, dance, etc. Capture the spirit in print, video, online, and other media. Since we absorb more through multiple forms of expression, the more media, the better. ITERATE: DO IT AGAIN … AND AGAIN. What keeps us going? Integrate what we know into what’s novel and what’s novel into what we know.

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The principles help us understand what to do, and the practices help us understand how to do it.

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The three questions below orient us to a fundamental pattern of change: disturb, differentiate, cohere. They help us to think strategically about how to work with change, particularly emergent change, by offering guidance on useful actions: disrupt, engage, and renew.

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TIPS FOR CULTIVATING COMPASSION Because compassion is something many of us rarely contemplate, I offer some thoughts on reconnecting with your sense of compassion. LISTEN WITH YOUR HEART. It is a good companion to the mind. Our emotional center brings a different perspective. Hear what it has to say, without judgment. If it’s been a long time since you have listened deeply to yourself, chances are there’s a message backlog. It can be overwhelming at first. If so, try the following: Create a welcoming environment for yourself before you begin. Ask for support from a friend, a counselor, or even a workshop. Journal. Write without judgment. And, if you wish, burn the pages when done. FORGIVE YOURSELF AND OTHERS. Forgiveness frees energy that keeps us stuck. South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission provided a remarkable space for clearing national pain and anger. PRACTICE. It gets easier the more we do it. Ultimately, checking in with your heart feels as natural as listening to your mind. They are great partners. DO YOUR OWN RESEARCH. Find out what works for you. A growing body of evidence suggests that compassion affects our health, productivity, and lifespan.

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The Dalai Lama told Mark that we all need to be heard, seen, and loved, or mischief occurs. HSL stands for hearing, seeing, and loving everyone, including yourself. Mark developed a simple diagnostic: When people don’t feel heard, they shout or shut up. When they don’t feel seen, they get in your face and turn into bullies, or they become invisible. When they don’t feel loved, they do a dance of approaching and avoiding—coming closer to you and then moving away. In all cases, the remedy begins with listening.

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Most of us think, if the “problem” person would just leave, everything would be fine. While sometimes that is true, more often, if the person leaves, someone else takes her or his place. More likely, the disruptiveness is a sign that something deeper is going on. Perhaps a value or perspective is currently not welcome in the system.

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TIPS FOR DISRUPTING COHERENCE COMPASSIONATELY Disrupting compassionately involves keeping your heart open, honoring those you are disrupting. BE CLEAN ABOUT YOUR INTENTION. If your actions serve a greater good, proceed. If you have even a hint of ego, desire to overpower another, or want revenge, revisit your intentions. RESPECT THOSE YOU DISRUPT. Treat others with dignity. Whatever they have done, be conscious that your actions affect them and others. SEEK THE DIFFERENCES THAT MAKE A DIFFERENCE. Disturbance causes differences to surface. Look for the gems hidden in disruption. A key principle: WELCOME DISTURBANCE. How do we find potential in the midst of disruption? Ask possibility-oriented questions. A key practice: INQUIRE APPRECIATIVELY. Asking appreciative questions is the most effective practice I know for disrupting compassionately. It interrupts the status quo so smoothly that even in challenging circumstances, those disrupted can access enthusiasm and creativity. It often finesses the feeling of disruption.

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Deep and essential truths often hide in dissonant behaviors like shouting or silence, bullying or invisibility. Creating conditions welcoming enough to surface these gifts enables us to use our differences creatively.

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TIPS FOR ENGAGING DISRUPTIONS CREATIVELY WHEN FEELING OVERWHELMED, BREATHE. Chaotic settings are stressful. Catching our breath helps us to reconnect with ourselves. PAY ATTENTION. If you can’t see the guiding patterns, listen, observe, and be receptive to what surrounds you. Notice what is meaningful. Make an intuitive inventory of what is happening. BRING A BEGINNER’S MIND. Look at the familiar with new eyes. Is it still meaningful? Is it something to conserve? What is new and unexpected? Look through the eyes of someone who finds excitement in it. Is it something to be embraced? Key principles: PIONEER! How do we discover our way forward? Seek new directions. Think different. Break a habit. Act courageously. ENCOURAGE RANDOM ENCOUNTERS. How do we create conditions in which chance interactions among-diverse members of a system lead to breakthroughs? Widen the circle of participation. Invite the diverse members of the system to take responsibility for what they love as an act of service. A key practice: TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR WHAT YOU LOVE AS AN ACT OF SERVICE. This practice liberates our hearts, minds, and spirits, calling us to put our unique gifts to use. The more it becomes an operating norm, the more innovation, joy, solidarity, generosity, and other qualities of well-being appear. It is the essence of engaging disruptions creatively.

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In a wise society, people continually grow their capacity to care for themselves, each other, and the whole.

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Creatively Engage The more we reach beyond our usual friends and colleagues to engage others, the more potential there is for creative outcomes. Get curious about something. Ask yourself a question and be playful with it. Set up your own random encounters. Go someplace you don’t ordinarily go. Talk with people you rarely meet.

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Be a compassionate voice of possibility in settings that are fixated on what’s wrong. You know what to do. Break the habit that too many of us have, of focusing on what’s wrong. Ask some variant of “Given all of that, what’s possible now?”

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When you overhear a complaint, ask a friendly question. Perhaps, “What do you really want?” Or “What would it look like if it were working?”

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Just as microscopes help us to see the infinitely small and telescopes help us to see the infinitely large, macroscopes help us to see the infinitely complex. Rather than a single instrument, they are a class of tools for sensing complex interconnections among information, ideas, people, and experiences.

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Questions for Engaging Emergence How do we disrupt coherence compassionately? How do we engage disruptions creatively? How do we renew coherence wisely?

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COHERENCE/COALESCING—Coming together; converging into relationship, harmony, unity, bonding, community, shared sense, wholeness.

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