Shifting from Pieces and Parts to Wholes

When tackling a problem, it’s easier to analyze its pieces and parts and try to solve them one by one than it is to try and understand the whole situation or system. However, this approach rarely works because analyzing the parts does not help us understand how the system in which the problem is embedded works nor how it keeps the problem you want to solve in place. Systems thinking, on the other hand, seeks … Read more…

Systems Thinking for an Interconnected World

Are you trying to tackle a problem that, despite everyone’s best efforts, does not go away? Are you trying to optimize your part of an organization without considering the impact on the system as a whole because it seems too complicated or too effortful to do otherwise? Are you afraid your short-term efforts might undermine your intention to solve a problem in the long-term? Are a number of groups working on the same issue at … Read more…

Are We Stuck at a Cognitive Threshold?

The complexity of issues facing us is outstripping our ability to understand and solve them. Governmental institutions spin on gerbil wheels of outmoded, linear processes and procedures, attempting to tackle issues with multiple, inter-connected parts one part at a time. This is as true in the United States Congress as it is in state legislatures and city councils. In the world of business, economic considerations (i.e., profit), trumps all other criteria in determining whether or … Read more…

Four Essential Questions: #2 Who is leading?

This is the second entry in a four-part series that explores four questions: (1) What are we doing here? (2) Who is leading? (3) Who owns this place? (4) Who belongs? Aftab Omer , President of Meridian University, shared these “archetypal” questions while we were planning the annual gathering of the Global Learning and Exchange Network (GLEN) with the founders of the GLEN, David Sibbet and Gisela Wendling, and fellow GLEN members Karen Buckley and FireHawk … Read more…

“Duh’s” and “Aha’s”*

When do your best ideas come to you? Perhaps while you are walking, showering, or having a good conversation with people you trust? Or, do they come while you are studying an issue and trying to solve it based on your past experience with solving a similar problem? When faced with a difficult issue many of us try the latter and often come to an impasse or apply an ineffective solution. This happens for two … Read more…

Cherish Potential and Possibility

Potential and Possibility

In a November 9th blog about her reflections after the elections, Ann Weiser Cornell wrote, “We need to cherish the sparks of potential and possibility in everyone and in every situation, while at the same time seeing what is in front of us.” What is in front of me is the challenge of:   1) Feeling compassion for the pain, fear, and anger that divide our communities, country and world into warring camps; 2) Remembering that all … Read more…

Focus on Listening by Clarifying

listening by clarifying

Today is the fourth and last in a series of posts examining the skill of listening and its importance to meaningful work in groups.  I originally discussed listening in a post about a year ago which you can find here. The first week I wrote that listening requires us to quiet our minds. The second week I offered physical postures that support and convey an attitude of attentive listening. The third week I suggested ways to test … Read more…

Focus on Listening by Restating

Over the past two weeks I have been revisiting listening, a skill I examined in a blog post a year ago. Listening is critical for productive group problem solving. Two weeks ago, I wrote about quieting our minds so we can focus on the person speaking. Last week, I explored behaviors that we can adopt to both support our focus and encourage the speaker to speak by showing a listening posture. This week, I submit … Read more…

Speaking Inclusively

When we speak, we communicate our opinions. Unfortunately, we often think our opinions are “THE TRUTH.” When we convey them as such, we threaten people’s sense of safety and undermine our relationships. This is not helpful because working with others is the key to getting things done. So the question is how can we communicate what we think in ways that maintain or strengthen relationships so people can collaborate productively? Speaking inclusively is one way … Read more…