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…

Managing Polarities Inside You

Given how polarized the political climate in the U.S. is right now, I thought it would be valuable to look at what polarities are and how we might better manage or leverage them at work and in our communities. This is the final piece in a three-part series on managing polarities.  A polarity is a state in which two ideas, opinions or beliefs are completely opposite or very different from one another. It is not … Read more…

The Power of Silences

Early in my career I had the privilege of working with an all Native-American Board of a foundation in the northwest and with the Board of a Buddhist Monastery. In each meeting, they taught me the power of silences: both spontaneous and planned. People around the world cultivate silence as a source of equanimity, creativity, and wisdom. For example, silence is an essential element in indigenous ways of knowing and healing as well as in … Read more…

Change the Brain for Good: Pay Attention

This entry on attention is the fourth in a five-part series. The series describes what we know about the impact of contemplative practice on the human brain and the relevance of these findings to doing meaningful work in groups. The first entry introduces this series and describes the impact of meditation on whether we can respond effectively to disturbing events instead of reacting to them. The second entry investigates resilience and the third considers empathy and compassion. Attention is a limited … Read more…

Change the Brain for Good: Resilience 

This entry on resilience is the second in a five-part series. The series describes what we know about the impact of contemplative practice on the human brain and the relevance of these findings to doing meaningful work in groups. The first entry introduces this series and describes the impact of meditation on whether we can respond effectively to disturbing events instead of reacting to them. Over forty years ago, I started dabbling with meditation because I … Read more…

Change the Brain for Good: Responding to Disturbances

This entry is the first in a five-part series. It will describe what we know about the impact of contemplative practice on the human brain, and the relevance of these findings to doing meaningful work in groups. For 15 years I’ve been tracking the impact of meditation on the human brain and its potential to help people be more constructive in meetings. In my work as a leader, consultant and facilitator it seems to me … Read more…

The Best Seat Is Often In The Balcony

In a recent conversation with a close friend I noticed I was getting angry and decided to “go to the balcony”* so I could avoid blurting out something I would later regret. This helped me take a broader view of what was actually going on and remember how important this friend is to me. “Going to the balcony”—as if you were looking down on an interaction from the distance of a balcony—can change your perspective … Read more…

2016: The Year of Pausing

We have pause buttons on our electronic devices. We need one on us that grabs our attention when we need to push it. Recently, in a conversation about a controversial issue with members of my family, I got surprised, hijacked by emotions, and forgot that I actually have a pause button. I was reactive (“How could you believe THAT?”) and got even more hijacked by being embarrassed that I was upset (“I know better than … Read more…

Do “Meditation” and “Mindfulness” Matter?

Uh-oh. Maybe mainstreaming and secularizing meditation and mindfulness practice has gone too far? “I AM being stalked by meditation evangelists,” complains Adam Grant in a recent Op-Ed piece for the New York Times. “They approach with the fervor of a football fan attacking a keg at a tailgate party,” he claims. Meditation has exploded in popularity. And, the notion of “mindfulness” is ubiquitous in press pieces and book titles. A quick scan of my shelves … Read more…