Spaciousness of “Negative Capability”

John Keats, English Romantic Poet, wrote about “negative capability” in a letter to his brothers George and Thomas in 1871 when he was 22 years old. I read this letter nearly a century later when I was 22, an undergraduate majoring in English literature. I understand this oxymoronically-named ability today in ways I could not have then. As circumstances at work and in our lives become ever more complex, negative capability might be one of … Read more…

Approaching with Reverence

What you encounter, recognize or discover depends to a large degree on the quality of your approach. Many of the ancient cultures practiced careful rituals of approach. An encounter of depth and spirit was preceded by careful preparation. When we approach with reverence, great things decide to approach us. Our real life comes to the surface and its light awakens the concealed beauty in things. When we walk on the earth with reverence, beauty will … Read more…

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…

The Importance of Being Seen

This is a more personal piece than usual. It came early one morning as I was thinking about my mother on her birthday. I have been fortunate throughout my life to have family and friends who see me and love me. Some are still my dear and good friends while some have passed: my mother died in March 1981; good friends Mary Curran and Jean Westcott died in 2002 and 2008 respectively. An important teacher … Read more…

Curious about Curiosity #3: Impact of Curiosity

This is the final installment in a three-part series on curiosity. Today’s entry explores the role of curiosity at work and its relationship to organizational and group performance. In the February 13 post we investigated being curious internally, i.e., self-reflection. The February 27 post explored cultivating curiosity in others.  What does curiosity have to do with the performance of your team or organization? A lot, according to Adi Ignatius, editor in chief of the Harvard Business Review. Curiosity is the … Read more…

Curious about Curiosity #2: Cultivating Curiosity

This is the second installment in a three-part series on curiosity. Today’s entry considers how to cultivate curiosity in others and in yourself about others. In the Feb. 13 post we investigated being curious internally, i.e., self-reflection. Finally, on March 13 we will explore the role of curiosity at work and its relationship to organizational and group performance. In a recent conversation with colleagues and former students, they wondered aloud about how, in difficult conversations or situations … Read more…

Curious about Curiosity #1: Self-Reflection

This is the first installment in a three-part series on curiosity. Today’s post investigates being curious internally, i.e., introspection. February 27’s entry will consider how to cultivate curiosity in others and in yourself about others. Finally, on March 13 we will explore the role of curiosity at work and its relationship to organizational and group performance. What if the old proverb about curiosity killed the cat is wrong? What if it is lack of curiosity that kills … Read more…

The Dream Of My Life…

The first poem I ever memorized was “The Fawn” by Mary Oliver. Since her recent passing, many have written about her, her work and what her words meant to them. I add my voice to that chorus here. These last several decades, I have worked as a consultant, facilitator and educator. Behind the scenes, since early childhood my life has been inspired and buoyed by literature and poetry. When I read or hear a paragraph, … Read more…

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