Monday, December 31, 2007

Training in Tucson on February 15, 2008

Click here to download the Flyer and Registration Form for the Training in Tucson on February 15!

Maximizing the Potential of Individuals and Organizations using Appreciative Inquiry and Open Space Technology

Cassandra O’Neill and Sarah Griffiths are offering a one day training in Tucson on February 15, 2008. This training will teach participants how to maximize potential of individuals, partnerships, and organizations by using Appreciative Inquiry and Open Space Technology.

Appreciative Inquiry (AI) is an approach to change -- which aligns with the recent brain research. By discovering the best of what has been, people can envision a compelling future to move towards. The heart of this approach is appreciative interviews which identify peak experiences that individuals have had. AI has been used in many ways —to coach individuals and groups, in strategic planning, to conduct program evaluations, transform performance reviews, develop teams and leadership, and more. Open Space Technology is a way to facilitate group discussions which allows individuals to select what they most want to talk about at the time. Both of these methods have been used all over the world.

Sarah and Cassandra have facilitated using these methods and conducted trainings on the methods with a wide variety of organizations including staff and volunteers from the United Way of Southern Arizona, Arizona Early Education Funded Regional Partnerships, First Focus on Kids, Girls Inc. of Southern Arizona, Pinal Gila Community Child Services, Inc, and grantees and staff from two Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) funded programs, Reclaiming Futures and Active Living by Design.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Learner vs Judger

If you don't like what people are saying, you might want to take a closer look at the questions you are asking them.

This three page article explains how switching the types of questions you ask can increase the productivity of conversations. Certain types of questions are from a judger mode while others come from a learner mode. Click on this link to download this article to learn more.

Click here to download this article

Neuroscience, Leadership, and Coaching

Click on the link below to view 5 pod casts on Brain Based Coaching and the Neuroscience of Coaching.

Coaching with the Brain in Mind
We’ve learned more about the brain since the 1980’s than in all previous history. Many discoveries are providing hard evidence for how and why a coaching approach is so effective, and pointing to new ways to define, measure and deliver coaching. In this podcast you’ll learn why change is so hard (from a physical perspective), what every coach, manager and leader should know about the brain and the new science of attention, reflection, insight and action.

Click on the link below for David Rock's Neuroscience of Leadership article. This short piece is an excellent summary of what we've learned about the brain. The implications of this are profound on how we try to create positive behavior. For example, he says that neither incentives or punishments work in the long term. And yet, doesn't this describe much of our public policy?

Click here for Neuroscience of Leadership

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Interesting Information on Beliefs

These coaching tips come from Cognitive CoachingSM Guru John Dyer. Thanks John.

Ed Beliefs Part 1 - Cognitive Processor – This belief systems supports the notion that the education system prepares students to live in a world which we cannot predict: the need for them to be adaptive. Adaptive is used in the sense of “knowing what to do when you don’t know what to do”. We no longer teach solutions to problems but teach how to solve problems. We no longer teach facts, but teach how to acquire facts, AND teach how to determine the truthfulness or validity of the facts that are acquired.

The video clip that can be accessed through the following address demonstrates dramatically how significant it will be for graduates in the future to have high level, critical thinking skills in order to adapt to a rapidly changing world. SHIFT HAPPENS.

The role of the coach is not to try and change the educational belief system of the educator that they are coaching. The challenge for the coach is to support the individual that they are coaching to be the best teacher that she or he can be within the educational belief system to which s/he is committed.

Ed Beliefs Part 2 Self Actualization – As we consider the uniqueness of each individual child, their talents, their skills, their character, their abilities we appreciate the desirability of developing each of the these youngsters to the maximum of their potential. Eliot Eisner’s study of giftedness across the United States suggested that 80% of the students in North America was gifted in one way or another. He suggests that the development of those differences is the cultivation of talent.

The role of the coach is not to try and change the educational belief system of the educator that they are coaching. The challenge for the coach is to support the individual that they are coaching to be the best teacher that she or he can be within the educational belief system to which s/he is committed.

The video below is a dramatic and entertaining reminder of the brilliance of the children among us.

Is sustainability more than a fiction writing contest?

Check out our recent article in the Charity Channel grants related newsletter. It is called Sustainability: More than a fiction writing contest.

Click here to see the article

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

More photos

Photograph of the Graphic Recording of the World Cafe Discussions

Wholonomy Consulting

More about the Pachamama Alliance

The Pachamama Alliance's two-fold mission: To preserve the Earth’s tropical rainforests by empowering the indigenous people who are its natural custodians. To contribute to the creation of a new global vision of equity and sustainability for all. Click here to learn more about the Alliance

Wholonomy Consulting

Friday, November 16, 2007

The door that said JOY

In my last post, I mentioned driving by a house that had a sign that said Joy on the door. This was written underneath the door...

When living, man is supple and yielding
When dead, man is hard and stiff
When living, all animals and plants are soft and pliant
When dead, they are withered and brittle
Thus, being inflexible, and unyielding is part of dying
Being flexible and yielding is part of living
Thus, a headstrong legion will lose in war,
Just as an unyielding tree will snap under the ax.
The place of the strong is below.
The place of the gentle is above.

What do you think?

Thursday, November 1, 2007

The Four Questions

At the beginning of her cd Gathering Medicine, Angela Arriens Ph.D shares the four questions that someone from an indigenous culture would be asked who consulted a shaman, when feeling disheartened.

When did you stop dancing?
When did you stop singing?
When did you stop being enchanted by stories?
When did you stop finding comfort in silence?

She says that when someone has stopped any of these things, that they have experienced soul loss. The rest of the cd includes stories, songs, and methods for soul retrieval.

I was really struck by the power in these questions and the answers. I began to share these with people I saw. One person said “hearing them makes me feel so old and boring.” Another person talked about a time in her life that she met someone who brought play back into her experience of life, and how important that was. Someone else asked what if you haven’t stopped? I imagine the answer might be..You are lucky.

Thinking about these questions in our modern culture reminds us that the solution to our current challenges may in fact be found by reconnecting with joy, with dancing, singing, stories, and silence. Imagine if you went to a western doctor and were asked these questions. How different would that be? Imagine what prescription you might walk out with instead of a prescription for a drug. I heard someone on the radio talking about the brain saying the new prescription for a headache will be, listen to Mozart and call me in the morning.

An assumption underlying these questions is that we all can be healthy, and that at one time we all were healthy and connected to joy in life through music, movement, stories, and silence. What if the path to wellness or wholeness is to rediscover these joys and our ability to connect with others? What if it is really that simple? I drove by a house today that had a big sign on the top of the door that said JOY. More on that sign next week.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The Five Rhythms

Gabrielle Roth talks about the five rhythms of the soul – flowing, staccato, chaos, lyrical, and stillness, in her books Maps to Ecstasy and Sweat Your Prayers. In Maps to Ecstasy she describes some experiences she had when teaching dance and drama early in her life. She describes how her students became her teachers, and that they taught her to lead by following.

“ It was impossible to “control” 300 kids on a playground or 50 seniors, each with their own words and fixed ideas. It was impossible to impose my great plans – plans I may have stayed up half the night creating – unless they happened (as they occasionally did) to fit into their flow. More often than not, to retain my sanity, I had to drop my brilliant ideas and flow, spontaneously creating movement and dance out of the energy in the room or on the playground. I had to draw them out from where they were. I followed them into the moment, and found a magical place.”

She describes how she discovered these five rhythms by paying attention to the movements of the participants. She also describes how she danced with a group of schizophrenics – how she connected with them where they were. When I read this I immediately thought of facilitating and training. So often we are taught or shown by example that we as a facilitator or trainer should “control” the group. And it can feel like a wrestling match or cat herding when approached this way, a great struggle.

I have learned that only when you stop attempting to control, can you truly connect with people where they are -- and discover together what the energy of the group is and how best to support it. Over the last several years, I have been learning and using new ways to facilitate groups. Methods that provide a way to connect with the energy, passions, and interests of the group AND which promote discovery.

One of my favorite methods is Open Space Technology – which has enough structure to promote creativity but not too much. When facilitating discussions using this – people are allowed to discuss whatever they are most interested in at that moment. And that is a powerful and wonderful opportunity. I am already noticing how these 5 rhythms show up in groups. Thanks Lynne for sharing them with our NIA dance class. For more information on NIA go to

Wholonomy Consulting llc

Monday, October 15, 2007

Transformational Presenting

In our October newsletter we shared some information about transformational presentations based on Bob Garmston’s workshop on Presenting sponsored by the Arizona K-12 Center. Here is some more information about what we learned and how we are using it.

Based on the different learning styles and preferences that people have – there are four types of audiences that need to be addressed to effectively present to a group. Here is a summary of the four audiences:
• The Professors who want to know the “what” of a topic – they like facts, lectures, and quotes;
• The Friends who want to know the “so what” of a topic – they like emotional hooks, personal stories, and hands-on activities;
• The Scientists who want to know the “why” of a topic – they like data, opportunities to process data, structure, and organization; and
• The Inventors who want to know the “what if” of a topic – they like to reorganize the information into new and different arrangements, to create and explore.

Want to know more? Check out the Presenter’s Fieldbook by Robert Garmston.

Using what we’ve learned.
I heard a story last week from another participant -- about how she shared her learning with someone who was able to use this information. In particular, she shared what we learned about the impact of physical space when presenting. We learned that a negative experience can “contaminate” the space for attendees. So when you are presenting or planning a presentation the physical layout and space must be changed, if the people attending have experienced something negative in that space previously. This information was passed on to someone who was scheduling a presentation for people who had had a negative experience with trainings in that same space. As a result of this knowledge, she physically changed the layout of the room, which contributed to a successful training.

I passed on the information about the power of reflection to a group that I was leading through a group reflecting conversation. Later that week I saw one of the attendees who told me she had already passed on something she learned.

Post a comment about how you have used what you learned at the Presenter’s Workshop.

Cycling in Hungary and the Czech Republic

Cycling in Hungary
If you have ever thought about taking a cycling holiday in Europe, I highly recommend it. I joined a group of 14 other women that cycled through small villages in Hungary on a tour run by Velo-touring. Check out their tours at We had a fabulous time and enjoyed our tour guide who cycled with us and our driver/chef.

Hungary has more hot springs than anywhere I’ve ever been, and we got to visit a different one each day on the cycling trip. On the last day we went to two different spas. Nothing could be better after a day of cycling than relaxing in a hot spring. In addition to cycling through the beautiful countryside we visited a nature preserve and National Park.

We stayed in small hotels/bed and breakfasts for the first few night and then a hunting lodge for the last two nights. This place was huge with rooms in the main building spanning two floors with lofts. We were told the communists used this lodge, and several women claimed to have smelled cigar smoke late at night. You could just picture men smoking their cigars after a day of hunting. We sampled delicious and authentic food wherever we stayed, and yes a lot of meat, potatoes, and paprika. Luckily when you are riding a bicycle several hours a day you can eat as much as you want.

After the cycling portion of the trip we stayed for a week in the lovely city of Budapest, which also has many hot springs all over the city including right in our hotel. If you love hot springs as much as I do, you couldn’t ask for more. There is so much to do in Budapest, and a great public transit system. The subways reminded me of the DC metro – as long as you knew which color line you wanted and the name of the town at the end of the line in the direction you wanted to go you were fine. The Opera House is breathtakingly beautiful, there are lots of incredible churches, views of and from the Danube, an amazing array of museums, the second largest Parliament in the world (second to London), and great walking, shopping, and cafes. One of the most interesting things I saw, the mummified hand of St. Stephen in the Basilica. It is well worth the 100 Forints it costs to get the light turned on - about 150 Forints equals a US dollar). Also fascinating are the caves below the Buda Castle. We were told these caves were able to hold up to 10,000 people when hiding from invaders. Our last night we took a boat cruise and saw the beauty of the city at night from a unique vantage point.


Cycling in the Czech Republic
While Cassandra was cycling in Hungary, I joined a group of 19 people to travel the Greenways of the Czech Republic. We cycled from little village to little village in the Moravia and Bohemia areas of the Czech Republic. These small villages each had their own wonderful castle or chateau—I learned a chateau is a castle without fortification. They were all so beautiful. Just like a fairy tale. It was a pretty good life if you were part of the nobility, even a 1000 years ago. Many of these small villages have been declared UNESCO sites and I am really glad that they have. Maybe it will keep them true to their original character and completely absent of McDonald’s, Starbucks or other mass marketing establishments. While biking along the Czech Greenways we learned about the countries efforts at sustainable development, and the projects the European Union is supporting to help build small businesses and keep local crafts alive. We saw what is left of the iron curtain and really enjoyed some great Czech beer. I agree with Cassandra, if you have not done a biking vacation in Europe, it is something you must try.


Thursday, October 11, 2007

Discovering your Signature Strengths

According to Martin Seligman the founder of Positive Psychology and author of Learned Optimism and Authentic Happiness, we all have signature strengths. Our key to authentic happiness? Using our signature strengths.

How do you know what yours are? You can go to - link to authentic happiness website - and take the VIA Signature Strengths Survey to identify your signature strengths. You will find out which of the 24 strengths measured in the test are your top 5.

Here is what Dr. Seligman says about the three different forms of happiness you can pursue:

1. The Pleasant Life - you aim to have as much positive emotion as possible and learn skills to amplify positive emotion;

2. The Engaged Life - you identify your highest strengths and talents and recraft your life to use them as much as you can in work, love, friendship, parenting and leisure; and

3. The Meaningful Life - you use your highest strengths and talents to belong to and serve something you believe is larger than the self.

Wholonomy Consulting llc

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Creating High-Impact Non Profits

Link to Article

Check out this article in the Fall 2007 Stanford Social Innovation Review. The authors have identified and studied 12 high impact non profits. The secret of their success – enlisting and inspiring partners outside of their organizations, rather than focusing on strengthening internal operations.

Conventional Myths of Nonprofit Management

They discovered that the conventional wisdom did not hold up, these non profits with high impact did not achieve this by building a great organization and scaling it up. They found the following myths:

Myth # 1 – Perfect Management. Although adequate management is necessary, it is not sufficient for creating significant social impact.

Myth # 2 – Brand-Name Awareness. For some of the 12 high impact non profits traditional mass marketing is part of their strategy for others it is unimportant.

Myth # 3 – A Breakthrough New Idea. Although some had new ideas, others take old ideas and tweak them until they are successful.

Myth # 4 – Textbook Mission Statement. All of the groups have compelling missions and visions, but only a few spent time fine-tuning their mission statements on paper, they are living it.

Myth # 5 – High Ratings on Conventional Metrics. When traditional measures of nonprofit efficiency were used these groups didn’t often score well – because they don’t adhere to misleading metrics such as overhead ratios. Efficiency doesn’t cause high impact.

Myth # 6 – Large Budgets. The size of the budget doesn’t correlate with impact, many of the 12 have achieved high impact with small budgets.

Six Practices of the High-Impact Nonprofits

What do they do, these high impact nonprofits? The practice the majority of the following six practices:

1. Serve and Advocate: not just one or the other. Neither provision of services or advocacy alone is enough to generate high impact.

2. Make Markets Work: tapping into forces beyond conventional definitions of charity they have influenced business practices, built corporate partnerships, and developed earned-income ventures to achieve social change on a grand scale.

3. Inspire Evangelists: inspiring supporters who become evangelists for the effort.

4. Nurture Nonprofit Networks: high impact nonprofits achieve their impact through collaboration not competition – and they help their peers succeed, build networks of nonprofit allies, and devote time and energy to advancing their fields.

5. Master the Art of Adaptation: high impact nonprofits are exceptionally adaptive modifying strategies, testing new ones, and evaluating results to identify new adaptations.

6. Share Leadership. Leadership is not dependent on one person, but distributed leadership is evident throughout the organization and among board members and volunteers.

Want to know more? Check out the full article.

Wholonomy Consulting llc

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Conversations with Providers

Click on this link to download the report Conversations with Providers that summarizes research on what Substance Abuse Treatment providers think about the state of adolescent treatment. Original research done in 2001.

Click on this link to download a copy of the Poster on this topic originally presented at the National Academy of State Health Policy Conference in 2002.

Click on this link to download a two page handout that goes along with the Poster.

Wholonomy Consulting llc

Friday, August 24, 2007

Am I willing to reclaim time to think?

This is a question Margaret Wheatley poses in her book Turning to One Another: Simple Conversations to Restore Hope for the Future. The following is an excerpt following this question.

“Thinking is not inaction. When people can think and notice what’s going on, we develop ideas that we hope will improve our lives. As soon as we discover something that might work, we act. When the ideas mean something to us, the distance between thinking and acting dissolves. People don’t hesitate to get started. They don’t sit around figuring out the risks or waiting until someone else develops an implementation strategy. They just start doing. If the action doesn’t work, they try something different.

This might sound strange to you, because many of us deal with governments and organizations that can’t implement anything. It’s true for all bureaucracies - there’s a huge gap between ideas and actions. But this is because people don’t care about the ideas. They didn’t invent them, they know they won’t really change anything, and they won’t take risks for something they don’t believe in. But when it’s our idea, and it might truly benefit our lives, then we act immediately on any promising notion.”

What do you think?

Friday, August 10, 2007

Teaching and Trust

Reflections on the Teacher Archetype in The Four-Fold Way: Walking the Paths of the Warrior, Teacher, Healer and Visionary by Angeles Arrien, Ph.D.

The definition of health for many shamanic traditions is the equal expression of these archetypes in each person. In this book, Dr. Arrien describes how to develop these four archetypes within ourselves.

“The Teacher has wisdom, teaches trust, and understands the need for detachment.” Trust is an essential ingredient for learning. Learning how to be comfortable with uncertainty is necessary to learn and practice trust. And it can’t be learned from someone who does not practice it. The do what I say and not what I do approach does not work for teaching or learning trust. There are people who think learning results from telling someone something. Maybe in the short term that works, but for someone to learn to be self directed, they need to learn much more than how to listen to others give direction or answers. Control is often seen as something that a leader, teacher, or manager gives up or needs to give up. In reality, it is often only the illusion of control that needs to be given up. Very rarely (if ever) does someone really have control over a situation, person, or group.

Dr. Arrien states that the opposite of trust is “trying to control the uncontrollable – clearly an impossible task” And yet, this is what we are often under the delusion that we are able to and in fact are doing. Suppression is not the same thing as control. Saying that someone has control over things or others is often not the reality, but the result of people giving up. Becoming resigned to things the way they are is often a result of suppression. Letting go of resignation, now that is something that requires trust.

A few of the suggestions she has for developing the inner teacher:

• Practice sitting meditation,
• Consciously make each day a focus for practicing wisdom, ask yourself how objective can I remain?
• Explore - who have been significant teachers in your life? Who were sources of inspiration? Who have you been a teacher for?

What do you think?

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Guest Post - Generative Strategic Planning

Click on the title to download a pdf of this article.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Exploring the Sufficiency Paradigm

The three truths of the Sufficiency paradigm described by Lynne Twist: 1.) Money is like water, 2.) What you appreciate appreciates, and 3.) collaboration creates prosperity.

How is money like water? Money flows through our lives, our organizations, and our systems -- sometimes with more volume than others. Too much money or stagnation of money can like water -- become toxic. Money can be used to control, manipulate, and harm. Sacrificing is something that comes from the scarcity paradigm - that there isn’t enough - and so someone needs to suffer or do without. The flow of money can also support our ability to do good. Generosity from a sufficiency paradigm is not sacrifice.

What you appreciate appreciates. If you truly appreciate what you have, you will feel better and better. Appreciation of what is, can break the cycle of wanting more and more. She has several suggestions on increasing appreciation. One is using Appreciative Inquiry in our lives. This approach has been successfully applied all over the world. More information on it is available at the Appreciative Inquiry Commons (see the link on our blog.) The more you focus on your strengths and what you do well – the more success you have.

Collaboration creates prosperity. Nature fosters collaboration and reciprocity as well as competition. Cooperation can be more powerful than competition because all win. When someone loses we all lose when we live in an interconnected system and world – which we do.

Living from this paradigm of sufficiency involves changing how you look at and approach everything. It transforms your experience in the world from a fearful competition that you can never win, in which you can never do enough, or have enough -- to an experience of abundance. One in which we have enough, do enough, and are in fact – enough.

Remember the old Saturday Night Live skit – looking in the mirror and saying “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and Doggone It – people like me.”

What would our world look like if everyone believed this? How would people treat themselves and each other? Let us know what you think.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Naming the Scarcity Paradigm

A paradigm is a way of looking at things, yourself, or the world which we are often unaware of. Paradigms can remain unconscious or invisible to us – and yet determine how we see things and our actions. One commonly referenced quote on the effect of paradigms from Albert Einstein is “You cannot expect to be able to solve a complex problem using the same manner of thinking that caused the problem.”

Lynne Twist in her book The Soul of Money, outlines two paradigms, the predominant paradigm which she names the Scarcity Paradigm. She says this lie about scarcity is based on what she calls three toxic myths:
1.) There isn’t enough,
2.) More is better, and
3.) That’s just the way it is.
The predominant emotion that results from believing these myths is fear. Here is how they play out.

There isn’t enough. When we fear there isn’t enough, and that someone is going to get left out we try to get as much as we can so we aren’t the one left out. And our fear of not getting enough leads us to keep seeking more, which results in others not having enough.

More is better. If no matter what we have, more is viewed as better then it becomes impossible to have enough. Enough is completely unattainable. The constant pursuit for more and more functions like an addiction.

This is also true with how we view our work. If more is better, and nothing is ever enough – no matter how much we work it is never enough. We mindlessly go from task to task in a race that we can never win or stop.

This myth also places higher value on people with more, and a judgment of inferiority on people that have less. This allows us to blame people who do not fare well in the inequitable distribution of resources for their lack, and feel that they deserve less.

That’s just the way it is. This myth creates feelings of helplessness and hopelessness which lead people to feel resigned to the current situation. And, this myth ignores the fact that things are the way they are -- because people created them this way. Everything, all of our systems, our economic system, currency, the way we measure GNP, all of it was created by people. The reality is that people can change things, but not when they are rendered hopeless and resigned.

The reality is that there is currently more than enough for all. It isn’t currently distributed this way, and there might not be in the future if the current levels of over consumption continue, but there is now.

So what’s the alternative? Viewing the world through a paradigm of Sufficiency, a you-and-me paradigm rather than a you-or-me paradigm. She details the three truths of the Sufficiency paradigm: 1.) Money is like water, 2.) What you appreciate appreciates, and 3.) Collaboration creates prosperity.

Check back for more on sufficiency in the next post.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Sitting in Discomfort

Sitting in discomfort was something that one of our recent training participants said she did that preceded a major breakthrough. Often when things feel uncomfortable we try to stop them as soon as we can. This may not be the best strategy. Sometimes you can alleviate the discomfort, or you make it worse trying to alleviate it. A lasting solution is available only after tolerating the discomfort and in fact becoming comfortable in it. Why? Because attempts to stop the discomfort won’t necessarily lead to a breakthrough or AHA moment.

AHA moments can lead to solutions that are far more comprehensive than just stopping the pain. Rolf Smith in The 7 Levels of Change: Diffferent Thinking for Diffferent Results defines “Ordinary” thinking as thinking that is “based on continuity with the past – continuation of an idea or experience or line of reasoning.” He defines “Discontinuous” thinking as not-normal. “Discontinuous thinking occurs when a shift is made to a new direction of thought or work, rather than continuing along the same line.” Discontinuous thinking produces those AHA moments that are so valuable, when suddenly everything looks different and something so brilliant and sometimes so obvious drastically shifts your thinking about how to approach a situation.

Earlier this week I was writing something and I was feeling very stuck. I was trying harder and harder to get unstuck, looking through books and articles for some insight or inspiration, thinking about who to ask for help. And I finally realized that what I was doing was only making things worse, when I remembered this concept of sitting in discomfort. That in fact the breakthrough I wanted would only be available if I sat in the discomfort of not knowing. Remembering this piece of wisdom from our participant immediately helped me shift my thinking and stop trying to force the breakthrough.

As I worked on something else later that day, I discovered another piece of wisdom from a different participant who said “ I learned not to jump so quickly into problem solving.” This was related to our presentation about Polarity ManagementTM. And I realized that had been exactly what I was doing, jumping too quickly into problem solving and thereby making it impossible to have a breakthrough. Accepting the discomfort, trusting that the AHA would come when I wasn’t trying to make it happen, and realizing that problem solving would not help resulted in my having several AHAs. What successes have you realized from sitting in discomfort?

Saturday, June 23, 2007

A Whole New Mind

A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future by Daniel H. Pink is a very interesting read. As a result of what he calls the 3 A’s – Abundance (abundant material goods available to all at affordable prices), Asia (the globalization of our economy means that if it can be done cheaper in Asia it will be), and Automation (if a computer can do it faster than a person, then a computer will be doing it) – we are now in the Conceptual Age.

There is a nice graphic about how we have moved from the Agriculture Age (farmers) in the 18th century to the Industrial Age (factory workers) in the 19th century, to the Information Age (knowledge workers) in the 20th century, and to the Conceptual Age (creators and empathizers) in the 21st century. He describes how the information age led to an over reliance on the left brain. Getting information is no longer enough, in fact there is so much of it that what is useful NOW are people who can synthesize, distill, and make meaning through context and analysis of the enormous amount of information available. These are all things that a computer can not do.

He proposes that what is already being valued and will continue to become more and more important is what he calls the Six Senses: Design, Story, Symphony, Empathy, Play, and Meaning. All of these depend on both the right brain and left brain, not exclusively left. His message is that our ability to thrive in this century is dependent on our rediscovery of the benefits of the right brain and re-integration of the right brain back into our work and lives. He includes a portfolio after each chapter with suggestions on how one can develop each of these senses.

He also discusses the work of Dr. Martin E. P. Seligman, founder of the “positive psychology” movement. This field of work has shifted focus to what makes people happy. And it turns out that the things that contribute to happiness include “engaging in satisfying work, avoiding negative events and emotions, being married, having a rich social network, gratitude, forgiveness, and optimism – what doesn’t seem to matter much according to the research is making more money, getting lots of education, or living in a pleasant climate.”

This fits right into a discussion that is occuring all over the country about switching the dominant paradigm from one of scarcity to one of sufficiency/abundance. Lynne Twist’s Soul of Money is a great read on this.

More on this after the 4rth. Have a safe and happy holiday!

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

What value can partners add?

There is a lot of discussion in the social sector about partnering. I was at an applicant meeting and funders who were giving out $8,000 grants were lecturing attendees on the value of partnering. However, the things that the attendees did were all exactly the same. So I began to wonder, what value can partners add? Do these funders really understand what is possible by partnering and what isn’t? Have they lost sight of the purpose of partnering, and are promoting the means to an end as an end?

If by partnering you can’t do something different from what you can do on your own, then the only possibility is efficiency. If we are both doing something similar, we can possibly do it more efficiently by doing it together. This is some of the thinking behind mergers. Mergers can lower competition for funds, and create efficiencies in bringing money in and spending it. But not always.

If by collaborating we can do something together that we couldn’t do by ourselves, then something more than efficiency is possible. Complementary competencies, capabilities, core functions, and operations can produce something more than efficiency. This takes some real thinking about the resources of each partner and what value is added by working together. Sometimes it seems more difficult to work with another organization than for an organization to do something on its own. However, if we want to create results that have lasting impact it often requires working with other organizations and partners in a new way. This requires a different skill set and ability than developing and operating programs on your own.

Recently after giving a talk about sustainability -- someone asked how to help partnerships of industry and colleges with vastly different cultures and expectations. Things were expected to happen much more quickly in industry than in the college, and employers were becoming inpatient with the slower processes of the college. This is a difficult question to answer. Any ideas or suggestions?

Monday, June 18, 2007

SOAR Don't SWOT: Asset Based Strategic Planning

Another article? Yes! This is an expanded version of an earlier post. Check it out on the Charity Channel.

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Why Should You Do Your Budget First?

Check out Cassandra's article on the Charity Channel to find out why.

Is Self-Compassion More Important than Self-Esteem?


Why do some people roll with life's punches, facing failures and problems with grace, while others dwell on calamities, criticize themselves and exaggerate problems?

The answer, according to researchers from Duke and Wake Forest universities, may be self-compassion -- the ability to treat oneself kindly when things go badly. The results of their research, one of the first major investigations of self-compassion, were published in the May 2007 issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

"Life's tough enough with little things that happen. Self-compassion helps to eliminate a lot of the anger, depression and pain we experience when things go badly for us," said Mark R. Leary, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at Duke and lead author of the paper, which includes five peer-reviewed studies.

"American society has spent a great deal of time and effort trying to promote people's self-esteem," Leary said, "when a far more important ingredient of well-being may be self-compassion."

Rest here:

Thanks to the person who posted this on the Appreciative Inquiry Listserve.

A great resource on self compassion is the book Radical Acceptance Embracing Your Life with the Heart of a Buddha by Tara Brach, Ph.D.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

What is most important in getting a grant funded?

See Cassandra's article in the Charity Channel's Grants & Foundations Review™.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Myths About External Feedback Part 3

Myths about Feedback Parts 1 and 2 covered how external feedback often created the opposite result of what was desired. In this post, we begin with a quick review of what interactive feedback is, why it is used, and what the result is, and then discuss how DuPont and Colgate-Palmolive have focused on an alternative.


Members of a team or organization listening to feedback from peers, superiors, and/or subordinates concerning how to become better workers, (i.e. Giving advice and making judgments.)

Interactive feedback processes are practiced to increase understanding of our impact on others & to improve the effectiveness of our working together.

Feedback processes have been found to systematically undermine these qualities and produce non-productive side effects.

DuPont and Colgate-Palmolive have found that the practice of interactive feedback is based on three myths:

* Feedback improves team effectiveness,

* A shared set of leadership behaviors can improve organizational performance, and

* Feedback causes people to see themselves more accurately.

They have instead concentrated on creating initiatives that help people build their capability for self-reflection and self-assessment.

Therefore, Dupont and Colgate-Palmolive

• Engage in a business development process that builds capacity for self-reflection and self-assessment,
• One that draws on an innate but undeveloped ability to observe ourselves and our impact on our environment,
• As well as our ability to act in accordance with aims we have set for ourselves, and
• The focus is on increasing each persons capacity to be self-reflective:

- Gauging their own behavior in the context of business needs and personal essence,
- Removing work systems and process that foster dependency on external sources of correction and judgment, and
- Proposing development plans that specifies a unique contribution each member will make to the organization.

The citations for this three part post are:

• "The Myths of Organizational Effectiveness by Carol Sanford" for the Journal AT WORK, Sept/Oct 1995, page 10-12.

• More detailed treatment of "Feedback Process in Organization" is available for $ 5.00 (US) from SpringHill Publications, P.O. Box 2283, Battle Ground, WA 98604-7514.

Another book that you might like to review is:

• "Performance Management: Improving Quality and Productivity Through Positive Reinforcement" by Aubrey Daniels & Theodore Rosen, published by Performance Management Publication Inc. 1982.

When you consider how hard it is to change yourself, then you will understand how difficult it is to change someone else.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

What You Need to Know About Purple Cows

Check out my article published in the Charity Channel's Grants and Foundation Review! Cassandra

Monday, May 14, 2007

The Three Myths about External Feedback - Part 2

What helps people learn from experience? If you guessed reflection, you are on the right track. (You may have noticed that we gave you a clue in the post on reflection as a necessary ingredient of learning.) Here is what research showed with student learners.

Research Exploring Children's (9 - 10 year olds) Capacity for Self-Assessment
Demonstrates the Impact of Feedback

At the beginning of the study, the average child could not report accurately on his/her own behavior and instead would vehemently defend the rightness of his self-observation, even in the face of non-arguable evidence such as film and recordings.

The study formed two groups:

Group 1: Worked with instructors who used video and recordings to improve the students' accuracy of observation. They quickly came to depend on the recorded material before making their own declaration.

Group 2: Instructors never gave any feedback, but continually asked for each member's own reflections on how well his or her behavior matched the stated procedure. In time, the students increased their capacity for self-assessment. In the beginning their accuracy was very low. The instructors did not correct or provide outside evidence. After a few weeks, the students reflections became increasingly accurate.


Check back for future posts which show how a business is using this finding to benefit their employees by building capacity for self-reflection and self-assessment.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

The Three Myths about External Feedback - Part 1

Myth 1: Feedback provides high quality in-formation & improves team effectiveness. (Not necessarily so:)

• Much of what we see in others comes from what we cannot see or deal with in ourselves, therefore we tend to project our own needs on to others.

• Groups providing feedback for other groups may tend to collude, unknowingly, in offering group projections.

• Feedback techniques frequently remove the qualities most needed in teams.

"What is required to be comfortable as friends is not what is required to be a successful organization……..We need to feel camaraderie but we also need to ask tough questions in order to gain new ideas and solutions."

Myth 2: A shared set of high performance leadership behaviors can improve organizational performance

• On the contrary, it may kill individual uniqueness

• It tends to move everyone towards a common standard behavior

• It results in common performance appraisal procedures which results in standardized behavior

Myth 3: Feedback causes people to see themselves more accurately and allows them to be accountable to the team or organization

• In fact, it reduces the capabilities of self-reflection and self-assessment - just the opposite of the self-directed, self-disciplined, and self-accountable behavior organizations need.

• Feedback reinforces the pattern that others will and should tell us how we are doing.

•More deadly, it reduces our capacity to be self-reflective & self-accountable.

Want to find out what is effective? Check back next week for Part 2.

Reflection: A Necessary Ingredient for Learning.

Ever wonder why people continue doing things that don’t work?
Consider the lack of reflection. Reflection is a necessary ingredient for learning, yet it is absent from many workplaces. The pressure to be doing something all the time, and the constant communication possible with email and cell phones has left little time for reflection.
What is reflection?
Daudelin defined it as follows. “Reflection is the process of stepping back from an experience to ponder, carefully and persistently, its meaning to the self through the development of inferences; learning is the creation of meaning from past or current events that serves as a guide for future behavior.” (Daudelin, 1996)
Did something you do with a group recently go well?
Try getting the group together to have a reflecting conversation about what you all did to make it go so well. Valuable learning will be revealed that will inform your future work.

Monday, May 7, 2007

SOAR Don't SWOT: Asset Based Strategic Planning

Research and experience show us that focusing on the strengths of individuals and organizations is much more powerful and effective than dwelling on deficiencies. An asset based approach to strategic planning is the SOAR which stands for Strengths, Opportunities, Aspirations, and Results. The SOAR is based in Appreciative Inquiry – an approach which creates tremendous energy and great results through focused inquiry on strengths and successes.

The conventional wisdom about strategic planning embraces use of the SWOT analysis - Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. Frequently, there are negative consequences of using this method which include: a lack of focus on the most important and highest impact goals, no shared vision, no plans to support goals, and no review or evaluation of the plan after it has been developed. There is also commonly a lack of involvement in development of the plan by people who are responsible for the implementation of it, and planning is experienced as an event and not a process.

Ever notice when discussing this topic and someone asks everyone in the room to raise their hand who has found a strategic planning process valuable, virtually no one raises their hand? The failure of traditional strategic planning in the non profit sector is discussed in the Daring to Lead 2006 report. Their focus group findings include that Executive Directors are re-thinking strategic planning and want to move beyond categorical management – a fundraising plan, a strategic plan, a budget – to an integrated model for sustainability and deeper impact. A quote from a participant “ I don’t want to say strategic planning because I hate what our world does around strategic planning. It’s strategic business sense. I need to be able to look farther than anybody else and lengthen my horizon.”

The Appreciative Inquiry approach to strategic planning allows for a planning process that is dynamic, ongoing, and involves the entire system. The SOAR approach to strategic planning starts with a strategic inquiry phase. This includes discovery and exploration of the organizations strengths and opportunities. Then participants share and generate their aspirations and co-create a shared vision for the future. This is followed by the development of recognition and reward programs that are designed to inspire employees to achieve measurable results.

The key to innovation is the continuous generation of little ideas – which when recognized and appreciated grow into major results. The SOAR approach develops a culture that supports the generation and development of these important little ideas. A New Framework for Strategic Planning by Stavros, Cooperrider, and Kelley discuss the lack of success with traditional methods and this powerful alternative. The article includes case studies and other resources. Click on the Appreciative Inquiry link to the right and search on SOAR.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Evolutionary Sustainability Training Opportunity: Are you interested in learning how to create sustainable change in organizations and communities?

By attending our training on Evolutionary SustainabilityTM, you will learn how to:

  • Build sustainable elements into all programs and organizational change efforts,
  • Successfully retain the changes/improvements you have created,
  • Examine the use of current resources and determine how to best align your resources with your goals and intended outcomes,
  • Expand your support base and available resources through the development of strategic collaborations,
  • Utilize collaborations to anticipate emerging trends and identify the next generation of innovations that you will adopt,
  • Employ tools for transformational engagement that create conditions for people to succeed and build the momentum necessary to generate lasting impact, and
  • Move away from a scarcity and deficit paradigm to one of sufficiency and interdependence.

See our website homepage for more information on Evolutionary SustainabilityTM and a registration form for our training in New Jersey on June 26,27.

Monday, April 30, 2007

Welcome to the Evolutionary Sustainability Blog

In early April, we posted a white paper on our website ( called Evolutionary SustainabilityTM Reconceptualizing Sustainability of Organizational and Community Change. We asked for feedback and we've gotten a lot of comments. We've also been asked questions such as -- How did you come up with the note and the seed? Why are you using Apollo 13 as an analogy? Can you give us some examples?

Our complete answer to how do you do it? is our two day training. We are offering one in New Jersey on June 26, 27. The details and a registration form are also on our website.

If you are interested in a new way to think about sustaining change in organizations and communities - read our paper and post a comment. We set this blog up to allow for more discussion about the model, how it was developed, how you do it, and how to move from traditional models of sustainability to Evolutionary SustainabilityTM.