Wildlife Adventures in Eastern Europe 2012-15 – a new book

david book

A good friend of mine, David Withrington, has just had a book published. I went with him, several years ago, on one of his adventures to Slovenia and had a hugely enjoyable and knowledge expanding time.

Wildlife Adventures in Eastern Europe 2012-15: Estonia, Bulgaria, Greece and Macedonia, Hungary and Slovakia – an illustrated account of summer visits by a group of naturalists from England. David Withrington and Paul Raven, 2017. 104 pages with 360 colour photographs. Available here from Natural History Book Service £12.50

What do staff of the statutory nature conservation agencies do when they retire? Go on holiday of course!

In June 2012, David Withrington, Paul Raven, Neil Hailey, Peter Marren and Steve Berry – all former staff of English Nature and its predecessor body – decided to visit Estonia, a country to which none of them had been before. The objective was to discover the country’s wildlife, especially the birds, butterflies and flowering plants. The accommodation and itinerary were arranged after online research by David.

The main features of Estonia are – its Baltic coastline, large areas of peat bog and Lake Peipsi, which sits on the border with Russia – though this did not seem to deter the birds. It was not just the amazing variety of wildlife and habits which made the holiday, but encounters with people, cultures and nightlife. All these are chronicled and illustrated in the book. The reader lives the journey with our intrepid adventurers. 

Continue reading “Wildlife Adventures in Eastern Europe 2012-15 – a new book”

Stories of Transition – a movement of communities

Transition Network’s Rob Hopkins short introduction to ’21 Stories of Transition’, a new book produced to coincide with the COP21 climate negotiations in Paris.

I have just ordered my copy and you can read about and order yours here.

Told in the voices of the people making these projects happen.

It is NOT available via Amazon.

Alicia Juarrero on Constraints that enable #innovation

I have heard Alicia mentioned many times before but have never seen her present and this short 27 minute video is a must watch. This is from the recent Lean Agile conference (but don’t let that put you off) in the US back in April  and I notice that last years video of Alicia is also available here.

Alicia is a professor of Philosophy and when she speaks you can hear the perfect insightful explanations just click into place without any visible signs of notes or cues.

The study of living systems (and especially of ecosystems) has taught us that nature and evolution do not favour stability and equilibrium: instead, natural processes select for resilience and adaptability—for characteristics that foster evolvability. Living things learn from the past and anticipate the future – and then modify themselves to handle ambiguity, uncertainty, and unwelcome perturbations. Handle and manage, not avoid and eliminate ambiguity and uncertainty.

I have also found, on Google books, what looks to be a terrific read in a book entitled ‘Mind, Brain and the Elusive Soul from which this is a brief extract:

alicia juarrero quote

A great convincement

convincement book

I have to admit to not really knowing much about the Quaker movement apart from the porridge and the numerous meeting rooms I have visited around the country.

I managed to pick up (in a charity shop in Whitby for £1) an interesting book called ‘ A great Convincement’ by Monica Ventress who chronicles the story of the Quakers in North East Yorkshire (a place I do know a lot about).

Apart from discovering that I was unknowingly an Anabaptist, I just love this description of the emergence of the Gurteen knowledge cafe (the thought that David Gurteen might be a time-lord and had gone back to the 1600s as an experiment did cross my mind):

An essential of the sectarian position was that the sermon should be followed by discussion: that worship was not a matter of passively hearing the Word preached by a learned minister, but in participation by the congregation after a gifted member had opened up a subject for discussion. As time went on the practice of interrupting the parson in his pulpit, became a common occurrence. Disrupting services had been made a secular offence by an Act of Parliament in Mary’s reign (1553-1558). The Quakers always claimed a legal right to speak after the sermon was over.

The book goes on to detail the numerous penalties and imprisonments of people who interrupted services, held or attended Quaker gatherings and is genuinely shocking that these practices were seen as so threatening at the time.

I was then reminded of a Quaker based method called the Clearness Committee’ and is described in Joanna Macy’s wonderful book “Coming back to life” which explains how to seek clarity in important decisions, especially around marriage.

After the focus person summarizes the issue, members of the committee (ideally five or six trusted individuals) assist her by asking questions rather than giving advice or problem solving. Honest, caring queries, arising out of prayerful silence, help the focus person see herself and her situation in a new light and unblock her inner wisdom and authority.

A more complete and detailed explanation of the method can be found here where they explain that:

Behind the Clearness Committee is a simple but crucial conviction: each of us has an inner teacher, a voice of truth, that offers the guidance and power we need to deal with our problems. But that inner voice is often garbled by various kinds of inward and outward interference.

I am really looking forward to giving this approach a try at my next problem solving workshop and/or community building masterclass.

Finally in looking to see what was on the internet about this method I came across this really interesting and very relevant slide pack on the use of dialogue by the Quakers on Slideshare by Thomas J Neuville in the U.S.

I am particularly interested to discover the origins of slide 12 and its relationship to cynefin and theory U.

More likely to sustain

When people are organised in groups, and their knowledge is sought, incorporated and built upon during planning and implementation, then they are more likely to sustain activities after project completion

…long term sustainability was only guaranteed when local institutions were strong…

…projects failed when there had been no focus on institutional development and local participation”

Jules Pretty as quoted from Agri-Culture – Reconnecting People, Land and Nature

Your warm but complex embrace

Here is a recent keynote by Dave Snowden giving a thorough overview and introduction to  cynefin and sensemaker, which is packed full of thought provoking insights.

Highly recommended and lasting just over an hour my three favourite quotes are:

(In a complex system) Manage the evolutionary potential of a moment in time and adjust as you go. Manage beneficial coherence within attractors within boundaries.

There is an opportunity between free market capitalism and state planning for locally contextualised initiatives that can emerge at significantly lower cost than either of the other mechanisms.

(In a complex system) measure Vector not Velocity; success is right direction not order; otherwise an unachievable end point is always going to fail.

I had not heard this ‘Vector not Velocity’ before but it reminded me of a story from Nick Owen’s book ‘The Salmon of Knowledge’ about the wise fool:

The wise fool takes the whole context into consideration and looks at every issue from every conceivable angle. Ask him, ‘Which is better, a fast horse or a slow one?’ He will say, it depends. ‘it depends whether you and your horse are going in the right direction

Storytelling for a Greener World

greenerworldHeard the great news today, by way of my invitation to the London launch, that my good friends involved in the Tales to Sustain gatherings I previously attended in 2008 (and again in  2009) are about to publish this wonderful book.

Titled ‘Storytelling for a Greener World’ it covers the what, why and how of storytelling and storywork to promote environmental mindfulness and sustainable behaviour in adults and children. Written by 21 cutting-edge professionals in story-based learning and pro-environmental change.

The book shows how to apply this practice, indoors and outdoors, in organisations,NGOs, schools, colleges and communities.
A treasury of over 40 stories, many creative activities and detailed descriptions of inspiring practice for both new and seasoned practitioners. Clearly explains how this practice works, why it is effective and how to adapt the ideas to the reader’s situation.
Powerfully endorsed by leaders in sustainability, conservation, organisation development, drama and performance, play-work, health, child development, community outreach and education.
“If we are to be able to move to a more sustainable, more resilient future, we first have to be able to imagine it.We need to be able to tell its stories, weave its magic, bring it alive so we can see, smell, hear, taste and touch it. ‘Storytelling for a Greener World’ does just that, showing the powerful role storytelling can play, and the rich insights the storytellers bring with them.It is rich, powerful and of immense importance.”
                                                         Rob Hopkins, Co-Founder, Transition Network
This unique resource offers new ideas, stories, creative activities and methods for people working in conservation, outdoor learning, environmental education, youthwork, business training, sustainability, health, social and economic change. It shows how to encourage pro-environmental behaviour in diverse participants: from organisation consultants and employees, to families, youth and schoolchildren. The stories and their exploration engage people with nature in profound ways. The book describes how this engagement enhances participants’ emotional literacy and resilience, builds community, raises awareness of inter-species communication and helps people to create a sustainable future together. Its innovative techniques establish connections between place and sustainability. Facilitators can adapt all of this to their own situation.
“A scintillating handbook to recover meaning in troubled times.”
                                                 Alastair McIntosh, author of Soil and Soul


….and if my hero Alastair thinks it is scintillating that’s good enough for me.

As is: As could be – Duarte spark-lines

Just in case you have not seen this before, less than six minutes of video revealing the secrets behind great speeches and presentations. Nancy Duarte analyzes Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech using principles from her (highly recommended) book, Resonate. Mapping the speech to her “presentation form”, Nancy reveals the magic that makes it memorable.

I love these previously unseen patterns. I am increasingly using this ‘as is : as could be’ pattern in my innovation ecosystem workshops as a template for action planning in a form that will have an inbuilt, empathising story.

The string of pearls

every story can therefore be seen as a journey into the woods to find the secret that lies outside the self

string of pearlsSo goes the quote from John Yorke and his Book on storytelling  ‘into the woods’ from a recent Guardian article.

So on Bank Holiday Monday, setting off early before the butterflies were warmed up and fluttering about, David, Tim and I set off for our annual search for colonies of the threatened Grizzled Skipper butterfly. Our search for the Grizzled Skipper conjures a complex of thoughts and we entered the woods hopeful but taken aback by how light and under-grown was the habitat this year after our long cold Spring.

As we walked along the sun drenched path with David identifying every bird call with knowing accuracy I came across this string of pearls and announced in mock horror, “David is this a pearl snake?”. “Its just costume jewellery” was the terse response but I pocketed it all the same, why?, because that’s what I do.

Tim had never seen the plaque in the place we call “Glenn Miller’s wood” that commemorates his final Aircraft Hanger performance back in Oct 1944 just months before he died. So we headed over there for our annual picture. For no reason other than to intrigue my friend Conrad, I posted a picture of the plaque up on facebook.


So there we have it. Two completely unconnected events, secondary to our hunt for endangered butterflies, until…

Conrad posts his response:


Intriguing, spooky and entangled. Until today I didn’t even know that iconic classic tune by Glen Miller was even called “String of Pearls”. So what is the secret that lies “outside the self”? Coincidence, mind reading, proof that time isn’t linear or was Glenn Miller back in those woods again, playing a literal joke with three old men in a wood, and one Glenn Miller fan somewhere in London?

A footnote: We did eventually find three individual Grizzled Skippers in two of their regular locations, but they were off like a shot as I approached with my camera. So no photographs just a little light music…



The award, the snake and the firefly

award1I had a great day last Wednesday giving a talk at the Practitioners Insights – Wisdom from Experiences Speakers’ Series at MA Global Management at Regent’s College London. What I did not expect was to be awarded the golden microphone award (see above in our trophy room) for donating my time to such a good cause. I am therefore dedicating this (my first ever) award to Dave Snowden of Cognitive Edge who got me into all this complexity, narrative, conference speaking malarky in the first place and is currently tweeting that he does not get enough recognition for his efforts, so this one’s for you Dave.

I was in extremely good company, Ania Lichota shared her experiences of climbing the highest peak on every continent, culminating in Everest and using each as a metaphor for personal development and each rung on the management ladder. I was particularly taken by her admittance that she had left her ego on one of the summits. She has a book called “Why the hell bother” aimed at helping others realize their full potential.

In between our talks was legal eagle Enrique Sibauste Arosemena MD of Experta and member of the Panama Bar. He tried valiantly to have a conversation with the students but they were not in the mood to chat, then suddenly he told a folktale about the Snake and the Firefly that caught everyone’s attention and I don’t know why but I can’t get it out of my head.

There was once a firefly who liked to fly among the trees in a jungle.

One day, a snake came along and looked at the firefly flying around, working, eating, and shining with its great green light.

The snake didn’t have much to do, though, so he decided to chase the firefly around to eat him…

First just keeping a watchful eye, then slithering softly along and lastly chasing rapidly around.

The firefly flew, and flew, and flew as fast as those little wings could take him, but eventually grew tired and fell to the ground, where the snake was awaiting.

Before the snake could eat him, he pleaded to ask a few questions, to which the snake replied: “Hmm… I don’t usually give this privilege to my food, but go ahead”.

The firefly then asked “Am I in your food chain?”, and the snake answered “No…”.

“Are you hungry?” mumbled the defenceless little firefly. “Not really, no” said the vicious snake.

“Then why do you want to eat me?” whispered the firefly, to which the snake stated clearly

“Because I just can’t stand to see you shine!”

Horses for main courses

The Uffington Horse
The Uffington Horse

I see that the food minister says that we should not throw away horse contaminated food as there is no health issue...

By strange coincidence, yesterday, I picked up and bought this intriguing book from a Charity Shop, ‘The Pattern under the plough’ by George Ewart Evans and in it he explores why he thinks that we do not eat horse in this country:

From the early domestication of the horse, it has been suggested, there grew up so strong a link between horse and man that the horse became sacrosanct: his flesh became taboo and acquired a sacred or exalted character.

Certain animals in early times became totems … The clan developed a direct symbiotic relation with its totem and each member identified himself with it. Each clan or totem group was responsible for the fecundity and plentifulness of the animal or plant that it stood for.

As a result hobby horses appear in many countryside ceremonies and ritual dances.

The Celts, as befitted a nomadic people, prized the horse highly: theirs was essentially a horse culture.

Look also at the horse monuments carved into the chalk downs of southern England

It seems therefore that our aversion to horse may be one of the very aspects of our life that make us British, and just because it is safe to eat doesn’t make it right or we would eat cats, dogs, rats, badgers and perhaps our overweight siblings. So Owen Paterson, if the horse lasagne and burgers are safe to eat why don’t we all deliver them to Westminster and you can live on them for the next few years.

Gratitude to Social Networks

I love my social networks and am constantly amazed how much I can pick up in an hour of interactions on Twitter and Facebook in particular. Thinking in the shower this morning I also realised how much it makes sense of the way my mind works.

Take this morning for instance:

Dave Snowden on Cognitive Edge has this morning blogged about Theory U  which I found via Twitter.

In it he explains in detail how he has read all the books and papers and illustrates how the precise wording and nuances either fit or do not fit with other theories.

In contrast I fell upon Theory U late last year by an image search on Google for business models. I skimmed available material and made up my own meaning from the concepts I thought it covered. My brain seems to lack the part that remembers detail, I can remember stories but everything else always seems to connect to something else I know, by way of ambiguous understanding and metaphor. I was so intrigued I built my own Pinterest board.

For a short while it became my world view of facilitating workshops so I used it as a controlling structure/overview for a recent workshop in Copenhagen, no thought for the inconsistencies, just that it seemed interesting and had useful connections and I love it’s concept of “leading from an emergent future”.

In a similar vein Dave ends with a concern about Ken Wilber’s spiral dynamics, which I thought was great principally because it explained why my interests and perspectives seemed to freeze at age 18 but unfroze at age 40 (ironically the year I first met Dave).

As a second example I found a tweet about a piece by Steve Denning (who coincidently also had a great influence on me at age 40) on “What went wrong at Boeing”

I though this was worth passing on to my pals who work in Aerospace innovation so I shared it as an email. As the email box opened up on my phone I realised I could not spell ‘Boeing’, I knew there was an ‘e’ somewhere but it kept looking like the sound of a spring. So I entitled the email ‘Boing’.

My colleague Brain immediately responded by email that it was called Boing “because it kept bouncing back” (I did not know this) and there were other good sources here which gives a better feel for the specifics and the management of innovation issues around the battery.

Also here is essential reading on the 787. His letter to the FAA (link at the wiki article) is very worthwhile.

So this is how I learn, I make loose connections, share them with my close contacts via Twitter & Facebook and they put me right by dampening the poor material and amplifying the useful. It sort of sits on my shoulder as an invisible conscience. I don’t always remember the detail but I adapt to the learning and move forward.