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

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.

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.
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“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
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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.
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“A scintillating handbook to recover meaning in troubled times.”
                                                 Alastair McIntosh, author of Soil and Soul

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….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.