Areas of Special Expertise

Nonprofits and Public Benefit Corporations: I have considerable experience with a variety of nonprofits, as well as a great interest in public benefit corporations. Furthermore, I see tremendous potential in the development of collaborations between nonprofits and benefit corporations, in pursuit of common social and environmental goals. (For example, a benefit corporation interested in promoting a certain type of education could donate to a nonprofit school that is dedicated to this type of education. In turn, the school could encourage its families and students to patronize the benefit corporation.)

Education: I have extensive experience in the field of education, having served as a teacher, administrator, and board member with numerous schools. I have also worked with numerous public charter and district schools, as Co-Director of the Center for School Change. I am also a longtime instructor and senior fellow at the University of Minnesota’s Center for Spirituality and Healing. My areas of greatest interest and expertise are:

  • Waldorf Education
  • Camphill Schools & Villages
  • Classical Education
  • Charter Schools
  • Small Colleges and Folk High Schools
  • Complex Systems Education
  • Teacher Mentoring & Evaluation
  • Curriculum Development
  • School Governance & Administration
  • Personalized Learning

Writing: If your organization is in need of temporary or ongoing writing services, I am experienced and accomplished in the following areas:

  • Grant Writing
  • Research
  • Marketing & Publicity
  • Editing

Tutoring & Test Preparation: I also work directly with students, in areas in which I have specific expertise (primarily in the humanities), or to help students prepare for upcoming tests, such as SATs and ACTs.

To SCHEDULE A FREE CONSULTATION, at which we will discuss how I might best serve your needs, go to Contact and call and/or email.

Leadership, Coaching & Mentoring in Organizations

My approach to leadership is described here.”  You don’t have to be in a position of authority to exercise leadership. Even if you are, it takes more than authority to make you a good leader. In organizations, I can work either with particular individuals to develop their leadership capacities, or work with groups (or whole organizations) to develop system-wide approaches to organizational effectiveness and diffused leadership.

Diffused leadership (see also Helpful Hierarchy)

Diffused leadership is context-dependent. It allows different people (or small groups) to flow in and out of leadership roles, in response to the needs of the current situation. But, even as an individual (or group) takes on a leadership role, diffused leadership recognizes that others in the group (or other groups) continue to have leadership responsibilities. Effective use of diffused leadership requires clarity about what sorts of decisions lie within the spheres of autonomy of various individuals (or groups), and what sorts require broader input or consensus.

Effective use of diffused leadership also requires very conscious differentiation between input and decision-making. Generally speaking, maximizing the input from a broad spectrum of stakeholders leads to better-informed decision-making. But only when the number of stakeholders is relatively small should all stakeholders be involved in overall decision-making. In large organizations, it’s best to delegate decision-making authority to manageable but inclusive groups, working in a transparent manner within clearly delineated areas of responsibility.  

Work with individuals and/or groups within an organization

I can work with both individuals and groups as a coach or a mentor—the latter only within areas in which I have considerable expertise. Such work can focus on leadership but it can also focus on other desired areas of growth and development.

Each person, group, and situation is unique, so I make arrangements to do leadership, coaching, and mentoring work only after an initial conversation with those concerned. In the event that those seeking my services are not the same as those who will be receiving those services, I only accept an engagement after meeting with both groups, to assure that both are receptive to the services I can offer.

Common types of services

(1) I can teach you (or small groups) the concepts and principles of epigenetics, complexity, etc., to enable you to better navigate the path ahead (that is, to find and unfold your organizational τέλος).

(2) I can work with you to carefully observe and describe the habits and behaviors of your organizational system. This can happen more narrowly or widely:

  • More narrowly, I can work just with one or more recognized leaders of the organization (and/or leaders of one or more groups within the organization). 
  • More widely, I can provide staff trainings, facilitate staff meetings, etc. 

Such activities involve me working with you and your staff to better understand the dynamics of your organizational system, but the observations of the system in action come mostly from you and your staff. (After all, you know it best.)

(3) I can also work within your organization. To enable me to observe your system more directly, you can embed me within your organization (in one or more roles) for an extended period of time. (Since I’m used to “seeing systems,” I may notice things that you and your staff might not.)

All of the above can be carried out in any combination, over shorter or longer periods of time, for the hours you specify. You decide what you want, and when.

My objectives

I have three main aims (which are always interrelated) and one ultimate goal:

  • Build healthy systems. I’ll help you better align the sub-systems within your organization.
  • Work smarter, not harder. I’ll help you increase the effectiveness and timeliness of your responses to the things the world throws at you (factors and forces outside of your organization).
  • Maximize the collective intelligence of your system. In your organization, the whole should be greater than the sum of the parts. If that’s not happening, things are out of alignment, and you’re not actualizing your organizational potential.
  • My ultimate goal is to put myself out of business—at least as far as you’re concerned. Whether it takes shorter or longer, my goal is to fully equip you to continually integrate the complex systems within your organization, to find and unfold its τέλος.

To SCHEDULE A FREE CONSULTATION, at which we will discuss how I might best serve your needs, go to Contact and call and/or email.

Beyond Change Management

Current organizational theory recognizes that change is inevitable, and so must be managed. This, however, makes change sound like an illness rather than a creative process. The two aspects of Shiva (lack of change and chaotic change) can certainly be dire, but change enables complex systems to adapt and evolve. We know that dehydration and over-hydration can both kill you. But water is the stuff of life! So is change.

Therefore I offer a process of finding organizational τέλος that is similar to that described in “Life Transitions & Search for Meaning.” It involves the following aspects of complex systems:

  • Organizational History
  • Phases of Development (Strange Attractors & Bifurcation Points)
  • Emergent Properties
  • Balancing Brahma, Vishnu & Shiva
  • Balancing Stasis & Chaos
  • Embracing Uncertainty
  • Unfolding Your Organizational τέλος

The categories above apply equally to both individuals and organizations (indeed, any complex system). Therefore, this process is extremely helpful when your organization is facing a significant transition, or when changing external conditions call for an adaptive response. However, to assure sufficient time to go through this process thoughtfully, it may be even more beneficial to begin it during a period of stability.

In either case, I’ll help you do more than manage change—I’ll lead you through a process in which change will be understood and implemented within the context of your organizational τέλος.

To SCHEDULE A FREE CONSULTATION, at which we will discuss how I might best serve your needs, go to Contact and call and/or email.

Helpful Hierarchy

Self-organizing systems are, by definition, “complex.” As they become increasingly complex (as living organisms and human societies have done over time), they tend to encompass lower and higher (as well as overlapping and intermeshing) levels, sometimes called holons. The organization of holons, in both nature and human society, can either be “flat” or hierarchical. The neural nets of simple animals such as sponges are flat. In a sponge, all cells are similar and no cell, or group of cells, exerts “leadership” over the whole organism.

In human organizations, flat leadership structures are often seen as better and fairer, because everyone is equal. And they can indeed work well, as among a small group of friends. However, once an organization becomes fairly complex, with numerous members and differentiated roles, flat structures can be extremely cumbersome. If everyone has to participate in every decision (there being only one decision-making body, comprised of all the members), relationships can also grow contentious.

In contrast, hierarchy can be highly efficient. Higher, more complex animals have central nervous systems rather than neural nets. In these, some type of brain serves to collect information from all bodily sub-systems and to coordinate their activities for optimal wellbeing—of both part and whole.

If only things were so simple in human organizations! Here hierarchy has a tendency to be abused, as human egotism leads to those “in charge” making self-serving decisions that actually harm the common good. Such authoritarian models are top-down. As a consequence, they tend to be extremely ill-informed, being averse to input and information from lower levels. They also resist shared decision-making amongst holons. A non-egotistical hierarchy requires top-down, bottom-up, and lateral communication flows, making it extremely sensitive and nimble.

This realization has been incorporated into the training of astronauts. In an emergency, the usual military-style command structure may not work so well. Yes, the captain can give the orders, but he or she may not know best how to respond to a given crisis. For the survival of all, it may be better for someone else on the crew to give directions, or for several members to collaborate. Conversely, a large number of accidents on Korean airlines have been traced to the reticence of the co-pilot to speak up (in Confucian societies, subordinates aren’t supposed to do this)—even when the captain is obviously acting erratically or unreasonably.

Highly complex systems require collective intelligence, in which the knowledge and perspectives of all those who are affected by a decision are brought into the decision-making process (sometimes directly; sometimes indirectly, through representation on decision-making bodies). Such leadership can also be rotated flexibly. Again, this does not mean that everyone makes every decision. Hierarchy is still required. But it does mean that decision-making is more collaborative and diffused. Such a system is flexible enough to respond to continually changing circumstances and well-informed enough to do so wisely.

I can help you to better incorporate helpful hierarchy into your own organizational processes. To SCHEDULE A FREE CONSULTATION, at which we will discuss how I might best serve your needs, go to Contact and call and/or email.

Beyond Bureaucracy

Bureaucracy is a modern societal illness, described early on by Max Weber. Its pernicious effect is dehumanization. Yes, it can enhance efficiency—in mechanical systems. For complex systems, it is constrictive and counterproductive. Yet it’s crept into every aspect of our organizational ethos—so much so that we feel we’ve gone off course when the prison alarms sound, just because we’ve finally blasted a hole in bureaucracy’s prison gates!

When you write a job description, that’s bureaucracy. Why? Because your objective is not to hire the best person, but to hire the candidate whose skill-set fits best with your criteria. However, we don’t interact with our fellow skill-sets, but with real, multi-dimensional people—or at least we should.

But, without job descriptions, wouldn’t all be chaos? Certainly the alternative has its own set of challenges (though it’s also far more rewarding), both for employees and organizations. Simply put, instead of detailed responsibilities for each particular role, you describe the type of work your department or organization does. In selecting the best candidate, you look at the whole person. Creative, well-rounded people can be trained into unfamiliar roles. You can also reconfigure the roles that colleagues play in order to maximize each person’s strengths (and level of fulfillment).

If you’re in a family, and a new baby is born, the whole system changes. That baby requires a great deal of initial investment. But the growing child then contributes to the family in many (often unexpected) ways. These ways change with each new stage of development. Bureaucracy eschews the unexpected and strangles innovation.

But workplaces have to be efficient, and families aren’t efficient at all—right? If not, it’s curious that cultural evolution has favored their development, and that of the tribe. Families and tribes aren’t generally in the habit of firing people—at least not healthy families and tribes. But they do enculturate people, help them to grow and learn, and guide them toward activities and behaviors that enhance the common good while being personally rewarding.

The problem with bureaucracy is that it’s a mechanistic model sprung from a mechanistic age. But complex systems are in a continual process of self-organization. The appropriate arrangements amongst members at one stage of development aren’t the best ones for a later stage. Bureaucracies consider members to be static building blocks that should always be arranged in a certain way. But static roles, ensconced within a frozen organizational framework, will always produce the same result. But the same won’t work, because people (and organizations) grow and change—which should be a good thing! Bureaucracy may be effective for awhile, but it’s hardly adaptive.

And complex systems must adapt. They must breathe organically. They must be alive and present in the moment. Does that sound like your workplace? Does it sound like a place where you (and others) would enjoy working? If that’s what you’re after, I’ll help you get there. Not just because your organization will be a better place in which to work, but because it will also be more successful—and, dare I say it?—more effective at actualizing its potential.

The example of job descriptions, given above, simply illustrates a more general point. Once you start looking at your organization as a complex system, you’ll find bureaucratic troglodytes (mechanistic paradigms) lurking under every stone. The good thing is that they’re quite happy to be liberated. Still, changing systems overnight is rarely a good idea—it leads to the chaotic aspect of Shiva.

I can help you pursue a path of organizational change that moves at the right pace and in the right direction (towards your organizational τέλος). To SCHEDULE A FREE CONSULTATION, at which we will discuss how I might best serve your needs, go to Contact and call and/or email.

Writing

Storytelling may have been the first human art (and entertainment). The power of story remains, in my view, unrivaled. No matter what type or genre you’re writing in, try to tell a story.

Creative Writing: Creative writing is a passion of mine. If it’s one for you too, and if you’d like some help along the way, I’m happy to offer my services. I don’t believe there’s one best way to write, but there’s probably a manner or style in which you best express yourself. It may take a lot of experimenting to come to it. But I’m a firm believer that nothing is wasted. Wherever you’re at in the process, you can achieve excellence. I’d define excellent writing as saying what you want to say well, bringing to life the worlds and the characters in your mind, and immersing your readers in those characters’ emotions, as each struggles to unfold her or his own τέλος.

Academic Writing: While academic writing isn’t my greatest passion, it’s a useful craft that I’ve mastered. I can guide you through each step of the process, from identifying research, discerning what’s key and what’s superfluous, taking and organizing notes, organizing topics into a cogent outline, and annotating sources, to progressively refining your product through several drafts, each devoted to a particular stage of the editing process.

Editing: Perhaps you don’t so much want guidance as a writer as you just feel the need of a good editor. My promise to you is that the preservation of your thoughts and your voice are my predominant concern. That is, the excellence I can help you achieve will be your own.

My Approach to Writing: My overall focus, working with a writer at any stage of development, is to cultivate the capacity of effective self-editing. However, this is a highly individualized process, as each writer will easily see (and be able to correct) certain types of errors, but will require considerable assistance and practice with others. In either case, self-editing must be rigorously practiced to be effective. When this is consistently the case, rapid improvement follows.

My overarching desire is for those I work with to experience the joy of writing—as both an art and a craft. Generally speaking, I start with the art. Though mastering the craft of (for example) punctuation is satisfying, it’s not where the deep joy springs from. Once people are hooked on the love of writing, plenty of opportunities for bettering their craftsmanship arise. But the joy comes first.

You may have noticed that some of my writing breaks the rules you were taught in school. For example, I ended with a preposition (“from”) and started a sentence with a conjunction (“but”). But I did these intentionally! With beginning writers, I make sure they know the rules. With more advanced writers, I help them to know when to break them. Below are some of the topics I’m likely to work on with any writer (though not necessarily in this order):

  • Choosing the right word: An expansive vocabulary allows you to find those words that are full of life and juice, and that best fit what you’re trying to say (and how you’re trying to say it).
  • Phrasing: Phrases and sentences should flow, not stumble (unless the action, mood, or character call for some stumbling). Writers need to hear phrases in their minds—if not speak them aloud—just as a composer hears the music in his or her mind before committing it to black marks on a page. Every writer should also be a poet (the art), not just a practitioner (the craft).
  • Making the whole coherent: Organization can be loose and emergent; it can be tight and pre-planned. It can even be random, if that’s what the work calls for. But it has to be there (even if only in its intentional absence). Tools such as paragraphs, headings, and chapters—as well as the unity of the entire work—support both the art and craft of effective organization.
  • Concrete, not abstract (find the telling detail): Writing that evokes sensory experience has more punch than detached, intellectual description and definition. In academic writing, a priority is placed upon the latter, but even here a little color can make academic papers more palatable to the reader.
  • Specific, not generic (avoid tired words): If I say they laughed, that may be true. But did they snort, chortle, titter, or guffaw? If any one of the above, saying so makes your writing more lively. (Note: you can also make the abstract “laughed” more concrete by telling the reader if, e.g., tears sprang to their eyes or they were gasping for breath).
  • Use clichés only knowingly and purposefully: Clichés aren’t always lame and tired phrases. Sometimes they have unexpected vigor and power. And, being pithy and familiar, they can save you from being longwinded.
  • Variation and repetition: In general, don’t repeat the same words and phrases. Don’t stay too long in the same tone or mood. Let the action speed up and slow down. People (i.e. readers) are stimulated by variation—that is to say, they like being surprised. It’s also best when your readers stay awake. That said, repetition is a time-honored rhetorical device and can be a wonderfully powerful tool when used in the right way, in the right place.
  • Tone, mood, action, plot, and character: When writing fiction, you need to tend to all of these, though some writers do quite well by leaning more on one or the other.
  • Omit needless words, omit needless words, omit needless words: The Strunkian adage is especially apt for the beginning writer, but often one wishes that more accomplished writers had not abandoned it.
  • Use proper grammar . . . when it suits your purpose: Intentional rule violation can be highly effective and is at least defensible. But unintentional grammatical lapses make the (educated) reader lose faith in you.
  • Mechanics (punctuation, capitalization, etc.): Accuracy and consistency are the hallmarks. Again, inadvertent violations weaken your authorial authority (though purposeful violations can be helpful, so long as they fit the given context).

Once I know a writer’s strengths and weaknesses, I can begin to address them. More importantly, I can help writers develop self-editing protocols that best suit their particular aptitudes and goals. Generally speaking, I’ll at least touch on all of the above, but I’ll also tailor our sessions (which can be in-person or long distance) individually, to strengthen and improve where most needed—while always keeping the joy of writing at the forefront.

The end goal is for you to become a capable and consistent self-editor. This doesn’t mean that you can’t benefit from other editors, but it does mean that your writing will make a much more favorable first impression on anyone who reads it.

To SCHEDULE A FREE CONSULTATION, at which we will discuss how I might best serve your needs, go to Contact and call and/or email.

Life Transitions & Search for Meaning

Sometimes you find yourself in a time of transition—perhaps related to career change, loss of a loved one, end of a relationship, etc.—when you just don’t know where to turn or how to proceed. Or, though you may not be going through some dramatic life change, you may find yourself feeling that life should be something more. You’re looking for greater meaning, searching for τέλος. In either case, I can offer you both tools and guidance to help YOU take the best next step along your path.

Personal Biography: We begin where you are, then work backwards in time to your earliest memories. Next we work our way forward to the present moment. We may repeat this process a few times, each time noting recurring themes, influential people, and key moments. At some point, having progressed from past to present, we keep moving forward into the future (unfolding τέλος). Again, we may do this several times, exploring different possible paths each time. But we don’t try to reach definitive conclusions. Rather, we take a closer look at each of the following aspects of yourself, as a complex system.

Phases of Development (Strange Attractors & Bifurcation Points): You’ll begin to see distinct phases in your life (possibly not what you would have guessed, before doing the biographical work). Each phase has its own “strange attractor,” which is a recurring pattern, but with slight variations each time around its “orbit.” Next we focus on “liminal moments”—the transitions between two strange attractors. These may be fairly brief. Often they’re chaotic—the center does not hold. We look closely at these bifurcation points (as they’re termed in complexity theory), at the events leading up to them, and at the (often mysterious) processes that have brought you to each new phase of development.

Emergent Properties: At each stage of your life, you acquire new capacities. These emergent properties vary from stage to stage. It may seem that some get lost—or perhaps they’ve just gone dormant? Perhaps, also, the losses of certain capacities are somehow compensated for in unexpected ways. We identify your chief capacities at each stage of life, to see if we can detect a “golden thread” that links them together. Looking back on these phases—each with its characteristic capacities—we extend that thread again into the future. As before, we do so tentatively, then turn our focus to the cycle of development within each phase of life.

Balancing Stasis & Chaos: A complex system in a “Vishnu” phase exhibits a balance of negative and positive feedback. The system stays within a zone of optimal functioning, because strong negative feedback loops keep it from going to unhealthy extremes (“switching off,” from an epigenetic perspective). At the same time, positive feedback loops enable the system to respond appropriately to changes (“switching on,” as when the immune system kicks in to fight off an invading microbe).

Systems get out of whack when one extreme predominates. Lack of positive feedback leads to stasis. The system can’t adapt to environmental changes, leading to death by extinction. Lack of negative feedback leads to too much change—too fast, too random. The system can’t hold together, leading to death by chaos. Shiva has two faces.

Where’s your system now, along this spectrum? Looking back, can you see periods where it tended to one extreme or the other? If you’re presently in a period of great instability, more change leads to turbulence and chaos. If you’re in a stage of excessive rigidity, you need some creative chaos so you can find ways adapt and evolve. Within a Brahma phase, rapid change is natural, although such change is still guided by order and purpose (τέλος). Within a Shiva phase, the changes inherent in the process of deterioration may be irresistible (as in hospice care, where the emphasis is on providing comfort rather than preventing inevitable death). Therefore, your time and effort may be better spent looking towards the next phase than in trying to hang on to the status quo. Where you want to go depends a great deal on where you are now.

Embracing Uncertainty: You may realize that you need to change—to take a step into the unknown—but you’re afraid to do so. It’s natural to want to stay with the “devil you know.” But it’s illusory to think that you can put an end to change by sticking with what’s worked before. Change is inevitable. And complex systems are inherently unpredictable. So uncertainty is a fact of life.

But embracing uncertainty is far easier said than done. Fear shuts us down, prevents us from being open to the τέλος that wants to emerge. Embracing uncertainty means staring our worst fears in the face. It may help us to know that—in terms of the cycles of change within complex systems—the phoenix does indeed arise (and arise transformed) from its own ashes.

Unfolding Your τέλος: Recall that complex systems are probabilistically predictable, at least in the short term. By strengthening your perception of τέλος, you can see it as an active force in unfolding your life path. Now you can move forward—not with certainty, but with confidence in your ability to unwind the golden thread—knowing that old and new capacities will support you along your way.

To SCHEDULE A FREE CONSULTATION, at which we will discuss how I might best serve your needs, go to Contact and call and/or email.

Leadership, Coaching & Mentoring for Individuals

Leadership: You don’t have to be in a position of authority to exercise leadership. Even if you are, it takes more than authority to make you a good leader. Leadership is a skill that you can apply in many situations and life circumstances, both personally and organizationally.”

Coaching & Mentoring: The usual difference between coaching and mentoring is that, in the former, my purpose is to draw out YOUR expertise. However, at your request, I can also share some suggestions drawn from my own experience and expertise (such as education and writing). From a complex systems perspective, coaching makes a lot of sense to me.

YOU are the expert on your life. You know yourself best—both as a complex system in your own right and as a member of wider systems (such as, family, workplace, groups of friends, affinity groups, etc.). My primary role—mostly through asking you questions and reflecting back your answers—is to help you to see more clearly the various aspects of these systems. This, in turn, enables you to find and implement those change-levers that you believe can best effect the kinds of systemic change you want. In this role I’m a coach.

However, if you wish to work with one or more of the approaches outlined in “About,” you will probably need some mentoring to understand more about how they work. This requires me to share some of my expertise. Mentoring may also be useful to you in the implementation phase, as you apply your new understandings.

Therefore, my usual preference is to combine coaching and mentoring as appropriate, but always in consultation with you. I’ll let you know when I think I can offer some expertise or insight that may be helpful. But you’ll be the one who decides whether you want that or not. Always, my goal is to empower you to acquire new tools and learn how to use them, in unfolding your own τέλος.

To SCHEDULE A FREE CONSULTATION, at which we will discuss how I might best serve your needs, go to Contact and call and/or email.

 

Presence, Alignment & Flow

In discussing states of flow, I both draw upon and differ from the work of Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi. I agree with his assertion that flow represents a “growth towards complexity.” I disagree with his assertion that flow requires a clear goal.

In fact, I don’t think the latter assertion is supported by many of the examples—often drawn from sports teams or jazz musicians—that Csikszentmihalyi uses. Is a point guard’s clear goal to win, play her best, score a lot of points, make some great assists, impress a significant other, impress the scouts? Is a trumpet player’s clear goal to play some awesome riffs, get a big paycheck, drink a lot of free beer, impress a significant other, be totally in sync with the rest of the group, try to hit that note that Satchmo made seem easy?

Rather than being clearly defined, I believe that the goal—or τέλος—should be meaningful. As a systemic goal, I think it should be open-ended and subject to ongoing revision. For example, can you plan for an upcoming chess game in minute detail? If you could predict each move your opponent is going to make, that would be tenable. (Or if, like Deep Blue, you could calculate pretty much every conceivable move.) Certainly you can prepare by studying your opponent (or likely opponents). And you can know that your general goal is to improve, or even to win. But finding your best move in each turn (and revising your strategy as you go) must take place in real time.

I believe that flow arises from very fine internal alignment of the system, along with incredibly acute awareness of the environment (which in turn allows the system to exquisitely align itself with external factors). This means that flow is cultivated by greater alignment.

Alignment has to do with dynamics, and therefore with feedback loops (both external and external). Again, sensitivity, openness, and presence are key prerequisites. An adjustment of filters or membranes also seems to contribute.

We function well because our mind filters out a lot of extraneous input, allowing us to focus on what matters. (People with ADD struggle because their sensory filters are so wide open.) But opening our filters wider can also be a gift. Opening our filters can happen in a number of ways.

More open membranes can be drug-induced, and can be related to a sense of euphoria. They can also be related to “peak,” “transcendental,” or “mystical” experiences—again involving euphoria. Flow is also equated with brain states such as those achieved in meditation, being in nature, etc.

Csikszentmihalyi says that flow depends upon (among other things) immediate feedback. I think this is true in the sense that more wide-open membranes increase sensitivity, which heightens feedback mechanisms and messages (often sensory, as with kinesthetic awareness in athletes or aural awareness in jazz musicians).

In spite of his insistence on clear goals, Csikszentmihalyi points out the creative and spontaneous nature of flow. This seems important to me. It supports the adoption of an open-ended, systemic approach to managing complex systems (which are directed to a τέλος that is nonetheless in continual flux).

Csikszentmihalyi’s observations are pertinent to both individuals and organizations, though I temper a number of his recommendations. In particular, Csikszentmihalyi’s emphases on the internal locus of control that is essential for flow experiences, and on the essentially playful nature of flow, seem to me extremely apt.

Both can be found in my metaphor of the surfer and the wave. That wave can crush you, but the surfer is able to tap into its power in a highly attuned way, and so “control” it to produce an exhilarating ride (a type of play). This is essentially what we try to do in applying epigenetic and complex-systems approaches to our personal and organizational lives.

Therefore, if we are successful in applying such approaches, we should experience increased and prolonged occasions of flow. We can then look back on those experiences and reflect on what brought them about (or brought them to an end). But, rather than aiming directly for flow, I advise focusing on greater internal and external alignment (which are enabled by increased sensitivity, which in turn depends on being truly and fully present). When all these are the case, the flow will come!

To SCHEDULE A FREE CONSULTATION, at which we will discuss how I might best serve your needs, go to Contact and call and/or email.

Deep Listening & Dialogue

Deep listening and dialogue are extremely helpful to working productively together, so organizations benefit greatly from cultivating these practices. But they are also key life skills for personal development. Learning by practice is the best approach here, so it’s helpful if the same group can meet regularly over a considerable period of time. At the same time, individuals should practice in day-to-day situations, between group meetings. Typically, I facilitate the first several conversations, then group members alternate filling that role. A core attitude is to stop trying to change other people—rather, change the way you relate to them, even how you feel about them.

But, if you can’t change dysfunctional people (read here, “people you disagree with you or who just plain bug you”!), how can you break old patterns? First, you’ll usually find that people do change, as others begin to relate to them differently. They probably don’t enjoy those old patterns either—everybody’s trapped in the same dynamic. Second, you still give feedback—honest but tactful—only the objective isn’t to show that they’re wrong but to describe which dynamics you perceive as helpful and which ones you don’t.

This kind of group-work requires an utterly safe environment—both in and between conversations. Perhaps this seems unrealistic. (It’s certainly unusual!) What makes it possible is that, the more you’re able to see things from others’ perspectives (especially those of the people who irritate you), the more you see their potential to contribute in helpful ways.

As an organization, you can use this knowledge in an epigenetic way. You use negative feedback (damping down, not blaming and shaming) to put the lid on dysfunctional patterns. And you use positive feedback (amplification and encouragement) to increase ways of interrelating that are mutually affirming—and ultimately more productive (because they incorporate those contributions from each member that others value most).

Deep listening and dialogue are among the best ways to cultivate “relational trust” within an organization. Practicing them faithfully takes strong commitment. But doing so will build a cohesive, positive, and well-aligned organizational culture, which will in turn produce a whole range of benefits in terms of work environment, commitment, job satisfaction, and productivity.

To SCHEDULE A FREE CONSULTATION, at which we will discuss how I might best serve your needs, go to Contact and call and/or email.