Leadership journey in the Deep End

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No matter at which stage of my life I have been, I have always been longing for exploring my purpose and going deep into conversations around my role in the world.
Over the past five years I have been immersed in an incredible environment where stimulating conversations happened all the time. Lucky to be around the MSLS community, people who connect with their purpose and push you on those conversations. I have also learned a lot via co-organizing the Leadership Thread of the MSLS course.

The majority of the world’s population is young. Everywhere I ask, it seems that the educational system needs to adapt fast enough to meet the expectations of this generation to be conscious citizens of the world. Education shall be seen a service to give back to society (Schumacher posited in Small is Beautiful, 1973). All this has made me desire to call for a leadership course that would provide an opportunity for youngsters to have a potentially “transformational” experience to deeply investigate their purpose and their contribution onto the world.

Pro-Action cafe poster
What is sketched from here on is my reflections and notes after the Pro-Action Cafe’ in Copenhagen during the Art of Hosting Learning Village (Dec 2-4, 2011, See my previous post). This is the idea that I brought forward:
“Leadership in the Deep End: A theory U shaped course for youngsters. An individual and collective journey of exploration and connection to the source”.

::What is the Quest behind the question?::
I need to explore “what is needed in the world?” From which source am I operating? I am working from (within) the desire of making inner revolutions happen. (I need to bring more clarity around the intention). Eve Ensler argues: when we give away what we need the most you heal the broken part in ourselves. I have experienced a slow but substantial inner change over the last seven years and I feel ready for the next steps. I feel privileged to have had the opportunity when I was younger to expand my zone of “proximal development” through drama, music, literature and meaningful conversations with friends. All this showed me a doorway to something to aspire to. And lately the environment in which I have been has challenged me gently and decisively to always connect with my purpose and being intentional about how I show up in the world and intend to make a positive contribution. Out of gratitude towards what life has given to me, and out of desire to give back. My own “fire” and passion arises from a desire: I have seen the potential of personal transformation in a relatively short time and I really LOVE to be outsmarted by the people I can help coach / mentor. I have faith in the courage and craving for life of this generation (except for my neighbors upstairs who are wasting their time with a loud party with tasteless music, but alas) and believe they are longing for meaning and positive change in the world.

::What is missing?::
I need to explore more who is this course for. Who is the ideal audience for it? I envision the young.
But wait a minute. Transition from what to what? Martin Luther King puts it in his beautiful rhetoric

“An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.”

At what developmental stage are they at? At what level of experience?* Perhaps it is possible to assess at what level or stage are people at by the beginning of the course and plan intentionally with them to stretch them onto a further developmental level.
At whichever point of the spectrum you are the idea would be to broaden the scope of that awareness to reach out towards a positive contribution to the world. The journey shall create some conditions for inner revolutions around the fire happen. A revolution at the personal level that is mirrored by a community revolution.

What are some conditions for inner revolutions and community revolutions to happen? A few that I can think of for now: Trust in the entire group to share deep feelings; Connection with the sense of what’s sacred and trusting oneself;

(*on this I am grateful to Barrett Brown who recommended to me the article “Seven transformations of Leadership” on HBR (opens pdf here) This article posits that it’s possible to assess at what developmental stage are people at.)

::What next steps will I take?::
Connect. There are many amazing courses and leadership journeys already happening out there. One example is Embercombe – I need to connect with them and experience the Journey (Note: I wrote this on my journal in December, but now that I type I have actually gone to Embercombe myself for a leadership journey and was quite fantastic).
– Connect with people who are comfortable with being in nature. I need to reach out to people who are experienced, skilled, rooted in paths of self-development (not necessarily leadership courses).
– It’s time for it! People are ready for it and to deepen their personal leadership journeys. I got the recommendation to consider the masculine and the feminine component of leadership alike, to go beyond labels…
– I was recommended to tap into the power of storytelling skills through the stages of the leadership journey (couldn’t agree more!) And to
– Connect with rituals and ceremonies. Not replicating any but creating meaningful rituals for the group.

::What am I grateful for?::
At the end of the dialogues I felt gratitude towards all the participants for questioning my motivation! It is always a bliss to go deeper into my purpose and question it. I feel gratitude for sitting down with me and sharing their perspectives and wisdom. I also feel grateful for the invitation that has come from some to create this leadership journey together.
Lastly I feel grateful for giving me a sense of support through the simple act of witnessing. Your listening really gave me the strong conviction that the times are ready for this journey and that there is a need out there for such inner revolutions to happen.

Lastly. Please consider this blog post an open invitation for all to create this course together! It is of crucial importance that this idea go out and be co-owned and created by all. You are invited and most welcome in designing this journey.


Harvesting the Art of Hosting Learning Village – December 2011, Copenhagen

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Art of Hosting Learning Village 2011 in CPH on Prezi

Open Future Festival, July 2011 – Harvest

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I have been lucky enough to co-host a wonderful festival at the end of this July in Mundekulla, Sweden based on Art of Hosting dialogue style. The aim was to gather around people from the southern part of Sweden and provide an opportunity to share and voice their dreams in new ways, and connecting existing efforts and initiatives. This below is the way my colleagues and I have captured the essence of the conversations and the entire wonderful experience.

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Open Future Festival 2011 Harvest on Prezi

Global Mind Change – by Willis Harman

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I just finished reading this really good book by Willis Harman.

I wrote on Amazon my invite to read this book
For everyone who is working with sustainability and is trying out new, deep, participative forms of leadership in order to create together meaningful future scenarios, this book is a must. Also recommended for those fascinated by the emergence of the ‘new’ scientific paradigm (from Einstein and Bohr, onwards) with all the implications about the role of consciousness in the new science.

Willis Harman was an authentic futurist, in fact in his pages originally written in 1985 he hits the heart of the matter in so many key points of today’s civilization: the link between economic growth and environmental degradation, the perception of nature as a mere ‘resource’, the eroding sense of meaning that today’s societies are facing despite an apparent wealth of scientific knowledge. Lastly, it gives many good insights in the type of leadership that was emerging in the early 80ies (still very relevant today).

From page 101 on there is a nice dissertation about the old idea of causality in science. [Causality for beginners – If I let a drop of black ink fall on a white sheet of paper and one second after the sheet has changed its color I can say beyond doubt that A caused B. Simple, no? Well, not so simple]. The mechanistic worldview, on which modern science is grounded, has given us so many benefits and helped us so much in our exploration of nature and our capacity to predict and control events. But the implication was that a worldview rooted in the concept of causality and the aim to predict and control was in essence seeing the relationship with nature as an exploitative one.

So here a big question arises. How much do we owe to the old, carthesian, mechanistic worldview? How much of it is still relevant today, taking into account all its positive implications (it makes our life easier to know that water boils at 100 °C, that time on this planet can be counted in standardised ways, to know the table of elements, etc)?
And how much do we blame this worldview for the negative (say, unwanted?) side effects? Have our worldwide troubles happened because of such worldview? Despite it? Or it didn’t make any difference?

And here comes Harman to help:
“Perhaps the mistake of modern society has been to assume that, ultimately, reductionist ‘scientific’ causes should explain everything”. So for one thing this science has led us to believe that was all encompassing, able to “explain everything” but at the same time was leaving at the door values, consciousness, and a conversation around the implications of this worldview. The paradox is that this science has given us gret powers to manipulate nature, harm each other as a human species, and flip the balance of some key ecosystems thresholds on which we depend. So science (defined in this old, traditional sense) has continuously eroded the ground for values and the ‘spirit’ (human consciousness) leaving those who didn’t agree with this mechanistic worldview dispute with poets, the Church and the dreamers.

Small wonder there is a spiritual crisis and a value crisis today -in a time where the most fundamental problems are not about science but the values that will suggest where to direct our attention and efforts.
Well spotted some twenty years ago by Willis Harman. Who at the beginning of this great book wrote, looking into an issue extremely relevant today as well:

“If the world that science tells us about is reality, how does it happen that we don’t feel more at home in it?”

Related tweets
“No economic, political or military power can compare with the power of a change of mind” – Willis Harman #

Reading “Global Mind Change” by Willis Harman great link between the old and the new paradigm #

Learning at the speed of light (almost)

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Our capacity to learn must outpace the speed of progress and innovation.#

As the world is moving fast and innovation is quickly changing the landscape of our communication patterns and of our perception of the world, we must learn at the speed of light so that we can deal with this change.

I had this insight –well, it’s fair to say: I learned it- from Mike Hohnen, which I met at the Art of Hosting in Århus. As an avid learner myself, I found it a quite intriguing and challenging idea.

Last year I set forth for myself some goals, framed in a nice vision and some strategic goals along the way, in a one-year plan. In order to accomplish the vision, one of the strategic goals was to increase by far the speed of my learning. Mostly I was referring to books, articles and online publications that I could read and remember as I had them on my fingertips. Now, even though overall I could see some progress, it has been below my expectations. I did read, but not as much as I wanted, and I remember only a few very outstanding articles and publications. Because of this, it has been natural for me go be thinking about how to learn faster. But there was something that overwhelmed me for I could see that I have been exposed to more information during last year (mostly for taking care of this little child @SustainBTH ) but at the same time having the sensation that I wasn’t equally learning new things at the same speed. Or, even trickier, accommodating that new knowledge into my pre-existing background and assumptions about reality.

I believe that there is some potential in exploring the difference in attention that is required for learning, while dealing with different kinds of media that require a different way of “reading”, or listening and memorizing. For my own use, I came up with this idea that I am already using in practice and will see how it works for me.

It’s the metaphor of a learning pyramid. (And you will excuse my handwriting, right?) My assumption is that I should be aware of the building blocks and master each of the blocks at a lower level before trying to master one at a upper level.

The red blocks are about listening, reading and memorizing that are focused ‘outside’ of us (outward-oriented). The black ones are about listening to the self (inward-oriented). I believe the ones focused on the self are fundamental since without this awareness we would simply be not equipped to give our full attention outside of us.

::Body:: A first basic block would be about connection to the body, and checking in with the pre-conditions that can make our brain alert enough to be open to learn.

::Connection to the self:: I call this second one hosting myself. It is quite common to say that in order to host conversations and listen to others one should listen to himself first. This speaks to me about the idea that in an era of attention deficit disorders the most sever hinder to listening is that we can’t pay our full attention and we are not even aware of our lack of attention. Nice article here.

::Listen others with attention:: Once we are present, we can open our senses and listen. Probably our capacity to understand each other and retain information in verbal communication is a quality we should master before other forms of listening, for it calls for our true attention and our capacity to empathize. A nice exercise I used to do after long conversations with a friend was this. After our conversation, I took my journal and started sketching what was his point of view during the chat. First things that came to my mind were my own opinions, not his. Surprise: it’s easier to remember your stance in a conversation than someone else’s. Definitely needs exercise. Wonderful talk by Daniel Goleman on our (in)capacity to listen.

::Read, memorize, map:: This is a very traditional kind of learning. One thing that might help me in the speed of this learning would be to make the mind maps of books, and get used to make summaries. An interesting technique I was using a while ago is called PQ4R (Preview Question Review Recite Reflect Review)

::Long articles on the web:: I would learn these in the same way as learn materials from books. My main difference is to watch out for the potential of distractions while reading online and at the same time use simple ways to archive, connect articles with each other, organize them in semantic categories (I am using bit.ly bundles and a software to organize my bookmarks now)

::Speeches, videos, podcasts:: Absolutely love them. Because in many of them I find inspiration and some little gems and quotes, I have a hard time in memorizing the overall structure of an informative speech (podcast or video). I wonder if it’s worth to use any techniques to try and retain not only the gems but also the structure of the overall flow and content.

::Twitter, Facebook, fast media:: Since you might know they are a waterfall of information, I try to use them in the most selective way. When reading, I am applying continuous filters to the information flow (lists on twitter, hiding some profiles on Facebook, sorting friends by area of interest, etc). I also set the expectations that on twitter I might find the equivalent on a daily newspaper, using my retweets and favorites as the only bookmarks. If something of great interest and worth storing comes up, I would use some categories to archive it such as bit.ly or bookmarks.

Another reason why this idea of the pyramid makes sense to me is that a very traditional education would teach you analytical skills in reading and memorizing texts, and stop there. And is not nearly enough. Maybe it’s true that solid skills in one block can help you a great deal in reading / learning with a critical eye the next.

I will use this concept of the learning pyramid to stretch myself into new learning adventures.

On the dignity of Man

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[…] You, however, are constrained by no limits, in accordance with your own free will, in whose hand We have placed you, shall ordain for yourself the limits of your nature. We have set you at the world’s center that you may from there more easily see whatever is in the world. We have made you neither of heaven or earth, neither mortal nor immortal, so that with freedom of choice and with honor, as though the maker and molder of yourself, you may create yourself in whatever shape you prefer. You shall have the power to degenerate into the lower forms of life, which are brutish. You shall have the power, out of your soul’s judgment, to be reborn into the higher forms, which are divine. […]

Pico della Mirandola –
Horatio De Hominis Dignitate (Oration of the Dignity of Man)

On this note: @eccemarco #

On Prosperity Without Growth and ecological economics

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On the train I was listening to a podcast by Tim Jackson about his latest book “Prosperity without Growth”. I read the book few months ago and found it full of insights and great ideas that are still lingering in my mind. It analyzes the dilemma of “growth” and his linkage with material consumption on a planet that is running out of resources and putting too much carbon into the atmosphere. In the second part shows some possible pathways for a sustainable future where we have “decoupled”, i.e. broken the link between prosperity and material throughput.  I promised myself I would read it again, so a refresh by listening to a podcast on the LSE website was more than welcome.

:: Consumerism ::
During the presentation he shows a graph with two trends over the last years in the UK. One line shows a drastic increase in personal debt; the other shows a sharp decline in household savings.

(Source: graph as shown in the Report Prosperity without Growth, p 22, data from www.statistics.gov.uk)

Jackson explains:  “ So what’s going on here?  People are borrowing more money and liquidating their savings because they have been persuaded that they should spend money they don’t have, on goods they don’t need, to create impressions that won’t last on people who won’t care about it”.

I find it simply superb.


::Ecosystem services and natural capital::

Jackson also suggested an economic model where ecosystem services are taken into account in the model as THE vital component. An estimate of the value of such services and assets tells us that this value exceeds the monetary value of our conventional economy. I believe that Jackson refers to a famous article by Costanza et al 1997, “The value of world’s ecosystem services and natural capital”.

My reflection on Costanza et al. and a follow-up article that came soon after that to clarify some figures: authors of the article provide a monetary value to the world’s ecosystems.  In a later article, they though make very clear that the total absolute value of such services nature provides is infinite. What is the value of services like photosynthesis, water purification, or biodiversity? The argument they use is that we are using such services anyways and the monetary value they have calculated can help us to figure out / calculate some marginal values.

::Putting a price-tag on Nature?::
An intuition that comes to my mind: can we think of a model for pricing such assets and ecosystem services (as upstream as possible) in marginal values up to a certain point, and after that point draw a line with ecological thresholds? What does it mean “in marginal values up to a certain point”? An idea of environmental economics is to give a price tag to the environment in terms of resource extraction, green taxes on pollution, etc. The school of thought of ecological economics argues that such green taxes are good but not enough, because you can still price a scarce resource but use it over the safe threshold (examples can be pollution from fertilizers, extraction of fossil fuels, overharvesting, etc). So the need, for ecological economics, is to draw a line where an ecological constraint is. Still, the idea of the marginal value of ecosystem services can be helpful for it informs us on what does it cost to extract a little bit more of that resource (so here is the idea of the marginal value) always keeping in mind that there is a limit we can’t exceed (absolute values). These limits can be informed by the state-of-the-art research we have with publications like the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MEA 2005) or the more recent Planetary Boundaries from the Stockholm Resilience Centre.