Do I Dare Disturb the Universe?
          For I have known them all already—known them all—
          Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons,
          I have measured out my life with coffee spoons.

 
Here comes another predictable year—the same people, the same problems, the same patterns played out over the months. Before you know it, it will be the end of December already.
 
Except for this: someone—maybe you—steps in and intentionally and thoughtfully disturbs the status quo. You do not do this for your entertainment or because of some perverse schadenfreude, but because there is a small and insistent voice in your head that says we can do better, we must be better.
 
          And should I then presume?
          And how should I begin?
 
Look about you. Do you see chaos, efforts in all directions? Call people to a clearly defined end and provide a means to get there. Is a tidy rule-following culture suffocating everyone around you? Add a touch of chaos by breaching a useless, discriminatory practice. Interrupt the prevailing West Michigan Nice with a question that makes you and others uncomfortable. Bring forth that radical idea you’ve been pondering and expose it to public dialogue. Wonder out loud about orthodoxies to which you no longer pander.
 
          I am no prophet—and here’s no great matter;
          I have seen the moment of my greatness flicker,
          And I have seen the eternal Footman hold my coat and snicker,
          And in short, I was afraid.
 
Of course you’re afraid. We all are. You’re unprepared for the consequences, too. And you’re probably not the smartest cookie in the jar. Speak firmly to the monkeys in your head and do it anyway.
 
It is time to disturb the universe.

 
Title and quotes from T. S. Eliot’s The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock
RUTH / CHANGE / Jan 5, 2012, 12:14am / Comments (4995)
What Color Was Your Year?
You know how on a rare morning or evening the light takes on a certain quality that gives everything greater depth and intensity? How you look in awe at the way this light has transformed the natural world of grass, trees, and sky and even everyday objects? How you imagine capturing those saturated greens and blues and reds and browns in clear bottles and storing them in a neat row on a white painted shelf so you can feast your eyes on them during a string of bleak winter days?
 
Those were the colors of my year.
 
Since January, 2011, my world has been populated with people of deep grey, stubbornly clinging to the past, people greening up with new tools and whole new paradigms, and people fiery red with passion. I was enchanted by the variety, the spicy mix.
 
During this past year, I’ve held ideas up to the light at different angles and watched themes emerge as if by magic. I’ve tinkered with the subtle shades of leadership. I’ve played with the colors of visual meetings. I’ve mixed hues from the worlds of business and nonprofit.
 
Indeed, my imperfections have been cheerfully exposed. I’ve taken old failures off the shelf, dusted them off, and gave them a new sheen. I’ve practiced new skills awkwardly in public. I’ve created products and shipped when they were still flawed.
 
A new role, a new heaven and a new earth: I’m seeing it all fresh again.
 
What color was your year?
RUTH / Jan 3, 2012, 6:38pm / Comments (881)
Dialogue Team
Recently, I was at a family get-together. You know how it goes—brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins, second cousins, and children of cousins. 

The family made much ado of one cousin’s 17-year old son receiving accolades for his star status on the high-school debate team. His team travels the region arguing, trapping, and basically smashing the other’s viewpoints as judges score each blow. The family is very proud and has high expectations for his future. I’m not so sure.

My interaction with him, albeit brief, was draining. I felt like I had been in a fight—about NFL football, the weather, and the color of the grass. Punch. Counterpunch. Knockdown. I learned little; he even less.

I left wondering what a high-school dialogue team would look like. Traveling kids respecting each other, listening to understand, withholding judgment, acting with compassion, and together seeking to create a better, third alternative to our society’s tough questions. These are the skills that will serve him, and all of us, best in the future. 

A dialogue tournament. Now how would one score that?
DEV / DIALOGUE / Dec 5, 2011, 3:22pm / Comments (184)
Leading from the Balcony
Most of us find ourselves dancing to a technical beat: incoming and outgoing text messages, emails, tweets, Facebook and LinkedIn updates. The beat is relentless, indifferent to people at our door, events and trainings to attend, or reports to write. We sit in meetings with an eye to the smart phone and one ear to the conversation. On the one hand, we long for a rest—an interval of silence. On the other, we’re as addicted to the accelerando of technology as we are to our morning caffeine.
 
But it’s hard to lead from the dance floor. A number of thinkers and writers, among them renowned negotiator William Ury, talk about the importance of going to the balcony. From the balcony, we can see the big picture, the patterns, and the players. From the balcony, we can ask:
  • Is this boogie or ballet? (What are we doing? What is our culture?)
  • Are we dancing to same music? (Are we aligned?)
  • Who are these dancers? (Who are my stakeholders? What’s important to them?)
  • Could we design a new dance? (What opportunities do we have?)
  • Is this the dance for me? (Is this work consistent with my values, needs, and interests?)
 
In six weekly small group sessions, participants in THINC’s Leading for a Change are learning ways to go to the balcony. They are exploring a current challenge and designing a thoughtful plan that takes into consideration their leadership, assumptions, organizational culture, and stakeholders. They are discovering and practicing new tools. They leave each session with a broader perspective and renewed energy. They are becoming leaders who engage their employees, not just manage them.
 
Could you benefit from a balcony experience as the next step in your leadership development? Call us!
RUTH / LEADERSHIP / CULTURE / Oct 12, 2011, 4:56pm / Comments (5)
Better Together
For two years, I had a kayak.  One kayak.  
 
One kayak is not much fun.  The fun of exploring and discovering is doing it with someone else. “Hey, look at that.”  “Over here, you won’t believe this.” “Man, that was a good float, let’s get something to eat.”
 
I find work to be the same. Projects are more fun and decisions are better when created together. Ideas are more innovative, our thinking more rich, our problems less insurmountable, and our joy more intense when experienced with others.
 
Why then, do we often struggle with our “togetherness” in a work setting? Is it because of titles, power, ego, performance evaluations, customer demands, outdated processes, or poor leadership?  Imagine the possibilities if these were non-issues.  How do we get past these barriers?
 
At THINC, we’ve dedicated ourselves to helping clients think together in productive and authentic ways. We live to produce authentic dialogue and focused action.  If you do too, or would like to know more, we’d love to hear from you.  Share your stories—let’s learn together.
 
Last Friday—I bought another kayak. 
DEV / DIALOGUE / Sep 15, 2011, 3:51pm / Comments (3)
Musings
Ideas worth sharing.


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