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  • feedwordpress 17:11:21 on 2016/12/16 Permalink
    Tags: breakthroughs, , , daring, , suffering,   

    From Darkness to Thrivability 

    Black Forest night

    I have been championing thrivability for almost a decade now (since February 2007). What a journey! Lately, I have felt a struggle to champion it in the face of loss and change and setbacks. I feel, even implicitly, the pushback — usually unarticulated — about “daring to talk about thriving in the face of loss and crisis.”

    So maybe now is the time to say publicly that I come to thrivability through a journey of loss and crisis. If you glance at me, you might pick up that I am white or an attractive woman or middle class and dismiss me as someone who doesn’t understand suffering and loss.

    photo courtesy of Tony Deifell

    Look on others kindly, for we do not know their path and their suffering.

    Maybe your first glance doesn’t catch that I have a physical deformity that means that I was in surgery multiple times before I was three and again at 15. I will never have the experience of being a normal body, no matter how slender my body or pretty my face may be. I don’t go to yoga class because when you can’t do downward facing dog, it isn’t worth it. Most moves transition through postures that use your arms, straight, which I can’t. But this isn’t a pity party. I may not be able to do a push up or play volleyball, but I can run and swim and kayak and lots of other things. I focus on what I can do and not on what I can’t. I learned that at a young age. Focus on what you can do, not on what you can’t.

    At first glance I might seem to be living some sort of dream life, traveling the world talking with interesting people, enjoying sunset picnics on the beach, and living out my life goals. Yes, well, that is because I remade myself from the ground up. I wasn’t handed this life on a golden platter. I was diagnosed with PTSD at the tender age of 21. It was a result of believing that the person closest to me was going to murder me and erase me from existence. I felt like I had no one to turn to. I trusted no one. I know exactly what I look like at my very worst, my deepest darkest moments. And I built who I am up from that place, on purpose, over many years. I found therapy in my early 20s to be deeply counter-productive. Instead I wrote poetry and sat in my own muck sorting myself out. I slowly let people back into my life, and they turned out to be worthy of trust. Around 32 I was trained as a life coach, but by then most of the approach was becoming intuitive to me anyway. And at 35, I started talking about thrivability.

    I am not a Mary Poppins blindly optimistic sort. My optimism is a conscious choice. I imagine being on the Titanic while it is sinking. Do I want to scream and yell about it? Do I want to gobble up all the champagne and caviar I can find? Or do I want to take some action and hold some hope that I can find a way through? Do I want to help others, as much as I can before the end? The predicament may be dire, but there is no way through if I don’t try and don’t believe the impossible is possible. I choose action, hope, and helping. I choose it because it is who I want to be in this moment, regardless of what outcome occurs.

    Thrivability is not about achieving some state in the future, some sublime perfect state. Thrivability is about aiming toward it and giving everything you have toward the possibility of greatness. Your greatness, our greatness, the world’s greatness. As Camus said: “Real generosity towards the future lies in giving all to the present.”

    Do not play small. Do not make yourself small. Live into greatness now. Strive now. It is not the achievement that matters. It is playing with all you have got now that matters.

    There are two other quotes which form cornerstones for me:

    “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

    ~ Marianne Williamson

    And this quote, to me, reminds me not to collapse into fear and shame and doubt but instead to shine my light brightly. Not so that I outshine others, but so that I give permission to others to shine just as or more brightly. I can transform the darkness that comes my way into the brightness of a new day.

    The other quote is one Brené Brown uses for Daring Greatly… from Theodore Roosevelt’s Man in the Arena speech:

    “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

    Who are we not to live into our greatness? Together let us dare greatly to make the world we want, one full of compassion, dialogue, understanding. One where we ask forgiveness for our wrongdoings and try once more each new day to do right, live rightly, and love each other.

    When we are at our worst is when we most need to yearn for thrivability.

  • feedwordpress 17:33:17 on 2016/03/23 Permalink
    Tags: breakthroughs, , , , governance, organizational development, , , Teal,   

    The Thick of It 

    These are not quite “wicked problems” so I think of it as messy or muddy. I spoke with a co-founder of my client organization today about the work we are doing. Being in the thick of it needs to be documented, so I present you with my reflections on being in the middle of the work of changing governance process in a social venture several years old.

    Zoom on art from Hava Gurevich

    Cool Factor — not so fast

    I could talk about them as a Teal organization — if we wanted to use spiral dynamics and the work of people like Laloux in Reinventing Organizations. I could talk about the organization being thrivable, as it lives into paradox, cultivates an ecosystem, and aims to generate more value than it consumes. I could talk about it in the framework of co-creation and participatory process. And so on — there is so much that is “cool” about what they are doing and how they are doing it. But actually being successful at that isn’t as cool as it may sound. It is actually thick and messy. Let’s talk about thick and messy. Let’s play in the mud a bit, shall we?

    The Challenge of Thick

    What makes this organization such a joy to be working on is how graceful they are in the muck of figuring out competing tensions as they seek to be transformative. Graceful. My second child’s middle name is Anne, which means grace. I wanted this child to have a sense of groundedness and a scope of perspective to be resilient amid the vagaries of life. This organization also demonstrates that quality of grace, to me.

    image from ChaoticRipple.com describing concept developed by Berkana Institute

    Building Bridges

    When you are building bridges you have to live in two worlds — the old paradigm and the new, all while building the path you are walking on. So what seems so cool — the new paradigm, has to still be successful in the old paradigm. And you are building it with people who personally each have one foot in the old way of doing things and one foot in the new. So it takes an intense level of mindfulness — of our own personal journey, of our organizational development, and of the larger systemic forces we operate within.

    While often the work is inspiring and visionary, it is also full of the muck of composting who we have been, what we have been doing, how we have been doing it, and the healing of systemic wounds as well.

    We act in the present moment of now-ness with open-eyed awareness of our past and the good company of our vision of the future.

    Me, Myself, and I

    I show up to the conversation as three selves: me, myself and I. As does everyone else, with their own version of the me, myself, and I combo.

    • There is me: in my own personal work, facing my insecurities and shadow, mindful of my motivations, presence, preferences, strengths, weaknesses, history, and dreams. Me, I am the one doing this work, and who I am being influences the work itself.
    • Myself, my role in this work as a midwife to the new forms. Myself, writing a book about cultivating social flow, working on the embodied practice of transforming governance, strategy, and culture for a more thrivable organization. The role I am playing and the skill or talent I bring to that role influences the work significantly.
    • And there is I. I am a multi-faceted being, operating in a system (or actually more like inter-operating systems) of this here and now time in history: during an economic, environmental, social crisis. I am a white woman with a gender and sexuality and class and 50+ other facets of identity. All that comes with being alive and aware of my facets, my identities, in systems of power and privilege. It means using what I have to bring about the more wonderful world we hope is possible, mindfully resistant to past collective patterns that are far bigger than me and myself. I am in my own state of healing, grief, and transformation as I relate to that system(s), also conscious that others often do not share my stage of grief. (And we all know the practice is way messier and recursive than the diagram below.)
    the stages of grief are loopy! | Turil

    Really doing this work well means being in the thick of all of this awareness of where me, myself, and I are positioned (as it is for everyone else involved), and with that presence of mind making meaningful change with others who are also on their own journey of awareness. This isn’t simple recipe stuff! It isn’t homogenized and pasteurized white milk of glorious social change where unicorns frolic and rainbows attain their rights.

    Two Roads Diverged…

    You make the trail as you walk it. It isn’t simply about taking the road less traveled by, it is often about making a path where there was not one before. It isn’t about a shining north star to light the idealized way either.

    It is about the dynamic tensions of being in the real mucky world with real messy humans trying to do real meaningful work.

    You probably don’t have a single factor to align with, rather instead you have several (and to varying degrees with others in the group). In our case, we have three core priorities that we need to be sorting for and aligning around, and those need to be held in dynamic tension with each other because they are often not magically aligned. The math of the complexity increases quickly, my three layers times three layers for each other person multiplied by the three organizational priorities, as well as our past experiences, present desires, and future vision. I do like the number three, I assure you. We are here to get things done. Together.

    Let’s be pragmatic here, after all. Often this means having individuals who value one of those priorities, more than the other two, experiencing actual respectful tension with the other two or more people (who hold the space for one of the other priorities). In our case, there is a vision of what the organization does, how it does it, and how it operates. What that looks like in practice, as we evolve and grow through our lifecycle, is not yet clear as we seek to honor our priorities. There are many good options for how to embody those priorities. Which way fits best? What constellation of people, time, and priorities running through which processes generate what bridge into the future we want?

    How do we balance our commitment to what we do while also transforming how we do it, as well as how we operate?

    This is the thick work of transformation, of building the bridge while you are walking on it.

    Lessons in Co-creation

    A couple years ago I went to Thailand to co-facilitate our LearnShareLab. By “our” here, I mean ci2iglobal (Co-creative Innovation and Impact Institute). We brought together co-creative social change projects from across the world to learn and share about co-creation. What we found is that very few were co-creative about who, how, and what simultaneously. Co-creative projects all have some emergent quality, but they differ in whether that emergent element was who, how, or what.


    This matrix has co-creative about who on the right and co-creative about what on the bottom. It does not include the co-creative about how element.

    • By co-creative on who, I mean it is an open question who is included and invited. Who participates is who responds to the open invitation.
    • By co-creative on how, I mean the process of working together is not clear but emerges through leaderfulness of all participants helping to shape the process.
    • By co-creative on what, I mean the output of a working group is not clear at the beginning but emerges in the process of being together.

    So, we often see some combination of dialing it up on one aspect of emergence and down in another, to help us reach our goals within the limits of the time and resources we have. Or we see a recursive pattern: being emergent with process rarely, people regularly, and output always, for example. There is no single perfect way of doing and being in this thick muddle of transformation. The alchemy isn’t worked out already.

    Right now, with this client, we are clear on who is present to co-create, we have a sense of what kinds of process we prefer, and we have some vision for the output. Being a bit fuzzy on the second two gives us an opportunity to co-create what the next phase governance and communication structure and process can be, within some reasonable limits or boundaries. And we need boundaries to manage the complexity!

    Hacking Processes

    We see, in our research for the book on social flows, the value of creating process hierarchy when we are trying to move away from structural — positional hierarchy. If the work is not about having a few core people with positional power making decisions; then maybe process, which we all agree on, can make decisions for us as a collective.

    What I am designing for the client is just this type of process — well, more like a process generation engine — that allows us to start with a few simple protocols and build and evolve process hierarchy over time (on top of — or in harmony with — the existing process architecture).

    Guiding Principles

    So far we have worked out our principles. I don’t mean a bunch of trendy phrased statements that get stuck on a report and flash across the website. I mean something with the passion of a manifesto and the clarity of operating instructions. We don’t want a set of rules that restrain us to an ever increasing bureaucracy of rule creation, maintenance, and mediation.

    We want a set of principles to operate on, so that all decisions and actions that honor those guiding statements have coherence with the organizational body, regardless of what position the person acting on them holds.

    We want to learn from the insights of swarm behavior, that a few clear and simple principles can guide and shape collective action without anyone dictating what that action ought to be.

    Running Small Experiments

    We don’t magically transform to look like the new way of doing things, we build the steps to get from here to there. Doing so means picking what ways we are not going to be like what has been in bite size chunks. What is the one thing we are going to do differently this quarter? What are the three things we are going to avoid doing? Tackling the ideal list of 12 things or 42 things isn’t kind to the humans who are trying to do the real work of becoming me, myself, and I in the emerging organization.

    Changing organizational habits is a fractal version of changing personal habits — very few succeed by going whole hog and sticking with it. This has less to do with persistence and more to do with not knowing what the consequences of a shift are. If we commit to not interrupting each other at meetings, what does that do? So, we run small experiments to test out a new habit for the organization.

    Next we will work on some simple processes to try, test, and iterate on, given our combination of priorities, while blending what we see working at Morningstar, Holacracy, Liquid, etc. We create something of a style guide for organizational culture. But you can’t force that on everyone! It has to be home grown from the very foundations of the organization. I use participatory process to involve the people who will be acting on the new process in the very development of that new process so they understand the drive for it, the way it works, and feel like they had a hand in creating it. (Liberating Structures, for example, has participatory processes to select from, based on the goals set.)

    Zoom into art from Hava Gurevich


    It is such an honor to be part of an organization with such a profound approach to a learning culture. I have recently completed reviewing the survey assessment from various participants in the organization. It is quite clear that the day to day processes, the way meetings are held, and conversations conducted are full of care and compassion as well as highly open to feedback. It is also inspiring to get some challenging feedback about what more participants want from us. For example, if someone rated the organization as 3/5 on something that matters to us, they also rated us 5/5 on learning and feedback, commenting that they have faith we will get there because of our commitment to evolving. It is so encouraging to read participant feedback that says we are doing a good job of practicing our values, have clarity about where we need to evolve, and have demonstrated a willingness to listen and reflect with our participants.

    When I left my job at a publicly traded company, I could not have imagined an organization that was doing what we are doing now, being in the thick of it as we are.

    Whatever process and governance alterations we come up with that help the organization grow, the core DNA of the culture of the organization amazes me and will inform the direction we take. This is messy work being done by messy humans with a great deal of self-awareness at multiple levels. We aren’t changing the world overnight, though sometimes we change ourselves overnight.

    We are here for the long journey of personal, collective, and systemic transformation, finding and co-creating our own messy path into the future.


    I am deeply honored to be working with this client, the individuals creating and recreating the organization inspire and amaze me. Their personal awareness and purity of intention make playing in the mucky mud a real pleasure. It is so mind-blowing to get into a conversation about transformation and be understood so quickly when pointing to various bodies of work that the transformation builds upon. So much gratitude to the giant shoulders we spring from. I am deeply thankful for the wisdom of practice with others in this field: my co-author Herman Wagter, my practitioner circle at ci2iglobal, and my friends in personal, collective, and systemic transformation that have shared with me.

    [simultaneously posted at https://medium.com/@nurturegirl/the-thick-of-it-44ee5a509a7d#.bkk2xohdq]

  • feedwordpress 18:24:36 on 2016/02/23 Permalink
    Tags: aliveness, breakthroughs, decade, done, flows, generativity, , to do, , vision   

    A Decade in Review (and foresight on what is next) 

    Zoom out, see the work in the span of a decade and look toward the next decade…what do you see?

    I had a great call with John Kellden today. I was struggling with two compelling forces, my past commitments and my excitement around a new opportunity.

    I saw the narrative arc of the last decade on Thrivability and where I am going. Thank you John!!!


    “graduate” from 10 year learning journey on breakthrough patterns, coaching toward highest self and high performance, edge practices in philanthropy and social change, collaboration, and alternative currencies.


    Hear the word thrivability and explore what it means and whether that is valuable by blogging out loud. It becomes the umbrella for the paradigm I seek to catalyze.


    Co-create Thrivability Cards, and then in 3 months co-create Thrivability Sketch to name and claim the paradigm shift from Sustainability to Thrivability (resilience is like a half step between them, quite insufficient).



    Write Thrivability Breakthroughs book to answer the question: how dare you think of something beyond Sustaining, turn attention from what is collapsing to what we are building up to address it and co-create the next phase for humanity.


    Co-author Action Spectrum and Cultivating Social Flows books, which builds off chapters of previous book with practical guidance for implementation of breakthrough practices, mostly at the group layer.

    2016 –>

    That focused on WE-ness. The app that is emerging is about ME-ness, but it is still about optimizing generativity and aliveness, as always. I have the rough sketch of the small app and a larger one (could be same tool at different scales). I am in conversation with programmers and collaborators on building that.

    I have a new consulting offering around the Cultivating Social Flows book that uses participatory process to source strategy aligned with culture (and help people self-improve org culture). I am in the middle of testing that offering out before offering it more publicly. Let me know if you are interested in short or mid-range adventures in strategy and culture weaving.

    The Future:

    I have rough outlines of 3 other books and ideas for more. I think of the Breakthroughs book as my tree, from which these other projects form branches.

    I have a vision of an Institute that makes an umbrella for so much of the amazing edgy work of my peers and co-creators, while providing service via our methodology on extrapolating from current information what might arise and what opportunities can be created.

    Half my role is weaver the ideas of others and putting a spotlight on innovative works. The other half is naming and claiming the methodology, patterns, and processes we share.

    Thank you John for making the threads so clear from a zoomed out perspective.

    Requests and Opportunities


    I am designing this app with some collaborators. Let me know if you are interested in funding that, collaborating on it, or testing it out for us. Think intersection of mindfulness, habit development, productivity hacking, and machine learning.


    I would love your help co-creating a network platform to highlight all the other amazing people we believe in who are championing thrivability. I want to show off their work. I have been doing 1:1 partnerships and not enough pointing to the collective efforts of many… It is more a railway hub, redirecting to where each individual or group is, than a destination space.


    The Thrivability Cards are back on my agenda for revision and I would love to collaborate on what they are and how to use them as a playful pattern language for co-creating thrivable opportunities.

    Communication Tool

    The LEADs book, outlining a methodology for transforming communication between people. The model is clear, and I would love a collaborator to help with story-telling and methodology.


    The Institute, which I think emerges from our Thrivable Future Salons, is a kernal of an idea with some sense of what the method can be and how to build it. Missing a sense of what the business model and funding look like in detail. Seeking partners and collaborators for a long haul, as it may take 5 years to get the pieces in place. Open to funding discussions.

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