David Sibbet | Cognition & Communications
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Every so often an idea appears that won’t let my imagination be. Like an electromagnet, it keeps pulling in material.

electromagnetIt happened this week as I was returning from Decatur, Georgia and the 22nd International Forum of Visual Practitioners. Gisela Wendling and I led a three-hour interactive keynote on “Visual Consulting: Designing & Leading Change” for some 75 visual practitioners from all over the world. Poland, Brazil, Germany, Korea, Canada, Thailand, China, Netherlands, France, Russia, Belgium, India, and Australia were all represented, along with people from all over the United States.

The idea that set us off is that there is something in common in the wave of new methods in OD—things like World Café, Open Space, Appreciative Inquiry, Theory U, the Art of Convening, Presencing, Active Facilitation, the Circle Way, and Visual Facilitation, to name only some identified by Gervase Bushe and Robert Marshak in their new book Dialogic OD: The Theory and Practice of Organizational Change. Their assertion is that all embrace three core processes that are key to their effectiveness:

  • Disrupting the traditional narratives about what is important and has meaning
  • Providing a space and process where one or more core narratives can change
  • Finding or creating a “generative image” whose compelling nature invites new thinking and action.

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I’m writing to share about a wonderful collaboration with Alan Briskin and Amy Lenzo creating a new “gyrocompass” image for their on-line, six session series on Activating Collective Wisdom, launching this June. The Five Practices of Collective Wisdom is a distillation of work Alan Briskin has been doing over many years on the subject. How this image came to be is a wonderful story of emergent creativity.

Some Context

Gyrocompassv5The collaboration began in Germany last year at the Leading as Sacred Practice (LASP) Retreat held at the Beuerhof Farm in the Vulcan Eifel region of Germany East of Cologne. Alan presented about these five practices and led a rich inquiry into what is deep listening, as well as how to suspend certainty, welcome emergence, keep the whole system in mind and prepare for the extraordinary when working with groups. I graphically recorded the session. Read more…

My struggle to make sense of this new era of Trump has sent me back to my journals to look for longer threads and themes. I’m having an old feeling. It’s one I associate with the time of the assassinations in the 1960s, the lying during the Nixon and Johnson years, and the warmongering of the Bush years. In such times of disruption in my mental model of a world that progresses—carefully inculcated by my post-war teachers—I am thrown into questions.

Finding myself back in the questions again, I came across a journal entry from December 1994, recounting a talk with my friend Bob Horn about postmodernism. Our talk began with a review of Walter Truett Anderson’s schematic of the postmodern challenge:

postmodernchallenge-94

As Bob drew the boxes, I had wondered at the casualness with which he could lay down a box and label it “postmodernism”, as if all the perceptions and theorizing and turmoil of the times could be neatly packaged in a historian’s bow. “I won’t say anything,” I thought. “I’ll listen past it to the meaning.” Meanwhile, in my own mind I began to frame a story of fragmentation and return, of choices and confusion.

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trump_clinton_vote“This is what our democracy stands for, the smooth transition of power.” Obama’s words came in the deliberate, stately cadence that we’ve all heard so many times over the last eight years. “I’ve asked my team to do everything possible to ensure that the new President elect can hit the ground running” he said. “George Bush’s team did that for us when we took office.”

We are going to miss this intelligent, civilized man and his family. Riding waves of populist anger, the quintessential infotainment tongue surfer is our next President. And where will this take us all?

As a student and practitioner of change, I hold a few assumptions as I think about all this.

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