Art of the Start — Harrison Owen

I suppose I am a high context person. I really love simple framings of big picture and purpose. I love them because they aren’t formula. The best that I see or offer are invitation to show up in the framing and purpose and offer the gift of our seeing in that. Sometimes to explore. Sometimes to do particular work in the best way that we know.

Here’s one that I like from Harrison Owen from the Open Space Listserve…

“The basic idea of my book, Wave Rider, is that we live in a self-organizing world, universe, cosmos – and it has been that way from the very beginning, all 13.7 billion years. This means that everybody (all 6.5 billion of us) inevitably rides the waves of self organization – we don’t have any choice.

But some of us do better than others. In a word we are all Wave Riders, but some have polished their skills and actually seem to enjoy the ride. Of course there are others who feel out of control and seek some way to manage and direct all those waves. Their experience is rarely pleasant. We are all Wave Riders. Some do it well, some do it poorly – and it has been going on for a long, long time.

Here’s the point (at last)! I may have named the “Wave Rider” but I certainly didn’t invent the process. Wave Riding has been going on for ever. When it is done well, great things happen in the human domain. All people in all times and places have been “doing it,” and I think we could learn an enormous amount by thinking seriously about how we as individuals and as a species have adapted to this self organizing world. The names and the concepts will vary from place to place and time to time – but the basic reality of self-organization remains present over time and space – and the adaptive response by Homo sapiens will be equally universal. For example I suspect that much of the Chinese tradition surrounding the Tao may have its roots in the adaptive process. And there are others.

And why bother? I believe that Wave Riding, by whatever name is critical to the continuance and fulfillment of humanity. In short, when and as we “get it” we will find ourselves aligned and flowing with the primal force of the universe. And when we “don’t get it” – our succeeding days on Planet Earth will be “nasty, brutish, and short” (Thomas Hobbes).”

All of this is beautiful to me. It names the underlying purpose and world view. When I think further on this about how I am beginning trainings that explicitly use paraticipatory and self-organizing methods and models, here is a bit of what I am speaking. Not as script, but as some key framing. It is one of my current versions of response to the question, “what are we going to do in the next few days?” With thanks to several friends that have fed this clarity in one way or another — Toke Moeller, Teresa Posakony, Chris Corrigan, Patti Case.

“As I hear it, the purpose of us being together is that we feel we have work to do. What I hear at the center of this is this very big challenge and very big dream. We can see the difficulty. We can feel in our hearts the images of creating our way into the next level of solution or helpfulness. And we really want to do this. Many of us carry the strong hunch and intuition that we need to do this together. But how?

Here is the most simple I currently know…

First, we will be in in meaningful conversation. To explore the questions and issues together that help us move to the next level of health and well-being around our purpose. If we don’t need new, or if we don’t need learning, we don’t likely have as strong of a need to be together. But if we do, meaningful conversation is a key strategic choice for how we will create the next level of solution together.

Second, we will be in wise collaboration. We will not begin with collaboration because it is essential that we look at the problem and the dream from many perspectives. And from this, we can welcome the shared sensing together that tells us what is wise to do together. Anything that lasts, comes from people doing it together. We know that many individuals will take action. And this is good. But we want to choose the collaboration from our conversation together. We want to invite our collaboration to grow from not just our individual preplanning, but from the surprise that might emerge from our being together that none of us could see until we were together.

Third, we will be in bold decisions. Or we will have the choice of bold decisions together. Our boldness may be about what to do. It might be about what not to do. It might be about how many different people will hold particular responsibilities. But we will deliberately challenge ourselves to work in boldness, and I would say, deep beauty, to harvest from our conversations and collaborations into desicions and actions. To be in added partnering with the self-organizing world that Harrison describes so well.

I’m in it for the doing that comes from a deep place of knowing. Conversation is a choice, and it needs to be deliberate, for how we will get to the most lasting and helpful doing.

So, what kind of conversations? What will this feel like? I love talking about the primary need of connection, ala Humberto Maturana’s notion of “if you want a system to be healthy, connect it to more of itself.” To invite a deliberateness of the self-organization requires connection. Conversation is one form of connection. Some of our connection / conversation will be in full group. Some in small groups. Some with self. Some with partners. Some with nature. Some with music, or movement. Some with empty stillness. Some with deep groaning. Some with the interaction of many energy ripples in the room.

Each of these conversations will be rooted in one or all of… learning, building relationships, and working.

Our learning will show up as, “I’d never thought about it that way.” Or, “I’ve been thinking about that for a long time.” Or, “aha!” Or, “I’m beginning to see some of the letting go needed to work with more wisdom.”

Our building relationships will show up as, “I never knew that about you.” Or, “I’m surprised by how much I learned about this stranger in such a short time and how strongly connected we now feel.” Or, “I’d never heard another or myself speak in this way about what we care about in this work.” Or, “it felt so good to bring myself more wholely into this room.” Or, “it was really good to just breath a bit together and witness not only our dreams, but our fears.”

Our work will likely show up as, “here is a project that I really can’t not do.” Or, “I want to invite help in thinking about how I could work differently with my team, my board, my community, my family….” Or, “I’m glad that I came here to be in my work in another way, rather than retreat from it.”

Shall we get to it…. Let’s be wise together. Let’s be healthy together. Let’s work as wholely as we can together. Let’s be in our gifts together. Let’s be in our beauty together. Let’s be in what we are called to do at this time and place, because it is ours to do.”

And this poem from Teresa, which she shared with the OS list a few years back and won her the distinction of poet laureate…

Diving Deep
Teresa Posakony

Diving Deep
Are you ready?
No I mean…
Are you READY?

The time is now
Hold my hand
Together we dive
Into the river of heart and soul

The water is deep and quick
All there is to do is trust the flow
Struggling makes no sense though
We don’t know where the river goes

The choice is clear
Wait a minute Let me catch my breath


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