Engaging Emergence

One of the books I’m perusing these days, and finding particularly helpful, is Peggy Holman’s Engaging Emergence. It is good to know Peggy well enough to see her face and  hear her voice when reading the words. I can feel the gift of her experience coming forward nicely in this book.

In particular, I’m appreciating some of her early framing. All beneath the umbrella of “emergence,” I can hear Peggy offers some simple invitations:

1. To notice the relationship between complexity and breakthrough. She talks about how many of today’s challenges are complex — in nations, organizations, teams, communities, and families. It’s natural to invite people together to do something about these challenges. But here is the rub — doing so can make it more complex! Peggy has a nice way of inviting the breakthrough that can arrive in that complex group of people. It is well-framed to notice that without the complexity, we may never get to the new solutions we so need.

2. To give focus to what I would call “our job” as we engage emergence. First, embrace the mystery. Second, follow life energy. And third, choose possibility. These help add to ways I’ve been naming “our job” with clients and people in systems. I often speak it as “surrender to surprise,” or “follow the spark of yes,” and as my colleague Teresa Posakony often says, “live at the scale of our dreams.”

3. To welcome the benefits of emergence. This is particularly helpful as I think about people and clients I know that are considering participative ways of working and learning. People want to be effective. There is often a worry / doubt / fear that engaging emergence won’t yield enough result. Here’s Peggy’s description of five benefits that feel like gifts in any system.
•Individuals are stretched and refreshed.
•New and unlikely partnerships form.
•Breakthrough projects surface.
•Community is strengthened.
•The culture begins to change.

Thanks Peggy. Well-framed for inviting and doing great work. Well-framed for helping to shift the culture and paradigm of leadership.

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