The Best in Art and Life — A Poem by Roger Rosenblatt

Photo Credit, WSHU

I suppose what I love in this poem below by Roger Rosenblatt, American writer and memoirist, is the invitation to notice how some things, in art and life, come into being, because they can’t not. 

I suppose what I love in this poem is a recognition that I see in my facilitation work with groups, particularly with circle — there is a clarity of insight, born in connection, that can’t not come forward.

I suppose what I love in this poem is that it orients to a certain “irrepressibleness,” interrupting the common and stressful contemporary narrative of “needing to work hard for it all,” and instead offers the possibility of “naturally arising.”

Enjoy. Thanks Roger Rosenblatt.


The Best in Art and Life

The best in art and life
comes from a center
something urgent and powerful
and ideal or emotion
that insists
on its being.

From that insistence
a shape emerges
and creates its structure out of passion.

If you being with a structure,
you have to make up the passion,

and that’s very hard to do.

On Emergence — Daniel Schmachtenberger

I first really started learning about “emergence” in the early 1990s with Margaret Wheatley. She was bringing forward an understanding of life and science that helped to describe how things happen in systems. I was learning about how a system, a collection (including people), can have properties that none of the parts of the system have. When the parts come into relationship, that is the breeding grounds for emergence.

I’m the kind of human that can’t help to feel excited that the story behind the story is the one to really try to get to. Or, what is it that is behind the curtain anyway?

In this 25 minute video Daniel Schmachtenberger from The Center for Integral Wisdom offers a very cogent and coherent description of that story behind the story that is found through “emergence.”

This is the kind of video that I feel like I need to hear every day for a while, just to let it settle in.

I offer it here because it has everything to do with working with groups. It has everything to do with creating containers for dialogue-based interaction. And it names and nuances the bigger story, which then clarifies so many layers of why that most of us take on together in the day to day.

This work of understanding systems is one of the foundational reclaims of living in these times. The industrial era entrained us to a lot of understanding the parts. It’s been fun. Helpful too. But, as it is with any story — there is some obscuring that happens of what is also fun and helpful, yet different. These days, including a focus on emergence, I would suggest that a primary need is to remember and entrain wholeness. It’s time to come back to more integration than dissection. Emergence points to this.

Thanks to my friend Roq Gareau for sharing this video.

On The Myth of Managing Culture Change

One, I love challenging myths. It’s fascinating to me to see how an idea, once fuzzy and only one of many choices, can become calcified in certainty and encrusted as habit and insulated truth. Whether that’s simple stuff like cutting the ends off the roast, as Grandma always did (aha, to make it fit in the pan), or more involved stuff like attributing all power and intelligence to an individual leader (aha, it turns out the group can be smarter and more sustainable).

Two, I often find myself trying to “buy room” with people I’m working with by inviting the term “culture change.” It has enough legitimacy to shift attention from projects that are good, but only part of the puzzle — most people know this but just need a bit of leadership support to see the bigger picture. Culture change invokes seeing more of the horizon, more of the forest and not just the trees. It invokes a change of being, not just more fierce commitment to managed doing.

Three, I love what Chris Corrigan wrote on this topic recently. Chris is smart as hell and fiercely committed to the dynamics of the system at work. He is a myth buster among many things, who offers grounded tools and theory to change even the myths about change.

Changing the dynamics of how a system of people interact with one another is the game. It is setting the table for emergence to occur — the naturally arising dynamic of life. It is helping people, all of us, experience being in relation with emergence and growing in our comfort to be in the clarity and messiness of that. Pause with that thought — it is key — being in relation with emergence.

Culture change is not selling a grand idea and manipulating others to get on board with power, coercion, or even charisma. The game in culture change, the real importance, is a process change in how people engage with one another. Culture change is less planned and managed. It is more encountered and adjusted. What would it take for any of us to be more comfortable with encountering and adjusting with each other?

Check this from Chris’ site. I love his articulation and think out loud ability, to take on a myth.


  • Culture is an emergent set of patterns that are formed from the interactions between people. These patterns cannot be reverse engineered. Once they exist you need to change the interactions between people if you want to change the patterns.
  • Culture includes stories but it is not a story. This is important because simply changing the story of the organization will not change the culture. Instead you need to create ways for people to interact differently and see what comes of it.
  • Cultural evolution is not predictable and cannot be led to a pre-determined character. You can aspire all you want to a particular future culture but it is impossible to script or predict that evolution.


  • Start by getting clear about the actual work. In my experience people use the term “culture change” as a proxy for the real work that needs to be done: improving employee relations, becoming more risk tolerant, shifting leadership styles…whatever it is, it’s best to start with getting clear what is ACTUALLY going on before assuming that the problem is the “culture.”

  • Look at what actually is. Studying the way things are is important, because that helps you to identify what you are actually doing. It seems simple, but it’s important to do it in a way that doesn’t bring a pre-existing framework to the work.  You have to look at the patterns from the work that you already do, not from how it illuminates a pre-existing model.

  • Work with emergence to understand patterns together. Using tools such as anecdote circles, organizations can discover the patterns that are present in the current environment. Anecdote circles generate small data fragements that describe actual actions and activities. Taken together and worked through, patterns become clear, like the process of generating a Sierpinsky triangle.  Out of large data sets, hidden patterns appear.

  • Identify those patterns and discuss ways to address them with safe to fail experiments. Run a session to create several ideas that are coherent with the patterns, design multiple small experiments to try to shift the patterns.  Institute rigorous monitoring and learning and allow for experiments to fail.

  • Support new ideas with appropriate resources. If you really want to change the interactions between people you need to resource these changes with time, money and attention. The enemy of focused innovation is time. Even allowing employees to work on something a half day a week could be enough to create and implement new things. Butif they have to do it on top of the full workload they have, nothing will get done.

  • Learn as you go. Developmental evaluation is they way to go with new forms of emergent practice. To be strategic about how change is happening, it’s important to design and build in evaluation at the outset.


This is a poem that appears in the book, A Simpler Way, by Margaret Wheatley and Myron Kellner Rogers. The poem is by American poet, A. R. Ammons. Both the book and the poem continue to mean much to me when I think of the need to both let go and welcome emergence.



I look for the way
things will turn
out spiraling from a center,
the shape
things will take to come forth in

so that the birch tree white
touched black at branches
will stand out
wind glittering
totally its apparent self:

I look for the forms
things want to come as

from the black wells of possibility,
how a thing will

not the shape on paper — though
that too — but the 
uninterfering means on paper:

Not so much looking for the shape
as being available
to any shape that may be
summoning itself 
through me
from the self not mine but ours.

Yes to emergence, letting go, and simplicity.