On Operating Systems in Groups — Try Thinking Less

[Also available on Human to Human, The Podcast, 3.5 minutes]

I suppose I like the intent of the language that is operating system. It’s rather mechanical, like cogs in an old clock. Or it’s rather electronic, like the needed infrastructure for your computer to run. Both of these directions are a bit outside of the living systems images that many of us are conjuring and growing.

It’s a mixing of common use of language, but I’m guessing that there is an operating system involved with the sunflowers growing along the nearby trail. Or in the green vines that wildly grow in my back yard. 1. Reach for the sun. 2. Rest on what is near you, including a neighbor vine. 3. Then reach again.

Or I remember the rule of Boids from many years ago that were three simple rules that created simulated flocking. 1. Fly to the perceived center of mass of the group of boids. 2. Maintain the same small distance from other objects, including other boids. 3. Match the perceived speed of nearby boids.

I’m the kind of human that likes to explore the operating systems for working with groups. I suppose I’ve been searching for and experimenting with improvements most of my life. So as to add more consciousness. Or kindness. Or brilliance accessed through the whole of it.

Below is a version of “operating system” that I’ve been working on, also for most of my life. But the words for this have come more recently.



Think Less

Think less.
Feel more.

Plan less.
Presence more.

Doubt less.
Trust more.

Give to.

Tumble forward.


Every couple of months it seems that I find myself revisiting some of the most simple narratives I can find about the work I do and the life I live. Every couple of months it seems I find myself re-digging further into re-understanding and being with groups.

It gets complicated doesn’t it. Family. Community. Work. Self. Nation. Globe. Politics. Climate Change. Immigration. Healthcare. Education. Technology. Kids turn to teenagers and want to drive the car — got one of those. Communities morn the loss of a friend or neighbor who dies way too soon. People work amidst layoffs and reorganization. 850 year-old cathedrals burn as people watch in horror.

There is much to pay attention to for all of us. Some of us seek to see and understand and evolve the whole of things. Some of us surrender to days on which we just try take one step of kindness.

This week it seems that my revisit to a simple narrative is words spoken by my friend and colleague through The Art of Hosting network (and initially, Berkana), Toke Moeller. Toke has a way of naming the simple in a way that feels wise to me. And catchable.

“What if we were just trying to create and support each other in practices of being more kind, more conscious, and more in flow with life itself?”

I’ve often used this question with groups. One guy that I worked with even created a kind of jingle tune out of it. I love the simplicity that it calls me back to. I love the momentary grounding that it creates for so many of us in so much complexity.

I won’t expound much upon what each of these words mean, could mean, or should mean. Rather, I’ll give myself permission to just be in wrapping that such principles can create.

Kindness, because we owe it to ourselves and to others. We are all in our mixes of complex challenges. We are all in our versions of needs, excitements, demands, offerings, wounds, joys.

Consciousness, because, I continue to learn through good practices like The Circle Way that there is a center to touch with each other that holds an intelligence related to but different than what we hold individually.

Flow, because, I continue to learn that there is an abundant kind of energy in life itself, an undeniable life force, despite the many human attempts to mechanize all layers of human existence. The picture above is from a Flow Game that uses questions to create access to a bit more of that life energy.

Every couple of months, I need to sit by my window in the morning sun, seeing the rainbow refracting dew on the grass (welcome spring), the trees budding in their own pace, the blue sky being vast, and remember in my bones that there is a broader story that I believe we are all a part of.

I best become aware of it with kindness, consciousness, and a welcome of flowing with life, and it flowing through me.

Turning 1000

My first blog post was October 14, 2006. I wrote about my daughter Zoe as “Old Soul, Learning Partner.” She was 11. I’d invited her to sit with me and some of the people I was working with. I love it that this first post was about her.

So, it’s been 12 years now. WordPress tells me that today’s post is my 1,000th. Fun, right. Only 9,000 more to go!

I love the practice of writing. I love the aspect of blogging that is “learning in public.” I love the sense-making that arises from writing to develop thinking. Sometimes, we don’t know what we think until we say it out loud, or write it into words.

My blogging has included a few years of very sporadic posting. A renewed desire to share, followed by three months of nothing. And then there were the times of just doing it more often — once a week.

However, it was three years ago that I changed the name and the frequency of this blog. I changed the name from “Blog” (I know, exciting, right) to “Human to Human.” I loved being able to nuance the background intention — “to inspire reflection, individually and communally, on varied aspects of participative leadership practices, insights, and human to human depth.” I have to have the connection to the human depth — and “the thing behind the thing.” I changed the frequency from “whenever” to daily, Monday through Thursday (taking some weeks off, just because or for other writing).

I’m glad for those who read. I’m glad for those who share insights. I’m glad for those that contribute to my evolution and how any of us lean into an evolution together. As humans. As humans in quite a range of adventure, joyous to sorrowful.

So, in turning 1000, I offer a few words written by a friend engaged in Margaret Wheatley’s Warriors for the Human Spirit program. My friend has asked me to keep the anonymity of attribution. But these words, and this friend inspire me to keep opening to the full range of humanness in times such as these.

Here’s to our growth, our realness, our practices of consciousness, of kindness, and flow with life itself — all of us.


Warriors for the Human Spirit
are awake human beings
who have chosen not to flee.
They abide.
They serve as beacons of an ancient story
that tells of the goodness and generosity
and creativity of humanity.
You can identify them by their cheerfulness.
You will know them by their compassion.
When asked how they do it
they will tell you about discipline, dedication
and the necessity of community.

Three Practices — Kindness, Consciousness, and Flow

I know that many of us are refining our practices. Essential practices that define who we are, or perhaps, what are work is in everything from the personal to the professional, the individual to the communal.

It can get a bit confusing, this refining — I find this. Even simple practices can become too much when stacked on top of each other into a toppling pile of albeit, great references. It means that most of us need to make some choices. Choosing a few that remain in our hearts with little effort, rather than compiling infinitely into a figurative or literal spreadsheet to occupy our brains. Of the many choices, I’ve always leaned, inevitably, to what I can hold in my heart.

It is sometimes through the confusion, because of the confusion, that many of us find a new layer of clarity. An erasing of the big list to reclaim a new marker of simplicity. I had some of that recently.

I’d gotten a bit tired by my own use of language around leadership practices. Through my work with hosting. Through my use of methodologies. Through my own teaching. Like most, I’ve been trying to offer helpful frameworks that are really invitations for people to be in good work together and that keep us honest with one another. Sometimes my language has been directed at the “doubters and the skeptics.” I really don’t like “convincing” people when there are underlaying fears that obscure what we are really up to. Sometimes my language as been for those ready to imagine further, with ease, and again with honesty. That’s a treat.

My three practices that I find myself returning to are words spoken by one of my dearest friends and colleagues — Toke Moeller. We met 20 years ago. It was his “being” that helped shape so much of what I would become, and what I would reiterate into. I can hear his voice in my ears and my heart speaking of these practices. There was nothing fancy about them. It was just raw honesty.

Kindness, because first and foremost, that is perhaps what we are trying to restore or reclaim in these many expressions of societal life. Kindness isn’t just about being nice to each other. It is so much more than that. It is reclaiming respect of other, of self, of possibility, and of wonder. What would it look like to practice more kindness together?

Consciousness, because it just seems that we have so much more that we can choose together, even in very complex environments, that bring us into a unique kind of wisdom together. Wiser together. Yes, this is something that I inherently believe we can do and must do together. So much more seems possible.

Flow, because there is so much available in the organic orientation. There are of course situations that require our good, linear planning with very detailed steps. Let’s celebrate the clarity of that. And, however, it seems that there is so much more of life that is partnering with the energy of life itself. It has intuition and spontaneity. It has life force in it that we sometimes get to feel more significantly. That, changes everything in who we are as human beings together.

So, I reclaim my attention to these three practices as I move further into 2018 and the people I’m working with. Smart people. Good people. Hungry people. Even a few skeptical people. These three practices — kindness, consciousness, and flow — at the level of scale that is self to family, team to community and organization.

It was Toke who early on (early 2000s) spoke this words, that I feel invite these three core practices. I’m grateful.


It Is Time

the train time is over
for those of us who can hear the call
of the heart and the times

my real soul work
has begun on the next level
for me at least

courage is
to do what calls me
but I may be afraid of

we need to work together
in a very deep sense
to open and hold spaces
spheres of energy
in which our imagination
and other people’s
transformation can occur

none of us can do it alone

the warriors of joy are gathering
to find each other
to train together
to do some good work
from the heart with no attachment
and throw it
in the river

no religion, no cult, no politics
just flow with life itself as it
unfolds in the now…

what is my Work?
what is our Work?