Dialogue is to Collaboration What Water is to Fish

I enjoyed reading this book recently, Community Conversations, written by Paul Born (2012) from Canada. I haven’t met Paul in person, but he is someone that has been recommended to me by others.

I love Paul’s reference to connect dialogue and collaboration. Essential. Essence. I like the way that he points the narrative to going as community. Collaboration sometimes means the details of getting ducks in a row. Often, however, it means something much less projecty than that. It’s lifeline, the medium of water to fish, that connects us and sustains us in engagement together. It’s lifeline to help us encounter more of the invisible that is created “among” us, not just in any one of us. Ah, shoot, I just love it when people encourage a narrative of wholeness. And, of course, it’s not just about words. Dialogue, and conversation, are just a couple of the ways that we humans get to wholeness, aren’t they.

Here’s a few other insights I found and appreciated in Paul’s book.

  • “Dialogue is a collective way to open up judgements and assumptions (David Bohm).” — Given that I’m in a summer in which much of the work I’m convening is deep dives into The Circle Way, this concept jumps out at me. It helps respond to the question of “Why go together?” And, knowing that there are many responses to this question, one that excites me is about being able to see together what can’t be seen alone. It’s hard to tickle yourself. It kind of needs another person. It’s hard to see assumptions. We kind of need each other.
  • “The first skill is the ability to see the forest and the trees (Peter Senge).” — Beauty here, isn’t there. It’s not just one of the two, though some of us are uniquely oriented to forest while some of us are naturally focused on the trees. I love the invitation, and requirement, to cultivate capacity to see both. If I go back to The Circle Way with this, I love the way that circle creates container to see the forest and flip fluidly between foreground and background. With groups, it’s the aha glimpse when someone speaks the ephemeral that is trying to be seen among us and we all nod in delight for the clarity that gives us direction. Or grounding. Forest. Trees.
  • “The second skill is to nurture the tension between process and action.” — I run into this everywhere. It’s actually a nuanced version of Senge’s forest and trees. Some people are delighted to dwell in process, in the becoming. Process aggravates the bejeebers out of others. Some people are hell bent for action and efficiency. For others, the fixation on action strips most of the poetry from the work. I love Paul Born’s invitation to notice the tension and then to nurture it. That means be kind to it. That means developing an ability to suspend some pretty deeply engrained bias.

I’m glad friends recommended this book to me. I enjoyed the read. I enjoyed dipping in to a fellow Canadian’s words. I enjoyed feeling insights dance within me as the words helped me find some inner music. I enjoyed noticing for a moment, the water.


On Vision — Nuances from Spirit and Complexity

A good friend, Caitlin Frost, asks yesterday through email for ideas about teaching vision and working with vision. She’s smart on her own. She’s also smart to ask.

I respond quickly, delightfully distracted by her question, and putting aside my current todo list. Nuances of spirit, of the unseen often take me like this.

“One of the things I’m leaning into these days is the ‘arrival’ of vision, not just the ‘creating’ of it. As you say, connected to emergence. I encourage the group to ‘look away’ from some intense thinking and see what ‘sticks.’ Or give them multiple modalities. I love the way that drawing, for instance, changes the impression (true for ‘non-artists’ also). I want them to welcome it to arrive — not just work at it.”
I love, and need, approaches rooted in discernment and a self-organizing premise. It’s related to, but different from tenacity. Gut feel is related to, but different than powering up for thirty more pushups. Discernment and self-organizing trusts a natural process (water runs down hill). It’s an alternative to more engineering (you can make water run uphill; it just might not be the most simple way).
Chris Corrigan also responded. Chris knows as much as anyone I know about working from a complexity framework.

You can have a vision of a full bath tub of steaming hot water. You can have a vision of making your home run on rain water alone. You can have a vision of safe drinking water for all humans.

The first is simple, short term and you have all the tools and abilities to make it happen.

The second is more complicated and you require a few experts to make it happen, but with the right people and resources, you can achieve it.

The third is not up to you. It is a complex and adaptive system. You may be motivated by a desire to see safe drinking water for all humans but you are unlikely to achieve it because it is a complex problem. Intention can make a difference here and instead of working TOWARDS a tangible vision you can work FROM an intention and guide your actions against that.

Read the rest of Chris’ post here.

Nuances can make all of the difference. Often with things that are presumed that “we all know,” including words that are so common like vision.

Thanks friends. It’s good to walk the path together.