Learning communities: aligning learning circles

Learning communities: aligning learning circles

Learning communities and multi-system collaborative initiatives are quite common at both social and business environment. For the last three years, at the Global Association of SOL Communities (GASC), we have been organising a European Learning Journey and Conference. In this post, I explore resistances appearing at this sort of community learning process.

The three learning circles

The first hypothesis sets there are three relevant learning circles in this form of community learning journey:

 

  1. Co-creation: People involved at this stage can learn from virtual meetings, experiences, previous debriefings, books and articles shared among members. All the valuable information is stored in shared folders on the Drive.
  2. Co-facilitation: Because there is not enough space for all co-creators to play a visible facilitator role, some co-creators have to collaborate as a shadow facilitator. The conference enables regular debriefings between visible and shadow facilitators.
  3. Co-dissemination: These are either members of learning networks (ex.: SOL community members) and participants attending to the conference.

Aligning learning circles

The second hypothesis sets that we should pay attention to potential imbalances among the three learning circles:

  1. Imbalance among co-creators: some co-creators believe they can influence on colleagues much more than colleagues can influence on them; some co-creators show uneven energy and commitment throughout the co-creation process, which usually last for few months; as the conference deadline approaches, co-creators become more sensitive to the agenda than to the learning process; finally, quite often co-creators sell their approach as one man shop, loosing the collaborative vision of the journey.
  2. Imbalance between visible and shadow facilitators: visible facilitators get more credit from participants than shadow ones; both visible and shadow facilitators get more credit for the learning journey than participants, however the latter play a relevant role during the learning journey; facilitators tend to believe the learning process ends up with the feedback process.
  3. Imbalance between circles 1, 2 and 3: the success of the conference is too much credited to visible facilitators and not enough to participants; also, co-creators and facilitators leave the conference very enthusiastic but there is little follow up of the co-dissemination process.

Conflictos: unos se pasan, otros no llegan

Conflictos: unos se pasan, otros no llegan

La mayoría de los conflictos en las empresas provienen por cuestiones de límite o de territorio. Retenemos tres condiciones organizativas generadoras de conflictos:

  • La excesiva competitividad lleva a las empresas a promocionar a personalidades narcisistas que no ven límites fuera pero tampoco dentro, invadiendo el espacio de otros compañeros.
  • Las organizaciones matriciales generan numerosos conflictos territoriales: unos se pasan y otros no llegan.
  • El rápido crecimiento del negocio también plantea conflictos de límite. Hay un equilibrio difícil de lograr entre ambición y límite, entre la energía necesaria para competir y la desperdiciada en conflictos de límite.

Los límites de la persona en el ejercicio del rol vienen definidos por su personalidad, sus competencias, su experiencia. A su vez, los límites del rol vienen definidos por la misión, las principales responsabilidades, los objetivos asignados, los atributos de la marca o los valores del negocio. Además, el rol directivo está limitado por su ubicación en la estructura orgánica e incluso por las prioridades estratégicas. Aún así, las fronteras son difusas.

El viaje del cambio es tal para reconocer y a menudo ajustar el límite, lo que da pié para numerosas resistencias. El límite se marca desde el NO y el SI: “no a ésto y sí a esto otro…este no es tu territorio y este sí lo es”. Ese ajuste progresivo pasa a menudo por reforzar la autoestima, el auto-control, la autonomía, la autoridad o la inteligencia emocional del directivo. También pasa por compartir feedbacks regularmente, en cara a cara o “entre varios”.

Quien no llega al límite tiene que “atreverse a hacer”, a “darse permisos para hacer”, o a “saber pedir”. Quien se pasa del límite tiene que aprender a escuchar, a leer las emociones de los demás y a “prohibirse hacer”.

Learnings from Business Future Conversations

Learnings from Business Future Conversations

“Our business strategy was perfect…we have just failed at implementation”.

“We know exactly what needs to be done in this market….but for whatever reason we do not do it”.

“People are not aligned…we need to better communicate our strategy”.

I would like to share two complementary executive development paradigms I´ve been exploring for years with clients when working on business future conversations or business strategy conversations, but also when helping them in executive and/or team development. They are based on alternative beliefs I summarize here below.

Strategy generation and executive development get different status

Executive development should be deployed just after the business strategy is generated and to support the strategy execution. The underlying belief here is that business strategy is usually generated under the “most perfect individual and team conditions” (i.e.: executive team cohesion, good emotions, presence, listening, deep inquiring, commitment, no fight for power at senior level). There is little room for learning under this alternative: strategy generation and executive development get different status, business strategy subordinates executive learning.

Executive development and business strategy should be part of the same generative process

They become allies. This second alternative is supported by two underlying beliefs:

  1. The quality of business strategy generation is interdependent with the quality of the co-creation process, which is strongly linked to executives ability to connect mind, heart and will. In other words, the quality of the output generated (business strategy plan) is strongly interdependent with the quality of individual outcomes (perceived benefits), which again are strongly interdependent with the quality of the co-creation process (presence, listening, exploration, etc.);
  2. The quality of business strategy execution is strongly interdependent with the alignment achieved between the self, the team and the business at strategy generation. There is room for learning here, whether this refers to the self (mind, heart and will), the team or the large system.

What traditional business strategy consultants usually do

While they often talk about complexity, traditional business strategy consultants usually follow the first alternative here above. They are still assessing the single-perfect leader (“God”) as if they were in a simple and predicted ecosystem. Complexity becomes here a “posture”, as French’s say (in Spain, we call this attitude “postureo”). Business strategy consultant’s still assessing organizations under masculine-patriarchal patterns while presenting complexity as a bad mother (feminine-matriarchal) either poisoning her Children with too much uncertainty or hurting their self-esteem by repeating they are not skillful enough to understand complexity.

What organizational learning consultants would actually do

Organizational learning consultants believe the second alternative here above is most appropriate in current times. More precisely we adopt collaborative approaches with the purpose to give birth to triplets:

  1. A committed individual executive, acting as container for subordinates. This is a necessary condition to become an inspiring leader.
  2. An executive team containing individual members and sharing a common vision. This is a necessary condition to become a high performing team.
  3. A business strategy container. This is a necessary condition for promoting people alignment to business strategy.

Aligning the three systemic circles

The three previous complementary containers represent feminine-matriarchal archetypes. We also follow masculine-patriarchal archetypes in the way we articulate the co-creation process (i.e. collaborative conversations) and in our commitment to produce results.

When aligning the threre circles, we see strong connection between thelearningperson from Etienne Collignon, the gender archetypes research https://geronimocoaching.me from Marion Chapsal, the Collaborative Conversations from Ken Homer and the business futures conversation www.elsentidocompartido.com from myself. We are teaming for giving birth to a joint Collaborative Leadership or Collaboration as Leadership process to align self, team and large system.

Collaboration as Leadership

For further learning, please join us at the Collaborative Leadership Workshop

https://www.weezevent.com/collaborative-leadership-workshop

Collaboration as leadership

Collaboration as Leadership

by Ken Homer Collaborative Conversations

The purpose of collaboration as leadership is to re-humanize the workplace. It is each of us learning how to work and play well with other people when we are not necessarily in a position of authority.

To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; to know that even one life has breathed easier because you have lived – that is to have succeeded.

In the nearly 40 years since I first read Ralph Waldo Emerson’s quote above, I have spent considerable time in conversations with vastly different people talking about how to leave the world a bit better. The bold idea that success can be equated with making the world a bit better seems to be widely shared and passionately pursued by an astonishing variety of people. Emerson is generous in his criteria for making the world better: a healthy child, a garden patch, a redeemed social condition, etc. I have tried so often to work on larger scales and in so doing I have overreached and been humbled in my attempts. But still, improving the world at larger levels seems to be called for today. When attempting to work on larger scales I have learned to hold the idea of making the world better as more of a guiding star for my efforts than an actual destination that I can reasonably expect to reach. Being humbled in my grand attempts has led me to believe that if we want to cope with the enormous complexity of the challenges we have created for ourselves, than we need to couple our bold ideas with modest approaches. We need ways of working that are within the reach of ordinary people. Approaches that can be easily to put into practice by anyone anywhere who wishes to help.

The purpose of Collaboration as Leadership is to re-humanize the workplace

Over the past year, I’ve been working with three gifted colleagues: Antonio Linares, Etienne Collignon, and Marion Chapsal on something we’ve been calling Collaborative Leadership – or more recently, Collaboration as Leadership — it’s constantly morphing as we gain more experience with it. The purpose of Collaboration as Leadership is to re-humanize the workplace. We posit that perhaps the most powerful thing we can do as individuals or as groups is to become aware of when we are dehumanizing other people and find ways grant them legitimacy. It’s a bold idea; some might even call it idealistic. However, seeing another human being as a human being is the essence of being human. It takes no special skills. However, it does take courage.

The foundational premise of Collaborative Leadership is that if you give people good tools, appropriate facilitation, and adequate time, they can work together to solve even the most complex challenges. It’s a bold idea that we’ve coupled with a modest approach based on a simple tool called Collaborative Conversations. Collaborative Conversations maps out the four different kinds of conversations required for any group to define a mutually desired future and then plot a course for successfully creating that future.

Conversation is how we create understanding and build relationships. Relationships and understanding are the basis for bringing world-size problems down to human-size abilities.

Collaborative Leadership asserts that if we can learn to master the skills of Collaborative Conversations in handling our daily lives and our routine work, then if we find ourselves called to leave the world a bit better than we found it, we can apply what we’ve learned about small scale collaboration to the larger issues that we’re facing. It begins with the simple yet profound recognition that conversation is how we create understanding and build relationships. Relationships and understanding are the basis for bringing world-size problems down to human-size abilities.

Collaborative Leadership is not a single leader getting others to collaborate. It is each of us learning how to work and play well with other people when we are not necessarily in a position of authority. It is using our personal integrity, reputation, and standing coupled with our commitment to something the whole group is invested in creating, that grants us the influence and the ability to positively affect the outcome of the ventures we are engaged with. Collaborative Leadership is what is called for in times of great complexity and uncertainty. It asks us to step up when we have something useful to contribute and to step back and support others when we recognize that they have a piece of the puzzle that we lack. It also requires us to soak in the often uncomfortable energy of “not knowing” long enough for us to generate viable pathways forward.

Collaboration as leadership recognizes that it is up to us to pull together and find our way through the very personal challenges in our lives and work by creating relationships where we listen to understand, rather than to argue, agree or persuade. Where we invite in and honor the voices that have traditionally been marginalized: women, people of color, the very old, the very young, the poor, those who are not eloquent, those who do not think quickly, but who need time to process, those who ask difficult questions, those who dissent from the status quo.

Collaboration as Leadership invites in and honors the voices that have traditionally been marginalized: women, people of color, the very old, the very young, the poor, those who are not eloquent, those who do not think quickly, but who need time to process, those who ask difficult questions, those who dissent from the status quo.

Collaboration as Leadership flourishes in communities of practice where it is accepted as a given that conversations are how we:

  • Build meaningful relationships with each other (humanize)
  • Explore what is possible together (include)
  • Coordinate our efforts in any endeavor (collaborate)
  • Learn how to improve (build our competence)

Collaboration as Leadership recognizes that perfection is not only unattainable, it also encourages rigidity rather than flow and resilience. It seeks instead to broaden our range of options by playing with the boundaries of our thinking instead of inside of them. It recognizes that people are social, that we all have bodies, and our bodies react according to the emotions that are evoked when we come together. It is undeniable, yet rarely taken into account, that while we are not all subject to the same range of thinking, we are all subject to the same range of emotions, and it is our emotions that bring us together in harmony or split us apart in polarity. Therefore, it is incumbent upon us to learn how to foster the emotions that increase our intelligence when we come together in groups, so that we can make better decisions. Such awareness is not something that can be accomplished by thinking. It requires us to attend to the signals our bodies are sending us. Collaborative Leadership is an embodied experience not a conceptual exercise.

It is incumbent upon us to learn how to foster the emotions that increase our intelligence when we come together in groups, so that we can make better decisions.

Collaborative Leadership eschews the judgments of right and wrong, substituting instead the inquiry of, “Are we making things better or are we making them worse?” And it follows that question with: “What are we learning together, and how do we adapt our actions based on what we are learning in order to leave the world a little bit better for our having lived?”

We invite you to come and join us in exploring how to apply and embody Collaboration as Leadership. We have two workshops coming up in Europe in May 2017.

Click below for more information.

May 18 and 19 in Madrid Spain

May 29 in Paris France