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.

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

Building the Body of a Collaborative Leader

Building the body of a collaborative leader

Millions of words have been written about leadership. Some absolutely stellar authors have broadened our thinking and gifted us with brilliant insights on the topic. The lion’s share of the literature on leadership focuses on the individual as leader. Leadership as a collective art form is not as widely written about. A growing segment of leadership studies is focusing on what is often termed “presence”, which explores how an individual can embody leadership in ways that cause people to automatically respond, usually at an unconscious level, to their message. Leaders with a high degree of presence generally exude a grounded sense of confidence that engenders trust – which is foundational for collaborative leadership. Collaborative leadership is concerned with both embodied presence and the kinds of collective processes that lead to higher functioning teams.

The role of language

In collaborative leadership, both individual presence and collective processes are closely tied to understanding the role of language, or more properly “languaging.” Languaging is a term coined by Chilean biologist Humberto Maturana referring to the active nature of observing, listening, speaking, gesturing, interpreting and creating knowledge that is inherent in our use of language.

Maturana posits that people live in language and that language is what gives rise to rationality. However, he also points out that “Every rational system is formed with premises based on emotions, not reason… All rational systems are formed with premises accepted from desires, likings, and preferences; from emotion… What guides our living are emotions, likings, preferences, fears. Where we orient ourselves in our living depends in what interest us, what we like, what we fear, what we reject. And based on that we make explanatory rational systems trying to give it form or (create) a logical argument to what we do.” (emphasis added.) [From a transcript of a radio interview given by Maturana in 2013.]

The role of emotions

This idea, that all rational systems are based on emotions goes against the grain of many core tenants in the world of traditional leadership. A world where numerous attempts are made to appeal to people’s reason in the mistaken belief that reason will trump emotion. Shifting our stance to recognize the primacy of emotions over rationality brings us to the domain of the body, or soma as the Greeks termed it. Soma and somatic refer not simply to the flesh and bones of our bodies, but to the exquisite, innate living intelligences inherent in our bodies. Millions of years of evolution have imbued us with multiple intelligences far too often overlooked in the world of business. Were he alive to witness it, René Descartes would be greatly chagrined to see how modern neuroscience is demonstrating that the mind and body are not separate, but function as an unbroken and integral whole.

Ask yourself, what is it that lets us know instantly when we walk into a room who we are drawn to speak with and whom we want to steer clear of? How is it that we intuitively recognize people we can trust and those who make us uneasy? These intuitions are not the product of “rational” processes; they are the work of multiple somatic intelligences. Nearly everyone I’ve ever spoken to about this topic has stories of ignoring their “gut” when making a decision where all the reasons lined up but something just didn’t quite “feel” right and they later came to regret their course of action.

Notice the vocabulary here. We think with our heads and we feel with our guts. Most of us live inside cultures where enormous value is placed on our cognitive abilities, and emotions are marginalized – thought of as distractions at best and hindrances to be avoided at worst. But if we pay close attention we will discover that we make decisions based on emotions first and then seamlessly move into creating reasons (rationalizations) for why we are choosing our path of action, tricking ourselves in the process into thinking that it is our reason that is guiding our choices.

Collaborative leadership is body-centric

It begins with recognizing that the ability to calm our bodies down and keep our emotions positive is at the core of being able to engage with people in ways that make them want to join in any kind of collaborative effort. Creating the conditions where people feel safe to express divergent perspectives, and feel appreciated for gifts and talents is a prerequisite for collaboration. The minute we engender either fear or defensive behaviors we effectively shut down the learning process. And learning lies at the heart of collaboration and leadership. Without learning we stand still in a rapidly changing world, a recipe for disaster.

Collaborative leadership, the main focus of our workshop taking place in Paris November 8 and 9, 2016. For more information or to register visit: https://www.weezevent.com/collaborative-leadership

leadership collaboratif

Qu’elle se situe au niveau d’une personne, d’une équipe ou d’une entreprise, la complexité est une notion que nous avons beaucoup de mal à appréhender de façon intuitive : c’est un fantôme dont tout le monde parle mais que personne n’arrive à prendre en photo.

Le leadership collaboratif tâche de réduire la complexité en déployant des containers systémiques à partir d’approches collaboratives. Les containers sont comme des prototypes ; certains nous éclairent sur les actions variées voire antagonistes que nous devons déployer dans le système (ex.: un modèle systémique), d’autres posent les frontières de l’action collective du système (ex. : les valeurs ou principes d’une entreprise, la vision partagée et l’architecture de la marque), et d’autres encore apportent une direction à suivre pour déployer l’action collective (ex. : les scénarios du futur qui émerge, l’habitat de collaboration multi-systèmes).

Chaque système doit développer ses propres processus, ce qui demande un dialogue génératif et un apprentissage collectif. Il y a intelligence collective lorsque les personnes vivent un partage de sens collectif et un engagement individuel vis-à-vis du processus co-développé. Par ailleurs, la construction de sens partagé aide les personnes et les équipes sur le chemin de la simplexité. Le but n’étant pas de faire disparaître la complexité mais plutôt d’en réduire la part qui correspond à nous-mêmes.

Les Conversations Collaboratives sont sans doute l’une des meilleures méthodes pour travailler ce dialogue génératif et accéder au partage de sens en co-développant ces processus.