More on the Change Lab: Creative Innovations 2012 Day 1 (still)

(Yeah, I’m slowly adding content. I just came from a dinner that pretty much defies description so you’ll have to just give me love for actually taking the time to write this at midnight instead of going to bed. 🙂 )

I spoke before about the Change Lab but here are the key steps.

1. An innovative approach that is systemic, participative and creative
2. Collective effort to address a vital, complex challenge in a given systems
3 A committed alliance of political, economic and cultural leaders in the system
4 A rhythmic process of acting and reflecting
5 A structure container for building capacities for co-initiating co-sensing co-presencing co-creating and co-evolving
6 A safe space for practising how to exercise both power and love

Whoah – what? Power and love? This is a form of framing to show how two very different camps think about the work.

POWER: One camp says that the only thing that matters is individual interests, ambitions and capacity to act.
LOVE:  Other camp focused on what’s good for the whole, the best solution, that’s the only thing that matters

Here’s the quote from the Reverend Martin Luther King, Junior:

“Power without love is reckless and abusive. Love without power is sentimental and anaemic.”

So we must attend to both the power and the love as part of the whole.

Ok, this kind of things is easy to say but the guy who was saying this was Dr Adam Kahane – he’s gone to places to look at difficult situations and if he thinks this works then I’m willing to listen. Adam was in Bogota with politicians and militia in one room, including people who had made death threats against each other, and had guerrillas calling in on the phone to be part of the scenario generation.

“Do I have to agree to a ceasefire to take part in the scenario?” (Random guerrilla)

(The answer was no – no preconditions to the scenario because you just wanted people in the same place)

What we have to face is that some problems are so big that it will take more than our friends and family to solve them. We may have to work with strangers – or our enemies.

Think about that.

You’ve been fighting someone for so long that you don’t really remember all the details – but you know that you hate each other and that you have both done bad things to each other recently. Suddenly, something comes up and it’s huge. It’s a wicked problem, one that is complex and hard to deal with or even understand. You can’t solve it alone. Your enemy can’t solve it alone.

Can you solve the initial problem of getting these two people into the room just to even talk about things? Then, having done that, can you work out how to work together on the thing that threatens you both and, somehow, act in concert to deal with it?

What if it’s so big that it’s bigger than both of you? Now, not only do you have to work together on something, you have to find someone else who will work with your semi-dysfunctional mutual hatred society. Maybe the only person who can help you is the person that you both hate second to each other? Point 2 of the approach talks about a collective effort and 3 demands that the leader, the people with agency who can change things, are the people who should be at the table.

Does it have to be Kings, warlords or CEOs? It depends on how entrenched they are in the status quo. If all the CEO is going to say it “Hey, we’re great”, then send someone who is nearly as powerful but actually has their eyes open.

I spoke to Adam tonight at the dinner and our exchange went like this:

Nick: “Thanks for a great talk, Adam. Listening to you talk about Bogota gave me hope. I don’t have to deal with warlords and guerrillas, I just have to get some academics around a table.”

Adam: “You’re welcome, but I was trying to change academics for years and I just gave up. Remember Kissinger’s quote about academics? (Kissinger, who was apparently quoting Sayre on Issawi)”

Issawi (from the grave): “In any dispute the intensity of feeling is inversely proportional to the value of the issues at stake.”

Sayre (from the grave): “That is why academic politics are so bitter.”

Now I realise that Adam was being facetious, he’s a highly amusing man, but it is slightly scary to hear this from a man who was willing to tell people to stop complaining about sitting next to someone who had tried to kill them five times, because he was trying to stop the sixth attempt.

I like the Power and Love framing – I think I’m far too prone to that sentimental ‘love’ approach,without giving enough attention to the requirement of people to be people! I think I’ll have to buy Adam’s book tomorrow!

2 Comments on “More on the Change Lab: Creative Innovations 2012 Day 1 (still)”

  1. Nick, thank you for a great post. Most of us think power and love do not work together, but when one reads Martin Luther King, Parker Palmer, and Thich Nhat Hanh we walk away with a different perspective. It all feeds into a new leadership model for complex adaptive systems: servant leadership.


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