Thursday, December 18, 2014

A few lessons from the tribe

A few life lessons from my week long trip to Melbourne, reconnecting with the tribe...

As far as the business goes, I'm doing alright.  I'm doing pretty reasonable things in a sensible enough fashion (and making money at the kind of rate I could be expected to).  Things seem hard work because... well, establishing onesself is hard work.  And as glossy as hindsight is, I haven't taken any pathways that were bad options at the time


That said, there are a bunch of things I need to tweak, bottlenecks that are holding me back; like getting clearer on my 'brand' (which I am doing bit by bit already!), having a much more compelling story of what I am about (which I knew, but which I think I have drifted away from this year), and being open and flexible with opportunities to work with others, and to serve others and others' causes.  These are things I 'knew' but that are hard to embody, and it is great to be reminded of how others have gone through these things


I'm not the only one who is over the 'making change' thing.  I was reminded that ego isn't a bad thing, it is just a part of how we function... so of course it is too simple to say 'changemaker ~ ego = bad', which is how I simplify things sometimes.   Still, there is something there, and there are many others out there who are thinking about how to participate in a world in transition.


It is time to get better connected with a '4good' tribe here in SA... many good people here I know, and there are now emerging networks and means to connect, but few of them I catch up with any regularity.


// www.jsbaxter.com.au
@jsbaxter_

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Reconnecting self, purpose and practice

A few days from my next Melbourne trip, thinking about my story and what I hope to get out of my trip.  The post I wrote after my last trip seems a pretty good place to start.

I have been telling people that I go to Melbourne to keep connected with people and practice... I have solid professional networks there, I say, especially of people doing similar work and who 'get it'.  This is easy to grasp.

Really, more than anything I go to Melbourne to keep connected to my self and to my purpose.

This is a challenge of integration, certainly... but at the moment it involves grappling with two different areas - a sense of the world, and a sense of me in it.

So as I head to Melbourne, this is where my head is at; these are the challenges I hope to make progress on.

The changing world
So many people are chipping away around the edges of a transition in how we work and collectively realise our futures... but none of us has nailed where we find ourselves, or what our journey might be.

There are some definite patterns... many many people touching on what I have started calling the 'ego control status power complex', and trends towards a more participatory way of being.

My tone has changed somewhat since May, partly from thinking about the fact that we are always in transition.  But the sense of unease is the same.

Is it even possible to understand the world well enough to feel like I'm 'doing the right thing'?

Maybe I just need a way to convince myself of the validity of some convenient heuristics?

Who am I?
It has become a catch phrase of mine, that we should always strive simply to 'participate well'.

Trying to embody this myself is an interesting experience.

I have realised I have little interest in the success of 'my business'.  My business is (at best) a vehicle to do good work.  Perhaps it also plays into my own need to be successful and important.  But the business itself?  I have very little interest in it, so it's little surprise to have found myself with periodic motivation gaps.

Stepping beyond the trashed assumption that I should be 'building my business' as a priority, I am getting clearer on what I really need to do, to do better work while looking after my own sense of self too.  Slowly.

I haven't been open enough about potential ways forward, nor have I been honest enough about the wisdom of running a consultancy from where I am (smart, skilled and flexible; but lacking key resources like professional networks and track record).  I am getting by along this pathway, because I have asked 'can I do this', and proven so far that yes I can — but that doesn't mean that it is the best path, and I'm not sure I have been asking the right question.

I also need to be much more vigilant getting out of my head and my business.  I know full well that 'good work' is done in the real world, with others, and while I have been doing this, I'm not sure I have prioritised it enough.



// jsbaxter.com.au
@jsbaxter_

Participating in a world in transition

When thinking about 'change', it is easy to forget that the world is changing.  I know I do... I assume we want to be part of creating change in how the world works... which is nonsense.  It is easy but misleading to project the status quo forward (with a few variables of change, like population and economic growth), rather than think about ever evolving trajectories and constant transformation.

The future will be different!  Congratulations Changemaker, change is guaranteed!

And yes, some of the trends are very promising... like the shift towards participation from consumption.  And the related trend towards decentralised organisations and institutions (like Bitcoin) - a trend which might seem trivial or fringe in some cases, but has potential to revolutionise democracy, civic participation and the economy in ways beyond our imagination.  (Though some do a better job than others of having a crack at it.)

When we think from this angle, it is clear we shouldn't be trying to make change, but working out how we can participate best, to help realise emergence of the best possible future.

Yes, I am parroting Otto Scharmer.

It therefore makes more sense to
  • focus on global trends and transitions (rather than understanding problems that need fixing)
  • think in terms of the threats* and opportunities around emergence of the kind of future we want to see
Nevermind changemaking.  Change is a given.  We need to understand how best to participate.


// jsbaxter.com.au
@jsbaxter_

* I am worried, for instance, about the threat that corporate interests will learn to 'play the game' better and faster than anyone else, stewarding a new system which realises few of the potential benefits of changes, simply making it more difficult to uproot entrenched power and address socio-ecological pathologies (e.g. Uber).

Saturday, November 15, 2014

End of the Patriarchy (a Creation Story)

Back in the day, God did his thing.

He worked for six days, and on the seventh day He rested.  He sat back and looked at what He had done, and He saw that it was good.

For a long time things seemed to be going pretty well.  He did falsify a few oral histories to impress His Greatness upon the people of the earth... but what are a few white lies between friends?

In the coming days and months and millenia, cracks appeared.  Modest, at first, but as civilisations grew and Man built more and more layers of complexity upon fundamental social interactions, these cracks grew and grew.  Nevertheless, these were nothing The Great Man couldn't handle.

Thus came the interventions.  These were mostly in His Image, like His first creations, and built on His earlier propoganda.  Each new intervention, however, included updates to spread throughout His progeny.  Each time God intervened with childish optimism that he had finally solved the puzzle.

Of course He didn't get it right first time... but not wanting to go back on His Word, He figured He would paper over any past issues with the newest version of His Truth... He would ultimately win out in the end - this was, after all the work of His endless wisdom, and a representation of Himself.

So we have Judaism, and Christianity and Islam, and a few other things besides.

God noticed that there were many other truths emerging, many of them from the very cracks in the surface of His Reflection.  God was somewhat displeased, as few of these were truly in His Image.  He was sure none of them would have much of a future.

Over time, as days and weeks and centuries passed, the world became more and more complex... and with each passing epoch God saw that it was straying from His Image.  Things came and went, many of them outside his control.  The cracks remained, and if anything, were growing bigger and bigger.  He was concerned.

God could see, however, that the world had remained a reflection of His Own Heart... it was, in fact, operating much as he had set out to achieve in the beginning.  He saw that this was more important than His Image, and out of His eternal brilliance saw the wisdom of investing instead in the Truth and reshaping the world around this Rightness.

This would call for a different intervention... which was new to Him, yet seemed to come quite naturally, as it was still made in the image of His Heart.  The intervention in fact didn't require much effort on His part as Man was already striding fervently in that direction.

And so we have the Truth of Science and our contemporary Rational (Patriarchal) Society.

God saw what He had done, and saw that it was good.  This pleased Him.

It pleased Him somewhat less to find some of his progeny calling out the cracks that remained - a minority, but not an insignificant one.

He initially had written off these voices, confident that Man armed with the Truth would continue to plaster over cracks until no more cracks remained.... a time when the world would finally represented a true Likeness of Himself.

But damn it those cracks were crafty buggers and remained, glaring back at him like needy beady eyes seeking His Salvation.

He saw what He had done, and He stopped to think for a little while.

He sighed.

He had given all that He had to give, and the world created in Likeness of His Heart with all His Enduring Wisdom stubbornly refused to reflect the image He wished for it.  The papier mache Patriarchy was not all it was cracked up to be.  He didn't even know if it was good anymore.

He saw that He could not be the Solution to the problem made in His Own Image.  He could not dismantle the Patriarchy Himself.

But all was not lost.  On closer inspection, the needy beady eyes of the cracks were not needy or beady at all, but glimmers of hope and joy and opportunity.  He saw when He actually stopped to look and listen to the world beyond Him, that the answers are not in Him— they are out there already, shining with brilliance out of those very cracks.

Now... we find ourselves at the end of the page, but not the end of the story.  Thank you for reading!  No it's not finished, but to be honest I don't know how it goes.

After some pondering I came to realise that I don't need to (and neither does He).  So I'm sorry about the lame 'ending'.  The rest isn't up to me.

Still, for the record, I'm along for the ride.  Let's go find us some cracks, and see you on the other side of the patriarchy. : )


This story emerged from Man O Man, an experience courtesy of Vital Statistics - last night (14 Nov 2014).  It was good!  Thank you everyone for making it happen.
x

jsbaxter.com.au
@jbaxter_

Friday, May 16, 2014

Shifting systems

I fly back to Adelaide from Melbourne tomorrow, after a week here of meetings and meaningful conversations.

The strongest recurrent theme has been the challenge of change.  In particular, how can we translate doing good work (at an achievable scale) into something that shifts the system.

Stand-out messages
  • growing new ways of being must happen from the inside and in togetherness; neither works by itself (Brigitte)
  • we must meet the system where it's at (Onur)
  • nobody has a compelling narrative for scaling up collaborative practice and transform systems at larger-than-project scale
And some more flowing thoughts...

There is unanimous agreement that the work we're doing, whatever it is, does not fit 'the current system' and ways of doing things.  This is an unresolved question of mine... are we really working towards a 'new paradigm', or are we just working on different, alternative improvements to what we have?  Should we aim to transform the system to something distinctly different, or should we just find ways to improve what we have?  I still am not convinced of the need for paradigmatic shift, but I have noticed that most of us assume this

This good work has variously been described as (real) collaboration, authentic, feminine, life affirming and cocreation— and I'm sure there were a couple dozen other variants too.  I does seem though, that we'd all agree that we're working in fundamentally the same direction.  Even if we all think our way is the best way. : )
as far as I can tell, this 'thing' we're all working for is indistinguishable from the concept of cocreation that we seemed to all share at Ci2i.  In fact, the definitions of collaboration that have come up are much more cocreative than I would have thought, leaning in particular on concepts of emergence and shared creation.

I have also noticed that many of these clued-in practitioners of collaboration are working for exactly the same thing as us cocreators, simply retaining use of the word that we have shied away from thinking about the alternative future system we'd like to (co)create might be getting ahead of ourselves.  This future needs to grow and emerge.  It cannot be built.  Being too visionary might be a counter-productive imposition of the ego

In fact... it might not be possible to create a macro-scale system that reflects the values that we hold.  Even if our ways of working are an alternative paradigm or philosophy, we may be heading instead towards an integrated synthesis that balances the tension between distinct patterns of practice: On the one hand life affirming, cocreative microcosms (especially in interpersonal and group contexts where we know it works and is incredibly rich), that are destined to remain nested in fundamentally inhuman systems.  Hmm...

If this is the case, we will be able to improve our experience of participation and the efficacy of our efforts, but will the world still be f#$*ed?

www.jsbaxter.com.au
@JohnSBaxter

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Onwards and upwards in 2014

If you've been following along for a while you may have expected a new year post about what 2014 would hold for me.

I've done this because I like a bit of public accountability, and because I know many who read this blog face the same challenge, "how to be in this world".  I'm happy to be a case study.  And so, late as I am, I write about 2014.

I didn't write up a 2014 resolution in the wee hours of 2014.  I didn't even post until four months into the year.

In fact, looking back at my notes, I didn't undertake an annual planning process at all!

So what's going on?

My planning focus has changed

It may not even be called 'planning' any more... I have veered away from 'plans', or at least a traditional planning paradigm.

One blog post in particular has been really influential.  It advocated setting up processes instead of making plans.  (I'll copy some links at the foot of this post.) It spoke a truth that I had already felt and kind of knew already, but making it immediate and personal in a way that I could implement directly.

I have really struggled for years to balance the need to plan and have direction, with the repeated experience that any plans are redundant by the time I got around to referring back to them (which I didn't tend to do, because they were too complicated to ever be front of mind)

So now, instead of plans I have:

  • simple, clear general visions or ideas of the future - the current overriding vision in my life is "operating Realise as a sustainable, growable business"
  • simple, clear, flexible day-to-day processes & systems that should take me there (e.g. have a few coffee meetings, 2-3 exercise sessions, and a half day of reflection each week)
  • a few theories or models for change, that underpin plausible stories for development about how my actions will enable realisation of my visions
  • an iterative, reflective process about how things are going, challenging and continually rewriting my theories, the plausibility of my stories, and the actions I need now to move forward

I don't really know what to say

Because of —or despite— my present approach to planning, I don't really have anything to share.

"Hey, in 2014, I'm going to break even and lay the business foundations I can grow out of in future."

Other than that, everything else is up in the air - any other personal goals are secondary to my business as my foundation.  The longer term picture is still way too cloudy.  I had some general ideas and sketched up a goal pathway later last year, but I've abandoned these distractions because it really doesn't seem relevant for where I'm at.

Lay the foundations.  Participate.  Reflect.  Iterate.

Does that really need to be said?

I'm just not 'here' very much

I am waiting to see how my business and other 'production' avenues fall into place, and this just doesn't seem that relevant to where I'm at.  I'd love to be sharing more, because I have plenty I could share, but it's not a priority amidst everything else.


Before you go: some planning gems




jsbaxter.com.au
@jsbaxter_

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Thinking about this slippery thing called 'leadership'

Can we think about leadership not first from "what it is", assuming there is "a thing called leadership" as our starting point,
but instead from "what do we think this 'leadership' thing is supposed to do?"
That is, what are the functions or impacts of a thing we might call leadership?  How do we think it would work?  What are the theories of change about the impact that our behaviours might have (that reflect what we might call leadership)?
This way, we might not be able to be clear what leadership "is or is not", but we can at least make solid, verifiable claims about things that happen in the world (patterns of personal influence), thus informing how we can behave in order to more effectively realise our intent in communion with others.

www.jsbaxter.com.au
@jsbaxter_