15 years ago I made nature my boss: Here’s what she taught me about running companies

The way a company is run depends mainly on the goal. There’s lots of guidance like ‘9 types of organisational structure every company should consider’, but most company designs start out ad hoc. It’s not until something significant changes that people start to focus on what they’ve created, as this excellent article from MindTools explains. Since people tend to feel safer with the clarity of command and control, it’s by far the most common strategy, but it has its pitfalls. Elevating responsibility concentrates risk, and those who shoulder that burden are likely to demand more, and to spend more as they seek to justify, protect or force their positions. The irony is that the feeling of control is often far greater than the reality. Nature does things differently. In 2005, I played a key role in creating The Association of Sustainability Practitioners. Since the goal was to promote sustainable behaviour, I had a hunch the organisation...

More Energy, Less Stress — An Easy Guide to Better Quality Time

Don’t watch the clock, watch whatever you’re doing(First published in The Innovation on Medium here)Last time I baked, I burned the bread. Such a stupid mistake to make, and yet it’s so common. Watch the clock instead of the thing you’re doing, and things will often go wrong. I was paying attention to the wrong kind of time… If only I’d stuck to the principles of Open Space, it would all have worked out fine. Open Space started out as a “simple way to run productive meetings, for five to 2000+ people” which we quickly learned also turns out to be a “powerful approach to leadership”. I fell in love with the method 15 years ago, finding it so useful that besides using it to facilitate work, I regularly call on it’s wisdom in everyday life. There are just 4 principles and one ‘law’ in Open Space, and you don’t need to learn anything new or have...
Simon Sinek on Leadership - Blog

Simon Sinek on Leadership

Liz arrived back from the World Government Summit in Dubai this month armed with a wealth of fascinating new knowledge, connections and ideas.  She spent time with John Helliwell, Jeffrey Sachs, Don Norman, Tim Kobe, Daniel Kahneman, Charles Montgomery  and Martin Seligman among others.  This simple expression from Simon Sinek though, strikes a real chord.  More on his presentation about Leadership in an infinite world anon. "Leadership is not about being in charge, leadership is about taking care of those in your charge"

Why Collaborative Advantage matters

This post was first published on my old 'Pollin8or's Blog' site (30/Nov/2018). Collaborative Advantage, a phrase coined by Siv Vangen and Chris Huxham in 1989, is the compelling argument for investing time and effort into partnership work.  The Ubiquity University slide below cites a UNESCO study ranking collaborative skills as the most important for effectively addressing problems in the context of complex systems. At the time of writing, I haven’t found an website dedicated to the promotion of generic partnership skills and the art of collaboration.  There’s plenty of organisational guidance for stakeholders on the subject, and good resources scattered among the pages of excellent things like the Participatory Learning and Action Guide but the only knowledge base for learning, exchange and improvement of the collaborative working/ partnership practices I’ve found so far is this one for charities by the NCVO. In the meantime – here’s a set of notes based mainly on insights from Elizabeth Lank’s  excellent book ‘Collaborative Advantage’ from...
Collaborative Advantage 2 - Blog

Collaborative Advantage

Earlier this year I felt very pleased with myself for having come up with the phrase' Collaborative Advantage'.  The phrase came to me in the context of conversations about competitive advantage, which I argued was only part of the story, and the weaker part at that.  My theme was (and is) that the most successfully competitive people are not the egoists, but the magnanimous. I mentioned the idea to several people over the course of about 10 days, developing the idea as I warmed to my theme, thinking myself really rather clever. Deciding I should write something about Collaborative Advantage, I sat at this machine and googled the phrase, just in case somebody had thought of it before. Of course they had!  Twelve years ago, Elizabeth Lank wrote 'Collaborative Advantage - how organisations win together by working together' which is pretty good but doesn't acknowledge Jeffrey Dyer's 'Collaborative Advantage - winning through extended supplier networks' published in 2000. ...

The Achilles Heel of Strong Leadership

Strong leadership is generally seen as a good thing, presented with the unspoken assumption that the alternative is weak. But this assumption contains a devastating flaw.  The Achilles heel of ‘strong leadership’, is that it’s very easy to cross the fine line from intelligence to belligerence. The top brass of the First World War were undoubtedly ‘strong’ – sending millions Over The Top to pointlessly certain death. They may seem like dinosaurs from another era, derided for their myopia, but their attitude was the same as ‘The Lady’s not for turning’ mantra that inspires so many Thatcher fans in business and in politics today. Unflinchingly ‘strong’ leadership though, requires the courage to acknowledge when things are going wrong. Unless our strong leaders have a ‘U turn policy’, their fear of being seen to be weak can overpower their intelligence. My U turn policy would look like this: ‘If new evidence comes to light,...
Great Wisdom - Blog

Report from ASP’s Great Wisdom Gathering

Here's what happened at ASP's Great Wisdom Gathering in Henley-on-Thames, facilitated by Mike Zeidler. The gathering was attended by people from Sussex to Dorset. The rules of Open Space state very clearly that 'whoever comes are the right people', and so it was. Of the 17 due to attend, 12 made it, so there was more great wisdom than great numbers. Certainly the quality of the conversations was very good, and the topics covered wide-ranging.  There was a theme around joining things up, system models and collaboration, another about personal support, and a third about our relationships with nature. The AGM turned out to be a great demonstration about the way ASP works as a learning organisation modelled as far as possible on 'the way nature works'. The form is self-evidently an association of people concerned about practical and applied sustainability. The clearly stated activities are all about supporting, challenging and connecting people on...
Challenge - Blog

What’s YOUR Challenge?

Got a vision you want to achieve collaboratively? Inclusive leadership is incredibly rewarding, but it's easy to get it wrong. People often assume there's a straight trade-off between efficiency (or speed) and inclusivity, because it takes more time to sift through ideas, prioritise, agree actions and decide how to see them through.  It's certainly true we all get tangled up in problem solving from time to time, and the potential for getting truly tied up in knots goes up dramatically when more than a few people are involved. When things get more complex, they tend to get a LOT more complicated very fast. Each team member will have their own thinking preferences, and organisational culture/leadersip style will also the number of factors you're trying to take into account - the culture layers of it's also the variety of thinking preferences and in every team. Things get messy, stuck or even break down completely unless there...