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Leadership in a Self-Organizing World — 90 Practitioners Gathered

Last week I was in Leavenworth, WA for a learning conference, Leadership in a Self-Organizing World. Berkana was co-sponsor — another event to support the needed exploring and forms for these times. The place was beautiful. Gigantic pines. Icicle River running alongside the conference space and at the feet of Sleeping Lady, the mountain after which the conference center is named. A harvest video is here, including some beautiful shots of the land. Amazing people there. I particularly found it helpful to be with some old friends and feel the sense of meeting each other even more deeply — the times are calling us to be in our deepest relations and creations together.

The gathering was held largely in Open Space format. Harrions Owen and Anne Stadler were there, people who really helped give Open Space its early shape, conditions, and practice. Peggy Holman was a core host — her work is thoughtful and exquisite. Anne is among the most beautiful souls I’ve ever come to know. She is elegant, full of grace, lives from such a beautiful place of joy. Harrison is direct, has a cowboy’s straight-talking edge, and spoke with simplicty. Below are a few of the gifts I got through this listening with Harrison, including added ways to talk about the principles and laws.

– What can we do together that we can’t do alone? The invitation was for each of us and all of us to take our practice to next levels in the reality of a self-organizing world. It was an invitation to get to the “what’s possible” in the companionship of many that are pioneering.

– This time is one of the most exciting times in history. It is a time where many recognize we are beyond bullshit and that we have to be honest with each other. Harrison spoke of “a whole mess of people” who are scared now and having fits. It’s time for us to get lit up and go to the edge and beyond.

– There is a difference between doing something wrong and doing the wrong thing. The former presumes we have the right paradigm and just need to learn. The latter asserts we need a new way of thinking.

– There is no such thing as an closed system. A closed system is a mythology born in Newtonian science and perpetuated through many traditions of management and control. “Managerialism is the greatest evil and hypocracy of the 20th century,” speaks Brian Bainbridge, a dear elder parish leader and consultant from Australia. “In my parish, they no longer ask, ‘what do you want us to do?’ That question has evaporated.” Brian is leading with a different principle — that open systems seek deeper meaning and fitness. They do this or they collapse and make way for the emergence of other systems.

– Open Space as a format came to Harrison over two maratinis and 20 minutes. It was a simple as naming areas of care, opening a market place and then getting to work with no advance planning needed and no facilitation of groups.

– From Harrison’s book, Wave Rider, naming that surfers are not in charge of the wave. They are curious, go with the flow, see opportunities, work with invitation and appreciation.

– The focus is on the reality of self-organization, what has been happenign for 13 billion years.

– Everyone, every organization, every community will have bumps, hills, valleys and what have yous. Create a way for people so share what they have passion for and then take some responsibility. Create a nexus for caring that is real passion and real responsibility.

– Whoever comes are the right people. Why? Because they care. “I’d rather have 3 people who care — that’s gorgeous — than 50 that don’t give a damn.” Structure contrains spirit.

– On the law of 2 feet — when feet stop moving, and organization dies. We need to keep the grief working in organizations because it helps us get to the next that is needed. “Give people a place to say ‘o shit’ with vigor.”

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