follow us on

 

 "You can't get THERE from HERE, but you can get HERE from THERE."  MG Taylor axiom, 1983

The Tomorrow Makers Journal is a collection of musings and reflections on how humankind and the rest of our living planet may find a way of escaping to a higher order.

Monday
Sep222014

TEDx Livermore: Uncorking Creativity with Group Genius

Note: The following is the written version of my talk at TEDxLivermore on September 20, 2014. Statements in BOLD CAPS are the content of slides that accompanied my talk. When the talk is available online, a link will be posted here.

----

Good morning.

I want to begin with a simple assertion:

TO BE HUMAN IS TO BE CREATIVE.

It is in our nature. Unlike batteries, creativity is included in the package.

Now, we may each have our own means of expressing this creativity, and our own perception of our creativity relative to other people may vary.

And, certainly, good arguments have been made that as we grow up and are socialized into the world, our abilities to tap into and express our creativity may diminish if they are not developed and practiced.

But at a fundamental level, whether it is expressed by baking cakes or writing code, painting portraits or snapping selfies, architecting buildings or building businesses, we are all innately and unavoidably creative.

And it is this creativity which lies within each of us that has largely brought about and enabled the world we live in, with all of it’s incredible in its beauty, sophistication and capability.

And, we have no reason not to think that immeasurable good things will continue to be brought into the world with this creative force.

And yet...

THE SUM OF OUR CREATIVITY IS NOT ENOUGH.

It is not enough to solve for the kind of complex problems that we, as a species have and will continue to create as a natural course of our lives.

It is not going to be enough to solve the challenges that matter most in our organizations, institutions, communities, ecosystems and so forth.

There’s hardly an occasion when one isn’t reminded of some great, pithy comment by Einstein, right? Here’s one I’m sure you’re all familiar with in some variation:

“A new type of thinking is essential if mankind is to survive and move toward higher levels.”

It is going to take not just a new type of thinking, but new types of creativity.

And this brings me to the idea that I want to share with you today.

What if we were to be able to bring together groups … anywhere from a few dozen to a several hundred ... bring them into an environment and process and tap into not only the individual creativity but the emergent potential of that group interacting in a collective, collaborative flow?

What if this could be applied towards the challenges we face in designing our organizations, unleashing innovation, improving how we govern ourselves, and devising solutions to complex wicked problems?

Could this be one such “new type” of creativity that can help us move toward higher levels?

This is a phenomenon I’ve been exploring for about the past 22 years. And my experience tells me it is not only possible, it is essential.

THE WORLD REQUIRES GROUP GENIUS

One name given we could give to this form of mass creativity is Group Genius.

This has been the basis of active experimentation, research and entrepreneurship of a community of designers, facilitators and artists for at least the last 35 years.

To my knowledge, the term was first coined and defined by Gail Taylor, a pioneer in the field, when she defined it circa 1980 as:

"The ability of a group working iteratively and collaboratively to seek, model and put into place higher-order solutions. 

Time compression, consistent flow-state, dynamic feedback, individual and collective creativity are core features of Group Genius.” 

Today, there are hundreds, perhaps thousands of practitioners and dozens of organizations, communities, collectives, and coalitions embracing the idea that there is a creative genius within groups that is of a higher order than our individual creativity and that can be accessed and tapped to help solve the most difficult and intractable challenges that we face.

A lot has been said, written and even codified into methodology in regards to tapping into this phenomenon. My hope is that at some point after you leave this theater, you’ll seek out and explore this body of knowledge and the people who are creating it.

With my time today, I simply want to share my passion for this idea as well as a few of the guiding principles that have served me well in serving this notion, which I believe will play a pivotal role in shaping our world over the coming years and decades.

As least I hope it will. Because without it, we are far less likely to survive and move to those higher levels Einstein spoke off.

GROUP GENIUS CANNOT BE MANDATED; IT IS AN EMERGENT PHENOMENON.

Group Genius is an emergent phenomenon. It cannot be mandated or prescribed into a group interaction.

What you can do is create a space for group genius to emerge. You can enhance and increase the likelihood that the interactions you are designing can lead to a result that is qualitatively different and more powerful than the sum of its parts.  

So what are some of the conditions that can create this space for emergence?

INFUSE REQUISITE CREATIVITY.

This is a personal derivative of the Law of Requisite Variety, or Ashby’s Law, for the person credited with its original formulation.

The law states that “The larger the variety of actions available to a control system, the larger the variety of perturbations it is able to compensate.”

What does this have to do with how we convene and facilitate groups to access their creativity and get work done?

Think of the control system as the collective knowledge, experience, intelligences, vantage points, and resources available to participants.  Consider then how to maximize the variety of possible actions available to the group when dealing with all the complexities of the issues you are tackling.

Requisite Participation: First, consider the makeup of the participant group itself:

Is there requisite diversity and depth of knowledge and experience in participants to compensate for the complexity of the issues you are addressing?

Is the entire Value Web of stakeholders present or represented in some fashion?

Have you included any Wild Cards - outside thinkers, who through both their knowledge and their niaevity bring a kind of thinking that can distrupt, perturb, compliment and challenge the thinking and assumptions (often hidden) that come from inside the organization, community or network.

A simple formula to remember: the 7% solution. Your participant body should include at least that many "wild cards".

Requisite Perspective: What kinds of activities and interactions can you instigate that will get participants untethered from their current grasp on reality?

How are you going to get them outside of their own perspective, to where they can perceive, think and design from a larger systems perspective?

This need not be an abstract, academic experience. in just 30 minutes to an hour it is possible to instill an appreciation and understanding of the principles and dynamics at play in complex adaptive systems.

Whether it be through an exploration of the human body or brain, biomes such as rainforests or coral reefs, or fractals and other patterns found in nature ... all of these provide an entertaining and accessible gateway into systems thinking.

Today, with all the Internet provides for, not the least 1500+ TEDTalks, I suggest it is not hard to find mind-blowing content contextualized to be profoundly relevant to the work you are doing.

Requisite Environment: Consider the environment in which you are asking people to design and create. Does it allow for participants to:

Work Big. Surround Yourself In Your Ideas. The environment should be flexible, with moment to moment ability to configure to the task at hand. Brainstorming, synthesizing, engineering solutions each demand different environments. Working individually, in small groups and large groups have different dynamics and should be treated differently. Static environments lead to static dialogue.

One of the best, shortest descriptions I’ve heard of measuring for a “Montessori for adults".


EMBRACE PLAY.

Seriously.  If no “ha ha!” then you're likely to have no “ah ha!”

Play is a modality of learning, of discovery. It is hands on, active. It combines intellect, emotion, and physical acumen. To be clear, play is not something you do aside from the hard work of designing change; it is an important modality in which you engage in the work of designing change.

There are many ways in which you can use play constructively in a collaborative design setting.

Gamification and simulation are great tools for exploring social, economic and organizational alternatives and scenarios.

Creating telling and acting out stories - make visible the philosophical and cultural values in the life stages of an idea, innovation or community.

Among my favorite playful activities is building 3D and 4D models that depict a system as it exists today or it is envisioned existing in the future. This works for several reasons: it not only reveals the parts of the system, but moreso their relationships and interdependencies; it changes the conversation, so that participants have to really think about and articulate how the system works from end to end; and by working with their hands, it actually changes how participants think - it requires different parts of the brain and body.

What else is critical for releasing Group Genius?

INCUBATE.

Provide a chance for ideas to incubate.

Creativity is not contained by rational, linear, logical thought. It is not manifested purely by our consciousness.

Play hard. Play broadly. Explore edges. And then leave people there, to ponder, to reflect, to grow restless, to be lost and unclear where exactly they are, where exactly they are going, and how exactly, they are going to get there.

And let the ideas stew in the juices of the unconscious, the non-rational imaginings of dreams. Here, we see connections we cannot see with our rational, waking minds.

The Latin root of incubate means “to lie”.

In other words then, what I am suggesting is that Group Genius is best served if you provide the participants an opportunity to lie down, and sleep on it.

Return after a sleep cycle, into a clean, open environment, with all of the work that has been produced up on display and accessible and ...

LET THE SYSTEM SELF-ORGANIZE.

If you’ve addressed met the condition of requisite creativity and engaged the participants in an intensive, play – full process of exploration, dialogue, and hands on design, and let the subconscious, non-rational mind stew on the experience they have just had, they will come back into the design process in a different mind than where they left.

Bring them together into a synthesis conversation, through which the ideas and design conversations from the earlier phases of the process converge. Ideas that are strong, that resonate, that have ownership will rise from within, from the bottom up. The shared experience, language and intent created through the earlier stages of the process more often than not enables the group to explode into action with precision and energy, accomplishing in a matter of hours what would typically take days, weeks, even months.

Which brings me to where I want to close this conversation.

WITNESS ORDINARY PEOPLE ACCOMPLISHING EXTRAORDINARY THINGS.

I have been fortunate to work in Africa, Australia, Canada, China, many places in Europe and all over the US. Usually with a shared language, but even in some cases where no one language was shared, I've witnessed the emergence of Group Genius.

Here are just a few of the kinds of “extraordinary” things I’ve seen groups accomplish in a few days time together:

Accelerating organizational development and change: Routinely taking months off the planning and development cycle of products, services and enterprises. It has been used to shave months off the process of preparing an IPO as well as the testing process of a trans-continental aircraft, among others.

Breakthrough ideas: Bringing together a community of scientist, thought leaders, entreprenuers, writers, journalists, engineers and concerned citizenry to address how we might prepare society for the coming age of Nanotech, the event, “Group Genius Weekend” produced what participants identified as brand new thinking and ideas to a subject many had been contemplating for years.

Cultural impact: It has helped to resolve seemingly intractable divisions between labor and management, in which conflict and direct confrontation had been steadily escalating. It has proven effective and bringing both culture and operations into alignment after mergers or aquistions.

Individual transformation: Another account is when, at the end of an event, the CEO approached and said he had a profound insight in working so intensively and collaboratively with his team. He realized that up until then, his mental models of his colleagues and employees were based on who they had been. Through the event, he'd come to form new models based on who they were becoming, who they aspired to be.

This subtle shift completely reframed how he approached his relationships.


(Note, in my talk, I was running out of time, so I omitted the few comments I had prepared on what I see as the future of facilitating Group Genius.)

Looking to the future, Group Genius is only in its youth; early in it’s lifecycle, having just scratched the surface of what is possible - and what is needed.

Over the coming years, it needs to scale up, to be able to be a platform with which different networks, communities and industries can be brought together in the spirit of co-design and co-creation.

Technology and other innovations are opening up whole new possibilities for how we can combine our creativity.

The science is catching up with the art. Over the last few decades and with increasing velocity - research, content and knowledge about how our brains, bodies, organizations and ecosystems interact is providing powerful insight into how the craft is practiced.

Whether your work and ambition aligns with influencing a systemic paradigm shift or you are simply wanting for ways with which you can accelerate learning, foster insight, build alignment, initiate action, Group Genius is available to you.

I invite you to seek it, embrace it and use it in service to humankind’s creative quest to reach those higher levels Einstein has called to our attention.

Thank you.

Saturday
Jun212014

Hive Minds: Time to drop the fiction of individuality

For instance, in one experiment aimed at promoting more healthy behaviour we compared the strategy of giving participants cash when they improved their behaviour to the strategy of giving cash to the participants' buddies. We found giving buddies the reward was more than four times as effective as giving rewards directly to the participants. Similar social network incentives have yielded even more dramatic results when used to encourage energy savings and voting.

http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg22229630.300-hive-minds-time-to-drop-the-fiction-of-individuality.html

As a teacher in training during the 60's neither the quote at the top or most of the bullet points below were ever mentioned.  I learned that individuals were competitive, not cooperative and that mostly education was a remote, mechanistic necessary happening.  Feelings, empathy, sharing, and co-operation were things to be pounded into young minds. There was also a lot of competitive "dog eat dog" thinking. Teachers' search images were tuned to see this very limited understanding of human nature and young minds. 

Today, thank goodness, we are learning how naive we were in our understanding of human nature and young minds at play and work.  In my own teaching when I was at my best, I learned through observation how often children proved these limited theories wrong. When I changed my expectations, and expected different behaviour, I learned how easy it was to inspire and challenge them. They naturally fell into working together, learning together. 

  • Learning is a lifelong experience that begins at birth and never ends.
  • There is a direct relationship between self image and learning.
  • Environments affect learning. Learning is optimized in creative, trusting environments that provide experience, exploration, risk-taking, and mastery.
  • Learning is an interdependent process involving cooperation and collaboration.
  • Learning involves the engagement of body, mind and spirit.
  • An individual's potential for learning is unknown; without high expectations this potential may never be realized. People excel when they experience high expectations and appropriate challenge.
  • Peak performance is driven by vision and a hunger for a "preferred" state.
  • Learning is a multi-modal, multi-sensory, multi-intelligences experience.
  • Each individual is responsible for his/her learning and for contributing to the learning of others.
  • Education is not the same thing as training. To educate means "to lead forward" and thus to guide an open-ended process, characterized by self-conscious and discretionary activity. To train means "to draw or drag behind" and refers to a closed process of making things habitual or automatic. Learning requires both education and training.
  • Learning happens at different rates for each individual; it can be facilitated but not forced, as it occurs when the individual is ready.
  • Learning is best achieved by defining the learning process as a system and continually taking action to optimize the performance of that system.
  • By establishing a system which both exemplifies and expects responsibility from each individual, and which embeds life-long learning into every segment of society, full and healthy employment will result.
From our Redesigning the Future Proposal, 1972

I can remember, in 1980, doing an early version of our Backcasting module. We asked people to find a "write-on panel" and answer questions about how they solved a problem.  About 15 minutes into the exercise, one of the male participants started crying. He was standing at the wall, with one hand behind his back as he had been taught to do in school, writing and drawing away with tears in his eyes. He said to me, "I only remember the black board (now a white wall) as punishment where we had to go before everyone and be right in our answer.  Here I am pouring forth all kinds of ideas and I will be rewarded for them!".  As adults, we need processes and environments that helps us re-member our natural tendencies to play, and work with each to make better worlds.

I use this list as a barometer and I check it all the time.  How am I facilitating what it really means to be human? And how do we as transition managers help minds of all ages step into their potential?

Enjoy these links. They challenge me to consider new possibilities and let go of old assumptions. 

http://www.ted.com/talks/sugata_mitra_shows_how_kids_teach_themselves

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/16/world/europe/in-france-new-tech-academy-defies-conventional-wisdom.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

http://petervan.wordpress.com/2014/06/29/principles-for-open-innovation-and-open-leadingship/


 

Sunday
Mar162014

Coming to Knowing Group Genius

"In excited conversations we have glimpses of the universe, hints of power native to the soul, far-darting lights and shadows of an Andes landscape, such as we can hardly attain in lone meditation.  Here are oracles sometimes profusely given, to which the memory goes back in barren hours."  Ralph Waldo Emerson

It was during my second year of teaching 2nd graders in a public school that I first connected with the concept of group genius. I had 22 students and each of them had chosen a subject that they were curious about to study and then share their learning with the rest of the class. This was 1965 so there was no Internet and the research was difficult. They had two weeks to prepare.  The only question I can remember with clarity was "Why do soap bubbles have colors?" Many of the questions like this one, were questions that I could not answer without doing my own research. 

Report day arrived and the air was full of excitement. This was work they had done on their own with little support from me. The subjects had only one thing in common, each was personally chosen by the presenter.  The room was set up as theater, honoring whoever was on stage. Each had his own way of presenting their findings.  And then it happened, the entire energy in the room changed. It was charged with excitement and anticipation. My 22 students and myself became one. Something emerged in those few hours that was indescribable but we all felt it and bathed in it.   Despite my degree in education I must admit, I had never really thought about the brain before. I had not really thought about what was going on in the heads of my students, or my own head for that matter. I had no words or explanation for what I had just witnessed - what had turned the room electric -  but I had a deep knowing that something remarkable had happened.

A few years later I came across the notebooks of Lawrence Halprin and saw the words "Group genius" written in a margin. That's it! This is what was happening in my class room! I did not know the science behind the concept of group genius. Words like "emergence",  "self-organizing systems', "complexity" were not used in lay terms in the 60's. But here was Halprin  talking about project-based learning with the community. People were learning through doing. That's what I was doing as teacher and facilitator. This is when I noted that when people of all ages designed together ... produced something of value together ... group genius was a likely outcome.

I set my mind on discovering what I could about group genius. Why does it happen? What are the forces that cause a working group to go into a higher order?  Both The Learning Exchange and MG Taylor were partially formed to create a laboratory, a method and a practice where Group Genius was likely to happen, not just with kids, but all ages and cultures.  I went deeper into complexity science, self-organizng systems and project based learning.  I discovered Kevin Kelly's brilliant book, Out of Control, and read the chapter on Assembling Complexity over and over.  I came to a deeper understanding of complexity, emergence, and simple rules for creating healthy self organizing systems through the writings of Steven Johnson,  Fritjof Capra, Stewart Kauffman and Meg Wheatley. Neuroscience has been one of my more focused studies.

My classroom experience was nearly 50 years ago and over this time span I have seen many, many groups escape into the Group Genius mode. I know now with some certainty how to cause it, not control it, but give it freedom to occur. Now finally, through Stanislas Dehance's book, Consciousness and the Brain: deciphering how the brain codes our thoughts, I am understanding what happens in the brain. Dehance is quite metaphoric and yet very specific and detailed in his writing.  The book is on the individual brain but in his description of how the brain creates a work space to assemble complexity.  I can see the very same thing happening with individual brains when they become group genius.  All the individual brains go into the same assemblage causing group genius.  It is a recursive model! Very exciting because now I can do more than feel it, design for it, take part in it ... I can also understand it! As far as I know there is no formal research being done on group genius. Perhaps this will be coming forth soon. I'd love to know more if anyone knows of this kind of particular research happening.  The MG Taylor method and process can provide real time evidence!

The brain builds itself by laying down large synaptic highways, which become the scaffold of communication corridors from which secondary and tertiary corridors emerge, until a vast “hairnet of axons” covers the brain. Once this hairnet is in place then we have a brain that is able to self-organize an infinite number of connections, thoughts, ideas, innovations and learnings while at the same time behave and direct behavior in dependable, learned ways.

— Marilyn Hamilton, “The Art and Science of Meshworking” from Integral City 

Tuesday
Feb112014

What Is Design? Unlocking The Genius Within

Todd was recently interviewed by Forbes.com columnist Victor Hwang, an venture capitalist and entreprenuer based in Silicon Valley. This interview originally appeared in Forbes.com on February 11, 2014. Posted here with permission from the author.

-----

Todd Johnston was a designer before designing was cool.  For decades, he and his colleagues have practiced design to accelerate innovation for corporations and countries.  His team designs the collaborative sessions at the World Economic Forum in Davos, where they are often tasked to help leaders tackle the biggest challenges. Next week, Todd makes his debut as the Head of Design for our Global Innovation Summit in Silicon Valley.

We set a simple challenge for ourselves: if we believe that innovative ecosystems can be designed across entire countries, then surely we can create an ecosystem in a single conference.  Therefore, working with Todd, we have turned the conference into a giant design laboratory.  Instead of listening to one-way lectures, our participants will be working in small startup-like teams to tackle real problems in real time.  Instead of talking in abstraction, our participants will be building tangible, 3D prototype solutions to tackle systemic challenges.

I wanted to share some of Todd’s insights on design with you, as they are particularly interesting and relevant to anyone trying to accelerate innovation, entrepreneurship, and economic value creation.

photo by Chris Nohr, thenumbercreative.com
Victor Hwang:
  What does design mean to you?

Todd Johnston:  The first definition I remember learning for design was “to mark out,” which comes from the Latin form of the word (dēsignāre). The simplicity of this definition speaks to me and does as good a job as any definition in getting to the heart of the matter. To design is to mark out a pattern as a means of making meaning of an experience. A design marks out a vision for what can be; the act of designing is to move with intent to close the gap between existing conditions and that vision.

Hwang:  How do you practice design?

Johnston:  Design as I have practiced it has always been prefixed with “co-“, meaning together, mutually with others. When done well, collaboration unleashes collective intelligence and channels that intelligence into the design process to produce dramatically better results. Co-design recognizes that everyone has expertise to offer, and that there are no experts in the fields of the unknown and undiscovered. The complex problems we face today call for all kinds of intelligences, voices and vantage points.

Hwang:  Why has design become so important today?

Johnston:  Design is a hands-on endeavor of the mind, body and soul. It is both playful and thoughtful, and can be highly liberating. Worthy design is immensely challenging. Rarely are boundaries or solutions clear or easy to come by. This is a great time to be a designer, as I believe we are living in a time when a fundamentally new paradigm, or way of understanding and interacting with the world, is being formed and coming into being.  What better reward could a designer ask for than to help give shape to this?

Hwang:  You talk about how the knowledge economy has transitioned into the creative economy.  What does that mean?

Johnston:  Let me first say what I’m not saying. I am not saying that the knowledge economy is going away, or that knowledge is becoming a less relevant source of what shapes our collective worldview. Over the last quarter century, there have been a number of overlapping descriptors of the social, economic and technological paradigms in which we live. It is largely accepted that what was known as the industrial economy is no longer dominant, and has been replaced by the knowledge economy and network economy as more accurate descriptors of what shapes the marketplace. Part of what is driving this transition is that knowledge is becoming easier and less expensive to store, share, transfer and replicate.

Hwang: What is the result of that transition?

Johnston:  The ability to creatively combine and apply various bodies of knowledge in new and more powerful ways is becoming of great and greater significance. In other words, it is not just about knowledge, but what you do with it. Steve Denning, who has been writing about the creative economy for several years, characterizes it as  “an economy in which the driving force is innovation… in which organizations are nimble and agile and continually offering new value to customers and delivering it sooner.” Building on this, I’d argue that networks are in many instances replacing organizations as the primary mechanisms for combining disparate bodies of knowledge in innovative ways, and are typically more likely to be nimble and agile.  Thus, the creative economy is the name I give to what is emerging from the combination of the knowledge economy in the networked age.

Hwang: How do you describe the philosophy behind your work?

Johnston:  From a practical point of view, the power really comes from its recognition that design, creativity, collaboration, modeling, meaning making, problem solving … all of these things are inherently part of who we are as human beings.  There is a quote attributed to Bucky Fuller that goes something like “All children are born geniuses; 9,999 out of every 10,000 are swiftly, inadvertently de-geniusized by grownups.”

Happy

Genius at work?

Well, maybe one way of looking at the MG Taylor philosophy [in which I was trained] is the process of re-geniusizing people to their fully human selves.  How?  By doing.  By bringing people into the hands-on experience, as a community, designing their future together. From the get go, the Taylors recognized the value of any concept, theory or idea, was in what it enabled you to do.

Hwang:  What lessons have you learned from you work at the World Economic Forum in Davos?

Johnston:  First, dealing with the constraint of incredibly short sessions. …  I’m talking about true, experientially rich, participatory design sessions, in which we are asked to take on a subject or theme complex in nature and provide a platform for 40 – 60 participants to move through several iterations of the creative process in order to make significant, meaningful progress on an issue with global impact. Intellectual property, transatlantic relations, gender equality, climate change, access to water, responsible wealth, and so on….

Secondly, with the World Economic Forum, the teams and programs I’ve been a part of are just a small fraction of the overall system and community that is brought together. …  So, what we, as a small team of facilitators have learned and are continuing to learn, is how and where we can make a difference to the system. Where are the critical leverage points we can leverage for greater impact? How do we make the work visible beyond just those that participate in a session? What can we do to facilitate connections between individuals and parts of the system that may not otherwise be made?

Hwang:  How will your participation at the Global Innovation Summit be similar or different from Davos?

Johnston:  I am very much focused on what we can do to facilitate participants having an integrated, progressive experience. What I mean by this is that I want participants to both get great value from each individual aspect of the program but also for them to make sense of the whole and leaves them feeling as though they have contributed to and accomplished something meaningful collectively.

The key difference, and challenge that we’ll have to meet, is in my work with the World Economic Forum, we have fairly robust facilitation teams and overall smaller groups of people that we’re working with at any given time. So, [the large size of the Summit] will undoubtedly stretch my thinking and my skills to a place they haven’t been before. And that is one of the things that is most attractive to me. New ground. New challenges. Bring it on!

Todd Johnston is Director, Process Design & Facilitation with Tomorrow Makers and a Founding Member of The Value Web. He is Head of Design for the Global Innovation Summit in Silicon Valley.

Victor W. Hwang is a venture capitalist and entrepreneur in Silicon Valley.  He is Executive Director of Global Innovation Summit + Week (February 17-21, 2014), an event focused on catalyzing systemic innovation across companies, communities, and countries. 

Friday
Dec062013

Nelson Mandela and the Adjacent Possible

"The impossible has a kind of integrity to it which the merely improbable lacks."
Douglas Adams,  The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul

I consider Nelson Mandela to be a miracle for our time and age.  He was a true gift, gifting us in ways  impossible to foresee. His deeds and words will live on throughout all time and space.

I have been researching and writing about the adjacent possible for sometime now. The life story of Mandela has been unfolding via the news over the last few days.  I am amazed with how many adjacent possible opportunities he took and used to further not only his options but widened the options of behavior and philosophy for all humans.  It seems to me that Mandela had a small number of non-negotiable values which he held true to during his entire life.  They were about fairness and opportunity for all. 

By holding true to these values, he seemed to have had an innate knowledge of when and how to take his next step in his long journey. He walked the fine edge between chaos and death and peace and justice as a way of life.  He knew which doors to crack open and when. He invited others into these adjacent possible spaces and together they opened more possibles.  Over the years, he widened his opportunities for freedom as he did for all of humanity. 

Today, even with his passing, his beliefs and how he lived his beliefs will continue to open new doors to discover new adjacent possibilities to all of us who pay attention to his words and actions.  Mandela seemed never to take the simple way of compromise but always to find the practical way to inch freedom forward.  In his actions, he realized what was impossible to most people. Encouraged by many to compromise, telling him that his undying hope was improbable and useless, he stood his ground and moved forward one adjacent possible at a time creating a higher order solution... a more fit world. 

Each link  shows a different aspect of the adjacent possible.  For those of us with hope in our eyes and hearths, may we come to know as Mandela did the adjacent doors to open as we move forward on this great journey. 

Life can only be understood backward but it must be lived forward. S. Kierkegaard