Changes We Missed

I’ve been thinking about the ideas of the chemist Ilya Prigogine. Many may remember him as a one of the three main threads in Margaret J. Wheatley’s Leadership and the New Science: Learning About Organization from an Orderly Universe (1992, Berrett-Koehler). Wheatley learned from Prigogine that while it makes sense to stabilize machines and structures as a way to prevent deterioration, living systems (organizations) need non-equilibrium to change and grow because they exchange energy with their environments. Prigogine said living systems are “dissipative structures.” As Wheatley,  explains it, they “dissipate their energy in order to recreate themselves into new forms of organizations” (88).

In ecosystems, for example, external fluctuations in the environment exert great pressure on the system and the system uses its energy very inefficiently, but “as the ecosystem matures, it develops an internal stability, a resiliency to the environment that, in turn, creates conditions that support more efficient use of energy and protection from environmental demands”(92).

Wheatley applies these ideas to organizations. In the factory model, she says, “managers watched for departures from the norm so they could “make corrections and preserve the system at its current levels of activity”(78). Systems that are organized around core competencies but open to information from outside are less vulnerable to environmental disturbances. Their more fluid structure ultimately leads to an internal stability. As expressed by one scientist she quotes (Jantsch), “the more freedom in self-organization, the more order.”

On other words, there is much more happening  than a change in tools. Trying to impose the old factory model using new tools will not work. We need new structures that encourage openness, creativity and freedom to innovate.

We All Need a Sounding Board

Have you ever had an original idea or theory that you know is good–but you keep it to yourself? Maybe you sense that the people around you don’t want to hear about it or think they wouldn’t understand. Maybe you’re worried someone might take credit for it or even steal it and use it for their own profit, so you keep it to yourself. Maybe a little part of you is afraid that people will try to talk you out of it or point out a major flaw.

I get it. Carrying around a good idea can be comforting and hopeful. It can feel exhilarating to know that you have this great solution in your back pocket that you can pull out when the right opportunity comes along.

But consider what could happen if you wait for that perfect moment: It comes. You have a potential spotlight. You are at a meeting or conference or networking event with influential people who can fund or support your idea. The perfect opening comes up and all eyes are on you.

You begin talking. If you’re like me, it is unlikely that you will take full advantage of the opportunity. Maybe the language you use will fail to capture the magic of your idea. Maybe you will get into too much detail about aspects that are not important. You finish knowing that your audience probably doesn’t understand the key point you wanted to convey, maybe even has the wrong idea of what you are presenting. If they ask questions, you may not be prepared to answer clearly. Your time is up. You know that if you start trying to correct their errors they will lose interest.

With your think pond, you can present your idea early and see how different people react. You can role play and practice so that when your time to shine arrives, you will confidently state your idea in language that hits the right notes. You have already answered many of the potential questions that will arise and maybe even defended your idea powerfully.

Moreover, you know there are people–somewhere out there–who believe.

Time to Reflect: Wondering About Einstein

“When I examine myself and my methods of thought, I come to the conclusion that the gift of fantasy has meant more to me than my talent for absorbing positive knowledge.”

Albert Einstein

I am intrigued by the fact that Albert Einstein attributed his groundbreaking scientific theories to both mathematics and imagination, that he played his violin every day, and that he once said “I often think in music.”

I wonder: Did Einstein’s love of music and his interest in so many divergent streams of 20th century life play a role in his amazing ability to perform thought experiments about the mysteries of time, space, light, and energy?

We’ll never know. But few would discount the value of imagination and intuition in Einstein’s work. And shouldn’t we at least consider the possibility that his genius was somehow interwoven with his music?

See some great Einstein quotes at the Think Pond Pinterest Board.

Venture Launching: Essential Questions

  1. What comes to mind when you think about turning your passion into a business?
  2. What are you currently making or doing for free that could be marketed?
  3. Do you have a solution that could become a product or service?
  • Do you have any visible/tangible manifestations of that idea?
  • What would it take to start producing/doing something from your idea on the smallest scale possible?
  • What is the closest thing to that idea that is currently being offered?
  • What existing business or other entity (nonprofit, government body or agency) might possibly be working on an idea like yours? Who might be interested in it?
  • Who would be interested in buying your solution? Why would it appeal to them? What do they need?

Life-Embedded Learning: Essential Questions

  1. >What is one area of your practice that would benefit from a period of learning?
  2. What material items would you need?
  3. What books would you read?
  4. What other learning resources would you use (e.g., workshops, online courses, tutorials, manuals)?
  5. Whom do you know with the most expertise in this skill area? Who else could advise you?
  6. How much time will it take to: a) Acquire the basic knowledge needed to ask good questions and make a plan for using the skill? b) Acquire enough competency to do a small, simple project for yourself or for free for someone else? c) Become capable of doing a bigger project with some guidance? d) Become skilled enough to incorporate the skill into your practice in a minor way? e) Become skilled enough to complete projects that require the skill in order to be successful?

Think Ponds: Who Benefits?

Whatever field you are in, starting or belonging to a Think Pond can be a vehicle for:

  • Doing joyful, creative, meaningful, and fulfilling work.
  • Having conversations and experiences that stretch the mind, spark the imagination, and expand the vision.
  • Making “digital life” less fragmented, more inquiring, more purposeful, and more aspirational.
  • Becoming attuned to possibilities and potential changes that could have wide-ranging effects.
  • Working with a diverse array of minds and talents.

People in the following situations can benefit especially from Think Ponds:

Good Job, Dreams on Hold

You are starting to feel that dreams, creativity, and fulfillment are luxuries that must take a back seat when seeking employment, keeping your well-paying job, and getting ahead at work. You find the future too unnerving to consider. You often remind yourself that you are lucky just to have a job that pays the bills.

Think Pond Benefits: You will have an outlet for expressing who you are, a reduced likelihood of burnout in your job, and a better likelihood that you will be ahead of the curve when your profession or industry changes.

Fulfilling Career, Financial Uncertainty

You are in love with your job but worried about whether the income you earn will sustain you and whether you will be ready to seize opportunities to go to the next level when you have grown out of your current job. You are trying to “make it” in a creative sphere and are having trouble getting noticed or accepted into the dominant group.

Think Pond Benefits: By participating in small projects whenever you can, you will have opportunities to tap into additional income streams without detracting from your job and to show what you can do to people outside your industry or profession. You will increase your visibility as a professional by creating new avenues for sharing your creative work and unique skills in more diverse contexts.

Career Success, Change Agent

You are secure in your job and confident that you have the foresight and agility to stay ahead of the next wave of change in your profession or market. Your work is energizing and fulfilling. You have a clear, compelling dream, know the path to achieve it, and have the necessary knowledge and resources to boldly step onto that path and follow where it leads. You would like to help others.

Think Pond Benefits: You will have greater visibility, opportunities to accelerate success and diversify your network, a wealth of ideas and topics for your blog or Linked In presence.

The Multidimensional Meaning of “Presence”

By Deborah Vrabel

What do we mean when we talk about our “online presence?”

I think it’s multidimensional. It means:

  • Be there.
  • Pay attention.
  • Adapt.
  • Lead.

Being there. Woody Allen once said that “80% of life is showing up.” That quote captures the most literal meaning of presence It’s raising your hand and saying “Present!” when the teacher calls your name–whatever your academic preparedness or intentions to participate, you have cleared the first hurdle. You are there. Sometimes that simple kind of presence—being there with no distinction, no defined role, nothing unique to say or do—is all that is needed or required. You show up.

Occupying space–whether physical or cyber–is only the beginning of presence though.

Being Present to the Moment. To be present is to be mindful. When observing, it is noticing even the tiniest things. When interacting, it is listening carefully. When working, it is being invested and “in the moment.”  In other words, you are present when you are doing what you are supposed to be doing.

Showing “Presence of Mind.” To be present is to think quickly and respond appropriately and competently when something unexpected happens—whether a threatening situation, an awkward moment, or a good opportunity.

Having Presence. Finally, presence describes an outward demeanor some people have that enables them to capture and hold attention and admiration. Ask ten people to think of someone they know who has “presence” and describe that person in one word or phrase, and you could easily receive several different answers:

“lights up a room” … “commands attention” … “star quality” … “elegant” … “poised” … “shows grace under pressure” … “unruffled.”

I would contend that part of what gives them this demeanor is the inner quality of attentiveness, as described above, along with self-confidence, purpose, and inner strength.

I think all of those forms of presence are relevant to anyone who wants to share ideas, build a movement, or sell a product online.

You need to be “there” in the search engine and social media milieu. You must show up with meaning and over time. How many times have you heard the plea “Like us on Facebook” and then found a page that serves no discernible purpose and seldom changes? I know I have created a couple of those.

You need to be “attentive and mindful” in the online world. That means learning from others, commenting on other people’s work thoughtfully, noticing things and making your own conclusions.

It means being relevant–which is impossible without paying attention to what’s going on around you–both online and off-line–and taking your opportunity to jump in and participate.

Doing all that will develop the kind of presence that people notice, admire, and find reassuring. It will help you develop self-knowledge and a voice that commands attention. You will be poised to respond with online offerings that resonate.