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What is your story of love?

It's always a wise thing to know the backstory of something you're involved in and to remain curious about where it came from and what it really means. We've just celebrated Valentine's Day and there are two ways I get reminded of this, even though I'm self-employed and single. Valentine's Day was my Dad's birthday -- he would have been 97 this year. And a neighbour across the street -- who is very fond of all the holidays! -- has a full display of hearts festooning her front porch.


Where did Valentine's Day come from? How does our story of love need to change? What's your story of love going forward? 

Where did it come from? 
Valentine's Day is more properly the feast day of St Valentine, who apparently died in 269 or 270AD after disregarding a ban on marriage for soldiers put in place by Emperor Claudius. He married them in secret and even performed a healing on a young girl, sending her a note signed "Your Valentine" just before he was executed.

In...

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An Organizational Powerhouse – The Four Roles of Story (Part 3)

Story is already the currency of organization. We trade stories all day, every day, no matter where we work or live. That means they are the lifeblood of every organization, determining its health, well-being and future viability. If you want to story to become an agent of future potential, though, there are four roles you might want to take a closer look at.

ANTHROPOLOGIST: Discovery

Consider yourself an anthropologist and use story as a way to look at organizational culture. Ask yourself the question: “What’s here?” and do some fieldwork. What stories are being told? What’s their focus? Are they positive or negative? Who is telling them? Who doesn’t get to tell stories or who is marginalized? What’s the impact of the stories?

You can tell a lot about the health and connectivity of an organization by the stories being told. So what is alive in the system (s) you are part of? What kind of a StoryField are they? Since any person, place or...

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How Story Supports Groups Getting Results – The ultimate process partner (Part 2)

Inviting story into the room with you is one of the best choices you can make for group success. It easily flows across the way a group naturally performs and can support the cohesion, coherence and results a group achieves. Here’s how…

Sam Kaner and his colleagues identified and named the parts of how a group works together in his seminal work “Facilitator’s Guide to Participatory Decision-Making”. In the Art of Hosting practice field, we call this the “Breath Pattern” and we use its parts – divergence, emergence and convergence – as a guide for designing great group process. 

Making friends with the Breath Pattern

Whether a group is meeting for one hour, multiple days, or longer this pattern naturally repeats itself, just like humans continue to breathe in and out. Knowing about it — and surfacing it to the group – can make the work easier. It’s not that this is a “bad” group because it is...

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How Story Supports Groups Getting Results – The perfect practice partner (Part 1)

One of the best ways to stretch the boundaries of your thinking is to be asked to do something new. Last week I offered a workshop I’d never done before: “Storytelling for Facilitation and Group Work” and it caused me to think about how and why I apply story in the groups I’m supporting.

I began creating my workshop by thinking about what training, facilitating and hosting are trying to do and mapping how story can support this work. Then I took a closer look at how story can support the wave of how participants move through a group process together. And finally, I took a look at roles story can play in organizational and group settings.

What training is trying to do

I see training, facilitating and hosting as three distinct but overlapping parts of a continuum of group work. At its essence, training is trying to get something in. A trainer is working with a group to present information and integrate knowledge. 

Of course, these are not enough on...

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Developing the ecology for community narratives

This post was written as a guest blog for Percolab.

I am writing this post sitting in the airport in Columbus, Ohio. It is currently 9:46 and my flight to Chicago and then on to Montreal should have departed at 8:27. It didn’t. Not because there are weather conditions here or mechanical errors or any other local disruption. I’m sitting here because of the domino effect.

Hurricane Dorian is busy pounding the Bahamas, and flight changes on the East Coast are causing mass disruptions in other parts of the country. For those who need more proof that we are all connected, be it by climate, systems or thought patterns, this is just the tip of the iceberg. 

I want to make the case that our narrative ecology is the same. In other posts I’ve taken the forest ecology — and how trees continually communicate with each other — as a metaphor of how human systems interact. Trees are connected by the mycelium sheath. Mushrooms connect the individual root systems...

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Mid-year Musing #6: Wholeness matters

musing wholeness Aug 18, 2019

Once at a conference, as a way of giving the table teams something to talk about, the organisers gave us a sheet to fill in. One of the questions was: What is your favourite form of transport? I wrote down hammock and the rest of the group looked at me as if I were slightly deranged. Still, the idea of resting beneath the shade of a beautiful tree, rocking gently, is somehow irresistible. Especially at the time of late summer.

It is incredibly mesmerising to watch branches sway in the wind. The leafy green and the blue of the sky seems a perfect colour combination. Being that relaxed necessitates surrender and letting the edges go fuzzy. Suddenly I am not just me the individual, but one tiny part of a much larger whole. Somehow I am the leaf, the tree and the sky all at the same time. There is a great peacefulness when I rest in this knowing.

Trees are a great role model when it comes to practicing wholeness. They appear as individuals. You can clearly see the trunk, the branches,...

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Mid-year Musing #5: Generative boundaries

boundaries flowgame musing Aug 12, 2019

When I was young, I watched a steady stream of Roadrunner cartoons. Wile E Coyote tried everything to get that roadrunner, but always found himself holding the short end of the stick, or running off the edge of the cliff. I was like that too with my own energetic pattern.

I have a very determined will and I when I can see the end of the task in sight I tend to keep going — even if it’s 3:00 in the morning! It took me a long time to learn that my will is stronger than my body. I would often work myself into tiredness, or worse, illness.

So I began to practice in my mind. I put a neon sign at the edge of the cliff with a big, flashing arrow. Time and again I would notice that arrow as I went flying by. Oops, I did it again!!! It took me a long time to sync up my mind and body and to realise that they were better together (and still colleagues will tell you that I have a great capacity for work when I’m excited about it!).

Recently while playing a Flow Game with women...

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Mid-year Musing #4 — Little things make a big difference

makingadifference musing Aug 06, 2019

So many of us can see we are facing challenges that feel overwhelming. We feel divided from others who look different to us or have different languages and customs. We see tensions in our media and reflected on the streets. Climate change appears to be insurmountable. What can one person do?

As a human, it is easy to feel paralysed and to assume that what we do as an individual doesn’t matter. We get stuck in the past or the future, running all the “what if” scenarios on instant replay. Maybe part of this frozenness lies in forgetting that we are part of a collective and that collectives have power that begins in changing small things.

No ant, beaver or wolf believes themselves to be powerless. They simply focus on doing what they are doing in the moment. While a human can lose their head at a mere thought, an ant is capable of lifting 5,000 times its own bodyweight before it loses its head — literally. To us, what an ant can carry seems minuscule, but...

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Mid-year musing #3: Invite others in

listening musing Jul 29, 2019

Sometimes listening is an act of patience. It can be like going to your partner’s family reunion and realising you don’t have much in common with your in-laws. Maybe you want to give up. Maybe you want to walk (or even run!) away, but instead you breathe deeply, sharpen your focus and continue listening.

If you can bring compassion to your listening and reach down into the ground of common humanity, then you can move at the pace of grace. Sometimes that listening allows all the chatter to blow away and the genuine person underneath to surface.

Let’s face it, humans are messy creatures. Therefore human relationships are messy too. It takes a lot of personal reflection to realise you have a choice in every moment. Viktor Frankl pointed to that choice so elegantly in his work “Man’s Search for Meaning“. In it he said that when every other choice is taken away, all other freedoms are gone, you still have a choice. You have the choice about how you...

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Mid-year Musing #2: Listen louder

listening musing Jul 22, 2019

Taking time out during mid-year is a wonderful practice. When you step back from the rush of your life it gives you time to see it from a new perspective. As one of my colleagues likes to say, if you stay on the dance floor and never make it to the balcony, you’ll never know who’s playing the tune.

We talk a lot about the world being a noisy place. It is interesting how we have co-created this phenomenon. We like to think the rush is exhilarating, but I’ve noticed that actually it is over-stimulating and most of us feel exhausted way down in our ground. It was a profound shock to me to move back to the United States after 35 years away and find TV screens in almost all restaurants and so many public places.

Under the guise of “ambience”, music is played loudly. Once I was in a dentist’s waiting room and asked for the music to be turned down. When they refused, I told them they could find me in the hallway when it came time for my appointment. They...

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