Tom Atlee – On Listening and Diversity

A close friend of mine once shared that humility is a self protecting virtue – the idea that it is hard to assert the grandeur of one’s own humility.  I often observe my own arrogance – thinking that I know better, not being inclusive, or simply not paying attention.  In my experience, humility has been an acquired skill, practiced and all but natural.  It is also a prerequisite for true listening.  It’s hard to listen to another if you think you already know what they’re going to say.

I was reminded of the importance of humility in my last conversation with Tom Atlee.  We spoke at length about his definition of co-intelligence – a term he coined – and the value of deep listening and diversity in that function.  In preparing for this write up, I caught myself tuning out for the first ten minutes of listening to the recording – because “I had already read about it.”  When I went back and listened again, I realized how much I missed.  Humility is a never ending practice.  Unfortunately, we rarely have an opportunity to replay our interactions.

Tom Atlee is vice president and research director of the Co-Intelligence Institute, a nonprofit organization he founded in 1996.  His early co-intelligence research in the late 1980s focused on the relationship between group dynamics and collective intelligence. Beginning in the mid-1990s through the mid-2000s, his focus shifted to developing society’s capacity to function as a wise democracy.  He is the author of numerous books and recently published the Wise Democracy Pattern Language resource online.

Tom offers his unique understanding of human intelligence and wise co-existence.  He shares his experience of “listening aikido” – taking the energy of a person’s response, particularly if it’s negative, and directing it towards constructive expression – as well as some simple ways to practice reflective listening.  

Tom’s perspective stems from a life time of peace activism and thought exploration and he is truly one of the great minds in this domain.  Please enjoy.

Paul Morris – On the Tension of Being

Increasingly I find that tension and discomfort is implicit in the human experience. Whether I am hungry or overfed, hot or cold, insecure or overworked, self conscious or angry, the range of conditions under which I am explicitly comfortable and content is very narrow. It is only natural that I reach for ways to avoid this discomfort and yet, in so doing, I avoid some essential part of my being.

This condition is highlighted between people. I have struggled with self consciousness my entire life. At some point, this kind of insecurity becomes a self fulfilling prophecy. The irony is that the tension itself is the catalyst for connection – it is the common thread that I and the other share. In avoiding it, I avoid the one thing that we surely have in common – the discomfort of being human. As I bring awareness and presence to the tension, my experience opens to deeper levels of connection and relatedness. I often find this process to be extremely uncomfortable – something that I have to practice over and over.

In today’s conversation my guest and I explore this tension in real time as it comes up between us. What emerges is a deeply honest examination of the inherent tension of being.

Paul Morris is the Bay Area Director of Pathwise, a leadership development program that emphasizes self awareness and deeper understanding of human nature through a year long small group driven learning experience. Having served as strategic advisor to the Pathwise founders since 2007, Paul joined full time in 2011 to oversee the advising process of the Pathwise community as a whole.

Paul is no stranger to anxiety and, even after years of teaching, finds the experience of walking into a classroom physically distressing. Paul shares his approach to dealing with this discomfort in a way that creates spaces for vulnerability and openness. We explore the source of this anxiety and how it offers opportunity for empathy and deep relatedness.

Please enjoy.

Rasanath Das – On the Enneagram

I often contemplate what it means to take full responsibility for myself. Sincerely taking responsibility requires awareness and this quality of awareness – true, unbiased insight – can be elusive. A few years ago I was telling a friend about my experiences with anger. In one of those rare “aha moments” when everything just clicks, he helped me see that much of my anger stemmed from avoidance of shame. Without this painful insight, I had lacked the awareness to truly take responsibility for my actions. It was my very anger that prevented me from seeing the truth.

One of the tools that has helped me navigate the tricky landscape of self has been the enneagram. This body of work is a form of personality assessment tool that revolves around understanding different types of ego structures and how they operate. Originally popularized by G. I. Gurdjieff, its origins go back millennia. The enneagram was introduced to me by an organization called Upbuild and today I share my interview with one of its principles, Rasanath Das – who also happens to be the friend in question above.

Rasanath started his professional career in strategy consulting at Deloitte in 2000 and later worked as an investment banker for Bank of America. He then spent four years in a New York City monastery during which time he co-founded Upbuild to focus on cultivating mindfulness and personal development. Rasanath is a regular contributor to The Huffington Post, has been featured as a speaker for TEDx and SXSW, and has been profiled in The New York Times, CNN, and PBS.

Rasanath combines the timeless wisdom of the Bhagavad Gita with the incisive insight of the enneagram to offer a unique approach towards understanding self and other. We cover the underlying mechanics of his work as well as some of the ways in which Rasanath creates safe space and actually teaches this deeply interpersonal material.

Please enjoy.

David Passiak – On Co-Creating the Future

Recently I have been reintroduced to the concept of subconscious archetypes. Archetypes are a type of pattern language that assign meaning to common recurring patterns in the human psyche. In Jungian psychology, these are used to garner deeper insight into a person’s unique mental situation. However, co-creative innovation often relies on processing similar subconscious data in a collective context.

A few weeks ago I interviewed David Passiak and, although we didn’t specifically talk about archetypes, it was the unique way in which he described co-creation that highlighted this connection:

When you’re co-creating you’re drawing out these things that are deep or hidden in your subconscious. There’s a way in which you’re coming together and you’re trying to pull out these bits and pieces inside of you or inside the other people you’re co-creating with and trying to create something that’s new and fresh and at the same time you’re trying to create something that you feel should exist in the world.

This reference to the subconscious aspect of co-creation reminded me that a big part of generative interaction is collectively refining this abstract data into meaningful outcomes that deliver value. I invite you to share your own reflections on the co-creative application of archetypal analysis with me here.

David Passiak is a keynote speaker, innovator, futurist, and author of three books – Empower – How to Co-Create the Future, Disruption Revolution, and Red Bull to Buddha. He is also the co-founder of blockchain marketing agency, Blox 7. My conversation with David covers his unique journey from religion scholar who did Ph.D. studies at Princeton on “Great Awakenings” to his current work which focuses on building movements, co-creation, crowd-based innovation, and emerging business models.

We delve deeply into David’s co-creative workshop process and unpack a specific exercise he runs people through. I found the guided meditation and visualization practice to be particularly interesting. David’s experience in this domain is extensive and he offers a wealth of insight into the near and long term future of co-creation and humanity.

Please check out his latest book, available as a free donation based download, here.

Jenn Sander – On Play

The message is clear: I must play more.

Time and time again, I am reminded that I am far to serious and it’s true. My life needs more playfulness.

There is an innocence that comes through in genuine play. Five year olds don’t care about your job title. They are immersed in the creative potential of the moment, be it finger painting or fantasy lego block adventures. With no agenda or fear of judgement, a child’s creativity knows no bounds.

Play in adult life can be a source of tremendous insight and inspiration. Yet, playing can seem like such a childish preoccupation. Who has time for play in a world filled with cellphones, meetings, and email?

I recently spoke with Jenn Sander who’s passion lies at the intersection of play and creativity. Jenn is a year-round staff member at Burning Man, advising on Global Initiatives and Innovation. She also consults on civic engagement and urban development with Re:Imagine Group, an urban prototyping lab based in San Francisco. Additionally, she is the Founder of an Urban Experience Design Studio called Play Atelier, based in Vancouver and NYC.

We talk about the power of doing things for no reason, losing track of time, and letting yourself get silly without fear of judgement. Jenn shares her philosophy on play, prototyping, and bringing adults together in fun, simple, and human ways.

“Trying to be innovative and shooting ahead can inhibit true innovative potential because you need to actually create an opportunity for people to see each other and invest in themselves via investing in each other in a much more human and simplistic way for these very diverse and mixed industry perspectives to percolate together. That’s what children do, combining different ideas until they develop a sort of clear cut perception of the world. As adults we just live in that perception and continually try to innovate within it versus exploring what a different version of society can be.”

The unfortunate tragedy is that, at times, I feel I have almost forgotten how to play. This conversation reminded me that play is at the very heart of creative endeavor.

Please enjoy.

Jody Levy – On Storytelling and Communication

Unbeknownst to many, besides being an entrepreneur, I am also an artist. Reconciling the two, finding synthesis in the tension, has been an unfolding journey of recognizing the inherent opportunity for creativity and meaning in all forms of creation.

Recently, I interviewed artist and entrepreneur, Jody Levy, on her approach to work and community building. Jody creates art through experience.

Five years ago her path led her to the founding of beverage company World Waters. Today, their flagship product, WTRMLN WTR, can be found in over 25,000 stores across the country. Powerful story telling and creative community building through experience driven events have played a central role in their success.

Since 2001, Jody has been creating unique events, interactive environments, brands, products, and multi-sensory installations that connect people in engaging ways. Her professional focus is all about the integration of art and technology. Jody’s experience includes working with American Idol, Chrysler, The Coachella Music Festival, Ford Motor Company, Heineken, Hewlett Packard, Lexus, MAC Cosmetics, Mos Def, Museum Of Modern Art, The Museum of Science and Industry Chicago, Palm, Paramount Pictures, Project Runway, San Francisco Museum Of Modern Art, Scion, Shades Optical, Toyota, W Hotels and many other international brands.

In our conversation Jody offers her unique experience from the front lines of launching an entirely new product category (watermelon juice) in a hyper competitive beverage industry. She shares how she’s honed their messaging and built a mission driven brand that has an edge, creates value, and inspires people to care about something.

Jody’s approach to community is all about story telling and communication. That’s the glue that holds everything together.  Jody takes us inside her role as a leader and how she communicates the story both internally and externally in a way that is always grounded in truth.

Listen through to the end to hear Jody share her personal philosophy on how the universe works and mastering the inherent duality of “decisive action in a state of surrender.”

Please enjoy our conversation.

Jan De Visch – On Forms of Thought

I find deep thinking to be a practiced and difficult effort. It’s easy to get stuck in a particular world view and can take a certain discipline to step outside of it.

I recently interviewed Jan De Visch. His work examines the thought forms that people use and how that relates to collaborative intelligence. What is a thought form you ask? To quote Jan’s book, Dynamic Collaboration:

Think of your mind as a fishnet, and the world as an ocean of complexity far transcending the reach of human thought. What you can catch depends on the form and structure of your net. Our thinking is embedded in thought forms, by a process very similar to that by which the fisherman’s expectation of the shape of the fish she is after becomes embedded in the design of the net she casts out to sea.

Jan defines four distinct types of thought forms:

Context – how an issue is part of a broader context
Process – how an issue has developed until the moment it presents itself
Relationship – the totality of an issue and its embedded relationships
Transformation – the ability to sense the disequilibrium and instability inherent in every system

Jan De Visch is the Executive Professor of Human Capital Management at Flanders Business School in Belgium where he works on the alignment of accountability design, performance management, and talent development. His many years of consulting experience covers a broad range of industries from financial services, construction, government, consumer lifestyle, chemical, healthcare, utilities, energy, and telecom. He also serves on the board of directors of global companies in construction and media.

Jan’s overarching point is that people often fail to consider the quality of thinking and spread of vertical development levels within a collaborative group. By bringing awareness to these two dimensions, groups can move into a kind of meta thinking that brings them together and this is the basis of collaborative intelligence. By working with thought forms at this level, we begin to see that “what we think” and “how reality works” might be different.

We cover a lot of ground in this interview. After our call, I asked Jan to demonstrate some of his process on my work with Sutra as the subject. We went through a second call where he interviewed me and then reflected on the interview process. For those interested in learning more about his method, I highly recommend listening to the second segment of this podcast. And, of course, if you’d like to go deeper, then get it from the source: his book, Dynamic Collaboration.

Please enjoy.

Kosha Joubert – On Collective Trauma Transformation

The truth is I often find it incredibly difficult to just be myself around other people. There is an ever pervading tension in the background of my mind and it requires tremendous presence on my part to be fully expressive in the face of that tension. And it is only when I bring that fullness of being to myself that I am able to bring the fullness of myself to another. This is where true intimacy resides.

Kosha Joubert, whom I interviewed recently, shares that community is not comfortable. It is intimate. And intimacy is not comfortable. It’s powerful. The capacity for intimacy requires tremendous comfort with oneself. It requires that we show up with our full humanity, as we are, to engage with others, as they are, and through that elevate each other with deep mutual acceptance.

Kosha Joubert serves as Executive Director of the Global Ecovillage Network.  She is an international facilitator, trainer, and consultant and has worked extensively in the fields of community empowerment, intercultural collaboration and the emergence of collective wisdom. Kosha is a co-founder of Gaia Education, which develops trainings at the cutting-edge of sustainability, and is the co-author of the internationally applied curriculum of the Ecovillage Design Education programs. She grew up in South Africa under Apartheid and has spent her life working to heal social divides and trauma.

Kosha speaks of the power of collective trauma transformation. How we can learn to truly hold space for others and support them when they are triggered. Instead of tensing up and responding with aggression, we can co-regulate by consciously relaxing our own nervous system.

She shares her philosophy on leadership, community building, and a concept she calls homecoming – a way of coming back to the deeply familiar, to nature, to our bodies, and to the planet.

This conversation overflows with wisdom and unique insight. Listening to it after our recording was a profoundly uplifting experience for me. Please enjoy.

Alnoor Ladha – On Mystical Anarchism

One of my emerging passions is exploring ways of being together. How do we co-exist and even thrive as a global society? Much of my work with Sutra and these podcasts revolves around trying to understand this question in some way.

Recently, my friend Alnoor Ladha introduced me to the term mystical anarchism – a form of self organization based on self agency and responsibility. In a recent essay he wrote on the subject, Alnoor emphasizes a belief in the conscious individual as the unit of free society. “This requires sovereign women and men who understand the structure of power, consent to rules they themselves have legitimized, and consciously choose to live within their own communities according to their shared principles and values.”

Alnoor is the founder of The Rules, a global network of activists, writers, researchers, artists, designers, hackers, and others focused on addressing the root causes of inequality, poverty and climate change. He is a Board Member of Greenpeace International and a visiting lecturer at New York University, Columbia University and the Ontario College of Art and Design.

A traditional framework of governance is almost implicitly based on the past – on how things were rather than how they are and how they call us to be in this moment. Mystical anarchism is a system of no system. It entails radical agency and responsibility but offers a unique freedom of being completely authentic to the demands of the moment. Leadership in this context is not just about embracing the unknown, it is about deprogramming what you think you already know.

Alnoor challenges us to simultaneously take responsibility for our own experience and contribute to the reshaping and remaking of our world. This, he says, isn’t activism – it’s just taking responsibility. What I resonate most with in this conversation is this concept of non-dualistic responsibility. Self agency and self responsibility does not exclude the broader agency and responsibility of the whole. It is a thread of the same impulse rooted in a mutual acknowledgment of the certain unknownness and interdependence of life. Honoring this calls for deep presence and mutual respect.

This conversation is a little more political than most and whether you agree with the views expressed or not, I suggest you listen to some of the deeper implications behind what Alnoor is saying. His approach to understanding the root causes of social issues offers much to consider. Please enjoy our conversation.