Posted by: Ken Homer | January 5, 2012

Lost Generations ~ Where Are We Headed?

A few years back AARP sponsored a contest entitled: You at 50.

The following short video won second place in that contest and is one of the most brilliant things I have ever seen on youtube. Considering the constant and increasing drift in the USA toward becoming a class-bound society – where many generations face a threat of tremendous loss – it seems appropriate to include it here:

I have since learned that the video above was based on a political ad called “Truth Upside Down” from the Argentinian Presidential election of 2006. We could use some upside thinking in our politics today:

English – low res


Spanish – high res

As you think about the direction the USA is headed, what would you turn upside down?

Posted by: Ken Homer | January 2, 2012

A Twitter Request

Twitter, which I mentioned earlier as being responsible for my long absence from this blog, is one to the best things to happen to me in years. I have met and made friends with people on twitter that I would never have met otherwise. Twitter has allowed me to build a terrific personal learning network (PLN) through which my life and my learning has been immeasurably enriched.

One of my favorite tweeps is a fellow who tweets under the handle @demingSOS His tweets are filled with references to W. Edwards Demming, Chris Argyris, Peter Senge and other management philosophers and systems thinkers. Tonight he posted the following tweet:

What are the philosophical ideas & assumptions that form the foundation of the techniques and models you use at work?

Those of you who are on twitter know that this is a large question to answer in 140 character bites, but I was feeling adventurous and decided to give it a try. Here’s a slightly expanded version of what I had to say:

1. People and organizations have within them the wisdom to successfuly confront any challenge they are facing.

2. That wisdom can’t simply be called forth, because it does not exist in individuals, it exists in the relationships between individuals.

3. Therefore it is necessary to create relationships in order to access and evoke collective wisdom.

4. Collective wisdom is accessed, applied and refined through a process of structured converations that begin by including all voices involved.

5. The conversational meta-map that I developed and use follows a five step iterative spiral:

1. Exploring and Creating Shared Meaning;

2. Exploring divergent possibilities;

3. Winnowing away the field of possibilities to those which are most likely to succeed based on available resources;

4. Coordinating individual and collective actions in service of the agreed upon possibilities;

5. Reflecting on learning (debriefing) which feeds back into and enlarges the pool of shared meaning.

6. Different kinds of conversations and conversational structures, i.e., World Cafe, Open Space, Future Search, Appreciative Inquiry, etc., are required for handling different kinds of predicaments, such as problems, messes or wicked messes

7. Evoking collective wisdom and developing practical intelligence is hard work; it requires careful planning and facilitation, as well as willingness operate from a genuine space of “not knowing” and the challenge of staying the course of not knowing when traversing “The Groan Zone.”  But the effort is worth it. Skillfully coordinated collaboration yields amazing results that people take ownership for.

8. The only competitive advantage that is truly sustainable is to work on making ALL of humanity better able to live well on Earth for as far into the future we can imagine. (This was actually a response to another one of demingSOS’s tweets on sustainable competitive advantage – a term I will blog about in future, which as you no doubt can see is one I have some issues with.)

9. The world comes alive with possibility when we can shift from seeing it as “a set of problems out there” to a “set of concerns we all share.”

10. People grow in the direction of the questions they ask. Don’t ask what’s wrong and who is to blame, ask: what matters and who cares. (This is a direct quote from David Cooperrider, the originator of Appreciative Inquiry.)

Posted by: Ken Homer | January 2, 2012

A New Year’s Ritual

For over a decade I used to assemble and send out some favorite poems to a select group of friends at the start of the New Year. Twitter, which has basically destroyed my blogging career, has supplanted that practice for the last couple of years. But 2012, a year that promises to be perhaps the most tumultuous one we’ve witnessed yet, seems to be as good a time as any to transfer the practice to the web and allow whomever finds these poems the opportunity to enjoy them.

I am not the kind of person who makes New Year’s resolutions – see Robert Kegan and Lisa Lahey’s excellent book: How The Way We Talk Can Change The Way We Work for more background on why I did that – I am renewing my commitment to return to blogging. As much as I love twitter, it does not allow me the same kind of creative outlet that long form blogging does. So, welcome to 2012, check back now and again to see what is new here, enjoy these poems and do whatever it takes to have your best year yet!




A Story That Could Be True

If you were exchanged in the cradle and
your real mother died
without ever telling the story
and somewhere in the world
your father is lost and needs you
but you are far away.

He can never find
how true you are, how ready.
When the great wind comes
and the robberies of the rain
you stand on the corner shivering.
The people who go by—
you wonder at their calm.

They miss the whisper that runs
any day in your mind,
“Who are you really, wanderer?”—
and the answer you have to give
no matter how dark and cold
the world around you is:
“Maybe I’m a king.”

~ William Stafford


A Friend of the Family.

All good people agree,

And all good people say,

All nice people, like Us, are We

And every one else is They.

~ Rudyard Kipling

A Sleep of Prisoners

The human heart can go to the lengths of God.

Dark and cold we may be, but this

Is no winter now. The frozen misery

Of centuries breaks, cracks, begins to move,

The thunder is the thunder of the floes,

The thaw, the flood, the upstart Spring.

Thank God our time is now when wrong

Comes up to face us everywhere,

Never to leave us till we take

The longest stride of soul men ever took.

Affairs are now soul size

The enterprise

Is exploration unto God.

What are you making for? It takes

So many thousand years to wake,

But will you wake for pity sake?

~ Christopher Fry





Is where the Real Fun starts

There’s too much counting

Everywhere else!


Keeping Quiet

Now we will count to twelve
 and we will all keep still
 for once on the face of the earth,
 let’s not speak in any language;
 let’s stop for a second,
 and not move our arms so much.

It would be an exotic moment
 without rush, without engines;
 we would all be together 
in a sudden strangeness.

Fishermen in the cold sea 
would not harm whales 
and the man gathering salt
 would not look at his hurt hands.

Those who prepare green wars,
 wars with gas, wars with fire,
 victories with no survivors,
 would put on clean clothes
 and walk about with their brothers 
in the shade, doing nothing.

What I want should not be confused
 with total inactivity.

Life is what it is about…

If we were not so single-minded
 about keeping our lives moving,
 and for once could do nothing,
 perhaps a huge silence
 might interrupt this sadness
 of never understanding ourselves 
and of threatening ourselves with

Perhaps the earth can teach us 
as when everything seems dead
 and later proves to be alive.

Now I’ll count up to twelve 
and you keep quiet and I will go.

~Pablo Neruda

“Here’s the whole story in one line. This is the greatest discovery of the scientific enterprise: 

You take hydrogen gas and you leave it alone, and it turns into rosebushes and giraffes and people.”

             ~Brian Swimme, Mathematical Cosmologist

What if the World Awakes?

A short trip through five billion years…

What if elements orbiting around our Sun awakes Orbiting Elements World?

What if Orbiting Elements World awakes Fire World?

What if Fire World awakes Water World?

What if Water World awakes Earth World?

What if Earth World awakes Air World?

What if Air World awakes Life World?

What if Life World awakes Plant World?

What if Plant World awakes Animal World?

What if Animal World awakes People World?

What if People World awakes Sacred World?

What if Sacred World awakes Your World?

What if Your World awakes The World?

What if The World Awakes You?

What Do You Awake?

Ken Homer


Posted by: Ken Homer | March 9, 2009

Moving On – Reflections on a Year of Blogging

Last week marked the one year anniversary of this blog.

Thank you to all my readers – loyalists who read every post, as well as the infrequent visitors who  drop in read one and run. Each of you is important to me.

In celebration, I moved it from under my name – – to its new home –

Over the next few weeks I’ll be devoting my time to making the Collaborative Conversations blog a more useful resource for those whose work involves creating and stewarding collaborative conversations. I recently  developed a series of workshops on The Foundations of Collaboration and I plan to feature that work over there along with some of the slides I’ve developed to accompany the courses. Please stay tuned for more info.

This first year has been a great learning process for me. My visitorship for the entire year is just over 6,500. Modest by most blog standards, minuscule by others, but more than enough to make me grateful. These visits also humble me and make me think deeply about what it is that I can pass on to 6,500 people that is useful and valuable.

So, what have I learned and what is ahead?

I learned that it is very challenging to create a new post every week.

I learned that I write in fits and starts with a sudden burst of several posts pouring through followed by dry spells.

I learned that the hunger out there for good information about how to collaborate is very deep and mostly unsatisfied.

I learned that I can not please everyone and that sometimes what I write will be misunderstood no matter how I try to be clear.

I learned that when I look back over what I write that it usually has its own organic unfolding which is not always as strategic as I would like it to be.

I also learned that people care deeply – this is more a reaffirmation of previous knowledge coming through a different medium.

And I learned a few things about the technical side of blogging too. Last May I was introduced to twitter and discovered that micro-blogging is actually much more interesting then it appears at first – I am still learning my way into this new medium. I actually think that the discipline of 140 characters is great practice for writing longer blog pieces.

For now, I just want to say thank you to all my readers. I hope to provide you with plenty of reasons to return in the coming year.

With gratitude,


Posted by: Ken Homer | February 9, 2009

John Lewis and the KKK

I am on my way to Washington, DC to present three workshops at the CACDA (Community Anti-drug Coalitions of America) National Leadership Forum. I am very excited to be to sharing the stage with Peter Block, as well as with my pal LaDonna Coy, who has one of the best minds in the prevention field.

My workshops will focus on Accessing the Wisdom of Crowds, and Coping With Wicked Messes. Thanks to LaDonna’s encouragement and expertise, both of these workshops will soon be making their debut as online courses. Stay tuned for more on how you can participate in them.

Rumor has it that Rep John Lewis may be among the attendees. I have no idea if I will have a chance to meet this great man, but today a friend on Facebook alerted me to this remarkable video showing him forgiving a man who literally beat the hell of Lewis during the early days of the Civil Rights movement in the South. I have to admit, this got me pretty choked up. When a man like Elwin Wilson overcomes a lifetime of hatred and makes public amends, I find my faith in humanity a little more restored.

And here is a follow up…

Posted by: Ken Homer | January 20, 2009

This Land Is Our Land

Happy Inauguration Day!

This Land Was Made for You and Me

Posted by: Ken Homer | January 3, 2009

You Are Here – Getting Some Perspective for the New Year

As we head into a New Year filled with promise and peril, it seems apropos to pause and get a little perspective on just where we are. The following six minute video could be among the most thought provoking films ever made.

Happy New Year – Let us remember not only where we are, and who we are, but also, who we are capable of becoming.

Posted by: Ken Homer | December 26, 2008

A Quotable Source

Until my friend Karen Jandorf alerted me to its existence, I had no idea what the Season of Non-Violence was. 

Begun in 1977 to commemorate the deaths of Mahatma Gandhi (January 30th) and Martin Luther King, Jr, (April 4th) this 64 day period invites us to reflect on how non-violent participation in the world can lead to its (and our) healing.

Karen has expanded the 64 day reflection period into 365 days of deep looking. She has created a daily mailing with an evocative quote, poem or short story and very often a practice to accompany it as you carry it throughout your day. Usually it takes less than 30 seconds to read and generally the impact of the reading lasts far into the day – sometimes striking deeply resonant chords that are timeless.

If you’d like to add a little non-violent time to each of your days, you can subscribe to her mailings here.

Here are a couple of my recent favorites from Karen’s daily missives:

Most human beings have an almost infinite capacity for taking things for granted.

~ Aldous Huxley

Every once in awhile I am shocked at the number of privileges I assume as given: that I have enough food and clean drinking water, my health, freedom of speech, that I can own property, democracy, that our children can get an education… even some of my relationships.

Today I wake up from the illusion that anything in my life can be taken for granted.

Great work is done by people who are not afraid to be great.

~ Fernando Flores

Great kindness is shown by people who are not afraid to be kind.

Great love is given by people who are not afraid to be loving.

Great acts are performed by people who are not afraid to take action.

Today I am not afraid.

Posted by: Ken Homer | December 21, 2008

Winter Solstice – I Hope Yule Enjoy This

Today is the Winter Solstice.

The word solstice first appeared c.1250, and is from O.Fr. solstice, from L. solstitium “point at which the sun seems to stand still,” from sol “sun” (see sol) + pp. stem of sistere “to come to a stop, make stand still” (ref: online etymology dictionary.) Today the Sun has reached its furthest declination and will be directly overhead if you are standing at the Tropic of Capricorn, it is one of the oldest days of celebration in human memory.

Tonight is also the first night of Chanukah, the Festival of Lights which commemorates both the story of  the Maccabees victory over Antiochus IV – a tyrant who had slaughtered the Jews, sacked their temple and outlawed their religion in the Second Century BCE – and the miracle of one night’s worth of oil lasting for the full eight nights of the Festival when the Maccabees were able to once more observe their tradition in the Temple of their ancestors.

People being denied their rights – to worship as they see fit, to have access to basic necessities, to live lives of dignity, to be free of political persecution and prejudice based on their skin color, their beliefs, their gender, their sexual orientation, or whatever the characteristics assessed as unacceptable by those occupying the positions of power and privilege in a given culture may be – is a long running theme in the story we tell ourselves about who we are.

Likewise, the theme of an oppressed people rising up and winning victories against overwhelming odds, and of a small light burning longer and more brightly than anyone ever thought possible, is equally well-woven in the make up of our collective being. 

The movie below was shot entirely on a cell phone – itself a minor miracle. The subject matter is well known to all of us. On this, the longest, darkest night of the year, it serves as a vivid testimonial to the old Chinese proverb that it is better to light a single candle than to curse the darkness.

May the little bit of oil in each of us burn far longer and more brightly than we think possible.

Posted by: Ken Homer | December 17, 2008

Of Course You Can Come – by Mark Nepo

I  first read one of Mark Nepo’s Weekly Reflections back on April 11th, 2000, when a close friend forwarded it on to me. Intrigued by his writing, I signed up for his weekly mailings. I had faithfully read his words ever since – though truth be told, sometimes I save three or four up and read them all at once. Mark consistently delivers a wealth of wisdom in his poems and stories. I found myself quite touched by this one

Of Course You Can Come

Mark Nepo

When a friend’s brother-in-law passed away, her sister had a call while preparing for the funeral. It was a Jewish woman living 300 miles away who asked if she could attend the funeral. Her sister was taken aback, not by the request, but by the surprise of how far her husband’s life had reached. She said, “Of course you can come, but please, tell me why you want to?”

The Jewish woman spoke with a tremble through a thick German-Yiddish accent, “I read in his obituary that he was one of the first three soldiers to liberate Dachau at the end of the war.” There was a pause, “I was a little girl then, weighing only 28 pounds, naked and limping. I was shot in the foot for taking some water to drink.” There was another pause, “And when those three soldiers entered the camp, we were all stunned. And seeing us children, naked and starving, they took off their shirts and covered us.” Now they both fell into a deep silence. The Jewish woman continued, “I always wanted to thank them, but never knew who they were.” And so the little girl from Dachau drove 300 miles to stand at the dead soldier’s grave and to embrace her widow.

How are we to understand a story like this? Does it tell us that acts of kindness and the gratitude they engender outlast decades and oceans and continents? Does it tell us that kindness like the song of a blood red bird will be answered long after the bird has died? Does it tell us that the smallest effort to restore dignity can save a soul from degradation? Yes. Yes. And yes. Like the one bead of light, after weeks of light, that causes a flower to finally open, the bead of kindness that is compelled from us, against all reservation, will open others to themselves more than we may ever know.
These reflections are excerpts from several books, including a new book of poems, Surviving Has Made Me Crazy, CavanKerry Press, and a new book of spiritual non-fiction, Facing the Lion, Being the Lion: Inner Courage and Where It Lives, Red Wheel/Conari Press. For more info, please visit .

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