Posted by: Ken Homer | March 7, 2008

The Future Creation Business

I am in the future creation business. My work involves helping people access and create compelling visions of the future such that they become willing to apply their skills, talents and abilities in order to bring that future alive. The medium in which I work is language and, more specifically, conversations.

Leading Collaborative Conversations is based on three premises and includes four categories of conversation.

Premises:  

First: We create our collective future through the medium of language and conversation. Language is a social process. The way we speak and listen to each other – the words we use, the images we evoke, the feelings our conversations engender – profoundly influence the outcomes we create for ourselves, each other and the world.

Second: We are at a time in history when the need to talk together authentically with an eye toward the creation of a future where life can thrive is of paramount importance not only for the health of our own children, but for the health of the children of all species for all time.

Third: The challenge of creating a world where life thrives requires that all people – not just those in temporary positions of power and authority – learn how to talk together in ways that ensure we are able to include as much diversity as possible while making better more informed decisions as a result.

Conversations:

First: Creating understanding or shared meaning.

Second: Exploring possibilities.

Third: Coordinating actions and activities.

Fourth: Reflecting and learning. 

As you can see in the map below, the conversations flow around a wheel so that past learning and reflection will feed into the creation of future understanding, allowing for more possibilities, which will require more careful coordination of action, leading to more learning and reflection and around we go again.

lcc-basic

Reflection questions:

How are you in the future creation business?

What do the premises above evoke in you?

What makes sense to you about the conversational model?

What if anything causes concern for you?

 

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Responses

  1. Ken —

    Thanks for creating this place to share thoughts. To answer your questions, I am engaged by the idea of improving our ability to have conversations. I have found that much of what we mean when we say we want “action” is that we want a sense of coherence, clarity that comes with making a decision. How much better to get there in concert with the others who have the capacity to shift a system.

    The concern that arises for me in your comments is that I don’t think we can “first” develop conversational skills, because we will never be done, and community happens so often through coordinated action (in the sense of practicing what we’ve described). Where does coordinated action inter-weave and flow with your model of conversation?

  2. Hi Elizabeth,

    Thanks for stopping by.

    I am intrigued by your observation that when we say we want action we are often referring to the coherence and clarity that comes from making a decision. I guess I would ask how often the decisions you arrive at in partnership with other people are fully coherent and clear? If you answer more than 80% of the time, I’d say you are in the minority.

    In the model illustrated here, the creation of community is actually the background and the point of the whole conversational process. – I’ll have more to say about this in upcoming posts.

    Conversations to establish understanding and shared meaning form the foundation of any community. My next post will explore what are often referred to as conversations for relationship. Once relationships are established we have the basis for exploring possibilities. After several enticing possibilities have been put forth, there comes a time for deciding which ones will be acted upon. Then the conversations for coordinating action come into play.

    I am going to ask your forbearance here and decline to directly answer your question about coordinated action in this model two reasons: 1. I am not sure I fully grasp your line of thought about “first” developing conversational skills; and, 2. I will be covering the conversations that coordinate actions in an upcoming post.

    I do however, want to understand what you mean when you say we can’t “‘first” develop conversational skills, because we will never be done.” Would you mind saying more about that?

    Ken

    Our conversational skills are tested, found wanting and refined when we experience breakdowns in the coordination of our actions.

    Whenever we realize that our efforts are not having the desired effects, we have the opportunity to improve our conversational competence. If we have the courage to inquire as to what is missing, what is needed and what is possible in ways that avoid blame and encourage responsibility and trust, then we have the opportunity to further develop our conversational skills.

  3. Ken,

    I love that you are sharing your thinking on your work and that we all get to share in your gift of articulation and clarity and to be in conversation with you about what you are up to.

    I am wondering … where does confronting fears occur in your approach? In my experience much of what is in the way of sustainable conversations are our fears … or more precisely that we engage/disengage conversations out of our reactions to what we fear. Can you comment on that?

    Thanks.

    -Steve

  4. Hi Steve,

    Thanks for dropping by and for your question, which, I am afraid I can’t answer ;~)

    Seriously, it is a great question and it actually produces some fear in me. That fear of course being that my answer will be inadequate. I recognize this as a core fear of mine (and at least two other people I know) that not having the answer somehow makes me inadequate instead of making me human.

    Besides the threat of immediate physical harm, which shows up in some unsustainable conversations, I notice other fears that cause us to disengage from our conversations. These are usually more social in aspect, such as being shamed, seen as inadequate, appearing vulnerable, crazy or irrelevant, etc. There is intelligence and value in these fears or they would not have such deep roots in both our anatomy and our culture. But often the fear precludes our recognizing it working on old outdated information and what we think will happen is far worse than what does happen.

    I think the challenge in confronting or addressing such fears successfully lies in creating conversational spaces and containers where such fears are recognized as legitimate, where is okay to name them as they arise and have that naming and the awareness from which it springs be seen as a strength or asset as opposed to a liability. One way to increase the sustainability of any conversation is to make it safe to not know, to not have the answer, to be okay with saying I’m stuck or I’m lost, or I’m confused, or I don’t understand or whatever the fear is.

    Of course this is context dependent. In some situations opening oneself in this way could be very dangerous if not done with great skill. I am not advocating that everyone suddenly confess their fears in every conversation. But I do think there are numerous conversations that we each engage in daily where the hiding of a fear is a detriment rather than an enhancement to the relationship created by that conversation. Building up strength and skill by disclosing fears in safer conversations can lead to shifting the more difficult ones when we find ourselves in the middle of them.

    What I hope the model of leading sustainable conversations creates are contexts in which trust and respect build among participants that make it much easier to speak a fear aloud and have it welcomed as valuable in increasing shared experience among participant instead of being judged as useless and creating isolation on the part of whomever shared it.
    Ken


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