30 November 2016

A brief look into the RISE 7 Habits and Practices

The habits and practices required to achieve a sense of flow in collaboration are learnt through a peer-group process, typically with peers who are diverse in terms of geography, expertise and experience. Through smart use of these processes in large and small-groups, we can achieve an alignment in these habits and practices, assisted by shared experiences and a common language.

Summary of RISE 7 Habits and Practices

Shared Self Awareness

Understanding and utilising your strengths and shadow-side and productively using it for your own and your team’s advantage.


  • Awareness of personal strengths and shadow-side.
  • Can step back and understand how personal thoughts, feelings and behaviours influence team dynamics.
  • Explore and experimenting with new and more effective approaches.
  • Open to feedback and reflective learning to improve personal and social effectiveness.
  • Deeper and faster insight to the strengths and shadow-side of the people with whom you collaborate.

Vulnerability Based Sharing

Fostering a culture where it is safe and encouraged to take risks, be vulnerable and admit mistakes and through this process fostering a climate of trust and learning.


  • Being fully present for key conversations with a capacity to listen deeply.
  • Practising open and vulnerable sharing to create trusting relationships.
  • Able to suspend judgement and criticism to enable people to become authentic and real when dealing with external challenges and complexities.

Balance Being and Doing

To balance being and doing is to be able to reflect regularly on your inner conditions and the state of your wellbeing and that of your team and initiate appropriate actions.


  • Able to accurately assess the quality of your reflection and attention on your behaviours and disciplines that restore balance in your life.
  • Capable of managing the shift required from ‘Doing’ to ‘Being’ in a conscious and deliberate way according to situational demands.
  • Reading the internal and external signs of imbalance accurately and knowing how to respond to it.
  • Ensuring appropriate opportunities for your team to restore energy and trust in critical relationships.
  • To create the being conditions for creativity and innovation to flourish amongst stakeholders.

Team Effectiveness

Competencies in principles and methodologies to improve deeper dynamics of team functionality and achieving business results.


  • Able to actively contribute to the development of deeper levels of trust with team members.
  • Being effective in using behaviours such as listening, inquiring and direct conversations to influence healthy and constructive team behaviours.
  • Instilling intelligent conversations to establish a team culture of empowerment, psychological commitment, and accountability.
  • Ability to open up fresh perspectives to counter complexity and uncertainty and then build clarity.


Behaviours and actions that build capacity and knowledge around empowering and equipping others.


  • Supporting individuals to develop deeper insights and competencies in their roles
  • To foster a team context where people are encouraged to learn and acquire new sets of skills.
  • Inviting others to contribute their knowledge and skills and by doing so taking the team to higher levels of problem solving.

Challenging Conversations

Understanding and utilising the principles and skills that ensures healthy relationships with all stakeholders.


  • Able to step back from own views and objectives to consider needs and perspectives of stakeholders.
  • Can manage difficult and energy sapping relationships in a confident and solution-focused manner.
  • Can make tough decisions if a relationship cannot be re-aligned.
  • Being aware of power dynamics in conflict and managing it in such a way that win-win possibilities can evolve.

Accessing Collective Intelligence

Facilitating collective intelligence through dialoguing and inquiry skills. Consciously managing the divergent and convergent phases of the problem cycle.


  • Abilities that demonstrate skills of inquiry, deep listening and opening up of new perspectives.
  • Creating deeper understanding of own challenges through intentional, structured inquiry processes.
  • Explore and discover new possibilities by challenging subconscious assumptions that lead to old, habitual and unwanted results.
  • Utilising the collective wisdom available by improving the quality of conversations.
  • The ability to both seek multiple perspectives and take multiple perspectives.
  • Able to hold different ideas and opinions whilst at the same time making meaningful connections and discovering new possibilities.

There is plenty of knowledge on what makes for great collaboration, but there seems to be less information out there about how to bring collaboration about. RISE creates an environment that allows good habits and practices to grow and be used to their full potential leading to the ability to collaborate successfully. Download the RISE App today and get access to other key features such as meetings tools, problem solving practices and checklists for managing effective meetings.

4 November 2016

Divergent vs Convergent Thinking

The difference between divergent and convergent thinking is so integrated into what we do, that we never stop to think about the theories behind these two thinking methods.

According to Anne Manning, constructor of Creative Thinking: Innovative Solutions to Complex Challenges, the constant switch between modes of idea generation (divergent thinking) and idea analysis (convergent thinking) prevents many teams from succeeding in the creative thinking process. To understand how creativity works in the brain, we must first understand the difference between convergent and divergent thinking.

What is divergent thinking?

The divergent phase of thinking is about managing the messy process of accessing each other’s intuition to gain fresh perspectives and insights from which options can be generated. This is an iterative process. It is misleading to think of these phases as sequential.

The Blue/Thinking Phases of Divergent Thinking


Problem Sensing and Definition – This is where it all starts. This phase ends when you have a clear definition of the issue. Successful problem-sensing requires people to be tuned in to both your market environment and your internal organization, coupled with good processes. The diversity of people and experiences adds significantly to the potential power of the divergent phase. It’s always a good idea to have one or two people in the group who are natural questioners and perpetually restless about the status quo.

Incubating Ideas – Innovations flow from people seeing the same reality differently. In the phase of incubating ideas, you want to expand your zone of intuition to better access your life experience and surface insights that lie below. When you access your intuition it’s messy and you often struggle to find the right words to express what you are sensing. A supportive, empathetic atmosphere is essential. You want people to talk openly about ways in which a problem might be tackled. Avoid the ‘I am right. You are wrong’ debate. Excessive judgment in this delicate phase can kill creative conversation yet debating and exploring differences of opinion is vital.

Challenging Assumptions – As options for action take shape, it becomes important to identify the assumptions that have been made. In high risk decisions we want as few unconscious and unqualified assumptions as possible.

This is the phase of critical thinking. Invariably people are passionate about their ideas and get attached to them. If you are hearing excessive advocacy in the conversation it may be a sign that the quality of the process is slipping. The unconscious assumptions behind decisions are one of the most significant causes of failure.

Tips for successfully facilitating divergent phase conversations

Location counts – Even for regular meetings, apply some variety to your meeting location and format. Human beings have habitual patterns unconsciously linked to habitual locations. Choose a different meeting room in an alternative area or meet outdoors on a sunny day. As you become confident with using different spaces and locations, you will learn how much this impacts how people show up.

Have the right people in the room – Creative insights emerge from seeing the same reality differently. Having a diversity of life experience in the room relevant to the issue is more likely to generate multiple perspectives.

Create the right atmosphere – People only tend to share differences of opinion in a non-judgmental manner when they are in a safe and trusted environment. Start your session with a Trust Builder to help you do this.

Facilitator tool kit – Make sure you have your tool kit to hand so you can run various processes effectively. Essential items include post-it notes, marker pens, flip charts and modelling kits.

What is convergent thinking?

Once you have managed to achieve a clear divergent process, it becomes a lot easier to move into the convergent phase of thinking. The convergent phase will typically be faster paced. It is action oriented and very focused on outcomes, timescales and reviewing. The focus on action in this phase means that ‘doing’ is often prioritized above the people. In the pressure and excitement to get things done, you will need to pay attention to your energy and energy of others.

The Green/Doing Phases of Convergent Thinking

Defining Options – As we share differences of opinion and catalyze further ideas, a few preferred options are likely to emerge. At this point one or two people from the group need to take time-out to fully define an option for the group to evaluate at a further date.

Making Decisions – We pursue our purpose by the iterative process of decisions and action and learning from outcomes. A group that is paralysed or slow in its decision-making will likely fail; one which is fast in deciding, yet based on poor option generation, is likely to also fail. Be explicit that you are getting together to make a decision. In more formal settings the agenda may flag in advance ‘issues for decision’ and a summary of the problem, preferred option, other factors to consider and how to mobilise for action. Once a decision is made, inform the people who need to know so the group can move swiftly into mobilizing for action.

Mobilizing for Action – If the preceding steps through the Divergent and Convergent phases have been done well, then mobilizing for action should be fast. Factors to potentially slow down this phase may include identifying and appointing a leader, access to specialist expertise or releasing funds to make mobilization happen.

Action and Review – Most people’s energy is on taking action and so habits and practices are strong in the Convergence Phase. Success in this phase depends on the quality of team effectiveness. The review process can also be the start of a major re-think and back into more strategic problem-solving.


Remember that how well you run the Divergent Phase defines your upside. Good solutions implemented well and continuously improved is what you should be seeking. A poorly managed Divergent Phase leading to an OK solution, even if well implemented, can only deliver an OK outcome.


13 September 2016

Tips and Best Practices for Collaborating Virtually


There’s a world of difference between just working together well and truly collaborating with each other.  Achieving perfect collaboration is tricky in any environment, but even more so in a virtual workplace.  Getting teams to work together is essential for bringing in projects on time, under budget and of high standard.  But going beyond that and getting teams to collaborate is when the real magic happens.  If your virtual meetings are an energy sink rather than energy source then it’s a strong signal that your collaboration needs attention.  Mastery in collaboration evolves by having the courage to experiment with new practices and by developing a deeper mastery of yourself and insight into others.

Tips to help teams collaborate successfully

Train for collaboration

Any group can improve their collaboration with commitment and persistence and a clearly defined framework within which to improve.  At RISE Beyond we provide that clearly defined framework for our clients and in 2016 have had great success in teaching various collaboration practices through the use of our  App.  Key features of the RISE App include:

  • Meetings tools and processes
  • Problem solving practices
  • Checklists for managing effective meetings
  • Guidance around finding the right process
  • Insight into the RISE 7 Habits and Practices

Co-create team rules and norms

It is so important for virtual collaborative teams to understand and agree upon standards and expectations for communication, decision-making, conflict resolution and meeting protocol.  Equally important is the clarification of team goals and priorities as well as each individual’s responsibilities, roles and accountability.

Trust Builders

Trust is the foundation for any successful collaboration.  Trust usually grows out of personal interactions and mutual work or personal experiences.  A trust builder helps to get people fully present as well as supporting the development of trust within a group.  It is always helpful to take a few minutes at the beginning or end of a meeting for ‘small talk’, so that participants can build or deepen personal relationships. Example trust-builder questions could include:

  • Describe a time in your life when you were very embarrassed.
  • Which of your senses do you value the most and why?
  • Describe a time in your life when you were truly afraid.
  • What is the strangest thing you’ve ever eaten?

Best practices when collaborating virtually

We are in a phase of rapid growth of online collaboration tools.  RISE work with clients is 70% virtual.


All participants must take responsibility for having access to good internet, a headset and a location with low background noise.

Be Seen

Video-conference is better than audio.  65% of our learning style is visual, 30% auditory and 5% kinesthetic.  Put simply, using video-conferencing, we feel more connected and you are much more likely to maintain concentration.

Keep It Short

Do not hold a group video conference for more than 2 hours.  Always have a 5 minute mid-point break.  This will ensure people don’t lost focus and stay connected.

Level the Playing Field

Try to use one computer per participant.  The energy of a group of people in a room can make participants who are joining virtually feel disconnected.

Be On Time

When people are late or don’t show up, stress grows fast in the virtual environment.  Be on time and when there are inevitable delays, be sure to let people know.


Always have a pre-agreed facilitator who shares the agenda with the group.

Speak in Turn & Frequent invitation to speak

Ask each person to comment on an issue in turn and let them know the order when you start an agenda item.  Ensure the facilitator invites each person regularly into the conversation; knowing you will be called upon helps you keep your focus on the discussion.

Use the Right Tools

Experiment with tools to support your collaboration during the video-conference.  For example, the whiteboard functionality within WebEx can be useful.

End of Meeting Process Review

This is easy and will quickly improve the quality of your collaboration.  At the end of a meeting, ask each person to share their reflections on the meeting process.  What worked well and why?  Or if something did not work, why?

When it comes to bonding virtual teams, there’s no substitution for getting people together. Even if it’s just for one initial face-to-face meeting, the very fact that you’ve given people the chance to get “up close and personal,” goes a long way to sustaining a team spirit and increasing productivity when everyone goes back to their respective workplaces.

24 August 2016

Benefits of Business Collaboration and Teamwork

Collaboration is more than a technical architecture, solution, or product. It is the experience that integrates people, processes, and technology. Too often people feel that their collective working experience is ordinary and not fulfilling its potential yet true collaboration enables extraordinary things to happen.  The mission of RISE is to help  clients put in place the conditions for collaboration to thrive and for extraordinary results to flow.

Practical benefits exist for companies that think outside the box and work with others. In short, businesses can harness the power of the collective to move forward in a variety of ways.

Benefits for the Collaborative Organisation

Role Focus – When there is collaboration the team delivers results collectively, with each member performing their role, to their strengths. The best person does the best work at the best time, and there are no ‘turf wars’ to contend with.  Employees who know their strengths and weaknesses are much better at asking for help, and offering it, when needed. This internal awareness better equips the organisation to capitalise on the talents of everyone in the company, which will then drive progress and advancement. A healthy collaboration keeps adding to the reservoir of trust amongst employees and teaches them to rely on each other – allowing them to function as a more cohesive unit.

Innovation – Creating a culture that encourages innovation necessitates one that also encourages collaboration. A company that develops the latest ideas is not afraid to allow people to experiment, even if that experiment does not succeed. This helps employees feel free to explore new ideas rather than feeling restricted by the threat of failure. This is the type of environment that encourages innovation and fresh thinking.

Morale – Employees feel their ideas and skills are valued which in turn leads to improved commitment and loyalty to the team and organisation as a whole. When people share and explain their ideas in an environment of deep shared context the feedback improves the quality of their thoughts (rather than highlighting misunderstandings and the need for further explanation). This type of feedback also helps to improve self-awareness as employees realise their strengths and weaknesses and how they measure against the rest of the group

Productivity – better workplace collaboration and fewer approval levels can reduce time to market by 20% and can increase successful innovation by 15%.  Members who continue to collaborate together outside formal meetings can result in 50% improvement in communication. As businesses continue to support teamwork and connectivity in and out of the office, employees can be more productive, efficient and ultimately satisfied on the job. In a strong collaborative culture, hierarchy and cultural differences are dialled back and people know who they need to interact with to explore new ways of doing things and then move fast into experimenting with them. This reduced need to work through the formal hierarchy accelerates the pace of innovation and progress.  An organisation overly reliant on its formal organisational processes is heading towards being a stuck bureaucracy.

Improved communication through technology – Technology reigns supreme in today’s teamwork-driven workplace, connecting more team members than ever before.  When you don’t have enough variety to support different types of communication, you’re managing big projects in long email threads, or scheduling online meetings just takes too long, technology is holding back your team’s productivity.  Today email just isn’t enough for effective task management, and phone calls won’t suffice when you’re brainstorming or resolving conflicts. Finding the right business collaboration solutions for proper communication is even more crucial for your remote team because technology is the only way you connect. Your collaboration solutions should give every team member unrestricted access to projects and work information, and you need more than one way to communicate. Remote teams also benefit greatly from collaboration solutions that offer the ability to see and hear members. Smart use of video conferencing tools and onlien collaboration solutions are  a necessity for team building, developing trust and holding better meetings, even when you’re countries apart.

RISE Beyond supports organisations with navigating complex 21st century challenges.  Using our systemic framework and services we create a container in which organisations are supported in aligning to purpose and collaborating effectively.  Drawing from shared experiences across a multitude of business landscapes we developed our core methodologies to support the adaptability of organisations.  Removing silos and hierarchy puts and end to dysfunctional habits and practices and dramatically increases an organisations collaborative capacity.

The Rise APP

With an increasing trend towards globalization and flexible work, online collaboration solutions are invaluable tools in an organization’s arsenal.  At RISE Beyond, we have developed a collaboration app that takes you through tools and practices to enable you to become a better collaborator.  Key features of the app include:  meeting tools and processes, problem solving practices, checklists for managing effective meetings and guidance on RISE’s 7 Habits and Practices.


6 June 2016

My Dialogical Dozen: Recommended reading for creating a learning culture

Profile-cut-out-200x300 My Dialogical Dozen: Recommended reading for creating a learning culture

By Matthew Rich

Recently a client of mine asked me to create a Top 10 list of recommended books to read on the topic of creating a more effective culture of learning in their organisation. Obviously this is a very juicy topic that could be approached from a large number of different perspectives, but – working from this limited brief – I put together a list which I think represents a solid starting point.

I chose to create a top 12 rather than a top 10 list, and in certain instances have included a few alternative titles that cover some similar material. I have also included a short list of books that did not make the list (often because they are only peripherally relevant to the topic), but which I think warrant a “Special Mention” as they might serve to deepen understanding or support meaningful connections to related subjects. The books are presented in alphabetical order by name of author.

Buck, J. & Villines, S. (2007) We the people: Consenting to a deeper democracy
Buck & Villines’s book introduced the consent based decision-making process known as ‘sociocracy’ or ‘dynamic self-governance’ to the English speaking world. It is an extremely well put together book, both highly practical and comprehensive in scope with many additional examples, templates, and translations included as appendices. Those of you who are slightly more ambitious and wanting to go back to the source could do no better than to get their hands on a translation of Gerard Endenburg’s original text Sociocratie: De organisatie van besluitvorming (available in English as Sociocracy: The organisation of decision-making) or his classic lectureKennis, macht, en overmuch (which is unfortunately not available in English). The primary reason that I have chosen to include a book about a formal decision-making methodology in this list on learning culture is because of the way in which it articulates a fundamental decision-making principle, namely: the principle of dynamic steering. This fundamental principle, which can be articulated in dialectical as well as cybernetic terms, is not only fundamental to adaptive leadership and agile decision-making, but is also at the heart of the virtuous cycles of integral learning that drive a learning culture forward.
Eisler, R. (2002) The power of partnership: Seven relationships that will change your life
For almost half a century leading human rights lawyer turned cultural historian, Riane Eisler, has been a powerful advocate for societal transformation through arguing in favour of move from a global system based on domination to one based on partnership. The power of partnership is likely Eisler’s most practical and accessible book and serves as a sort of personal handbook for transforming our own worldview. Those who are interested in getting a more in depth perspective should consult Eisler’s 1987 classic The chalice and the blade or her most recent (and in my opinion her best) book The real wealth of nations (2007). I believe that becoming conversant with the sort of paradigm shift that Eisler describes is essential if we want to move from the prevalent approach to organisational culture based on domination to one which better facilitates learning and collaboration. You can see Ms. Eisler speaking at TEDx Santa Cruz here (https://youtu.be/f9cMcTWWDkU).
Once your reading takes you into this territory it seems likely that you will want to deepen your understanding on the centrally important topic of privilege. There are a couple of classics here which I think are indispensable, notably: Franz Fanon’s The wretched of the earth and Carol Gilligan’s In a different voice. More recent books which I found particularly useful on the subject include: Antjie Krog’s Begging to be black, Eusebius McKaiser’s Run, racist, run, and Joan Williams’ Unbending gender.
Freire, P. (1970) The pedagogy of the oppressed
Freire’s scathing critique of what he called the “banking model of education” the prevalent and inherently anti-dialogical approach to learning which leads inexorable to disconnection and oppression, along with his proposed solution – transformative dialogical action for social reconstruction – has become a classic for educators that want to make a real difference in the last half a century. It is generally read as a book of educational theory, but I think it is highly applicable in the context of organisational change. Much like some of the other books mentioned on this list, the genius of Freire’s approach lies in the way in which he is able to condense immense complexity into a relatively simple principle: in this case the dialectical principle of dialogical action – the transformative change that emerges from the dialectical tension between action and reflection. This proposal necessarily recasts the ‘educator’ as a problem poser. I can imagine no better text for understanding the essential shift that needs to take place in the way we understand the teacher-learner dynamic in order to support a culture of learning.
Isaacs, W. (1999) Dialogue: The art of thinking together 
Bill Isaacs book builds on lineage of great works about the transformative power of dialogue. For those of you who wish to go back to the source I would recommend David Bohm’s On dialogue or Martin Buber’s I and Thou. Isaacs text presents a simple four part model for practicing dialogue as a transformative collaborative practice.  I would consider this model (not altogether dissimilar to Rosenberg’s NVC Model presented in Nonviolent communication: A language of life) to be quite foundational to creating a culture of learning. Additional resources can be found at the site of Isaacs consultancy, Dialogos (http://dialogos.com/tools-and-resources/overview/). There are a number of alternative models which are also very worth considering when seeking the best way to frame understanding in your organisations. One which I would particularly recommend is the thinking councils model proposed by Nancy Kline in Time to think: Listening to ignite the human mind. One other development coming out of Isaacs work which I think is particularly exciting is the way it is being brought into relationship with David Kantor’s structural dynamics (see Kantor’s Reading the room). You can read more about this intersection here (http://leopoldleadership.stanford.edu/sites/default/files/systhink.pdf).
Jackson, M. (2003) Systems thinking: Creative holism for managers
One key topic which is essential to building a more robust understanding of organisational learning is the topic of  systems thinking or complexity. I have included The fifth discipline, another text which covers this topic from a very different perspective later in the list. Prof, Michael Jackson, OBE (not the one with the glove) is erstwhile Dean of the Business School at Hull University. I consider this text to be the best over-all introduction to systems science for a business audience. It strikes an optimal balance between accessibility and comprehensiveness, and offers a highly relevant – almost encyclopaedic – overview of the topic. If you are a cheap-skate (o live in a country whose currency doesn’t fare favourable against the almighty $) you can find a free pdf of the book here (http://webcourses.ir/dl/Systems%20Thinking.pdf). If you are looking for a quicker, more accessible, but no less impressive introduction I would recommend Donella Meadows’ classic Thinking in systems. On a similar note I would highly recommend a number of articles from the Donella Meadows archive such as the classic Dancing with systems (http://donellameadows.org/archives/dancing-with-systems/).
Kaner, S. (2014) The facilitator’s guide to participatory decision-making, 3rd edition
This is probably the single book that I recommend most frequently to clients who are  wanting to serve as ‘intrapreneurs’ focused on creating positive and meaningful change in the way in which collaborative decisions are taken. Not only is this book eminently user-friendly, but I believe that Kaner does an outstanding job of distilling the immense complexity of leadership decision-making into a coordinating set of principles. Kaner explores the complexities of perspective-taking, perspective-seeking, and perspective-coordination through examine the divergent and convergent sides of the decision-making process. Most usefully he also exposes the common difficulty in bridging these two sides of the process, by naming what he terms ’the Groan Zone’. In my opinion this handbook should be required reading for any leader longing to facilitate better group decision-making. An excellent lecture of Kaner’s from UC Berkeley can be viewed at https://vimeo.com/32178909.

30 December 2015

Collaboration: A complex global challenge

Collaboration occurs when a group of people have a common goal and some shared processes to pursue that goal. Collaborations can be formal, informal or a blend and occur at local and planetary scale.

The 2015 Paris climate change talks are probably the most complex collaborations taking place on the planet today. A challenge that involves an array of formal and informal organisations as well as diverse public opinion across the whole of our global diversity.

This is our future; becoming smarter at collaborating globally on complex problems across the global diversity. It is one of humanity’s leading edge challenges and for the benefit of future generations we need to get better at this fast.

Collaboration has a better chance of achieving successful outcomes when there is alignment of vision and values amongst the collaborators. Global collaborations such as climate change are tough because these conditions do not currently exist at scale across humanity.  We don’t have a sufficient sense of being ‘in it together’ and aren’t prepared to make tough trade-offs for the collective planetary good.

Much of the formal organisational frameworks for these collaborations are locked in a nation-state model that in it’s origin attaches primacy to its own interest before the collective global interest. Yet there is an emerging global population increasingly socialised in a ‘beyond beliefs and borders’ mindset. Hopefully in coming decades this stream of consciousness will reach a tipping point enabling such global collaborations to be increasingly effective.

A collaboration is profoundly shaped by the nature and intensity of common purpose held by the collaborators.  Is yours a worthy collaboration that attracts great people who can fully commit to the purpose?

I happened to be in Egypt in late January 2011 during the first flush of the Arab Spring, on reflection this nation-wide collaboration was fuelled by a shared understanding of what people did not want yet insufficient common purpose on what people did want. So the energy of the collaboration disintegrated once the initial decoupling from the Mubarak regime had been achieved.  Great purposes attract great people and for periods of time almost super human reservoirs of energy. In a sporting context the All Blacks from 2008 through to their recent world cup victory are a rare example of sustained collaborative excellence.

In recent years we have been ‘sold’ many forms of online collaboration tools and in our business we take advantage of these, enabling global clients to achieve growth in their collaborative capacity faster and at lower cost than could have been achieved pre-2005. Yet at its heart collaboration is a deeply human activity and online tools will not solve the pervasive problem of poor collaboration.

When deconstructed collaboration is about our ability, given a common purpose, to iterate at speed through the innovation-cycle. To have the right habits and practices amongst the collaborating group to navigate this cycle. The divergent phase covers problem-sensing, exploring differences of opinion, catalysing more ideas, challenging assumptions and experimenting with emerging solutions. This is a very different type of activity to the subsequent convergent phase of making decisions on options, mobilising for action, implementing and reviewing.

The habits and practices for the divergent and convergent phases are very different. Clients grasp quickly the importance of intensity of common purpose and the need for higher trust levels amongst collaborators yet the importance of aligned habits and practices to manage the innovation cycle is poorly understood. To build these aligned habits and practices requires a deliberate effort over an extended period of time.

The three core elements of a successful collaboration; purpose, trust and aligned habits and practices, can be built into any collaborating group and in a way which creates a virtuous cycle of improvement in collaborative capacity during the very process of working on the most important challenges. Unfortunately, most collaborations whilst taking pride in their purpose pay little attention to the quality of their collaboration process and then are disappointed with their outcomes.

In global organisations, culture and managerial practices can either nurture or hinder good collaboration yet the wisdom exists to enable organisations to achieve breakthrough in the way they collaborate, they just need the insight to access it.

Yet at the level of global complex challenges such as climate change we are only just sensing what collaborative capacity is required for breakthrough. We must up the pace of our learning on complex collaboration in order to have any chance of confronting the wicked global challenges of our time – time is not on our side.


12f2c26-150x150 Collaboration: A complex global challenge
Simon Preston


8 October 2015

European Academic Trends and Contributions to Integral Studies

Taken from the current issue of the Integral Review October 2015


Special Issue Editors:
Marc G. Lucas and Matthew Rich-Tolsma

What does ‘integral’ mean in the context of the European academy? This special issue of Integral Review aims to address this question through highlighting integral theories, methodologies, and research practices related to the European context. It is important to raise this question in this manner at this time in order to distinguish between the popular usage of integral as an umbrella term for various kinds of worldviews, often with a spiritual connotation and the historical and emergent academic movements towards “integrative approaches” and “grand theories.” European thought would differentiate between two dialectical tensions related to these two fields, which could be described as a) (quantitative and analytic) natural science and (qualitative and holistic) humanities/art (Geisteswissenschaften) and b) religious dogma and spiritual experience. Whilst in this sense engaging in both of these fields may have a specific role to play in the unfolding of what “integral” means in the European context, our focus in this special issue concerns deepening understanding of academic integral theory as a process which assumes possibilities of advancing the integration of such knowledge stemming from the natural sciences as well as the humanities, practically, theoretically and meta-theoretically.

In our view the Special Issue is timely as there are some recent developments within European society and the European academic context that make it not only necessary to develop more integrative engagement, but also indicate some “proto-integral” trends. The whole European idea started as a myth of integration of the union of human beauty and wisdom, with the bull the symbolic representation of strength and fertility (Everett-Heath, 2000). And today “Europe is a dynamic plurality of ideas and rhythms which aspire to finding common ground within a framework of diversity” (Prats & Raventos 2005, p. 27). Of course such common ground can never be achieved easily and as a final solution. Deep forms of dialectical thinking therefore have quite understandably emerged within the European context and shaped academic endeavours towards striving for temporary synthesis and complementarity which is always aware of its often dilemmatic and discontinuously changing Gestalt. Such development can for example be seen in recent debates on the migrant crisis, where blame games and disunity stand against a growing understanding of the need to find new and better solutions to such complex crises. In such discourse an underlying European theme can be found which might best be described using Vergara’s (2007) statement that Europe is constantly working towards a common identity, which, from the point of view of human diversity (both individual and collective), should have as the basis and intangible beginning of the old and yet new European identity mankind and its individual, social and transcendent rights […] Europeanness is a quality far richer than any unilateral reductionism brought about by modernity. Above all, it is a way of being and acting, which has had, as the non-renounceable basis of its construction and historical identity, mankind and its moral, intellectual and transcendent character. (pp. 15-22)

In the field of academia the 5th Euroacademia Global Conference “Europe Inside-Out: Europe and Europeanness Exposed to Plural Observers” held in Barcelona, Spain in March 2015 might be an example of recent explorations of such Europeanness. It is as well a topic for current organizational research within academia. The authors Meyer and Boxenbaum (2010, p.738, pp. 751-752) regard this research in Europe as being rooted in a long-standing humanistic tradition of a more philosophical and social scientific nature. For them European research is often grounded on the work of grand thinkers. Equally, Europeanness leans towards more macrooriented, critical, and processual approaches. Receptiveness to alternative paradigmatic perspectives is more accepted within European academic cultures. In this sense current European integrative frameworks like syncretism (Martinez, Peattie & Vazquez-Brust, 2015) advocate the reconciliation of economic imperatives and environmental concerns via the reintegration of corporate objective (or systemic) and subjective (or constructionist) contingencies. Within European thought the struggle of “Widening horizons beyond national boundaries” (Hickson et al., 1980, p. 1) is a constitutive driving force.

The few attempts to define Europeanness in a positive way include terms such as multidisciplinarity, reflexive methodological stance, critical scholarship, and socio-political orientation. The authors conclude that Europeanness, if the term is applicable yet, reflects a spirit of engaging with grand thinkers of the present and the past in attempts to integrate the different linguistic communities included in the respective research. This linguistic and multi-disciplinary diversity often stimulates European research to reflect on the nature of relationality and integration of disparate findings from a more complementary and/or comprehensive perspective. In such attempts a proto-integral orientation can be seen, in light of which the contributions in this Special Issue can be contextualized.

Nevertheless Europeanness still focusses on a hyper-rationalistic, multi-linguistic but still language bound research orientation in a post-modernist way. This assessment leads to the following exploratory attempts at a journey into an alternative, maybe post-postmodernist research perspective. The articles in this special issue indicate possible ways of how such integral thought could contribute to the current state and defiances of European academia. In these recent developments of sense- and meaning-making structures, integral thought quite naturally participates by being grounded in the current European life-condition and concomitant historical cultural tradition. In this sense the special issue is highly relevant to today’s changing European Gestalt and can contribute to the emergence of its more integrated shape which might be more adaptive to the pressing complex issues at hand.

Continue reading at http://integral-review.org/current_issue/index.asp

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