A free e-newsletter spotlighting systemic thinking
and innovations in leadership, management, and organizational development.
Please forward to your colleagues.
November 18, 2004 Issue 56
is for us to pray not for tasks equal to our
powers, but for powers equal to our tasks, to
go forward with a great desire forever beating
at the door of our hearts as we travel toward
our distant goal."
community is like a ship; everyone ought to
be prepared to take the helm."
Systems Approach to Undermining Terrorism
presentation by Barry Richmond was given at
the 2001 Pegasus Conference, just a month after
the September 11th terrorist attacks. Like many
others, Barry was deeply concerned about the
attacks and how Americans should respond to
them. The original title of this talk was "Improving
Performance: A Framework and Set of Thinking
Skills for Simplifying Complexity."
In light of the attacks, Barry decided to apply
the framework and skills to generate insights
about how to undermine terrorist activity. The
presentation vividly shows Barry's virtuosity
in applying systems thinking to the most gripping
and relevant issues of the day and his commitment
to finding a way forward to a better future
for all. His untimely death in August 2002 left
a gap in the field of system dynamics as well
as in the lives of his friends, family, and
The original video was intended only for archival
purposes and was recorded on consumer-grade
videotape. Because of the importance of the
content, we're releasing the program despite
minor aesthetic shortcomings.
#V0101D, DVD format, 84 min., $125.00
2004 Fall Catalog Just Released
our latest catalog,
which includes our newest products, or send an
Customer Service to request a print copy, or
on Facilitating Conversations
at Work: Skills for Leveraging Collective Understanding
by Glenna Gerard and Linda Ellinor
This volume in our Innovations in Management
Series explores how the practice of dialogue
can help organizations harness the combined
intelligence of their employees, unleash widespread
creativity, and inspire new levels of motivation.
The authors highlight the core skills of dialogue,
share success stories from workplaces that have
used them, and offer initial steps that individuals
and groups can take to begin to transform their
#IMS017, softcover, 16 pages, illustrated, $10.95
#IMS017E, PDF, 16 pages, illustrated, $10.95
Volume discounts available
Art of Powerful Questions: Catalyzing Insight,
Innovation, and Action by Eric
E. Vogt, Juanita Brown, and David Isaacs; illustrations
by Nancy Margulies
In a growing number of organizations, leaders
are discovering that crafting powerful questions
is a key skill in today's knowledge economy.
Questions open the door to dialogue and discovery
and can lead to action on important issues and
ignite change. This volume provides a practical
framework for formulating powerful questions,
a set of skills for leading "inquiring systems,"
and examples of companies that have created
business value by improving the quality of their
#WC03, softcover, 16 pages, illustrated, $10.95
Potential of Talking and the Challenge of Listening
featuring Adam Kahane
In this video, Adam Kahane describes how diverse
teams of people in troubled regions, including
South Africa, Northern Ireland, Israel, Guatemala,
Colombia, and Argentina, have grappled with
some of the toughest conflicts in the world
by talking and listening in new ways. The lessons
he has learned from these encounters can help
us become more effective in how we approach
the thorniest problems we face, whether at home,
at work, in our communities, and in the world
#D0301, DVD, approx. 55 min., color,
#V0301, VHS, approx. 55 min., color,
Conversation: The Left-Hand Column
This handy reference tool illustrates the two
dialogues that we continuously have: one in
public that we share with others, and the other
in private that we keep to ourselves. Includes
a diagram of the special format developed by
Chris Argyris; an example from an actual left-hand
column exercise; comments on the tool's benefits
and risks; and guidelines for using the tool
in a group.
#PG04, 5-1/2 x 8-1/2-inch laminated guide, $5.00,
volume discounts available
Conversations: Using Advocacy and Inquiry Effectively
This guide presents a handy diagram for
understanding the impact of various ratios of
advocacy (stating one's views) to inquiry (asking
a question) during a conversation. Includes
short suggestions for improving the quality
of both advocacy and inquiry, as well as general
guidelines for productive conversations.
#PG06, 5-1/2 x 8-1/2-inch laminated guide, $5.00,
volume discounts available
us at Pegasus Communications, One Moody Street,
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Pegasus Communications provides resources that
help people explore, understand, articulate,
and address the challenges they face in the
complexities of a changing world. Since 1989,
Pegasus has worked to build a community of practitioners
Newsletter, books, audio and videotapes, and
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Thinking in Action®
Conference and other events.
ANNIVERSARY SPECIAL OFFER!
To celebrate the 15th anniversary of the founding of Pegasus Communications,
get a subscription to The Systems Thinker® Newsletter
for $55.00a 50% discountwhen you purchase the
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When you place your order, use Order
#LP0401TST. This offer is good through December 31, 2004.
From Chronic Conflict to Mutual Learning and Collaboration: An Interview
with Corky Becker
to Shape the Future
Learning Gift for the Holidays
to Avoid Surprises We Don't Want to Happen
Chronic Conflict to Mutual Learning and Collaboration: An Interview
with Corky Becker
Becker is a founding associate of the Public Conversations Project
(PCP), an organization committed to helping people enter into dialogue
about polarizing issues related to values, identity, and world view.
As a clinical psychologist and family and couples therapist, she
has spent many years developing strategies for helping people interact
differently with each other. Through her work at PCP, Corky has
become involved with "Let's Talk America," a nationwide movement
to promote inclusive, nonpartisan, and respectful discussion about
the future of democracy. At this year's Pegasus Conference, Corky
will be facilitating a "Let's Talk America" sessionthe session
is open to the public at no charge (click
here for more information).
In the following interview conducted by Leverage Points
editor Kali Saposnick, Corky talks about the process of developing
safe spaces for people in extreme conflict to converse in ways that
allow them to understand and support each other. She also discusses
the dynamics that polarize people around hot topics and how to shift
the conversation to promote mutual learning and collaboration.
Leverage Points: How has your background in clinical psychology
and family therapy influenced your work with the Public Conversations
Corky Becker: Much of my experience has been working with
couples and families in chronic conflict. Before I began working
at the Public Conversations Project, I had been examining the effects
of the vicious cycle of blame/attack/defend on families and couples,
and developing strategies for helping people interact differently.
This cycle creates a victim-villain relationship in which people
blame, negate, and overgeneralize, creating defensiveness in others.
It then becomes very hard for couples or family members to feel
a sense of intimate connection, to reflect openly on their experiences,
or to find ways to problem-solve creatively together.
This work translates pretty directly to the Public Conversations
Project. The idea for the group was born while Laura Chasin, the
project's founder, was watching a televised debate on abortion.
In the debate, the pro-choice and pro-life leaders were hurling
invectives at each other and not listening, until finally the moderator
had to stop them and say, "There's nothing going on here but a lot
of noise." Laura invited a group of us, who were experienced family
therapists and knew how to facilitate constructive conversations
on extremely polarized topics, to put something together that would
create a safe enough context for people to speak and listen to each
other about differences of value, world view, or identity. We were
interested in abortion because it had those qualities.
LP: What are some of the outcomes of your work? In what ways,
if any, has the Public Conversations Project been able to build
collaborations? Have any of these collaborations brought about large-scale
CB: First of all, our idea of an outcome is that people
talk to each other differently. It's a very unusual idea, and most
people would say that that isn't an outcome. We look at it as a
process outcome. In fact, some staff at the Public Conversations
Project would call it a "ripple effect" rather than an outcome or
the complete interview
about the 2004 Pegasus Conference
resources on facilitating conversations
to Shape the Future
by Elizabeth Sawin
Viagra may help to save endangered species. That was the odd-sounding
headline of a recent Reuters story. It turns out that Viagra has reduced
demand for reindeer antler velvet and Canadian seals' sex organs.
For years, wildlife protection programs have been trying to protect
those species, parts of which are used in Chinese cures for impotence.
Because Viagra provides a cheaper, more effective remedy, demand for
the organs of these animals is now diminishing.
This story has an amusing side, but also makes an important point
about the transition to sustainability. Identifying and addressing
fundamental needs can be a powerful point of leverage, where small
efforts can create large changes. So, what are our real needs? Are
they actually met in the ways we expect them to be?
These are hard questions because they reveal a growing tension in
our societybetween our assumption that we need an awful lot,
which requires growing our economy endlessly, and the assumption that
our basic physical needs could be easily satisfied on our finite planet
if we could just be efficient with resources and equitable about their
distribution. The rest of our needs are non-materiallove, respect,
appreciation, creativity, a sense of contributionand the resources
to meet them are virtually limitless, although not yet very well tapped.
How we see our needs shapes what we take from the earth. And the questions
we ask shape how we see our needs. That is why we must ask questionsof
ourselves and of othersabout how we can best fill our needs,
no matter how hard these questions are to raise. The future is at
the complete article, or see The Systems Thinker, V14N4 (May
The Systems Thinker
Learning Gift for the Holidays
Give yourself a "learning" gift for the holidays by registering
now for the upcoming 14th annual Pegasus Conference. Building
Collaborations to Change Our Organizations and the World: Systems
Thinking in Action®" will be held on December 1-3 at the
Hyatt Regency, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA.
People from around the world who want to challenge the way they
think, who want to grow and develop themselves and their organizations,
who want to understand what it means to experience deep learning,
and who want to contribute their own insights and hear their colleagues'
stories will gather at this groundbreaking event. Together this
highly motivated group of intentional learners will apply the tools
of organizational learning and systems thinking in order to discover
how to create collaborations that can truly effect the kind of change
we want to see in our lives, our organizations, and our communities.
Register by November 22 for $1395a savings of $200
off the standard rate! Register
on our web site, or call 1-800-272-0945. Team discounts
are still available.
the Final Conference Brochure
SPECIAL OFFER! Receive 10% off Pegasus products purchased
on our web site, from the day you register until the conference
starts on December 1, 2004. (This offer is not applicable to other
conferences or newsletters and cannot be combined with other discounts.)
The sooner you register, the sooner you'll start saving on
your Pegasus purchases, so sign up today!
to Avoid Surprises We Don't Want to Happen
Why do devastating yet predictable surprises happen so frequently
in organizations? And, when they do, should leaders be held accountable
for failing to thwart them? According to Predictable Surprises:
The Disasters You Should Have Seen Coming and How to Prevent Them
by Max H. Bazerman and Michael D. Watkins (Harvard Business School
Press, 2004), vulnerabilities in three areas block people from dealing
with foreseeable problems.
Psychological vulnerabilities stem from biased thinking that
allows us to live in denial and undervalue risks, as well as from
our tendencies to stick with the status quo and discount the future
because of its distance from us. Organizational vulnerabilities
come from structural barriers, such as departments that operate
independently of one another and information that must filter up
through hierarchies. Political vulnerabilities arise when
groups can use the organization for their own benefit.
The recent shortage of flu vaccine in the U.S. exemplifies how psychological
vulnerabilities lead to predictable surprises. For decades, health
experts have warned of serious flaws in the nation's system for
vaccine supply and distribution. While countries such as Great Britain
have at least five suppliers to avoid disruptions, the U.S. has
become dependent on only two, because most pharmaceutical companies
find producing the vaccine financially unprofitable and have left
the business. Had the federal government treated vaccines as a public
good and provided appropriate subsidies for their production, this
problem could have been avoided.
A key way for leaders to prevent such disasters is to assume a "veil
of ignorance," that is, to look at a situation through non-partisan
eyes. This involves rigorously challenging and testing our assumptions
before making decisions. By allowing our point of view to be changed
by reality, we can increase the wisdom guiding our actions and reduce
the potential to be unpleasantly surprised.
Source: Martha Lagace, "Planning for Surprises," Harvard
Business School Working Knowledge, October 25, 2004
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