For the past several months, a practice cohort focused on succession planning has been working alongside Creating the Future’s Integrity Body (aka our board). Or at least we began by thinking about “succession planning.” After asking just the first few questions in Catalytic Thinking, the focus moved quickly to what succession planning makes possible. The answer: Continuity of Benefit – that benefit being a place to learn, practice, and experience Catalytic Thinking.
Our October 2021 discussion focused on the question of who would be affected by our planning. At our November 2021 discussion we discussed what such a plan could make possible for all those individuals and groups, in particular Creating the Future’s board, current staff, community, and the people who are or might be leaving. In December, we continued that “possibility” conversation, focused on new people coming into the organization. What became clear very quickly is that this is about far more than replacing one person with another. This is about continuity of mission, continuity of benefit – learning, practicing, and experiencing Catalytic Thinking. And so, during our January discussion, we homed in on all that possibility. What exactly is the benefit that must continue?
That led to our February conversation (you can listen to the whole conversation here), where we dove into the conditions that would lead to that ongoing benefit. What would effective stewardship of the Catalytic Thinking framework look like? What would we see / hear / feel in spaces for learning and practicing Catalytic Thinking? What would need to be in place to ensure the ideas and values behind Catalytic Thinking are upheld as others begin sharing and teaching the framework? As always, the questions of Catalytic Thinking guided our conversation.
What would good look / feel / be like in the spaces where people can learn and grow in their practice of Catalytic Thinking?
- Multiple spaces that people could access easily in different areas, sectors, and venues
- Comfortable to be able to try new ideas or to test things because we’re all clear that we don’t have the answers
- Fun – one of the core things that should be part of what we do is conviviality. It shouldn’t feel like work.
- Fellowship – that sense that you’re not here on your own and that you’re actually part of a crew
- Camaraderie and curiosity – it would be a space where asking probing questions is welcome, encouraged, and shared. It wouldn’t just be one person carrying that responsibility. There would be camaraderie in the inquiry mindset.
- As a response to the statement of “fun”: sometimes the questions and answers aren’t enjoyable, but how can we enjoy the process of learning, that “brutal fun”? We might be able to talk about enjoyable versus fun, similar to going for a long run: Is it fun? No. But is it enjoyable? Yes.
- Curiosity – we are curious about what is a better way
- Comfortable to be living without answers and safe to be uncomfortable
- There would be different faces, names, and voices. Representation should be very broad from physical to backgrounds to levels of understanding.
- Sharing and including people in the conversation – people can feel comfortable and still not share. “It’s not enough to invite people to the ball, we have to ask them to dance.”
- Learning cohorts that span the organization from frontline to community members to upper management. It’s not always comfortable to bridge the power dynamics, so it must be a brave space where people agree to bring forth the things that are important to them. What does it take to intentionally invite all sorts of people into the conversation?
- There would be “good noise.” Children, seniors, women, men – people of all kinds would be seeking these spaces out
- Flexible – it’s not always going to look like one thing or be done in one way. It has to be able to accommodate different levels of understanding. We must show that this is possible and how to participate in it.
- Holding space – there must be intentionality of a space being held for this kind of inquiry and dialogue. (For background about the term “holding space,” see this excellent article by Heather Plett.)
What are the conditions that must be in place for “holding the space” in these spaces?
- The people holding the space need to be everything we just listed about the people in the space. So the facilitators and instructors need to be of different ages, backgrounds, etc. There is a real importance to walking into a space and seeing someone who looks like you holding the space – especially around a subject that impacts the way you think and be in the world.
- It must be a facilitated and/or curated space.
- Doing any sort of community requires some sort of facilitation or support to keep it on track and/or going. When you try to bring together a community at scale without any edits, it becomes Facebook and the community can stop being a positive thing.
- When people are first learning, it can be helpful to have someone facilitate their learning. There are roles that come from functions and, if its a place of learning, then there must be some teaching going on
- Thinking about the bar from Cheers where “everybody knows your name.” It would be an accepting environment where a person is accepted regardless of who they are, their knowledge, whatever.
- The values would be embedded in the space and everyone would be responsible for holding them
- There could be ambassadors – the people who make it easy for others walking into this
- Flexibility not just around the space but also the meaning. How do we make this more accessible to people who aren’t the ones who are ready to jump right in and drink from the fire hose?
- There would be a sense that you’re here because you want to be and that we are here because we have something in common
- Lurkers are actually listeners. They are there and they are listening, even if you can’t see it
- Facilitating and/or holding the space needs to be someone’s job, otherwise it’s not sustainable. There needs to be full-time people who are doing this.
- There needs to be a shared purpose or intent. The communities we create cannot be insular, this is a space you come into to explore with the expectation that you will leave with ways to do something. There must be clarity that these are not just teaching/learning spaces. There always has to be the ripple.
- People have to believe in the framework – their process of sense-making has to align with Catalytic Thinking. People have to desire to want to make sense of things in this way.
- These spaces will be successful when people want more. If I am investing my time, what is the return that will keep me coming back?
- There would need to be someone with enough knowledge to guide questions in the absence of it not happening naturally
- The structure of the space should be such that everyone has permission to ask the questions and it’s respected that when a question is asked, it is honored and answered.
- Time – we have to give time for the conversation and time for the people to adjust. There is a physical change component in the brain that we have to appreciate.
- This is something that you want to learn before you need it because of that time component
- There needs to be engagement opportunities for people on every level of the continuum of potential.
- The space being held has to be one where people can experience relevance to their life around what’s being explored or to what they feel they need. It needs to relate to where they are right now or who they are and how they relate to the world.
- There would need to be really clear guidance or a manual to ensure that the values behind Catalytic Thinking are upheld in these spaces
What is needed for the benefit people receive to continue?
- A collective agenda – each space needs to be able to bring in things that are relevant to them
- Do we need to spend more time thinking about the learner, rather than the system of learning and exploration? What’s a sustainable learning space? What compels people to participate in it?
- Who teaches the teachers? What is the capacity that is actually needed to make this as distributed and rippled as needed?
- Resources – Pollyanna Principles, other readings, coaching, tools, etc.
- A fractal approach – everyone is in the space to learn more so they can practice it. All participants are learner-practitioners at whatever level they are at.
- Once the structure is in place, there are going to need to be roles to be filled. The internal roles and conditions may be coaching, inspiring, teaching, facilitating, holding the space, etc. For the external conditions, we’ll need to convene them and find out. Our next will be to bring together people who want to teach this and ask them what they need.
- Biden has announced that the next Supreme Court justice will be a Black woman. How can we create space that affirms the disruption of the status quo?
- At the end of the meeting, we started talking about the learner, but maybe this doesn’t start as all things to all people right from the start. Can we think about where this can have the most impact to start and then build?
- What compels someone to opt in? There are people who opt in to difficult things – how can we better understand that?
- This conversation has felt somewhat overwhelming. There is a lot of vulnerability necessary to opt in. Who is least likely to opt-in to that vulnerability?
- Thinking about continuity of capacity and a distributed network – if the biggest idea isn’t possible (yet), then what does good look like? If there isn’t a Creating the Future organization, what would it take to hold space for Catalytic Thinking as a practice?
- Hope that we are bold in whatever our clear goal ends up being
- The question, “If there was no such thing as “fill-in-the-blank,” what would we build? If there was no such thing as Creating the Future, what would we build to ensure that Catalytic Thinking permeates?”
- What keeps people coming back is – to some degree – habit and that is something that needs to be built. What would help build that habit?
- How can we distribute roles, in addition to distributing learning. People like to feel valued and giving them a role can help build that value.
- The principles of ice are based on physical principles. No two crystals are the same, but the principle remains the same.
- Thinking about the difference between a hub and spoke (where there’s only one place to go to gain the knowledge) versus a mesh network (where the knowledge can be accessed/gained at any point).
- This is so helpful thinking this through. This is big stuff. We often use Linux as a model, but Linus Torvalds still owns Linux – no one is able to make significant changes other than him. But what happens when that lightning rod is no longer there?
Our next conversation will be March 14th. We hope you will join us!