Succession Planning as Continuity of Benefit: January Integrity Conversation (Summary)

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.

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. 

At our January meeting, we homed in on all that possibility. Since our first discussion, we’ve moved from talking about “succession planning” to instead talking about continuity. But what exactly is important to continue? THAT is what our January discussion was all about (You can watch / listen to the whole discussion here). What is the real benefit that must continue? And as always, Catalytic Thinking guided our conversation.

What would you like to see continue if Hildy and Dimitri are no longer here?

  • There is a natural tension in the idea that nonprofits exist to put themselves out of business. Continuity is continued capacity. Is this something that is a community capacity that needs to be supported through a formal structure (such as an organization)? Or is this temporal that needs a catalyst which can then go away? For Creating the Future, we want to continue the live inquiry; continuity is the ripples that come from dropping the stone of Creating the Future.
  • Advocacy of the ideas and concepts of Catalytic Thinking. This could be similar to the digital revolution. That is, at one time every company had a digital division, but over time, it has become a part of every role.
  • The ability to do demonstration projects and publicly show what Catalytic Thinking looks like and can accomplish in practice.
  • Continual experimentation and pushing at the boundaries of our ideas. The thing that needs to continue is a crucible for ideas, experimentation, conversation, etc. without the specific personalities. Perhaps the personalities and mechanics of the organization are temporal, but the platform for experimentation is not.
  • The advocacy and demonstration projects and opportunities to infuse Catalytic Thinking into not just different organizations, but also different functions
  • The ethos/value of openness. One of the things we have tried to be an example of is open meetings and making that a given.
  • Space where people come together to practice. Alcoholics Anonymous as a model of how to bring people together, find their own space, and discuss practice.
  • Intentional relationship between people
  • What does it look like to do your best to walk the talk of your values?
  • RESOURCE: The Starfish and the Spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations
  • The analogy of a supernova – you shine very brightly for a limited amount of time and then release everything out into the universe that will create life and structures in other places. Also, the crucible nature of a supernova: it creates elements that don’t exist in a normal star.
  • Commitment to experimentation and how that is fostered such that people are given space to re-assess and re-align. No idea is a new idea, it’s always a matter of taking good ideas and refining them.
  • A cyclical place of learning – people learn, take what they learn out into the world, play with it, and bring it back. An ongoing feedback loop.
  • The message and topics are important, but the methods of experimentation and openness are just as important and often just as novel
  • When people have asked how do you measure success? Hildy has always said she doesn’t know how to measure it because success is people we’ve never met having conversations we’ll never know about and asking better questions and getting great results. It’s the ripple versus the stone.

 What would people need to have in order for those to be realistic?

  • An understanding by what we mean by “Change the question, change the world.” This could be an experience with one question changing the dynamic of a conversation, a question that fundamentally shifts their ability to think about something, or having clear examples of Question A versus Question B.
  • Examples and stories
  • Opportunities to practice to allow them to move through the four levels of competence (unconsciously incompetent, consciously incompetent, consciously competent, unconsciously competent)
  • In order to have the results that we’re talking about, do we really need to own an organization? The analogy of: Do you really need to own a drill, or do you just need a hole in a board?
  • Stories resonate. Stories are what draw people in because they can see themselves in them and they want to learn more. An environment that encourages questions, the encouragement to practice, and the people to practice with.

What would it take for there to be grounds for experimenting, practicing, and demonstrating?

  • Some sort of convening function. There needs to be something that gathers people.
  • The courage to question and realize that we are really set in our habits and patterns. People want to follow. What is the minimum viable leadership necessary to get people willing to follow?
  • Our brain science wants what’s predictable and feels safe. That’s why we’ll keep doing what we know, even when we know it sucks. If we’re going to meet people where they are, then we have to be able to find that person who is reliable and who people can trust. We need people that make it safe to go out and try.
  • RESOURCE: Derek Sivers: How to start a Movement
  • The energy to go out and create something and try new things
  • Enthusiasm amplifies, persistence furthers.
  • It needs to be easy to find what you need. We need to remove all the obstacles of getting to that communal place of sharing ideas and truths.
  • RESOURCE: Community Fridges

What would need to be in place for people to easily find leaders?

  • Someone to start the conversation (teachers, facilitators, etc.)
  • A platform that is widely open for people to find the space to come together and gather
  • Physical space and opportunity to connect face-to-face. This is a “yes and” to virtual space, not an “either or.”
  • What if spaces don’t have to be a particular space where people gather? Some people who have been most successful in changing questions are two people who shared an office. They didn’t have time to go to training or a class, but they were able to practice together. What would good look like across a variety of contexts and platforms?
  • An environment that is safe. This doesn’t need to be a class, but a class does provide that space.

What needs to be in place in terms of people when it comes to grounds for experimentation, etc.?

  • Documented processes and scripts so so anyone can jump in and play a role
  • Points of distribution and education that are distributed in geography, language, etc. Something that’s not hard to find because it’s instantly available in a variety of formats. And a process/system/whatever that allows it to be distributed without a big organization that is trying to buy ads on Facebook to get people to pay attention.
  • People who are comfortable and confident; competence will follow. If we can get people who are confident then it’s easier to get people willing to try and get comfortable with the idea of experimentation.
  • An understanding that this is inquisitive, not prescriptive. Having an ethos in these spaces that it’s not a right or wrong way. There’s not prescriptive rules to follow, but there are some precepts.
  • Another way of talking about points of distribution is sharing – sharing the responsibility of putting something out into the world in a practice of collective enoughness, similar to Free Little Libraries. There’s something powerful in the idea that we don’t have to be the only ones responsible. What would it take for all of us to come together and provide that continuity of benefit?
  • Who participates in this? Going back to the Free Little Libraries and Community Fridges – there are physical locations, but those locations are so widely distributed that you may come across them at any point. There is a way of engaging with them at many points, but there’s still a sense of ownership. There’s a feeling of it being owned by everyone rather than an organization.

This is going to require people in some way, but it doesn’t necessarily require an organization. What is needed to find those people and create those spaces?

  • If we are going to honor people and their time, we will need to pay them.
  • As we begin to have further conversation around decentralization, we know there are people teaching Catalytic Thinking and, historically, there has been some practice of training. There is also a parallel conversation around integrity to the process. What happens when we say “Yes, you can spread this information and you need to support yourself.”
  • One of Creating the Future’s goals over the next couple of years is to significantly distribute the content so it can be taught by anybody. One of the things we realized is that if someone needs to come to Creating the Future to learn Catalytic Thinking, it wouldn’t matter how many teachers we had, you would still need to know to click the link to get to us. We need to create a distribution mechanism such that if someone wants to teach this, they have what they need to be able to do so. Does Creating the Future need to continue in order for this to happen?

As we do at the close of every meeting, we asked each participant in the conversation to share their reflections. What stood out to each of us from the conversation?

  • Incubator – an ongoing practice for all community members, not just institutions. We often use institutions as shorthand for reaching people, but this can be a barrier. There are so many examples of the people getting things done. It keeps coming back to community.
  • Comfort and confidence – the recognition that anyone can do this. Whenever anything is couched in “professional development,” we start to narrow it into who can do this. Anybody can do this.
  • What are the many ways people can access this? If we just need to change one question, what would something like a Tik Tok that goes viral look like with millions of people changing one question?
  • Tik Tok challenges – what if the challenge is the question? Thinking about how to create something that’s open source like Linux where there’s still a console that maintains the values, but you can put your own flavor on it, you can start a business around it, etc.
  • Community and keeping it local – even if it’s calling and asking one person a different question. The easier it is to share, the further this will proliferate
  • What we’re talking about in terms of proliferation is some sort of path to ubiquity where it’s not attached to any one group or any one person. Also thinking about how it’s going to take all of these things, so how do we take things in phases and parts that can move us closer?
  • We need both the energy of our youth and the wisdom of our elders. It’s not about transactions, but its intergenerational organizing and bringing these two invaluable pieces together to create something new. Also thinking about unpaid and emotional caretaking labor – how do we incorporate caregiving and caretaking? How do we build that into this conversation? How do we talk about both the visible and the invisible?
  • When you start talking about the core philosophy, you become the guardian, you maintain the integrity, but there still has to be a way to allow access in.
  • How do we talk about compensation and valuing people’s time in ways other than financial. How do we build reciprocal relationships into the processes in the spirit of collective enoughness?

At our February 2022 meeting, we will continue the conversation, digging into the conditions that will lead to success. We hope you’ll join us for that conversation! 




Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.