What’s Next for Creating the Future? Integrity Conversation April 11, 2022: Summary

For the past several months, Creating the Future’s Integrity Body (aka our board) has been focusing on what’s next for Creating the Future.

While this began as a discussion of 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. To see summaries of those conversations, this post has links to all of them.

Our April meeting began with a recap of our recent conversations
This line of inquiry began last October. We began talking about succession planning by asking the very first questions in Catalytic Thinking. When we asked “What does succession planning make possible?” we quickly landed on it not being about just switching one person for another, but continuing the benefit of the organization. Following that path, we asked “What is that benefit and how is it continued?”.

When we started Creating the Future, we started with a 10 year mission. This was not to say that we would sunset in 10 years, but that we would use this as the motivation to take our shot – like the shot clock in basketball. We are currently in Year 5. Being at that halfway point, there was a beautiful a-ha that we needed to celebrate and then ask what’s next.

Our mission has always been to experiment and share the results of that experiment. In the first five years, we have experimented a ton and we’ve been so busy doing the work that we haven’t always been great at documenting it. One of the things that’s become clear is that we really don’t need to be doing aggressive experimenting anymore. Everywhere we have applied Catalytic Thinking, it has consistently brought out the best of people in those situations. So the next five years are probably about documenting and sharing what we’ve learned.

The following are the questions we asked at our April 11 meeting. The group was small this time (you can watch / listen to the meeting itself here), yet the questions led us to some powerful aha’s throughout our time together.

What do we want “sharing what we’ve learned” to make possible for the thousands of people who comprise our community, and importantly, for the people with whom they interact?

  • Documenting makes it possible to use this material in classes with students. It gives them an opportunity to see and understand Catalytic Thinking and – for some students – convince them that it’s worth it to give it a try. It gives them a road map to try things out with the security that it’s worked in other places.
  • It will lead to change. If a lot of people are doing this, it will lead to better outcomes.
  • Written documents can act as guideposts. It gives busy people who are doing a lot of things something to go back to. It gives them support and confidence and can help keep them from veering back into standard practices.
  • We all learn from stories and this creates, in essence, a big story bank of examples. I can read how to do something, but show me an example and suddenly I understand. Documentation creates a relatable story pool that can be integrated into work and home and anywhere they want to use it.
  • If stories and visuals are the key, then are we able to document things in that way?
  • Having that archive is important and also the process of documenting helps us learn and keep learning.
  • Documenting makes it possible to imagine new ways of doing things – not just the idea of Catalytic Thinking, but also how other people are using and applying it.
  • We can challenge assumptions through the questions that we ask. The comment “oh i hadn’t thought of that…” means that something runs counter to our assumptions. There’s something in asking the questions in Catalytic Thinking – they are aspirational and deeply value-based.
  • People being able to share with others. If we have this goal of being ubiquitous, of people we don’t telling other people we don’t know about this work, then all of this allows others to have some sense of ownership of sharing this with others.
  • If this is more common, it makes it easier to do. For better or for worse, documentation lends a sense of legitimacy.
  • It counters the narrative of “that’s not how you do it.”

If Catalytic Thinking is more ubiquitous, what would that look like?

  • People would be using the process in a lot of different situations and using it deeply without thinking too much about it
  • People would be living the questions in their families and others would be living it in their workplaces
  • When we talk about ubiquity, I think about cell phones – especially smartphones. It’s that broadening. Cell phones went from being just a phone to being a multipurpose tool. So if Catalytic Thinking becomes ubiquitous, it’s not just a thing that’s used at work; people are reaching for the tool more often for more things. Also cell phones have really only become ubiquitous because there isn’t one entity that owns them. This raises questions of access – particularly global access. This is not just translation, but also connotation and how questions are structured and the role questions and asking and thinking play in different cultures
  • When people say they want to replicate a project, they frequently mean they want to replicate the doing. This is often not possible. However, you can replicate the thinking. The specific language of the Catalytic Thinking questions are the doing. These particular questions work in this particular culture, but you can replicate the intent.
  • Part of documenting creates a framework for children to learn. This is how it becomes ubiquitous; children grow up and then this is just how it’s done.
  • This brings up a thought about “digital natives” (generations born with tech). Research out of Harvard and UCSF is showing changes in the way we form connections and neural pathways. If leading with questions were the norm, would this actually change the way we engage with assumptions at the subconscious and unconscious levels. 
  • Ubiquity is kind of like air. This is how we do it. This is how we be.
  • If the questions are about bringing out the best in someone, what does it do to that person to be able to be their best in all situations?
  • If this is truly ubiquitous, does it start to change the reactive patterns that our brains have because we’re able to be our best?
  • What does belonging mean in workplaces and what is psychological safety? What does it mean that someone is always bringing out the best in me? This would be truly transformative – going into meetings at work and being able to walk it without defenses up. What would it mean if we were really holding space and caring for each other?
  • The amount of time and talent that’s wasted in interactions defending yourself or building defenses against something that may or may not happen. The people who tend to be the most visionary and compassionate are also the ones that tend to feel this the most.
  • If it becomes ubiquitous, then rather than people needing to take time to explain and defend Catalytic Thinking, we can spend our time applying it.

If Catalytic Thinking is broadly and deeply applied in a variety of situations and at all ages, if it’s just the way we are with each other, if it is just the norm that we both ask and expect to receive questions in this way – What would need to be in place?

  • People would need to know there’s an alternative and what the alternative is. This would be especially important at the beginning. People would need to know there’s a more effective way of communicating with each other.
  • Reminders and opportunities to practice and some level of support and accountability through that process. Until it’s ubiquitous, we would need an opportunity to have people around you to help you in that journey. You would want to have examples and know you’re not the only one.
  • Thinking about Noom, an app that puts in place little mechanisms to almost trick people into changing their behaviors. People learn little chunks at a time but they add up to something bigger. They also have a coach and a peer group. 
  • We would need documentation of our own results, in a variety of forms.
  • The first thing communities often want to know is whether there is a possibility that a change will lead to harm. They may be willing to accept that it would maintain the status quo, but aren’t willing to accept additional harm. Communities need a sense of not being alone, a sense of story, and a sense of this being positive. How do we be honest about some of the places where this maybe hasn’t worked so well in order to give people the opportunity to make informed decisions?
  • People will need stuff! Stuff to read, stuff to watch – there need to be libraries full of stuff that people can access wherever. It all needs to be written in the language of what someone would type into Google when they’re having a problem. It needs to be easily available and accessible to everyone.
  • We need to walk the talk of the world we want to build. If we want the things that people need to be really, really accessible to them, then what does that look like if we practice that?
  • There need to be teachers and mentors and wise folks that people can go to to ask questions. Thinking about trust in this context – who do you trust? Who sets the example?
  • A lot of this is stuff that can be online, but maybe part of what needs to be in place is ambassadors.
  • Different people need different things. To be ubiquitous, this needs to be presented and made available in all the different ways so it appeals and resonates to the broadest possible audience.
  • We don’t have to do everything all at once. This doesn’t need to be absolutely everywhere and everything all at the same time. For it to begin to be ubiquitous, people need to have access, but maybe they don’t need to have access to a 6 month online immersion course. People need a thing for them to try that is safe, that feels safe to them, and if they want to push themselves, there’s the next thing they can try.

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?

  • Thinking about the question of “What does it feel like if someone else is always setting me up to be my best self?” has opened up a lot of thoughts and positive emotions.
  • If we are able to be our best, what impact could that have on our brains and neural pathways? How could it feel in our bodies and impact our health?
  • We have in ourselves all of these self-limiting voices and these are fueled by people who put us on the defensive. I’m never at my best; I am always at the mercy of those voices. What would it be like if those voices weren’t there? If all I heard was “Yes, this is possible,” “Yes, this can be done”? What would it be like if I wasn’t wasting time and energy feeling inferior and feeling defensive?
  • When looking at what needs to be in place, it doesn’t feel overwhelming. There are a lot of different ways to scale the mission, to create more ripples. A lot of what we’ve talked about over the past few months has felt big and intensive. Today’s list feels do-able.

This conversation will continue on Thursday, April 21. Info about that meeting, including how you can participate, is at this link. Please let us know if you can join us!

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