Observations from a year of immersion

Greetings from my staying-in-my-bubble keyboard to your (hopefully) staying-in-your-bubble screen. Wishing you safety and well-being now—even more than usual—during these waning days of 2020.

In a year that has variably sped by at warp speed and dragged on incessantly slowly, it should come as no surprise that my reflections on the year won’t wait for December 31st.

This year (like many) was for me a year of immersion. There’s been so many wonderful commentaries over the past few months about our individual and collective immersion in the culture and health volcano of this time. The thoughts expressed by those rich commentaries far outstrip my reflections.

Yet, I was curious to see what might come of looking back at my immersion this year…in ideas. I love to read and am always intrigued by the intersection of ideas. Here’s my list of completed (from earliest to most recent) books this year:

  1. Radical Dharma: Talking Race, Love, and Liberation – by Rev. angel Kyodo Williams, Lama Rod Owens, Jasmine Syedullah Ph.D.
  2. Regenerative Leadership: The DNA of Life-Affirming 21st Century Organizations – by Giles Hutchins, Laura Storm
  3. Decolonizing Wealth: Indigenous Wisdom to Heal Divides and Restore Balance – by Edgar Villanueva
  4. Leading from the Emerging Future: From Ego-System to Eco-System Economies – by Otto Scharmer and Katrin Kaeufer
  5. The Living Organization: Transforming Business to Create Extraordinary Results – by Norman Wolfe
  6. Appreciative Inquiry: Toward a Methodology for Understanding and Enhancing Organizational Innovation – by David Loy Cooperrider (Ph.D. dissertation)
  7. Who Do We Choose to Be?: Facing Reality, Claiming Leadership, Restoring Sanity – by Margaret J. Wheatley
  8. A Mind Spread Out on the Ground – by Alicia Elliott 
  9. Joy of Appreciative Living -  by Jackie Kelm
  10. Dancing at the Edge: Competence, Culture and Organization in the 21st Century - by Maureen O’Hara and Graham Leicester
  11. Man's Search for Meaning – by Viktor E. Frankl
  12. The Chief Reinvention Officer Handbook: How to Thrive in Chaos -  by Nadya Zhexembayeva

Immersion in virtual workshops and retreats proved nourishing and stimulating this year as well. Highpoints include:

  • (Spring) GAIA (Global Activation of Intention and Action) Journey – a weekly virtual global gathering of 1,000+ individuals over a 12-week period (March – May). Hosted by Otto Scharmer and the Presencing Institute. This was an enormously powerful experience, especially during the formative stages of the pandemic when we all felt loose from our moorings. The 1:1, small group, and whole group interaction enabled me to feel intimately connected around the globe, reinforcing the shared observation that while we may all be experiencing the same thing, our experience of it is different.
  • (Summer) 21st Century Competencies introductory retreat, convened by the International Futures Forum (Scotland). Led by Maureen O’Hara and Graham Leicester (see book #11 above), this retreat focused on becoming “a person of tomorrow.” What was so very valuable was an immersion in the competencies required for thriving in times like these, where we are experiencing three types of emergencies—real [there are consequences], conceptual [horribly complex to understand and to grasp in its multiple dimensions], and existential [shaking the inner foundations of our worlds].
  • (Fall) Positive Pivot: A Global Virtual AI Jam, hosted by Champlain College’s Cooperrider Center for Appreciative Inquiry. This three-day “jam” (aka, conference) involved 200+ appreciative inquiry practitioners from around the world. Beyond the high value content and connections, this experience pushed the boundaries on getting the most interaction in a sustained virtual space.

As I reflect on the intersection of all these self-selected influences on me this year, I’m making these observations:

  1. Without conscious awareness there can be no letting go; without letting go there can be no opening; without opening there can be no discovery.
  2. I have the most to learn from those least like me. That’s always been the case. Perhaps now I’m embracing it fully.
  3. Connection before content. We crave those moments of our shared humanity….essential before we thrust ourselves headlong into problem solving.
  4. Improvisation is a valuable skill set that can be learned and should be practiced.
  5. Perhaps our greatest contributions come in the form of questions.

I would love to hear from you what observations you’re making as this calendar year closes. You’ve been my teacher even when you didn’t realize it. This student is ready so let the teacher appear.

I hope that you will remain safe and well through the coming holidays and into the new year. Many (past) years of marathon training leads me to recall that “you can always go further than you think you can.” That mantra got me across more than one finish line. Hopefully, it will prove true again.

Warmly and in gratitude for our relationship.