VALID 1 - Drew Boyd

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Constraints Lead to Creativity!

On May 14th , during the heart of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Global Forum-Action Learning Team organized its first VALID—Virtual Action learning International Discussion-- The aim: to keep provide a forum for our community to continue in its learning and networking mode, and deepening our reflection on “The Future”.

Drew Boyd, our own “Mister Innovation”, launched us into our VALID discussion series with a session entitled “Creative Lessons from A Pandemic”. Listening to Drew is always a pure moment of entertainment, as he embeds profound lessons within a truly memorable story.
What is creativity? It is the sudden collision of two previously unrelated themes. With a few photos, Drew illustrated the definition, notably drawing our attention to the way in which the popular television show “MacGyver” served as an example of accessible creativity.  
Three Key Principles of Creativity:

  • The Principle of Constraints. You lack something and replace it with something else more readably available.
  • The Principle of Fixedness. You become stuck in thinking about your available resources narrowly, even though many options are available to you. Go beyond the obvious and anticipate that the unusual can happen.
  • The Closed World Principle. Prioritize the resources around you; proximity is the solution.

What a moment of self-awareness! Reflecting on a recent personal experience, compensating for the lack of availability of professional painters, I became painter. I painted the forged iron fences around my house. Because every gesture was new to me, I had to create and invent the best process for doing this work. I hesitated. I referred to the DIY manuals. I was out of my comfort zone, but I was so pleased to see the result.

What about you?  How have you successfully used the principles of creativity?

Postponement 2020 - Filippo Martino

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Dear Yury,

We are well so far and looking forward to remain fit. 

We where all unprepared, so we’re still in a learning process and, as everybody, we’re hopeful to see the end of this fairly soon and star the recovery.

Not everything will be the same. My hope is that, along with many uncertainties something good could come out of this global crisis. Among many:
- (unplanned!) learnings on smart working and distance learning wich are now used on a large scale in almost every job and service:
- a wiser national and international attention to unknown pandemics both to address research but also to be ready with structures and tools (masks, etc). In fact, its a strange situation: just in the meddle of debates such as returning to the Moon and planning to reach Mars or investing in AI for safe self driving, we discover population of the First World exposed to very old stile diseases! 

I’ve received notice of GF 2020 postponement (the first ever) as a consequence of the unprecedented situation affecting also our community. 
Let's be hopefull that before summer the pandemia will be over and soon after we could even find a time and a place where a few of us could convene and talk and reflect about this happenings. 

Best also from Olimpia, to Nadia, your family, the Gf team and colleagues,


Filippo Martino

Postponement 2020 - Lars Cederholm

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Warm Greetings,

In an irresistible urge I feel that I want to reach out to you hoping that you are in a good and safe place. Many of our friends out there in the world are busy looking over their own resources and coping with a revolution facing each one of us, regardless where we are and who we are. This morning I wrote to a friend in England trying to express something about Anna and myself and some general rambling about the world at large. It was good to just write and write so I just keep going……

I, the happy and incurably dizzy, self-proclaimed poet is challenged to sit here in my pleasant cage, peeking at the world through my own eyes, now in need of a serious check up. We are looking everywhere, local media, radio and TV, touching friends, surfing for information; different stuff, like f.ex. how people have avoided famine historically? That’s at the base of respect for older people in China who would be able to teach the young from experience of periodic failed harvests. Anna has a few things to say about facing a very serious shortage of food and I was around to see that for myself in Moscow 1990. Here is Anna's list from her experience at the time: Salt, toothpaste, soap, toilet paper and clarify butter for long storage life and cut and dry bread and pack in linen sacks, store hanging. Hope you don’t have to take this advise of self-protection from famine. We just have to find ways of stopping the panic. I worry when I see someone filling the whole car with toilet paper. It smells trouble, no pun intended.

Our days are busy, albeit in some new ways. Now Anna and I take some brisk nature walks together, more so than before. Just back from one of these walks reflecting on people who, like Anna and myself, were experimenting with ground rules for interpersonal distance, in this case while walking in nature. The government recommendation for interpersonal distance is, 6 ft. Or 1.80 m, may well save many from a whole range of new calibration of social rituals where distance is the meta language and also a sign language revealing differences in class and education. 

I keep flipping between the somber tone of reason pouring our of Swedish P.Radio and TV. And over to CNN, BBC etc. Suddenly a whole new Olymp of technocrats and many young people are showing up in the media, representing institutes that most people didn’t even know exist. The need for facts has taken the forefront and I, we, must calibrate our senses, instincts and emotions as we try to make sense of this huge domino in rapid motion as we speak. A great majority of people living here in Swedes trust that we have good leaders to help us through this. People in Sweden may not be so formidable as individuals but they are pretty good, level headed system thinkers so that will help us to navigate to a new future in this little country of ours. Right now every Schengen country has closed its borders. I am not even allowed to go to Copenhagen in Denmark which is in some ways an intricate part of Malmö, with a busy bridge between us. Who would ever believe that we would see this day?

When this is all over, I hope we will have a much better understanding of what a country is for in the face of a deep crises and how we can build a better EU and a better world? Differentiation before an even stronger European integration I hope! Flipping to the shrill tone in the US and (the unlovely and inappropriate) Trump who, just a week ago, was fabricating political propaganda for his re-election mixed in with his own version of facts; Just like commercial TV where the real goal is marketing of products and services and content is there to pretend otherwise. Not so good when a strong US leadership is needed.
Would it not be nice if people competing for power and influence can to stop using slander, spinning facts and twisting quotes. Now if ever is a good time for authentic behaviour based on science and facts, set in a frame of wisdom.

I think it is fair to say that we have a more solid health care infrastructure in most of Europe (one payer system and all the rest of it) to deal with this mess, more integrated than in the more fragmented health care business in the US and the Global South. The different systems of health care will reveal the pros and cons under pressure and we must learn together as we move along. Regrettably, Italy is a wake up lesson to us all to be faster in how to take use the authority of the state to avoid that the health care systems implode. I some places the critically ill are flooding the capacity to care and it is so sad to think about these tragedies. 

I can’t help to speculate about the loose ends of it all and I, like you and everybody else, am flooded by questions about where the chips will be falling next; what new people will float up to power and influence in our societies? Have we passed the stage where people will come with the pitched forks as a way of alleviating fear and envy? Can we cooperate and globalise in new ways and can we use the lessons so far to the benefit of all? This is a bit like the Apollo project when a group solved an “impossible” problem to save the lives of the astronauts using some good Yankee ingenuity. Now we must problem solve on a global scale. How will phoenix, the ultimate symbol of strength and renewal, rise out of the ashes? Some of the lessons du jour are obvious, other covered by emotions etc. And the rest of it will be some great surprises. And for many vulnerable people it is about life and death so we all know … this is not a simulation. A man or woman without clothes must learn how to weave! Looking at our human history, we have good reason to believe that a whole new dimension of opportunities will unfold, perhaps more subtle and more difficult to detect this time? 

How long will the tax money keep countries and companies shut down and pay for business losses and salaries? No dog has a tail that measures two meters!! … My guess: People like me (77 with a diagnosed untreated astma or some other respiratory problems etc.) must stay away from public life for a time to be determined. They, me, we who are at serious risk of loosing our lives will need compassionate support from the abled. For the rest of us, … we need to get out, go back to work and work together. We all must learn how to be with each other (no sneezing, no nose picking etc.) and let nature immunise us all. This is of course controversial to say and I am sure we can have some meaningful exchanges in how to develop plan B and C. For most people this Covi-19 is no difference than the flu in terms of its impact! Including the untested cases world wide representing a significant number, mortality may be as low as 0,3%.of the people contaminated. 

Please don’t forget! Now the birds have started to build their nests, flowers are popping up everywhere, trees turn green and the sun is shining. We are breathing fresh air.

Love from your friends Lars (who is writing a science fiction book) and Anna (who paints and paints) with profound prayers that we will all be safe and come out of this much wiser and happier. 

May all the people who are sick be free from sickness, may the nations of the earth live in harmony, may pure conduct and merit increase, may we all be free from fear! 

Lars Cederholm

Postponement 2020 - Fiona Stewart

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Dear Yury and team

These are very challenging times for all of us around the world. The curve is ramping up here in Australia and whilst we have some good measures in place as a nation, sadly it does not feel like quite enough.

I am thinking of those in other parts of the world, Chantal in France, Karl-Georg in Germany, Michellana in the US and yourself in Canada. I hope you and your families are all keeping well.

I completely understand and support your decision to postpone and will happily put the 2021 dates in my diary. In the meantime I would be delighted to stay connected with the community globally through virtual means, and participate in, and/or present a virtual webinar.

I look forward to hearing more.
Best ‘virtual’ regards

Virtual Coaching

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Coaching Circles from a Safe Distance

I hope that everyone is safe and dealing well with this current shock to our inner and outer worlds. As I imagine being the case in your own settings and your own coaching practice, I have shifted all of my interactions with clients to the web, including the 4 coaching circles I am currently leading with participants from across the world. We had been holding these sessions live until early February, even though occasionally some participants were joining through Zoom for different reasons.

I thought I would share some initial reflections on my experience in leading coaching circles through Zoom, hoping they might give you a sense of the feasibility of the approach but also to gather any thoughts and advice you may have for those venturing into delivering online coaching circles for the first time. Please feel free to contribute in any way you can! I am using Zoom but I am sure that what follows also applies to using other videoconference platforms.

To cut right to the chase, I can say that video conferencing works extremely well for coaching circles. I have been doing such sessions for at least 10 years (well before Skype and Zoom came along) and it is possible to create through this medium a wonderfully supportive and caring environment for collaborating, sharing and achieving the purpose of coaching circles. How does that happen (in 5 key points)?

1. Inherent structure of coaching circles a big plus

The very structure of a session is really conducive to collaboration. There are clear phases to a coaching circle session: connecting (i.e. checking in), coaching (i.e. the airtimes) and completing (i.e. sharing around learning themes and how the day went). The 4 stages of each airtime also guide participants really well on what is expected of everyone (i.e. the coaching request, the collaborative inquiry, the solo reflection and the voicing). That kind of structure is not always so clear in regular meetings over the web but it is definitely an advantage in the coaching circle configuration. This is an observation the participants have made repeatedly in the coaching circles I lead.

2. Technology + Behaviours

The quality of the technology these days means that the faces and upper bodies of people on the video conference call are very clear. One can easily observe reactions, impulses and the subtle moves people make when they reflect, when they want to engage, when they need help formulating a question, and so on. From one’s screen, you can see everyone in a matrix configuration and everyone is “close in” (sometimes even more than in a physical setting).

All that’s needed sometimes is for people to slightly exaggerate their movements (e.g. raising a hand or giving a thumb’s up) so that they can be clearly seen when they want to speak, make a particular request or acknowledge a request made by the client or the facilitator-coach. I have also found that the “hand raise” and “chat” features on Zoom to be particularly useful when one of the participants wants to call attention to something important to them, either publicly or privately to me as the facilitator-coach or to another member of the group. I have also “shared my screen” when presenting a model or a distinction to support the group in their work. What I’ve learned with the shared screen feature is to have your document already open and ready to share on your desktop to facilitate its introduction to the group.

One of the behaviours I also find helpful is to ask everyone to slow down just a bit to allow for any lag in transmission to be integrated in the process. This minor adjustment has helped to minimize interruptions and confusion.

3. Feedback Loop

I have integrated into the process, especially at the beginning, a frequent “quick check” on how we are doing in working through the new online medium. Through this, we have been able to make any adjustments needed to ensure everyone is taking full advantage of the process. In the same spirit of continuous learning, I also have asked people to share any lessons learned from working through this medium elsewhere.

4. Purposeful Socializing

All of the participants on the coaching circles I lead remotely have said that getting together to talk, learn and work their issues and challenges has been extremely helpful, especially in this current period of mandated isolation. I’d call it “purposeful socializing”. Our gatherings have generated a much-needed sense of connection and solidarity in a time where the meaning of “relating” is being stretched into new territory. Those who had any resistance to moving from a live to a virtual setting quickly adjusted to our new way of working even if they, like many of us, long for a good hug!

5. Setting Up for Success

I’d say that my usual discipline of preparing each group for their coaching circle session and following-up with relevant articles, practices and the like is also contributing to sustaining the momentum of learning and support in and around our time together. I should also mention that the four coaching circles I am currently working with have had many opportunities to meet in person already, i.e. prior to the move to video conferencing. This is probably quite an advantage over groups who may be getting started in this virtual environment. So it may take a bit of extra sensitivity to build the trusting environment needed for people to feel comfortable in this setting, but I see this as a minor challenge, not a hazard. The care needed to set up a group for success in the first place still applies, e.g. through individual meetings with participants.


I hope this is helpful! I would really appreciate any feedback, comments and ideas you could share with our community about working, collaborating and learning in this exciting virtual environment.

Find out more about coaching circles by visiting: [link]

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