What is an underlying question that gives form to your work or interest in this field?
How can humans’ collective movement to reclaim
wholeness and spirit be supported and nurtured, so that we may see a
new paradigm of respect, regeneration, and hope flourish in our times?
What is your personal experience of collective
wisdom in groups?
I live my life facilitating groups and have profound
respect for what can happen when people open to each other in deep ways.
As a professional process consultant and graphic facilitator, I work
across all kinds of organizations and communities all over the world,
and have for more than 25 years. I have also been a member of circles
doing deep dialogue. One is composed entirely of people who have gone
through vision quests called the Elders Circle. A Pathwalkers group
of peer consultants has been meeting for four years. A new Compassionet
bridges India and North America, meeting in sat sang regularly. A Change
Agents Café has meet for more than eight years. I’m also
a member of the Thought Leader Gathering. These circles represent an
increasingly important part of my life.
What is it about the work in this field that excites
you and connects you to your own deepest self?
My work began with a lot of attention being paid to what
people said in meetings and working out ways to illustrate and make
sense out of it on visual displays. But over the years I have come to
believe that it is the listening and the witnessing—the deep seeing
and accepting of each other—that is the core of my work. The graphic
recording is simply a way of making the listening explicit and central.
Years of having my sense making exposed publicly has become a practice
in radical acceptance of everyone’s contribution, and a deep trust
in the larger flows of understanding finding its way to the truth. My
current edge is appreciating that this “flow” can be felt
as spirit, and links all life.
Please provide a brief storyline or snapshot of
what brought you to this work.
I grew up in a thriving, collaborative church community
in the high mountains of California as the eldest son of a Presbyterian
minister. The engagement of this community in each other’s lives
and the affairs of the little town of Bishop have remained a foundation
of hopefulness for me. Because Presbyterians practice a democratic form
of governance and worship, I have been immersed in groups since birth.
It is my good fortune that much of this was inspiring.
I discovered organizational development and facilitation
as a profession while working for the Coro Foundation in San Francisco
as Executive Director and then Director of Training. I had been a Fellow
in Public Affairs with this extraordinary organization in 1965 when
I graduated from Occidental College in Los Angeles. I spent an incandescent
year of learning in Los Angels with 11 other “fellows” composed
entirely of internships in government, business, politics, labor, community,
and media organizations, laced with seminars and projects where we provided
the direction of inquiry. It was the year after the riots in Watts.
Coro’s idealistic mission was to improve the quality of governance
in local communities and cities by shifting the thinking and competency
of 3% of the population through immersive programs in public affairs.
We engaged on the issues of leadership and group cooperation at an extraordinarily
deep level, in a way that shaped my life since. Coro recruited me to
their staff in San Francisco in 1969 and I spent eight years designing
and facilitating Coro programs using the entire SF Bay Area as a classroom.
The 1970’s encouraged experimentation and we tried
everything we could find that would enhance learning in groups. Out
of this came Group Graphics, the practice of using large, interactive
graphic displays created while groups worked together. Designers have
worked this way for centuries, but other groups have not. We pushed
out into new territory, and joined others in creating facilitation as
a professional way to work with groups. I started my own practice in
1977 as a graphic facilitator.
Twenty-five years later I have worked all over the world,
facilitating every imaginable kind of group process, in every kind of
organization and community. I have visually facilitated deaf nurses
from the Philippines and conferences of persons with developmental disabilities.
I have been on stage graphically supporting an urban symposium in Los
Angeles for 1,800 people in the Dorothy Chandler pavilion and teachers
and swamis at a residential school in Southern India. I have helped
Apple Computer get through the 1980’s, National Semiconductor
come back from near bankruptcy in the 1990’s, and hp go through
its many eras. I’ve helped environmentalists plan water policy
strategy, foundations shape programs, and associations organize new
and old constituencies. I’ve helped train freshman Assemblymen
in the California Assembly and worked with the people who run our energy
grids. I’ve facilitated teams in Tokyo in Japanese and French
firms in Monaco having their first ever strategy meeting in groups.
I know that there is such a thing as group intelligence.
I have experienced breakthrough and breakdown, and the unbelievable
consistency with which spirit and process find their way through people’s
lives like the rivers of life they are.
My work is now transforming once again as I step
into the role of being an active elder in most of the communities in
which I participate. I love Michael Meade’s definition of elder
as a person who “makes a shrine to the spirit as the body falls
away.” In this regard I am finding my activity in dialogue increasing,
and a very fulfilling role as a ceremonial leader in my garden community,
my extended network of fellow vision questers, and a growing network
of collaboration professionals reaching out to each other in new ways.
How would you like to be available to others in
Our company, The Grove
Consultants International, has blessed me with a channel for sharing
my work across the world through publications, videos, conceptual models,
graphic templates, and many other tools. I hope to expand the teaching
and support work that we provide to those touched by our work and example.
There is much more to share and write about. Many people in developing
countries are waking up to the power of group collaboration and I want
to be there to help serve this awakening. In my own life I intend to
be available to my many communities with whatever time I have. I am
most interested in responding to those persons who are truly serious
about blending their work and spiritual practices in an integrated celebration
of spirit in action. My professional life has been and still is quite
busy, but I’m working to create more reflective time, and slow
and deepen my pace to take the time it takes to be there for others
and patiently water the seeds of awareness and contribution. I prefer
to work transparently and in service, make no promises, other than to
keep my word and share my truth.