I watched and listened to and read transcripts of various speeches from the Democratic and Republican National Conventions. It occurred to me that political speeches and social progress have about as much to do with each other as drug use and songwriting; the two often happen in the same place, but it is not obvious that there is any causation between them or that it is positive.
The older I get, the more convinced I am that it is a lie to say that Reagan's denouncement of communism had anything to do with its collapse or even that Kennedy's goal of landing a man on the moon had anything to do with it happening. Deep structures and organic processes cause outcomes. God said "Let there be light" and there was light. By contrast, man speaks and God laughs.
It would be hard to imagine a worse approach to building social consensus and resultant change than bringing folks of the same ideology together into one room to cheer each other. The technical term might be ideological bubble.
Which brings me to a beautiful book I recently read. I have worked as a consultant for about 15 years. I have worked inside of organizations like the CIA, GM, Intel, and Lilly. I have formed strong opinions about work and management. This new book by Peter Block seems to me to get it right - to suggest a model for change that actually works.
I once heard Peter Block say, "Leadership is a collusion between control freaks and people who don't want to accept responsibility." His new book, Community: The Structure of Belonging, continues in that vein. He suggest something wonderfully different from what we see inside of most organizations and in our political process. To me, it defines essential elements behind sustainable change. I highly recommend the book and doubt that you could have much success with change without having somehow gained at least some of the insights he articulates.
To give you some sense of its message, here are some excerpts that I thought worth sharing.
... freedom being the choice to be a creator of our own experience and accept the unbearable responsibility that goes with that. Out of this insight grows the idea that perhaps the real task of leadership is to confront people with their freedom.
They know that learning best occurs when we structure meetings in a way that puts people in contact with each other where they experience in a conference the same dilemmas they face in life.
The most organizing conversation starter is "What do we want to create together?"
Bornstein concluded that well-funded efforts, with clear outcomes, that spell out the steps to get there do not work. Changes that begin on a large scale, are initiated or imposed from the top, and are driven to produce quick wins inevitably produce few lasting results. This may be a clue to why our wars such as those on drugs and poverty have been consistently disappointing and sometimes have even produced more of what they sought to eliminate
If you reflect on the stories of the successful leaders who Bornstein documents, you realize that these entrepreneurs were committed enough and patient enough to give their projects time to evolve and find their own way of operating. There were years spent simply learning what structures, agreements, leadership, and types of people were required to be successful.
It was after the model had evolved and succeeded on its own terms that it began to grow, gain attention, and achieve a level of scale that touched large numbers of people.
This means that sustainable change in community occur locally on a small scale, happen slowly, and are initiated at a grassroots level.
Allan Cohen claims the ability to herd cats, which many have said is impossible. He does this by tilting the floor, which changes the conditions under which the cats are operating. Emergent strategies focus on conditions more than on behaviors or predictable goals.
The media's power is the power to name the public debate. Or, in other words, the power to name "reality."
The essential aspect of restoration of community is a context in which each citizen chooses to be accountable rather than entitled.
Every gathering, in its composition and in its structure, has to be an example of the future we want to create.
The small group is the unit of transformation.
Questions that have the power to make a difference are ones that engage people in an intimate way, confront them with their freedom, and invite them to cocreate a future possibility.
Postive change will happen in your lifetime. It just might not come from where you expect.
Have a great weekend.