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What everyday habits of systems transformers have we observed?

Adam Kahane
December, 2023


On December 12 and 13, 2023, we held the second pair of Zoom calls for Book Club members. The invitation was to reflect on our own first- and second-hand experience of working on transforming systems and consider what we have observed to be the key habits of effective systems transformers. 

The biggest challenge I noticed in doing this exercise is to focus on what we have actually observed rather than on what we wish we had observed!

Please add your further reflections and comments on this subject at the bottom of this post.

The video recordings of the calls (including the chats)

Here is the recording of the call on December 12 and here is the one from December 13.

The experiences with everyday habits shared on these calls

Here is a table of all of the experiences shared, with each cell being one person's answer to the question: What have you observed to be the 2-3 key habits of effective systems transformers (i.e., not so much their grand strategies as their day-to-day actions)? The right hand column is each Breakout Room's summary of the contributions of its members (that row). 

ChatGPT's summary of the everyday habits in the table

  • Perseverance, Facilitation, and Listening:
    • The importance of perseverance and active listening in leadership roles.
    • Facilitation skills, especially in convening discussions.
  • Human Connection and Care Relations:
    • Emphasis on invitational human connections and caring relations.
    • Inner work, courage, and forthrightness in interactions.
  • Intention and Long Term Vision:
    • Strong intention, purpose, and a long-term vision with a resolve to achieve it.
  • Perspective Taking and Sensemaking:
    • Holding space for multiple perspectives and tensions.
    • Sense-making, observing, and curating multiple data points.
  • Modesty/Humility and Managing Energy:
    • Modesty and humility in leadership.
    • Managing, sensing, and mobilizing energy effectively.
  • Active Listening and Reflection:
    • Active listening involving heart, head, and feet.
    • Distinguishing between reflection on action and inaction.
  • Communication and Clarity:
    • Clarity in communication, making messages understandable to others.
    • Communicating actionable steps for others to take.
  • Inclusion and Diversity:
    • Focus on inclusion, diversity, and mental mobility.
    • Building relationships across boundaries.
  • Inner Work and Courage:
    • Inner work, self-regulation, and awareness.
    • Courage and forthrightness in actions.
  • Action Orientation and Bite-sized Pieces:
    • Action orientation in manageable, bite-sized pieces.
    • Openness to learning and emergence.
  • Relational Abilities and Daily Reflection:
    • Building relationships before strategy.
    • Daily reflection and intentional inclusion.
  • Various Practices and Paradigms:
    • Questions about the difference between habits, practices, and paradigms.
    • Observing motivations and reactions.
  • Embodying Emergence and Generative Scribing:
    • Practices like embodying emergence and generative scribing.
    • Earth-based learning and inside-out awareness practices.
  • Openness, Sharing, and Collaboration:
    • Openness, sharing, collaboration, and adaptability.
    • Listening and expanding perspectives.
  • Self-awareness and Self-management:
    • Self-awareness, self-management, and resilience.
    • Recognizing multiple world views without judgment.
  • Additional Insights:
    • Strong facilitation of diverse groups and raising ambition.
    • Working in iterations/small steps.
    • Being in touch with change, shared understanding/connection.
    • Balancing attention to details and the higher-level picture.
    • Embracing imperfection, releasing control, and reflecting.
  • Metaphors and Stories:
    • Metaphors, stories, and unconscious attractors.
    • Recognizing the role of aesthetics, poetry, and stories.
  • Forest and Trees, Compassion, and Reflectiveness:
    • Balancing the forest and trees perspective.
    • Embracing imperfection, flowing like water, and creating change smoothly.
    • Compassion, warmth, and embracing emergent complexity.

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