"Simply stated, the
person who can most clearly see the next step is responsible for
communicating this step and facilitating or leading the group through
it. In an age as complex as ours, it's unreasonable to imagine that any
one person has all of the questions and all of the answers. To invest
individuals with such responsibility creates unnecessary burdens and
pressure and debilitates the creative edge of other members of the team.
kind of leadership always resides within Group Genius. It is a kind of
leadership that allows space to play, iterate, design and learn the art
of flow as team. One of the MG Taylor Axioms speaks to this:
Everyone in this room has the answer. The purpose of this intense
experience is to stimulate one, several, or all of us to extract and
remember what we already know."
This is my favorite creative process model. It was introduced to me by Gail Taylor of MG Taylor and Tomorrow Makers. It is a one of many models from the MG Taylor modeling language. This is one of the oldest of the MG Taylor Models, developed in
1979 by Matt Taylor and Richard Goring as part of an unpublished book entitled
Designing Creative Futures.
This book is much more than a menu for how to run meetings more
effectively, although yes, it is filled with strikingly simple and
practical steps to make a gathering of any kind more humane and
But in a deeper context, it embodies a particular theory
and philosophy of leadership and planning that recognize that every
person does the best they can with what they have, and that people come
equipped with the capacity for extraordinary cooperation if given a
chance to use their own experience and wisdom.
I contributed a case study to the book based on some work I did with HopeLink a start up in Silicon Valley in 2000. See Chapter 5 entitled Find Common Ground, page 85 of the Weisbord and Janoff book.
The technique of backcasting
from the future creates an opportunity for people to tap into their
deepest hopes and heartfelt dreams for the future. When a meeting calls
for future scenarios
you can ask people to put themsevles X years in the future and imagine
their dreams as it they have been realize; describe structure, policies
and relationships in the present tense; and look back to the single
most important step they had to take x years earlier to get started.
Scenario planning is a
discipline for rediscovering the original entrepreneurial power of
creative foresight in contexts of accelerated change, greater
complexity, and genuine uncertainty.
Thirty years ago, Pierre Wack, a French oil executive with a
personal affinity for Indian mystics, realized that strategy as it had
been practiced -- straight-line extrapolations from the past, forecasts
captured in three-ring binders -- did little to frame the choices that
would define the future. The true role of strategy was to describe a
future worth creating -- and then to reap the competitive advantages of
preparing for it and making it happen. Strategy, in other words, was
about telling stories.
Under Wack's influence, Royal Dutch/Shell learned the art of
strategy as storytelling -- creating scenarios about the future.
Scenarios are carefully crafted tales that link certainties and
uncertainties about the future to the decisions that must be made
today. Scenario planning -- or "scenario thinking," as Wack called it
-- has made Shell an industry leader.
Scenario planning has spread from Shell to other corporate giants.
Companies have learned how to frame the future by describing bookend
scenarios, stories that offer vastly different trajectories and starkly
opposing outcomes. But as the pace of change has accelerated, that
textbook approach to scenarios has come to seem as antiquated as the
old three-ring binders.
How do you frame choices when everything is up for grabs? Shell's
answer: Go back to Wack. At the offices of Royal Dutch/ Shell in
London, the scenario team has given birth to TINA -- There is no
alternative -- a strategy conceit that meets uncertainty halfway by
driving a stake into the ground. TINA says, Here's what we know about
the future. Now let's go meet it.
If you really want to impress a venture capitalist, you have to be quick with answers to the grueling business questions they ask. Being prepared is your best defense. The following questions are among those most likely to be asked.
What type of business experience does the management team have?
Are the members achievers?
What motivates each team member?
Can the team accomplish the job outlined in the business plan?
How does your company and product fit into the industry?
What are the current market trends?
What are the keys to success in your industry?
How did you determine total sales of the industry and its growth rate?
What industry changes most affect your company's profits?
What are the seasonal effects in your industry?
What makes your business different?
Why does this business have high growth potential?
Where are the opportunities now?
What needs to happen to bring about those changes?
Who will support them?
What makes this organization strong?
What makes this easy?
What makes this complex?
Why does this company exist?
What are you good at?
Who (really) are your customers? And why?
What do your customers really want?
How do you intend to make money?
Where are your vulnerabilities?
How do you intend to grow?
Who’s driving the bus? (How is the company really organized?)
What can you not afford to do now?
What must be done?
What happens then?
What milestones do we need to hit in 2008? Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4
What are our revenue targets?
Who are our near term customers?
What is our "killer" app? and Why?
What are our investors looking for in execution?
Why is the company structured the way that is it?
What is our business model and why?
What is the average selling price (ASP) for our software license?
What is the market cap of this company?
What is the market size for this category?
What can we position on other than speed and technical competencies?
Where is the product in a technology adoption curve?
Is where a 'make vs buy' condition with our customers?
What is our highest value to big customers?
Do we sell on value or price?
Why should customers buy from us vs. our competitors?
What is the current sales pipeline?
What are the most important task to be done in the next 90 days?
Meg Wheatley is one of my favorite women thought leaders in the world. I consider her a professional mentor of mine. She is a leading thinker in leadership, systems thinking and community building. Her essays and articles are worth reading and can be found at
Note: This is an adaptation of the Epilogue in Leadership and the New Science, Second Edition, San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler, 1996
Twelve years after preparing the Second Edition of Leadership in the New Science, I’m still trying to come to terms with the experience of seeing, feeling, tasting and working earnestly from a new paradigm while living in the old one. And I’m more concerned than ever that we understand how crucial it is that we stay together and support one another.
I was in this work a few years before I was able to identify its real nature. I realized that I and others weren’t asking people simply to adopt some new approaches to leadership or to think about organizations in a few new ways. What we were really asking, and what was also being asked of us, was that we change our thinking at the most fundamental level, that of our world view. The dominant world view of Western culture–the world as machine–doesn’t help us to live well in this world any longer. We have to see the world differently if we are to live in it more harmoniously.
Once I understood the nature of the work, it helped me relax and be
more generous. I learned that people get frightened if asked to change
their world view. And why wouldn’t they? Of course people will get
defensive; of course they might be intrigued by a new idea, but then
turn away in fear. They are smart enough to realize how much they would
have to change if they accepted that idea. I no longer worry that if I
could just find the right words or techniques, or describe multiple
case studies, I could convince people. I no longer expect a new world
view to be embraced quickly; I don’t know if I’ll see it take root in
my lifetime. I also know that people are being influenced from sources
far beyond anyone’s control. I know many people who’ve been changed by
events in their lives, not by words they read in a book.
These people have been changed by life’s great creative force,
chaos. One of the gifts offered by this new world view is a clearer
description of life’s cyclical nature. The mechanistic world view
promised us lives of continual progress. Since we were in control and
engineering it all, we could pull ourselves straight uphill, scarcely
faltering. But life doesn’t work that way, and this new world view
confirms what most of us knew–no rebirth is possible without moving
through a dark passage. Dark times are normal to life; there’s nothing
wrong with us when we periodically plunge into the abyss.