Collaborative Synergy with Sociomapping

Written by . Filed under Learn, Understand. Tagged , . No comments.

Collaborative Synergy in a bounded group: Visualisation with Team Sociomapping.

Wednesday, 14 October 2015 from 6:00 PM to 9:00 PM (EDT)
How do we observe and intervene in the way groups interact?
How can we help organizations and teams improve their performance while relying less on top-down, command and control approaches?

When we look at dialogue between members of a small-medium size team, we may think that discussions are more about task type, resources, skills and goals. However, there are softer, less tangible group dynamics at play which can have significant impact on performance. The way that members of such groups interact, and the team dynamics at play, particularly when groups are separated by time and space, can be difficult to probe, monitor and make sense of.

Stephen Sillet presents October’s DwD, about team communication and synergy, and introduces a software visualisation tool called Real-time Sociomapping from QED Group in Prague. The tool has been used internationally and gained prominence when used in a 2-year Mars simulation in Russia, looking at the impact of long-term space travel on the team dynamics among astronauts. In this session we will look at NGOs, activist groups (and maybe DwD groups) to gain useful feedback into team dynamics and to discover how to integrate such tools to learn how dialogue interventions impact social dynamics.

The Sociomapping tool, has key utility in looking at changes in team/group dynamics over a time frame of months. For the purpose of the session we will use participatory drama simulations of groups, so that we can compress time, and explore how dynamics of groups can change through a couple of scenario interventions that our actors will represent. For instance, we will work through the the formation of team roles, the daily interactions in the scenario workplace, a situation where the team had to implement a mission critical task and finally explore how the use of a Clean Feedback session could help communication and improve team dynamics.

We will end with a discussion, speaking to our rationale for being interested in team dynamics and related tools. We will then open up to dialogue around interests in utilising the such approaches and tools in Canada, and if this could be used to enable teams working in stressful international development and marginalised contexts.


About the Host

ssillettStephen Sillett is co-executive director of Aiding Dramatic Change ~ in Development (ADCID), and helps the organization research, facilitate and direct dialogue, drama and art processes for healing and community development. He directs InFusion Labs where theatre artists, therapists, scientists and social practitioners explore spatial approaches to exploration and discovery. Stephen learn about Sociomapping when researching how to monitor the dynamics of groups, organisations and facilitation teams working on development projects in South Africa. In 2011, Stephen was in the city of Prague attending the Prague Quadrennial theatre event, during that time Stephen met QED Group at their offices. During that visit he took an opportunity to bring participants from a Prague Quadrennial workshop he attended, to come and unpack their interactions using Sociomapping software. The Sociomapping session was facilitated by Pauline Willis from the UK, and proved very interesting. Since then Stephen has been looking at ways to bring such visualisation tools into the range of landscape-based approaches he uses in his practice.

If you see potential for such approaches in your project and and areas of practice please email Stephen.

The Art & Practice of Regenerative Leadership

Written by . Filed under Learn, Masters Workshop. Tagged , , , . No comments.

Michael Jones and Michelle Holiday presented an exploration of regenerative leadership based on their living systems model on Sept 9. Engaging nearly 40 participants in a close circle, Michelle started off with a cycle of connections and engagement. The context was set to explore questions of engaged leadership, including:

  • What new ways of thinking and seeing are needed within the many participatory organizing structures that are emerging?
  • How can we integrate living systems principles as we explore the leadership that is needed now in our organizations and communities?
  • What are our new practice grounds – spaces and times of shared learning, renewal and relationship that deepen our connection with both people and place?





Michael and Michelle drew from their own experience in community and strategic dialogue work, as well as from their recent article published in the current issue of The Spanda Journal, Living Systems Theory and the Practice of Stewarding Change.

Michelle presented a core case story of their developmental work with the Montreal museum organization now known as Espace pour la Vie (Space for Life), a project which combined the Botanical Gardens, Planetarium, Biodome and Insectarium into a new biosciences museum group. As an evolving living system organization, the results of the journey are impressively real in the growing value the new combined museums have to the regional and scientific communities.

Michael Jones shared his stories, dialogue and music over the course of the evening, including insights from the four-step model in his book, The Soul of Place. The two revealed their combined four timeless patterns that shape all living, creative, expressive systems. We worked in small groups to find and share how these four patterns emerged in our own leadership work in the context of regenerative living organizations.


Michelle’s four patterns were drawn from years of study and development of living, biological systems. The nature of life “itself” is represented by four classic patterns that describe any non-mechanical system:

1. The parts, components, divergent members of a living context.

2. Their relationships with one another, how they connect and create new patterns.

3. Their convergence as a whole system, a unitary holon with its own wholeness of identity and distinct form.

4. The self-integration of life as an animating force that imbues a living system with its vitality.


Underlying the four patterns is a deep connection with place. Any living system is rooted in and nourished by the place where it grows, and we and our organizations and communities are no exception. Michael presented his four patterns from The Soul of Place, and through his stories of relationship with place, music and practice, and his own life, he showed how his four patterns connect neatly to the living system:

1. Homecoming, or the pattern of return of individuals to a place of recognition or home.

2. Belonging, the making of relationships among ourselves.

3. Regenerativity, the creative practice of leadership and acknowledgement of one’s role and source, form a place.

4. Carnival, transformative celebration, the expression of shared vitality (life) and possibility.

We explored the areas of practice offering the most fertile soil for these new possibilities to take root. A series of questions prompted exercises to reflect in small groups on possible applications and starting points.

What are (or could be) your practices for sensing and supporting what life calls for? What practice grounds are needed?

What do you feel called to steward? what could that look like, given the 4 patterns we explored?

Where do you see regenerative leadership coming ever more vibrantly to life? What is being done? How are the patterns present and cultivated?

What kind of greenhouse or Solarium do we need to create to cultivate regenerative leadership in ourselves and our communities?

The four phases of the evening’s session are described in Patricia Kambitsch’s sketch of the dialogue. Here the imagery moves from left to right, from the participant’s experiences in “feeling most alive” to the discussion of patterns and relationships in living systems (creating conditions for life to thrive) to the sets of patterns, and final dialogue.

About the Hosts

Michael Jones is a leadership educator, dialogue facilitator, writer and Juno-nominated pianist/composer.  His most recent book, The Soul of Place, is the third in a series on Re-imagining Leadership.  Others in the series include Artful Leadership and the award-winning  Creating an Imaginative Life.  Michael has also been a thought leader with the MIT Dialogue Project and Dialogos and other prominent leading edge universities and centres.










He has co-chaired several place-based initiatives and spoken on the leader’s emerging role as  placemaker in a variety of forums including The Authentic Leadership in Action Conferences (ALIA), The Society  for Organizational  Learning (SoL) and many others. As a pianist/composer Michael has composed and recorded fifteen CD’s of his original piano compositions and performed as a solo pianist across North America  as well as Korea and Japan.  He has been integrating his music in his leadership and dialogue work for over twenty years. See to learn more about Michael and his work.

Michelle Holliday is a facilitator, organizational consultant, researcher and writer. Her work centers around “thrivability” — a set of perspectives, intentions and practices based on a view of organizations as living systems. To this end, she brings people together and helps them discover ways they can feel more alive, connect more meaningfully with each other, and serve life more powerfully through their work. This generally takes the form of designing and hosting transformative events, as well as delivering talks and workshops. Michelle also writes regularly, including a forthcoming book, The Age of Thrivability. Her research is summarized in a slideshow called Humanity 4.0, as well as in a TEDx presentation.

Don Officer on Living & Dying through Change & Transformation

Written by . Filed under Reflection. Tagged , . No comments.

Something about August reminds us of those unseen tipping points that mark the change of seasons in the year, in our lives, in our organizations and ultimately cultures. The fruits of summer need shorter days and colder nights to ripen. All are harbingers of harvests but likewise endings soon enough to come. So it was timely that Vanessa Reid opened up a conversation to the 30 or so DwD participants in the Lambert Room on Wednesday, August 12 around the perpetual mystery and wisdom of transitions.

Such conversations take courage. Everything about our culture is designed to downplay two obvious, but annoying details. First, we all change through our lives and experiences. With the passage of years we can do less or fewer of some things and more of others. These slow but inexorable alterations do not usually comply with expectations. If that weren’t annoying enough, the many parts of the world around us move along on their own cycles and rhythms. Vanessa gave us a framework for that, a systems approach called panarchy.

Panarchy is a philosophical and methodological approach with a history some of you will recognize. In human terms we feel the perpetual tension between stability and disturbance in every aspect of life. This personal aspect was Vanessa’s focus at the DwD session. Relating her own experiences as a daughter, an agent for social change and institutional steward Vanessa illustrated how she came to appreciate panarchy from the inside out. As the invitation explains she has been immersed in creating  (and sometimes extinguishing we discovered) broadly aligned cultures. All this she accomplished while immersing herself in some very extended, old yet highly contended global cultures from India to Jerusalem to Greece.

The evening was designed to be interactive. Conversing as individuals in a circle, sometimes in twos or threes, participants pondered aloud their own cycles of growth, transformation and death or disappearance in their lives. Throughout the session process shifts between expression and reflection were felt and consolidated. Living in our hard driving high-energy compulsorily optimistic culture, we feel a powerful resistance to accepting personal or social decline’s inevitable consequences as we, along with our personal cocoons, are overtaken by the power of change from without as well as within.

Some of these ideas did indeed sink in during our three hours together. Closing thoughts from the circle reminded the whole group of the ambivalences that big changes intermingled with tenacious continuances visit on everyone. Vanessa is a living model for acceptance of panarchy’s swirling curves as it describes its sideways figure eight of infinity. Perpetuity is of course not always a consolation when we must give up something or a person dear and meaningful to us. Consciousness does not always let matters go gently into that good night. Moving on is nonetheless active and dynamic. Awareness of the call to close is step one.

Donald Officer

Living & Dying through Change & Transformation

Written by . Filed under Learn, Understand. No comments.

How do we make sense of the lifecycles in our individual lives, organizations, and systems?

How might we act and respond to ongoing change in ways that support individual and organizational resiliency?

August’s DwD was hosted by Vanessa Reid, with a session exploring the ways in which we make sense of the change in our personal and organizational lives.

Drawing from concepts of the Panarchy cycle, Vanessa worked with participants to discover how cycles of living and dying can help us to better understand the ways in which our actions can support or hinder transitional phases in our personal and organizational lives.

We explored the fears and disturbances that come up in transitions – such as “not-knowing”, uncertainty, grief, and chaos, to find how these can be leadership skills that we can hone. The group explored the nature of “practice leadership” for our individual and collective transitions, and translate concepts and models into a living practice.




Vanessa and Chris Lee working the floor at Lambert Lounge. The ecocycle loop sketch is taking shape at Vanessa’s feet on the floor.























About the Host

Vanessa Reid is the co-founder of Living Wholeness Institute, which works with citizens, teams, organizations and social movements around the globe on initiatives that are transforming broken systems and creating new, deeply sustainable social realities. She is the former executive director of Montreal’s Santropol Roulant, an innovative non-profit working with food and intergenerational relationship as a catalyst for social change. As the executive publisher of ascent magazine and timeless books, she co-created an organizational process of conscious closure, and stewards many end-of-life processes with people, families and systems.

Most recently, she has been living and working in Greece and the Middle East where the contexts of systemic collapse is asking citizens to respond in fundamentally new ways. She is a co-founder of the SIZ (Systemic Innovation Zone – Greece) working with citizens and groups towards new forms of participation and democracy, through the Art of Participatory Leadership. She co-created the practice grounds for social innovation labs including the Finance Innovation Lab and Tasting the Future-UK.

 For more, visit



The Humble Power of Non-Directive Communication

Written by . Filed under Reflection, Understand. Tagged , , . No comments.

The intentions for this DwD were to explore two contexts:

  • How do we avoid personal bias when facilitating authentic & emergent dialogue?
  • How do we create open spaces in communication for deep listening and sharing?

Stephen Sillett hosted our July 2015 inquiry into non-directive communication. Peter Jones presented a dialogue from Ed Schein’s Humble Inquiry, and Stephen held an experiential activity with David Grove’s Clean Language methods. We touched on open and shared conversation experiences of forming and asking questions, touching on how power relations, culture and personal assumptions influence how we ask questions.

Humble inquiry is an approach to creating better working relationships with people in interdependent situations. Schein simply calls this “the gentle art of asking rather than telling.” However, as with most of his work it goes well beyond good management, it’s an approach we can all learn from for better relationships and more effective team and partnership work.

Humble Inquiry is the skill and art of drawing someone out, of asking questions to which you do not already know the answer, of building a relationship based on curiosity and interest in the other person.

Schein notes three modes of humility – Basic humility, Optional humility, and Here and Now humility. We always have a choice to approach a situation as an inquiry, with questions that invite the other person to share, to ascend a bit. We allow the other to be the expert in their own experience. This is especially powerful when you as the questioner may already be in a more powerful status.









Clean Language

Clean Language draws from techniques developed by David Grove, derived from counseling, and used  in organizational development and group facilitation. Several books and materials available on the Clean Language website provide pathways for interested participants to follow. Stephen will be running clean language workshops in the future and can be contacted at

These activities can be very powerful, especially when exploring emotive, complex or confusing situations. It slows down our everyday way of communicating, which is often goal-directed and constrained by time, inhibiting our capacity for clear, clean communication.

This approach involves formulating questions that focus attention and develops a person’s understanding, without adding the questioners’ own needs and advice to the balance of conversation.

Experiencing the Process in Embodied Metaphors

The exploration of metaphors was initiated through a person’s real incident in the past expressed using “body images”. This help to give a strong anchor, from which to process the meaning using “clean language” to enable the participant to build a deeper understanding of what is happening.

As shown in the photograph, other participants played roles in the metaphor through an image theatre method.




Voice Qualities

David Grove deliberately ‘marked out’ his use of Clean Language through changes to his normal way of speaking:

  • The speed of his delivery is slower than half normal pace
  • He uses a slightly deeper tonality than normal speaking
  • He often uses a distinctive sing-song rhythm
  • There is an implied sense of curiosity and wonder in his voice
  • The client’s idiosyncratic pronunciation, emphasis, sighs etc. are matched

Syntax: The syntax of Clean Language is peculiar and would sound very strange if used in normal conversation! It uses Pacing and Leading in a particular way. For example, all the questions begin with “and” and are orientated to the clients ‘perceptual present’. The generalised syntax, in its full form, comprises 4 components:

“And [pacing clients words]

+ And as/when

+ [question]

+ [refer to this particular experience]”


About the Host

ssillettStephen Sillett is co-executive director of Aiding Dramatic Change ~ in Development (ADCID), and helps the organization research, facilitate and direct dialogue, drama and art processes for healing and community development. Through ADCID projects and in partnership with other social actors, he is exploring approaches that engage community members in conversations, consciously orientated to maturing visions of the future. Research interests include the facilitation of non-verbal and spatial meaning-making practices within group workshop and the creation of interactive performance. He directs InFusion Labs where theatre artists, therapists, scientists and social practitioners explore spatial approaches to exploration and discovery.

To learn more and ask questions to practitioners visit ADCID’s Linkedin Group or Facebook Page