A New Offer … for you?

After not posting here for a long time, I’m getting busy in a new more public way. Here is my invitation:

Next Steps for Our Masterclass!

After 18 months of exploration in what we have called a masterclass we are refining what we will be doing. For the balance of 2023 Chauncey, Laurie, Susie, Peter, and the gang are shifting the game.

Our first meeting will be NEXT Wednesday, February 1st, from 1-2:30pm Pacific Time. Follow the instructions below to register. A zoom link will be available after you register.

We are going to call this adventure,

The Salon (Conversations with Chauncey Bell and Friends).” 

And, there will be no fee for participation. What we will put into preparing and leading regular monthly meetings will be our gift to the community. We will “make our living” from consulting relationships with organizations and individuals, some of whom may emerge from our gatherings. 

Register to participate in The Salon at https://www.skool.com/altwork

As you register, you may notice other people in our “altWork” group who are currently strangers to you. We will be convening a larger community in collaboration with Chauncey’s long-time partner Saqib Rasool, and he and others will be bringing participants to our conversations.

The Heart of the Matter

For the last half year we have been asking the question, What should you and I be doing together for the sake of the health and well-being of ourselves and those with whom we share the planet for the future that is arriving? We have found this to be a bloody good question. 

It looks to us that the world has entered a new, tumultuous era which, over time, will replace the industrial era that we were all born into and have grown up in. The background narratives of the industrial era (which help us make sense of our world) are collapsing, some quickly and obviously, and others more slowly and subtly. As human beings who care about each other and our worlds, we are confronting many massive changes bringing themselves to our attention. 

In this moment, we ask what are the most critical skills for us to enrich and develop? Our answer is: skills and sensibilities that support us in developing trusting relationships with each other. We need to get a lot better at having conversations and building relationships. Opening up the origin of the word: “con” = together; “versation” = we emerge changed from our encounters with each other. In the words of the title of Malcolm Gladwell’s new book, our challenge is to get much better at “talking to strangers.” As the rate of change in the world accelerates, we will not have the time or leisure to wait for our old ways of getting to know each other as we build the relationships in which we construct our worlds. 

Our conversations in The Salon will be about this. We will bring wonderful guests to our meetings, and learn together how to set up the space of conversations so that we all may learn and enrich our relationships to these ends. 

Here is our plan for The Salon:

  1. We will meet on zoom from 1-2:30pm Pacific Time on the first Wednesday of every month – including NEXT Wednesday the 1st of February, 2023. 
  2. This timing will make it possible for friends in Australia, New Zealand, and even China to join us, as well as friends in Europe.
  3. Each meeting will be 1 hour and 15 minutes of designed conversation, followed by 15 minutes of our traditional “office hours.” 

Finally, who will be the “us” as we gather to explore topics that are important to us? 

One of our most important ambitions as we enter 2023 is to expand the community in which we have been talking. Eliminating the “price of participation” is specifically to help make our conversation available to more people.

So, please help us with this ambition. Invite those friends with whom you share concerns and those who you find yourself not always agreeing with. Invite your adult children, along with young relatives and young friends to join us in these conversations. Let us see if we can extend the range of ages with whom we are talking. Millennials (age 25-38), Boomers (age 55-73), and Gen X (age 39-54) now make up the largest proportions of the U.S. population.

Again, register to participate in The Salon at: http://www.skool.com/altwork

  1. Click on the link above, or enter “skool.com/altwork” in a browser window.
  2. You will be prompted to upload a picture, provide  a brief bio about who you are, and respond to a few short signup questions. 
  3. Once you register, Saqib’s team will confirm your membership within 24 hours.
  4. On our altWork site notice (1) the picture of you in the top right of the screen. Click there to adjust your profile. (2) Click on “Members” at the top and you will find brief profiles for all the members. (3) Click on “Community;” we invite you  to write a brief introduction of yourself. (4) Click on “Calendar” and you will find on the first Wednesday of every month: The Salon at 1pm Pacific Time along with a Zoom Link to join us in the monthly meeting and an invitation to put that into your calendars. 

Dancing in the World

The world is quivering, and we in it.  

What kind of history shall we make? What grand mischief? 

In this moment of scintillating uncertainty, we are called more than ever to build new ways of being and working together. Such a moment calls for a companion — a pocket guide — as we embrace the challenges of adjusting and transforming our worlds. 

Dancing in the World is a pocket guide for you. This first of twelve volumes of my essays on listening and design is a treatise, a chronicle of adventure, and an invitation to join the bold work of designing new practices. The time is now. 

To join the adventure, opt-in here: http://harvester.academy

I will keep you informed about our progress in delivering this first volume of essays! We expect publication by early November!

Thank you for paying attention.

The Risks That We Reward

I recently read an article by Scott Burns which I highly recommend. I classify it as a thorough yet succinct exploration of the human experience especially as we are experiencing it today. Burns delves into the dichotomy of risks we embrace and those we evade. I hope you all enjoy the read.



Healing: Bionic and Elated

Dear ones,

Thank you to all who have had me in your prayers and thoughts this past week or so since I had an “anterior total hip replacement”. The team led by my surgeon and anesthesiologist did their work masterfully. I was the third hip replacement by this team on 18 May, the first day after the corona virus shutdown was lifted for elective surgeries here in Seattle.
In a marvel of modern allopathic medicine and medical technology, they mounted me on a human-sized “spit” that allowed them to manipulate the leg and thigh bone as they cut off the old damaged top, added and aligned new titanium, glass, and polyurethane components, and then stitched me back together. The whole procedure took about an hour from lights out to when I began chattering and asking questions in the theatre after they were done. No anaesthesia. A spinal block, and none of the druggy after-effects. Here is a picture of the spit on which they “roasted” me:


Missing from the picture are the operating theatre, perhaps 50 feet in diameter, the x-ray machinery integrated with the spit that allowed them to measure and make sure that old and new components were aligned properly and of the right dimensions, and the half-dozen or so physicians, nurses, and medical assistants who made the whole thing work. After the surgery they took me into recovery where over the next several hours my torso, chest-down, regained the capacity to communicate with my brain that had been interrupted by the spinal block. Later that day I took my first walk with the new hip. I spent the night in the hospital, was returned home the following morning and helped up 14 stairs to the second floor of our home. Since then I have been down and up those stairs pretty much every day, and Shirah has been attending to my care day by day.

By far the most interesting thing to me about what is happening right now in my life is the ebb and flow of moods through me. Getting ready for the surgery I thought that the “up” (very positive, all-but-giddy) mood I felt as the date approached might have been fueled by three things. First, I have been very proud of the way that Shirah and I have been spending time together as partners of nearly 40 years, enjoying each others’ company for the most part, listening and taking care of each others’ concerns, and generally navigating the corona virus time with kindness, care, and positive moods. Second, I guessed that my body was anticipating the coming era in which once again I would be able to take long leisurely walks, missing from my life for many years now. Third, I am terribly excited about the upcoming publication of some of the essays I have written over the last 40+ years, in which a team of colleagues and friends are helping me. (Lastly, of course, the fact that I knew that any encounter with a hospital is life-threatening, and so may invite a kind of lunatic emotion at encountering the possibility of dying.)

I woke from the surgery in a mood for which I don’t have adequate characterizing words or phrases. To speak of it with an analogy, think of your first experience as a parent with a new human being coming into the world. Like the cornucopia — the horn of plenty — the mood announced the opening of a whole new experience of life. A transformative mood, albeit that word today has for too long strained to carry more weight than it ought to be responsible for. The mood was not accompanied by sublime music or beautiful vistas, although I was experiencing waking dreams that were vivid. Rather, I felt more like a teenager, full of life and good questions, surrounded by adults pleased to be in my presence and happy to talk to me. I told them that in my work I am concerned with making sense of the way teams of people doing tight coordination with each other speak and listen to each other. In that background, I was fascinated by their work with each other.

The path of healing from the vast indignities of the replacement of the biological hip structures is not simple, free of pain, or straightforward. The night before last I think I began withdrawal from the opioids I was taking to address the pain, and the withdrawal (if it was that) produced a mood of intense panic, claustrophobia, terror, anything but a blessed mood. That night I got only two hours’ sleep, none of it deep or restful, and that all by itself invited a further kind of panic, because nothing is more critical for my health at this moment is my sleep. I have switched over completely from opioids to acetaminophen and pray that it will be enough to stave off the pain.

Meanwhile, I am guessing that this surgery will turn out to have been a transitional moment in my life, alongside the events of my marriages, births of my children, meeting the critical mentors of my life, my stroke of a year ago, and so forth. My intuition is that it may mark a transition from a life in which I have been a mostly private person, working intensely and intimately with smallish highly technical teams taking on large challenges, to a more public phase of my life. I don’t have more than that at this moment, except to notice that this is a moment in which so many things in life are changing rapidly as a consequence of our collective incompetence for navigating in and adjusting our behaviors for coordinating in the world in which the tiny corona virus beastie is busy hunting us. 
I send to each of you my love and appreciation, my affection for you and my gratitude for having you in this world with me.


My Conversation with Joe Biden Today

I got an email from Joe today: “I’m personally asking you, Chauncey:”

He said to me, “It could not be more clear that Donald Trump is unfit to be our president. Right now, our country is in the midst of a public health emergency that has profoundly impacted how we live our lives today and what things will look like in the future. This crisis has illuminated how important the next 201 days are for our country. Our health, our safety, and our economy are on the line, and this president simply isn’t up to the task….”

…blah, blah, blah, plus a request for money. So I replied:

Just in case someone is listening here …
For the first time in 50 years in 2016 I ended financial support of the party when Hilary could not resist the temptation to argue with DT in every moment, rather than talking about the country and where we need to go. I pray you don’t make the same mistake, but this is a good example of a ferociously bad start. The problem of this country and the world in this moment is NOT DT. Yes, he is a fool, shallow, a narcissist, childish, and a buffoon, but he is bloody good at playing certain games in the media. When you speak the way you are speaking here, you play directly into his game, and draw our attention away from what matters at this moment in time.
If you want my support, talk about the situation in the country and what you are going to do about this, not DT. I’m willing to bet that I’m not the only one with that kind of opinion, and I suspect that you are not organized in a way that will allow you to listen to me speaking here.
Chauncey Bell

N95 Masks? Critical information for medical professionals!

Bloomberg March 20, 2020: US Strategic Stockpile Deliveries Delayed; Face Masks Run Short, Showing Snags in U.S. Medical StockpileFace Mask Shortage: US Strategic Stockpile Deliveries Delayed ...

N95 masks are critically important for doctors, nurses, and medical professionals in the line of fire all over the world with the coronavirus pandemic. Under the best of circumstances, we will not have anywhere near enough of them. A vast number of N95 masks that could be decontaminated are effectively hiding in plain sight.

Around the middle of March, my colleague Dana Conklin noticed something strange. She discovered that three respected hospitals in the US had developed protocols for decontamination of N95 masks. She then discovered that the protocols were not widely disseminated. She contacted friends at six major hospitals across the country. None of the six had any idea that the masks could be decontaminated. Five of the six were already out of or rationing N95 masks.

Realizing that the people who should be wearing N95 masks did not have them available, Dana forwarded links for the protocols developed by three hospitals for N95 decontamination to several hundred hospitals in the US and put up a website (click here for Dana’s website) that included links to the protocols. (Dana is a finance professional; this mask situation is not her line of work. She noticed the word was not getting out about decontaminating masks. She watched the deaths of doctors and nurses in Italy and committed that she would not simply stand by and watch it happen here.)

On March 30, a consortium of 60 academics and researchers put up a website that promised to research the same three methods and to publish scientifically valid reports about the efficacy of the methods that had been developed. (N95decon.org) So far these researchers and academics have avoided speaking directly on their website about the actual protocols that hospitals have been using, citing their concerns for releasing scientifically imperfect information or for appearing to endorse one protocol over another. On their website they cite pros and cons of the three protocols, important issues with the protocols, and have referenced their existence, but have not actually published the protocols as used by the hospitals using them. The house is on fire. While there are risks that the protocols could be imperfect (and certainly they will be found to be so), they offer far better protection than no masks at all, and the N95 masks have proven to be critical PPE for this virus. Dana got the protocols from the hospitals that are using them and put them on her website, but she does not have nearly as large an audience as should be hearing about these protocols.

Using these decontamination protocols would effectively increase the number of N95 masks. The hospitals using them estimate that they have 10-20 times more usable masks than without the protocols. Further, knowing that there are ways to decontaminate masks means, ‘don’t throw out your old masks; hold them for decontamination.’

 This is critically important to medical professionals all over the world. Can you help by forwarding this and Dana’s website with (click here for Dana’s website) the protocols to friends and colleagues who are medical professionals?

He’s back!!! Chauncey Bell returns.

After six years of absence, I’m coming back to blogging. I’ll explain my absence in more detail later. To hit a few high points, my wife was desperately ill and is recovering well, I was blinded by a surgical accident and a brilliant retinal surgeon brought my eyesight back, and this last year I had a neurological incident from which I am recovering. And, after a year of preparing a new venture, I found that I had to cancel it just a month ago.

I invite you to follow me as I return to a new version of my traditional work as a provocateur, designer, and collaborator with teams as they build new practices in enterprises. I’m starting by offering a series of workshops, starting in Seattle on the 13th and 14th of November.

Go to Harvester Academy to see more about the workshops and the new direction.

I will be gathering executives, managers, consultants, and coaches interested in learning more about designing and building new practices in established enterprises. In the workshops I’ll lay out the practices involved, show how they work, and invite the participants to work with me and others in my network to build new capabilities in their own and client enterprises.

If it makes sense to you, please register in the workshop. If you have questions or comments, the website is a good place to talk to me about that. I will appreciate your comments, and I ask that you pass this announcement on to people in your own network who you think would or should be interested in what I am offering.

As those of you who have worked with me in the past know, the path to building new worlds starts with diagnoses of current messes, which lead to projects to create new practices, that in turn shift the way that people think, talk, listen, act, and work together.

I’ll be limiting enrollment in the first workshop to 20 people. That probably means that the Seattle workshop will fill pretty quickly.

If you are reading this in other parts of the world, I will be defining dates for workshops in the UK, Latin America, Australia, and Canada in the near future. I will lead the initial workshops myself, but will be convening them in collaboration with other people who are in the business of guiding and preparing many different kinds of enterprises as they develop new practices. You can let me know now if you are interested in attending (or helping convene) another workshop. Some people from other parts of the world will be coming to Seattle to get started as soon as possible.

I am not aiming to build a workshop-delivery business. Rather I am looking to start working in a more networked fashion than I have in the past. I will be collaborating with people who are managing projects with their own clients in their locales, supported by me and my team, and by others in my network.

These workshops will be the point of entry to a rich international networked program of learning, collaboration, and the execution of projects and programs for bringing value in existing businesses and organizations.

I am deeply interested in what you have to say about what you see here, and what you think about what I am preparing to do.

All my best to you,



Major New Fernando Flores Work Product

Fernando Flores has just delivered a major report to the nation of Chile on the subjects of innovation and preparing for the future. In English, SURFING TOWARDS THE FUTURE: CHILE ON THE 2025 HORIZON, explores “strategic orientations for innovation” for the nation over the coming decades. The document, and the work of preparing it, comes from the Chilean National Council on Innovation for Competitiveness, under Flores’ leadership.

In a blog posting reprinted in The Wall Street Journal CIO Journal, Irving Wladawsky-Berger praised the report for its creation of a new historical background for understanding and interacting with innovation. You can read his comment by clicking this title: Wall Street Journal_Innovation as a Journey Into the Future

For those with serious interest in how innovation occurs, this report is a treasure. It examines the phenomena of innovation, the background in which innovation occurs, the current historical state of the world in which innovation arrives, and proposes directions for investigation and action for Chile that can readily be seen as relevant and deeply related to the challenges faced by communities of all sizes and types around the world.  Further, the report re-frames, in important new ways, the questions of leadership and design for anyone who takes responsibility for guiding their community or enterprise into the future that is before us.

A full copy of the English translation of the report can be downloaded here.

I recommend it.

Joseph Stiglitz on Why Janet Yellen, Not Larry Summers, Should Lead the Fed – NYTimes.com

I have been following the press on the President’s choice of someone to replace Bernanke in the Fed, and have had a strong intuition that Larry Summers would be a very bad choice. This is the first appearance I have seen of an authoritative and strong opinion about this. I recommend it.
Stiglitz minces no words. They may sound not so different, but there is a vast difference between them, according to someone who has worked with both for decades.

Why Janet Yellen, Not Larry Summers, Should Lead the Fed – NYTimes.com.

OK, I surrender ….

I’ve been bad. Busy with work with clients and friends on projects I like, I have not paid attention to my blog. But there is more. When I started blogging, and subtitled my blog “Exploring social, commercial, and technological innovation,” I promised myself to stay away from political commentary.

To put the point baldly, I was (and remain) deeply dissatisfied with the political discourse in this country, and in the West. Good people vilifying each other in whining, complaining voices, like contending junkyard dogs do not give us room to learn or grow. (I don’t have enough experience with the discourse in the East to have an opinion there, but I suspect I wouldn’t like it there either.) I thought that anything I might say would be wood on the fire, merely adding to an already bad situation.

Recently, however, I concluded that if I begin to comment on the difficult situation of the country and what might be done about it, and explore the question of how to prepare our children to act in and take responsibility for the world that we are leaving them, then I might be able say some things that would be acceptable to me.

So this is the first next posting on my blog, headed in much the same direction as before, but with some  new opportunities, and explorations.

Sometime in the next weeks I will have an important announcement for those who have followed the work that I and my colleagues of many years have done in designing new practices, .

So stay tuned.

At my wife Shirah’s request I wrote a review yesterday of John L. Austin’s How to Do Things With Words, an important book that Fernando Flores introduced me to many years ago. Take a look and tell me what you think.

My greetings and best wishes to you,


Little girl gets new arms from a 3-D printer | SmartPlanet

I am about to put more emphasis on the blog. I have changed some of what I am doing, and will say more about that in a few days.
Meanwhile, this story is about many things. Most of us have not been following what has been happening with what is called “3d printing.” This story shows something very heartening about the human dimensions of technology.

Read and watch (and comment if you like).

Little girl gets new arms from a 3-D printer

By Rose Eveleth | August 9, 2012, 3:00 AM PDT

Emma Lavelle was born with arthrogryposis multiplex congenita (AMC), a genetic condition that causes joints and muscles to be stiff and nearly useless. At birth, Emma could move nothing but her thumb. After years of training and practice, she could move around without a walker, but her arms still hung by her sides, too stiff and weak for her to use.

“She would get really frustrated when she couldn’t play with things like blocks,” Megan Lavelle, Emma’s mother, says in the press release. When Megan saw a presentation of the Wilmington Robotic Exoskeleton (WREX) being used by another patient with AMC, she immediately approached the doctor and asked if it could be used on Emma.

But the device wasn’t made for someone so small. The presentation showed an eight year old using WREX. The doctors had worked to make the device smaller, and got it working on six year olds who were in wheel chairs. But Emma could walk, and was only two.

Still, they tried, and when they brought Emma into the workshop and put her in a an experimental WREX, they saw an immediate improvement. Emma began playing, eating on her own for the first time, and throwing her arms up in the air.

Here’s a video, made by Stratasys, the company that prints the WREX device, of Emma using her exoskeleton:

Here’s another video of an older patient using it, made by Jaeco Orthopedic, the people who invented WREX:

The WREX exoskeleton isn’t new itself. Metal versions have been around for adults for a long time. But those are too heavy for most kids, especially those with difficulty lifting their arms. What makes this plastic version of WREX useful for kids is that it’s light, made from the same plastic that LEGO bricks are made from, and it’s easy to produce a custom model. SImply design, and print. And replacement parts are no problem, so as the child grows, new pieces can be printed to fit their bodies.

Via: PC World

Image:� Stratasys

via Little girl gets new arms from a 3-D printer | SmartPlanet.

via Little girl gets new arms from a 3-D printer | SmartPlanet.

End the University as We Know It – NYTimes.com

Hello there.
I’ve been busy with many things for the past year, but am committed to start posting some comments again. I’ll begin scattergun fashion, without a lot of focus, but this article that Michele Gazolo passed to me is too good not to pass on, so I’ll start here.

Other things to catch up on quickly will be a short review of what I have been doing, a note about the next Fernando Flores WEST (Working Effectively in Small Teams) Course, starting February (see www. pluralisticnetworks.com), and the next posting, news from a friend who has worked some miracles close to me over the years and who is taking a new and I guess important tack on Parkinson’s Disease.

Looking forward to be back in touch with many of you shortly.


End the University as We Know It – NYTimes.com.

Fernando Flores new offerings

Many of my readers know that I worked with Fernando Flores for over 20 years in a variety of companies and roles. I am his student, admiring colleague, and friend.

Now that he has completed his term in the Chilean Senate, Fernando has begun to roll out new educational offerings. He has started to deliver the new program he has been thinking about for some time now, with a center of operations in the US. His central premise (my summary) is that there is nowhere available today an educational program that addresses the challenges of the most serious problems facing us in the world today — working across enormous cultural and geographical distances, and building programs (and people) with the kind of  ‘staying power’ to keep thinking about and developing approaches to problems that will not be swayed or stopped because some groups have found compelling sound-bytes and mastered techniques of speaking ‘loudly’ in whatever media.

To address this need, he has built a short workshop that introduces the program, a four-month long course about working effectively in small groups, and is at this moment piloting the second of what he expects could eventually be a set of four or five courses.

I am currently participating in the first of the four month long courses. I’m convinced that his diagnosis about the dimensions of education and preparation for working in the 21st Century that he is thinking are on the mark. And, I have been very impressed by the accelerated learning that takes place in the environment that Fernando and his colleagues have designed. The combination of a rich philosophical context, guided play and discussion, and the use of a virtual reality environment for interaction gives a place for learning that is both full of challenges and at the same time allows students to take risks and develop new practices fast without risking their identities in their normal workspace. Most participants report important results developed very quickly.

If you have followed Fernando’s ideas and writings over the years at all, and found or suspected that important benefits were possible there, I strongly recommend that you contact Gloria Flores at <gfloresletelier@gmail.com> and discuss with her how to participate in the emerging new work.

The following are introductory comments from Pluralistic Networks’ introduction to their offerings. Pluralistic Networks’ website can be found at http://www.pluralisticnetworks.com. The name comes from the observation that important work all over the world must come from teams of people assembled from deeply varied communities, backgrounds, and training, and those people must learn how to come together and work effectively with each other very quickly. There is no way for us to all ‘grow up in the same village together’ in order to learn to work effectively together.

Our Introductory Session is currently called Building and Thriving in Pluralistic Networks — A New Approach for Learning Critical 21st Century Skills.  It will take place in SF on Feb. 23rd – 25th.

This session is an intensive three day conference led by Dr. Fernando Flores.  During the three days, participants will experience a new way of learning that combines Virtual Reality Games, Guided Reflection and Discussion, and grounded theoretical work to constitute a Virtual Reality Learning Laboratory that enable our students to rapidly develop new skills and sensibilities that are critical for our world today.  During the three days, participants explore:

-the skills and sensibilities we must cultivate to build stronger relationships and act effectively with others in a global, complex and constantly changing world.
-the use use new networked technologies as learning environments for developing new skills and sensibilities.
-their own abilities to work effectively with others, including the behaviors that may get in the way. Throughout the course, participants engage in hands-on group exercises using a virtual reality game environment, and emerge not only with a new awareness of themselves and the skills they need to cultivate, but also with a sense of ambition as they begin to articulate a personal roadmap for learning to navigate in the world of pluralistic networks.

The WEST program (Working Effectively in Small Teams) is our Four Month Learning Laboratory focused on working in teams.  This program is not what you might expect from a “team building” type of course; but rather, our focus is on developing an awareness of how we invent our identity with others, and on learning new skills and sensibilities that enable us to not only coordinate more effectively with other people, but also to build trusting relationships and to be more sensitive to each others’ moods and emotions.  Our students work as teams, and in the process of engaging with each other, they discover what works and what does not work in the way they build their relationship with their team mates (and in real life) for the sake of completing their missions.  The program includes exercises that allow our students to begin to develop the ability to observe themselves in action, not get triggered by negative emotional reactions, and begin the process of cultivating emotional fortitude — the ability to cope with adversity, change and uncertainty as a routine part of life.

When he finished his term as a Senator, the Chilean Government asked Fernando to do several interesting things that I am sure he will share with students and in his blogging when the time is right.

Recommending Russell Bishop’s new book, Workarounds that Work

Russell Bishop and I have followed each others’ work for decades, but only recently did Ron Kaufman introduce us. I recommend to your attention his new book, Workarounds That Work: How to Conquer Anything That Stands in Your Way at Work. His website is here, and his bio at the Huffington Post is here.

I first encountered the word “work” in the way that Russell addresses and plays with it in his book when my father gave it as his excuse for not being available to play with me when I was a child. He said, “I’m sorry, son, but I have to work.”

That caught my attention. What was this mysterious thing that was taking my father away from me? “Work” has been interesting to me ever since, at first as an enemy of my relationship with my father, and later as a central issue in all of our lives.

In the middle of this era of vilifying theory and worshiping practice*, it is inevitable that this book must be positioned as a book about practice and emphatically not about theory, but really I think that positioning hides some of the most important things that the book is about.

Russell is a wise and experienced man who has started several companies that have made huge contributions to very large numbers of people. He is also an editor and regular blogger at the widely-read Huffington Post. He knows well the substance of the old and oft-quoted adage, ‘…to practice without theory is to sail an uncharted sea; to work with theory without practice is not to set sail at all.’

In his book, to make it a happy one for a modern reader, Russell puts the practice in the foreground and the theory in the background and the spaces between the words.

A better way of talking about this book, at least for me, might go something like the following.

In Workarounds that Work, Russell models – in his way of speaking, in the way he reveals himself, in the examples he brings, and in his recommendations – a way of being that revels in the challenge and joy of work, and does not flinch nor whine about the myriad roadblocks that inevitably confront anyone trying to do anything serious in life. He is a joyful warrior in the middle of the mess of modern working life. Russell shows clearly the power of humility, gratitude, an indomitable spirit, a commitment to find alternatives and not remain stuck in ruts, and the soft underbellies of the enemies we face in everyday working life.

I often say that the fifth of my story about five great generators of waste in our modern working world – the interpretation that we are doomed to a kind of indentured servitude called ‘work’ – is the nastiest and most destructive. ‘Thank God it’s Friday’ – the announcement that we toil away five days of every week just waiting for a brief respite of freedom and meaning each weekend – is our declaration that we consider 5/7ths of our lives wasted. A tragedy.

Russell’s book is an antidote to work as toil, and full of good things.

*(My aside: Vilifying bad theory is may sometimes be worthwhile, and can be satisfying, and the fields of management and leadership are particularly full of bad theory.)


Russell Bishop: Are You Part of the Solution or Part of the Problem?

A call to action that I recommend we heed (link is below):

Clearly, anger abounds across the nation over what has become of our political process, not to mention the ethics and integrity of how we conduct business. … While anger seethes across widely different groups, it would seem that most people spend more time pointing fingers and placing blame than they do figuring out what they can actually do about the situation.

Sure, voting someone out of office may seem like active engagement, and if thats where your passion lies, go for it. … Is changing who holds political power and hoping they do something better really an effective workaround? Is changing political office holders just another form of rearranging the deck chairs as the Titanic sinks? Could relying on someone else to do something just be another form of personal abdication?

[I have been blogging about this for some time now:] it’s time to stop complaining and criticizing everyone else, and get off your “buts” (but I can’t, but they won’t let me, but someone else is in charge) and start doing something right where you are, right now. You all know that the journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step. This and many other bits of wisdom have become modern day clichés; however it could be that these clichés are really just common sense not so commonly applied.

For those on one side of the political spectrum, Barack Obama promised hope and the prospect of meaningful change. Whether you agreed with the promise or not, it’s pretty easy to see the dysfunctional fighting we call a political process. Many people have dropped the ball, hoping that real change would take place through the ballot box. Rather than taking the message of personal response-ability and becoming personally engaged in the change, many of us have relied on hoping someone in Washington would do it for us.

Now is the time for each of us to become more personally engaged and to do what we can to make a difference. You may not have the power or ability to change the whole system; however, you can contribute to making a difference, even if that difference appears to be small and only in your own backyard.

Russell Bishop: Are You Part of the Solution or Part of the Problem?.

Lawrence Lessig on history’s lessons about the current mess

Lawrence Lessig: Neo-Progressives:

Progressivism in its best sense is not a politics of the Left. Or better, not just a politics of the Left. The 20th Century politician who struck the fatal blow to Republican William Howard Taft’s presidency was not a socialist, or a Democrat. It was another Republican: Wisconsin Senator Robert La Follette. La Follette was among a band insurgents in the Republican Party of 1910 who believed the party had been taken over by corporate interests. In April, 1911, he launched a challenge to President Taft, pushing five principles of “The National Progressive Republican League.” The League had been founded upon the recognition that “popular government in America has been thwarted … by the special interests.” And all five of the principles responded to this “thwarting” with anti-corruption ideals: Four calling for stronger democratic checks on government. The fifth demanding an anti-corruption law with teeth.

La Follette failed to beat Taft, but his partial success encouraged Teddy Roosevelt to return from the wild and try his own hand at ousting a sitting president. Roosevelt too failed to win the Republican nomination, but he continued his campaign as a third party candidate, leading the “Bull Moose Party.”

How will our current version of this play out today?

Charlie Rose – A conversation with author Joshua Cooper Ramo

I have the highest regard for Joshua Cooper Ramo’s book The Age of the Unthinkable, which Bob Franza introduced to me. For various reasons, I just reviewed the book, and come away from it even more impressed than I was a year ago. Searching for more about what the man is doing now, I came across this conversation that he had with Charlie Rose early last year.

Late, but better late than never.

Watch it, and tell me what you think. Read the book.

Charlie Rose – A conversation with author Joshua Cooper Ramo.

Our Political Discussion is Neither about Reasoning nor about Thinking

George Lakoff does a wonderful job of characterizing what is going on, and I think he is right in his claim that the Republican/Conservative community does a much better job than the Democratic/Liberal/Progressive community. But the question for me is how to escape this box. Nowhere is there an opportunity for thinking here, much less thinking together.

As I think about it, I realize that the central missing ingredient is listening. Not the kind of listening that tape recorders do (recording words and sounds). Not the kind of listening that characterizes arguments (what my wife Shirah calls “reloading”.) Listening as the bio-historical-linguistic phenomenon in which we human beings, aware of our shared concern for building a future in which we take care of the things that matter to us, listen to the concerns and background of the others in our conversations seeking opportunities for creating new bridges to a successful shared future.

What do you think?

George Lakoff: Disaster Messaging.

Truth 2.0

OK, I’m going to put my foot in it now.

Ariana’s “solution” of a fact-checking “tool” is wrong, I am sure, because the issue about the distinction between assessments and assertions, and tools will not do an adequate job of dealing with what AH points to here.

But that is an aside. What she does that I like a lot is to put her finger on, and provide a beautiful current example of, the way in which we moderns have come to a pathetic interpretation of language. With this way of being we are murdering our capacity to come together and work on things that matter to us .

Arianna Huffington: PolitiFact Embraces Equivocation, the Truth Gets Squeezed.

via Truth 2.0.