Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Project Incubator and SoL North America

Michael and Anika have been members of the Society for Organizational Learning pretty much since its founding by Peter Senge of MIT and other colleagues in 1997.  SoL was created to advance the five disciplines of organizational learning advanced in Senge's book by that title.  These are:
  • The Personal Mastery that an individual develops from being committed to a creative vision for him/herself, i.e., a willingness to do whatever it takes with one’s own physical, cognitive and emotional processes to achieve that vision
  • The Shared Vision that weaves personal desires together into a team and an organizational passion that is stated in terms of an inspiring mission that people really want to achieve
  • The ability to discover and reflect on the Mental Models that shape personal and organizational perceptions and behavior and pose a risk  to effectiveness if they assumed to be true and are never subjected to a thoughtful critique
  • The use of mindful Dialogue that leads to strategic conversations rather than polarizing disputes
  • The understanding of complexity and repetitive patterns of  that the persistent use of the tools of Systems Thinking enables.
SoL has affected many thousands of people since its founding.  The organization has been going through an extended transition over the last three years as a new legal framework has been established to support its revised mission of being a network of networks for those who want to understand and influence the dynamics of organizational and societal systems.  There are now 22 SoL entities around the world operating in a loose confederation in support of the five disciplines in all of their manifestations.

Michael recently became the co-chair of SoL, North America (SoL NA), one of the largest and most well-established of the SoL constellation.  Working with a set of talented and experienced colleagues --Carol Mase of Cairn Consulting, Stephen Gianotti of the Woodland Group Associates, Siraj Sirajuddin of TEMENOS, Frank Schneider, Manager Director of SoL NA, Deborah Reidy of Reidy Associates, and Mark Alpert, President of Pegasus Communications-- Michael has been involved in the re-booting of SoL designed to dramatically increase the level of dynamic engagement by the members in the Society's activities. 

This new effort was formally launched by about 40 participants at the end of Pegasus' Systems Thinking in Action conference last month in Indianapolis.  Michael worked with Siraj and Carol, in particular, to design the Project Incubator specifically for this event.  The Incubator uses a modified Open Space technology to help participants identify high impact projects that will move them and the organizations and systems they care about ahead.  The objective of this particular Incubator was to use the energy, ideas and talent in the room to contribute to the priorities for SoL NA in 2013 and beyond by identifying high energy/high potential projects.   

We used a strategy matrix for SoL NA developed out of a series of conversations with Peter Senge.


The left hand column identifies a set of domains of activity where SoL NA have expertise. Similarly, the themes across the top refer to particular types of organizational thought and consultation where SoL members have developed distinctive methodologies.  Here's a bit of an elaboration of each of the theme:

(Here's a link to a short edited video in which Peter presents his thinking about the matrix in response to a set of questions we asked.  It may take a little work to access the page entitled "Project Incubator".  Please let us know if you are having any difficulty.)  

An exciting catalog of project ideas came out of this effort, some of which are already underway:
Each of these projects is going to be the subject of a Spotlight Conversation soon, in which the project leader will discuss the steps they have taken to move their project ahead and seek input and involvement from others in the SoL community.  Of course, it would be terrific for anyone reading this note who is not already a SoL member to join, participate in a call on a topic of interest, and take advantage of the benefits of membership.

This particular Incubator was focused on SoL NA's specific needs, but it also generated the robustness of the technology.  Initiating an Incubator clarifies organizational strategy and identifies specific action vehicles for realizing that policy in a way that engages the energy of associates in a completely organic fashion, i.e., people get excited about something that they really want to do which will also produce tremendous top line and bottom line results for the organization while doing really positive things in the world.

Call or write Michael (617-335-9776; to learn more about the Project Incubator and how it might be used in your organization or community.

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