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Peggy Holman: Engaging Emergence; Moving Towards Order From Chaos-- Interview Transcript

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Rob: And I think that's what we're talking about here. Generally, what I've written about is if you want to be prepared for moments when you encounter situations that you didn't plan for. And you want to have in your mind a way to deal with it--a set of instructions for yourself. I've given myself permission when I encounter something I wasn't planning on to break out of the ordinary, to break my routine, to stop where I was going, to readjust my schedule, and to just stop and interact.

Peggy: I think that's a terrific example, because that disruption becomes the doorway not to resistance, but the doorway to creativity and we get there by doing exactly what you're saying: break a habit, do something different. And so one of the notions that I think of, one of these principles is based on the idea, "Be a Pioneer." And it's partially because [of], in all of the experimentation, it accelerates the feedback. So, where we find out, "Well, that didn't work," or "that did!" we want to do more of that.

   So, the lots of experimentation, lots of breaking old habits, trying things new, and coupled with what we do, who we do it with. So, back to the notion of "No One in Charge," one of the ideas is to encourage random encounters. Go talk to people you don't usually interact with.  Show up in their world and do some listening and observing and learning as part of that experimentation. Invite them to play with you. And there's a notion in one of the processes that I've worked with: appreciative inquiry of improbable partners, because it's very often at the intersection of unexpected partnerships that breakthroughs occur.

   Van Jones tells a story. Van Jones coined the term "green jobs" and he tells the story of how that came about, because he was traveling between Oakland and Berkeley, and in being around these two very different cultures: the granola eating upper class, Prius driving middle class, and then this advocacy, pretty hard charging economically distressed area in Oakland, and he started putting together the environmental sensibilities of his friends in Berkeley with the need for jobs in Oakland, and came up with this idea of "green jobs" at this improbable intersection between these two worlds.

   So again, the bringing of diversity. And then two last principles: one is the idea of "Seek Meaning," because the red thread, I think that guides us throughout this "wandering in the desert" and experimentation is what matters here. What is the intention that sparked in the first place? Because in truth, one of the things about disruptions, is they wouldn't be disrupting if we didn't care. So, there is some deeper meaning that may be implicitly or unconsciously guiding us. And so, the more we can seek meaning we will find the kindred spirits, and find the experimentations that help us emphasize that. And then the last principle is the idea of "Simplify." So, one of the insights from the scientist is, it's fascinating how a few simple principles, a few simple rules that any individual can do, like take responsibility of what you love as an act of service.

   If we're all doing that, it yields very complex social behavior. And so how can we articulate, and frankly this set of principles is a set of simple rules that provide guidance and engaging with this chaotic sense that we seem to be in, as the assumptions of how our world works seems to be changing. And that is part of the way in which order arises again, as we come into a coherent system that is more complex, generally in a sense of having more diverse elements as part of it.

Rob: Let's just take a step back. What are the five different ones? The first is "Welcoming Disturbance." What's the second one?

Peggy: "Pioneer."

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Rob: Say it again.

Peggy: Pioneer.  Be a pioneer.

Rob: Pioneer.

Peggy: Yep, so that speaks to the "What" as "Encourage Random Encounters" speaks to the "Who," and then "Seek Meaning," of course, speaks to "Why," and "Simplify" is ultimately guidance about "How."

Rob: Okay.  So, how do you use this? Can you give me an example of how you would use this in working with a group?

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Peggy: I use it as a guide for design if I'm working with a group. Or... These different elements work together in different ways for me.  So, for example, if a disruption happens when I'm working with a group, at this point it's a reminder to me, "Okay, be welcoming. Get curious about it. Ask a possibility-orientated question." And where our natural tendency is to want to shut down and pull in, it's a reminder to try something different and open, in a way that can invite different perspectives to be present. But again, with that underlying ethic of welcome, and the clarity of intention of coming back to the sense of purpose. So it's a dance of these different elements.

   And, post-book, as I've been continuing to seek, "What's a simpler way to talk about it?" There's that little triumvirate that I think is a doorway in, of welcoming, inviting diversity, and asking possibility-orientated questions. And frankly, if you're in the moment and facing disruption and you're not sure what to do, ask a question that points to possibility. It's like my hip pocket idea. [It] is the most compassionate and creative act that I know to do, and actually I'll share a story around that one that was kind of an extreme.

   I have a colleague, an African American colleague, who was doing some work in New Orleans over a number of months, and he would go place his guitar in this park across from where he was working. And this one day out of the corner of his eye, he saw these three young men, lots of tattoos, shaved heads, and they seemed to be sneaking up on him. And so he put his guitar down, and he stood up and very softly said, "Stop where you are," and they stopped, and then started telling him in not very pretty language that he didn't belong in this park. It wasn't for people like him, and that they were going to make an object lesson of him. And he, at that point, whipped out a possibility-orientated question of, "Okay, before you do that, can I ask you a question and said, "What is it in your life experience that led you to wanting to do this?" And 45 minutes later the four of them were deeply in conversation about their worlds and experiences and life. And needless to say, it was a pretty profound shift for all of four of them actually. So, I guess that's one simple example of how I would work with this.

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Rob Kall has spent his adult life as an awakener and empowerer-- first in the field of biofeedback, inventing products, developing software and a music recording label, MuPsych, within the company he founded in 1978-- Futurehealth, and founding, organizing and running 3 conferences: Winter Brain, on Neurofeedback and consciousness, Optimal Functioning and Positive Psychology (a pioneer in the field of Positive Psychology, first presenting workshops on it in 1985) and Storycon Summit Meeting on the Art Science and Application of Story-- each the first of their kind. Then, when he found the process of raising people's consciousness and empowering them to take more control of their lives one person at a time was too slow, he founded which has been the top search result on Google for the terms liberal news and progressive opinion for several years. Rob began his Bottom-up Radio show, broadcast on WNJC 1360 AM to Metro Philly, also available on iTunes, covering the transition of our culture, business and world from predominantly Top-down (hierarchical, centralized, authoritarian, patriarchal, big) to bottom-up (egalitarian, local, interdependent, grassroots, archetypal feminine and small.) Recent long-term projects include a book, Bottom-up-- The Connection Revolution, debillionairizing the planet and the Psychopathy Defense and Optimization Project.

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