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

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Peggy: And for me, one of the ways of doing that is to ask questions that are large enough that they make room for people with different points of view, and are attractive enough that, that they're questions people care enough about, that it brings different people to the table who don't usually interact. And part of what goes along with that, as I've been looking for simpler ways of talking about these ideas, one of the things I've come to are the kinds of actions that make a difference. One is what I was just saying: ask possibility oriented questions. So, given what's going on, "What's possible in these circumstances," or "How do we create an economy that works for all?" Questions that you can't possibly know the answers to, but have implicit in them an aspiration towards what we want, and then invite a second action: invite people different from yourself, people with different perspectives, people who are a part of the larger system ,and bring something different then you do, which tends to run counter to what we usually do. But it becomes the source of creative opportunity to bring different perspectives together, and then the third of this "setting up triumvirate," is be welcoming. Who and what shows up, know that what they bring, even if it shows up in a form of disruption, because it looks different than you were expecting, or different than what you believe, find a way to welcome it, and often that looks like, rather than getting into a debate, seek to understand what's the deeper human value underneath whatever it is. And you can do that.

   I find myself all the time in situations where, I'll be listening to people with a conservative prospective for example, talking about what they care about, whether it's individual freedoms or gun control or issues that I have very different views on and yet, if I'm willing to stay with it--I don't have to agree with them--but if I'm willing to understand what's underneath their story, to have brought them to the beliefs and attitudes that they have, what I consistently find is, there is ultimately some human value I can relate to underneath it. And when that begins to happen, when I can see myself in them, some aspect, then there's the beginning of an opportunity to find some common ground and move forward together.

Rob: This is the process that you used, in engaging in emergence to work with.

Peggy: Exactly.

Rob: Now, you have put together in this book, literally an almost step-by-step approach to engaging with emergence, that is really interesting. Can you walk us through some of the different elements of that?

Peggy: Sure.

Rob: Like what you've done in the chapters of the book.

Peggy: So, I've organized--again, I set out to understand "what is it that can enable more of us to work with the complexities of the kinds of disruption and change and differences that we're facing more and more today," because the basic assumptions of how things work aren't necessarily serving us as well as they did even a generation ago. And so the book is split into three views, and the first one--

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Rob: Well, wait before you start, let me just do a station ID and then we'll continue, okay?

   You're with Rob Kall, Bottom Up Radio Show, WNJC 1360 AM, sponsored by is a progressive news and opinion website, where you're going to find articles written by the famous and the average here, and you're going to get opinions and analysis of what's happening in the news that is very, very different than the mainstream media.

   If you want to hear the beginning of this--if you just came into this listening late on the radio show and you want to hear the beginning of the podcast or recording as a podcast, go to iTunes and look for Rob Kall, K-a-l-l or go to and we have a whole bunch of them there.

   I'm interviewing, Peggy Holman. She's the author of Engaging Emergence: Turning Upheaval into Opportunity. This is an extraordinary, fascinating book that looks at how to create something that makes sense; how to create order out of chaos. How to take new challenging systems, new problems that our new technologies, our new worlds bring to us and deal with them, even with people with very, very different ways of seeing things. And Peggy is just about to go through the stages in this process that are described in the book.  Shoot, go ahead.

Peggy: Thank you. So, I'll start at a 50,000 foot level, which is with a pattern of change that I was actually talking about earlier in the call.  This notion that all change begins with a disruption, and what that disruption does is it tends to cause things as we know them to break apart. And that's why a change can be, and particularly the bigger the change the more emotional and experience it is, because experiencing emergence, experiencing change is not necessarily an easy thing to do, it can be quite the emotional roller coaster ride ,and that's in part because not everything makes it through to the other side. Which means that for some, I do a lot of work with journalists, and it's interesting working with mainstream media people, many of whom are mourning the loss of the kind of journalistic values that have guided their work for many, many years and they wonder if there's still a place for it.

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   So, as this kind of doorway from disruption into what is called differentiation, it's basically what I was talking about earlier. Things break apart, so we're in this place of experimentation of what differences make a difference, and we don't know without trying, and so two useful questions I find in that kind of state of experimentation as many different aspects are tested is,
What do we want to conserve that still has value, and what do we want to embrace that wasn't possible before?" And frankly, I see Occupy going through that right now as the form of physical occupation, is one of the things that we may want to conserve or we may want to let it go, to embrace other ways of dealing with that deeper message, and I think that question remains to be answered with journalists. A similar kind of thing, as things break apart, what of journalistic values are still relevant and what do we let go of?

   So for example, things like transparency, is not only, I think being more recognized as a key value, it becomes almost essential and it's certainly easier to do in an internet world. And as the clarity begins to emerge, begins to show up through different kinds of experimentation, a new coherence arises in which we begin to understand the rules of the road, how things operate. 

   So that's a 50,000 foot level disruption from coherence, being disrupted to differentiation, back into coherence.  From there I drop to ground level, and talk about a set of practices for engaging, and I've got them organized in four basic areas.  One is "how do I prepare myself to engage with this area of mystery and not knowing as we go into this open divergent chaotic kind of space."

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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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