Tag Archives | Patterns

Horses and Open Space

I’ve recently been exposed first-hand (or should I say, “first-hoof?”) to Equine Guided Education (EGE) – working with horses in leadership development and coaching – through the work of The Flag Foundation for Horse/Human Partnership here in northern California.

It has been a moving, thought-provoking and powerful experience to work with the horses and their human partners.

On my most recent visit, I was struck by the parallels between working with the horses and the Four Principles of Open Space Technology.

Open Space?

Open Space Technology (OST) is a meeting or conference methodology that is, as Wikipedia so succinctly says, “most distinctive for its initial lack of an agenda, which sets the stage for the meeting’s participants to create the agenda for themselves.”

What I love about it is its fundamental assumption that the participants are the experts and that they bring the answers with them. This flies in the face of the traditional “banking method” of education (thank you, Paulo Freire) in which experts deposit information in the minds of the students.

The Four Principles

Here are the Four Principles of OST – as I apply them to Equine Guided Education:

  • “Whoever comes is the right people.” In this setting, one isn’t sure which horse or horses will decide to participate, but whoever comes is just right.
  • “Whatever happens is the only thing that could have.” As often happens when working with groups and even with individuals, I am often surprised and delighted by what happens – despite my best planning. The same thing is true here, and I am reminded to be honest about what I can control and what I can’t.
  • “Whenever it starts is the right time.” Creativity and Spirit – and the horses – don’t pay much attention to the clock.
  • “When it’s over, it’s over.” As Kimberly Carlisle, the foundation’s Executive Director said to me, “When the horses are done, they’re done.” They can have incredibly long attention spans if there is still work to be done (or fun to be had), but when it’s done, or the bonds of authenticity are broken, they’re done. I can learn a lot from them about not forcing things.

The Law of What?

I shared this with Lisa Heft, who then introduced me to Eva Svensson (thank you, Lisa!), who is both an OST facilitator and EGE practitioner in Sweden (where EGE is known as HAE). Eva agreed and went on to add that OST’s one law, the “Law of Two Feet” (or more appropriately the “Law of Mobility”) also applies.

The Law of Mobility states that “If, during our time together, you find yourself in any situation where you are neither learning nor contributing, use your two feet and go to some more productive place.” That’s kind of revolutionary, isn’t it? The One Law not only places responsibility for learning on the participants, it also creates “bumblebees and butterflies” who float from one group to another, potentially pollinating as they go.

As Eva said, “If they (the horses) don’t think you are interesting enough, they take their hooves and walk away.”

And if they stay, you know it’s because they want to.

And Something Magical Happens…

Both OST and EGE have facilitators, and structure within which, well, magic can happen. How does that magic happen?

Like OST, EGE assumes the intelligence and the gifts that the participants bring with them – all of the participants. Including the horses. All of that intelligence and all of those gifts in one place  combine and recombine and have the potential to produce something totally unexpected: Insights. Collaboration. Connection.

How can you not love that?

Are you curious?

Would you like to learn more about The Flag Foundation for Horse/Human Partnership and Equine Guided Education? Visit http://www.theflagfoundation.org/.

Want to learn more about Open Space Technology? Visit http://www.openingspace.net/openSpaceTechnology.shtml

Want to explore having an experience with OST or EGE?
Email me at susan at susantblake.com.

Want to join the conversation? Leave a comment!

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

What Do Jewelry, Jigsaw Puzzles and Recruiting Have in Common?

I had a surprising epiphany the other night after spending a good part of the weekend making jewelry: Making jewelry is like doing a jigsaw puzzle.

I love a good puzzle. In fact, I am a Jigsaw Puzzle Addict from way back. If there is an open puzzle on the table I’m working on it.

We discovered this when I was in high school. My family went on vacation for a week to a beach cabin with no television, and my mother brought along a jigsaw puzzle to prevent utter mayhem in case it rained. (In western Washington State rain is a pretty safe bet.) If I was inside the cabin I was working on that puzzle. And I finished it.

So we bought another one when we got home. Same thing. Then my mother bought another one and this time she took away the lid to the box – so I had no picture to go by.

Didn’t matter. I did it anyway. Faster.

I find them very soothing. My brain goes into a different mode where there are no words, only visuals (and I am a very visual person). And with puzzles, I get to focus on both the details and The Whole.

There is something enormously satisfying about taking a jumble of pieces and making the myriad connections needed until a consolidated whole emerges.

When I was in college, I started using jigsaw puzzles as therapy at the end of a term. Once I was done with all of my papers and exams (and my brain was fried) I would lock myself up with a puzzle. By the time I finished the puzzle (usually in a weekend) I was fine again.

When my (late) husband discovered this, he adopted it as his favorite gift. Perfume? Jewelry? Occasionally. But my favorite thing was to come home on a Friday night and find a new puzzle and a bottle of champagne on the dining room table.

He had no interest in (or patience with) doing them himself, and he didn’t drink, either. This was something he bought just for me.

He even knew me so well that he could tell if I was having a difficult time at work. He would just look at me and say, “I think you need a puzzle.” And he was usually right.

I haven’t done a jigsaw puzzle in a long time, though, because I haven’t given myself permission to sit still and not focus on work in quite a while – except the occasional day spent reading or gardening.

But I’ve recently taken up beading. I blame my mother and sister, who took me along when they went to a humungous bead store for an afternoon when I last visited them in Seattle. I went in not intending to buy anything, but I ended up purchasing the beads for a necklace as a souvenir of that visit. (And, I should say, I bought way more than the two of them put together.)

Then a friend gave me a kit with a huge variety of beads, wires and tools, and my sister came to visit and helped me figure out what I had and organize it. Then we visited another bead shop, and one of my favorite jewelry stores had a sale on hand-blown glass beads… you can see where this is going.

So I have been spending time sitting with the beads, looking at them, combining them, recombining them, and recombining them again. Do these two go together? Do these three go together? Is there a pattern emerging? Are you earrings? Or a necklace? Or a bracelet?

I realized this is very similar to the process I go through when sorting puzzle pieces. Do these two go together? Do these three go together? Are you a roofline? Or a tree branch?

Then the thought occurred to me that maybe being an external recruiter, which I did for six years (and thoroughly enjoyed), was like doing jigsaw puzzles, too. Sifting through candidates and their skills and personalities and goals, sifting through clients and their job requirements and company cultures and goals, and matching them up. Do these two go together? Do these three go together?

They’re all about making connections, and the whole becomes more than the sum of its parts.

My point is this: Sometimes we take things so for granted that we fail to see the connections that exist between them and the patterns they create.

What are some of the patterns or connections that repeat themselves in your life, whether in hobbies, or relationships, or in your work – or that cross over between them?

Coincidences and Beliefs and the Importance of Why

I have learned to pay attention to coincidences. If something comes up multiple times within a short time frame, it gets my attention.

Many people rely on the Rule of Threes, or the idea that things happen in threes. But when it comes to coincidences, I am willing to stand up for things happening in pairs. After all, if you think about someone, and then they call you, aren’t you usually willing to say, “Wow, what a coincidence! I was just thinking about you!”

In fact, just the word “coincidence” points to a minimum of only two events. “Co” means “with” or “together,” and “incidence” means “to fall on.” So only two events happening together can be a coincidence.

This may not appeal to statisticians who look for at least five data points in a certain direction before they are willing to pronounce the existence of a trend. (That’s for another blog.) But I submit that it only takes a couple of incidents to get my attention, and a pattern of events really gets my attention. It doesn’t have to be trend, just a Coincidence in order to make me stop and ask questions. A Stereophonic Theory of Incidents is fine with me – I don’t require Quadraphonic Incidents or Surround Sound when it comes to noticing something and making me wonder.

Case in Point: Multiple Events have come up recently that asked me to stop and think about my beliefs and the effect of my beliefs on my actions.

In their Triple Impact Practitioners Programs, Michael Broom and Edie Seashore recently asked participants (including me) to stop and think about their beliefs about support that guide their behavior about getting support for themselves. Hmm. Then we were asked to consider where those beliefs may have come from and whether they are appropriate now. Hmm.

Then, within only a few days, Marcia Wieder, in her Dream University’s “90 Days to Transform Your Life” program, asked participants to articulate their beliefs around their dreams, and to think about whether they are limiting beliefs or empowering beliefs. Hmm.

Double Hmm. Within only a few days, I have been asked to stop and think about my beliefs, many of which I take for granted, and how they affect my actions and the choices I make. That was enough of a coincidence to really get my attention.

If we take some beliefs for granted, how do we even identify them? How do we bring them forward, or to the surface, so we can look at them objectively?

I think that asking the question “Why?” is a great tool for this. If I make a statement, or a decision, or a choice, such as “I couldn’t possibly do that,” “I must do X,” “That person will or won’t do that,” or “The universe works this way,” and then I ask myself “Why?” (or “Why Not?”), the answer is probably a Belief. It may be helpful (or even necessary) to ask “Why?” several times to get to the core belief. (Or the Root Cause, in the language of various Quality programs, although they do not typically talk about Beliefs. Consider the “5 Why’s” of Taiichi Ohno’s Toyota Production System and Lean Manufacturing.) Once that core belief is uncovered, I can then ask myself why I may have adopted that belief, whether I really believe it, and whether it still makes sense.

This can be a very useful practice for identifying why I may say one thing but do something else, or why I may have trouble with X, Y or Z. It can help me to be authentic, to be the author of my own life. It can help to shine a light on the beliefs at the root of tunnel vision. Because the truth is, we can choose what we believe, once we stop and think about it. Coincidences may make us sit up and notice things, but we do not believe things because of coincidences. We believe things because we choose to accept them – or not.

If you are facing a stumbling block in some part of your life, whether it is a pattern of events that trouble you, or a project that has gone poorly, or a relationship isn’t what you would like, or you are stuck in some way, think about the statements you have made about it and then ask yourself “Why?” Then ask “Why?” about the answer. Take the elevator to the ground floor and see what is there when the doors open.

It might be scary, and you may feel like you don’t have a net. Don’t worry, we’re here to catch you.

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