Three Gateways to Systems Thinking

systems thinking Dec 01, 2019

 by Stephanie Nestlerode 

As a person who has witnessed the power of systems thinking, I’ve often wondered why we don’t see it more widely applied?  When Peter Senge’s book, “The Fifth Discipline” came out in 1990, it was a game-changer for me.  Not so much for its introduction of systems thinking, but for the intriguing possibilities Peter imagined through the practice of dialogue – which he viewed as an essential foundation for seeing systems.

Three elements must be in place to be ready for learning systems thinking.  They serve as gateways because of the habits they establish.

Welcoming Diversity.  Diversity in all things.  The pace of change is accelerating.  We are limited in what we can observe from our own personal experience.  Creating robust solutions requires learning from everyone’s perspective.  Being open vs. being closed is not a skill to be learned.  It’s an...

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Is Your Strategy Stuck in the 20th Century?

Uncategorized Oct 30, 2018

Is Your Strategy Stuck in the 20th Century?

by Maya Townsend

Ah, the good old days.

The world was a more stable, predictable place. Companies knew their competitors: Coke had to crush Pepsi. Adidas sought to outdo Puma. Avis vied against Hertz. McDonald’s obsessed about its feud with Burger King.

Amidst this environment, strategy tools proliferated. Your company probably still uses the SWOT Analysis, which was developed in the 1960s. Perhaps you also use Boston Consulting Group’s popular Growth Share Matrix from the 1970s. And many rely on Porter’s Five Forces, which debuted in the Harvard Business Review in 1979. All three of these tools—and many more—were conceived before the internet, before the rise of globalization, and before the rise of mega businesses like Amazon and Tencent. They reflect a world more familiar to automobile manufacturer Henry Ford than to Amazon titan...

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What makes the Wimberley Valley so Unique and Resilient?

community wimberley Jun 28, 2018

Like many before me, I was charmed from the first moment I caught sight of Wimberley. People arriving at the visitor’s center often ask, “why is Wimberley so amazing?” 

When FEMA was here in 2015 they shared that Wimberley was the most resilient community they’d ever assisted. 

Clearly, we have a highly unusual ability to deal with challenges.  And we will need to call on that ability if we want to preserve what we love about living here. 

Hays County is the fourth fastest growing county in the nation - the fastest growing county in Texas.  The population of The Hill Country is projected to grow by over a million people by 2030, that's just 12 years!

This growth situation is a recipe for turbulence. 

Fortunately for us, we are a diverse, creative and resilient people.  If we listen to each other and learn from our experiences, we’ll be able to meet our challenges as a community. 

Let’s discover...

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How Is Networking like Your Junk Drawer

networking Jan 16, 2018

What's in your junk drawer? I know you have one, everyone does! You know, that drawer that seems to catch everything from bread ties to change and recipes to wine corks. It's a great collection of interesting objects and mementos and yet you find yourself gazing into the drawer today and wondering, "where did all this come from"? Now what?

Networks are like that too.  Often perceived as an interesting collection of co-workers, former co-workers, friends, acquaintances and even people we met once but may not remember as clearly after all this time. 

Most of us see our network as singular, one network when in fact there's a smarter, better way to see it and organize it so it works for you. 

Networking has long been practiced as a way to meet people and establish ourselves in our field with others of like-mind. We attend conferences, trainings, and events and aim to meet as many people as we can ... and collect their business cards and add them to our list. But, meeting...

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The Work at the Heart of the Work

networking Oct 10, 2017

No matter your field or discipline, making connections and building relationships is at the heart of not only your personal success but to the success of your cause, business or services. 

You've probably heard the comment, relationships are job #1.  So what is networking if not relationships in the making? I've come to think of networking skills as foundational to just about all the other skills we need.  If we are to be successful in our aspirations, it behooves us to become a well-connected, go-to resource for those we serve whether in business, nonprofits, or government. 

I thought I knew all about networking. 

I was wrong. 

Perhaps you are too?

Do any of these resonate?

  1. What if our network is actually plural? In other words what if our network is really several nested networks, each serving a different role and function? 
  2. What if we already have a network but it is somewhat hidden from us? What if we could see it clearly?
  3. What if...
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5 Proactive Questions to Ask for a Lifetime

learning Aug 02, 2016

I'm a fan of questions.  It seems to me that questions are more important than answers because questions open us to possibilities while answers close everything down.  Once we think we have the answer, we stop asking the questions. In the language of Appreciative Inquiry, we grow in the direction of the questions we ask.  So questions are really important in our lives now and in the future.

This week Harvard Dean James Ryan gave a commencement address at Harvard and the video above is a small but key excerpt, the heart of the message, and it is perhaps the best commencement address I've ever heard. It had all the right elements for young people launching themselves out into the world pursuing their newly completed formal education AND it also was also spot on for the rest of us. 

He offers five questions that if asked regularly throughout our lives he suggests will make us successful AND happy. I think he's on to something really important for all of us as we go...

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Training OR Learning

learning Jul 26, 2016

Is the amount and complexity of knowledge you need to do your job increasing?

What's the learning curve like for someone newly hired?

Are you constantly needing to learn new information, skills and develop new capabilities so we do our work well?

Here's the deal. I’ve conducted training events for some 20 years. Most often the topics are determined by management, they're formal and structured as well as limited to very specific content. In my experience the content is often too much and gets crammed into the time allowed which is seldom enough for actual learning to happen. How often has this happened to you?

Lately I've been giving this a lot more thought while designing a process for learning that attempts to meet the needs of a diverse group of people from those new to their field to the ones that've been around awhile.

In looking at  models for attempting this -- I've had to ask some hard questions about what is possible (at least what I think is possible). I've...

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5 Fundamental Secrets to More Effective PowerPoint Slide Decks

presentations Jul 19, 2016

How did you learn to create a PowerPoint slide deck? When? Where? From whom? 

If you're like me you may have never really had any formal training in how to think about and put together a training or presentation slide deck? And even if you did, things have changed. The old “seven lines seven words” thinking has been replaced by practical practices emerging from the research on learning and real life experiences.

When I first discovered SlideShare I was so excited. (wahoo!) I finally had a place to put my slide decks online and share them .. that is until I looked at some of the spectacular slide decks appearing on the home page!  One glance told me I had some learning to do before I was going to post any slides! that was in 2007 and since then I’ve worked hard to learn and integrate a different set of practices, some of the best to start with are listed below. See what fits for you and do teach me what you’ve learned too.


1. Don’t...

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Social Media and Free Range Learning

How often, when you’re engaged in listening or participating in social media, do you catch a spark of surprise or excitement about an idea and feel that sensation of eagerness to make that next click and learn more?  All the time? Me too.

Learning fills our lives with energy (chi). It gets me jazzed, inspired and motivated. Learning isn’t always formal like a university class but it's constantly happening -- whether we’re paying attention or not.   

So, what do you call learning where you’re in control of what you learn, when you learn, who you learn from, how deep you learn and what you give back as a result of what you learn? 

Hmmm, what to call this kind of learning? I was working with a great colleague and friend Raye Shilen some time ago while her family was stationed in Washington State and we were deep in discussion one day when the IT woman, Val (yes I said woman – yeah) chimed in with, “sort of like free...

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Taking a Learning Leap - Smart Phone Video

learning Jun 21, 2016

Don’t you love it when you learn to do something new or better with a tool you already have in your tool box? Me too. Some time ago I was introduced to The Missing Manual and iPhone Video Course where I’ve started learning how to shoot and share video using my iPhone. The nudge came from Gideon Shalwick who’s trainings I've taken before and benefited immensely from so I decided to give Jules Missing Manual and video training a try. Wow!

Here’s my top five things about the course:

  1. The training is video-based in small bites so you can learn and put what you learn into practice quickly
  2. He teaches the technical including all the details about hardware, software, and how-to
  3. All the basics that even us digital immigrants can jump in and learn
  4. Demonstrates how-to do everything
  5. He provides links to every tool and app he demonstrates so when you see something you’d like to replicate, you’ve got what you need to give it a go.

Jules Watkins has...

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