ENGAGING EMERGENCE Is Getting Around and You Can Get a 30% Discount

Engaging Emergence has been making its way into other blogs lately.

Monde from www.scotomagallery.com

My last entry  — The Challenge of Power – inspired Curtis Ogden to further the conversation on power and emergence, Power and Emergent Change « Interaction Institute for Social

And the Freisen Group post, Reading about Change, reflected on the pace of change.

My publisher, Berrett-Koehler, hosts blog of lists.  Here’s my entry: Don’t Hold On!

They featured the post in a recent BK Communiqué.  (A quick, amusing read.  I recommend it!)

In the process, they offered a 30% discount for Engaging Emergence through November 30th.

More, The Change Handbook chapters are available electronically via Fast Fundamentals for 99 cents each through the end of November.  Take advantage of the sale through the links below:

THE CHANGE HANDBOOK on Fast Fundamentals:

Opening Chapters

The Big Picture: Making Sense of More Than Sixty Methods

Selecting Change Methods: The Art of Mastery

Preparing to Mix and Match Change Methods

Creating Conditions for Sustainable Change

In-depth Chapters

Appreciative Inquiry: A Positive Revolution in Change

Dynamic Planning and the Power of Charrettes

Collaborative Loops

Community Weaving

Dialogue and Deliberation Processes

Future Search: Common Ground Under Complex Conditions

Integrated Clarity: Energizing How We Talk and What We Talk About

Online Environments That Support Change

Open Space Technology

Participative Design Workshop

Using Playback Theatre to Create Empathy

The Rapid Results Method to Jump-Start Change

Scenario Thinking

Search Conference

The Six Sigma Approach to Improvement and Organizational Change

The Technology of Participation

Visual Recording and Graphic Facilitation: Helping People See What They Mean

Whole-Scale Change

The World Cafe

Thumbnail Chapters

Action Learning

Action Review Cycle and the After Action Review Meeting

Ancient Wisdom Council

Appreciative Inquiry Summit

Balanced Scorecard

Civic Engagement: Restoring Community through Empowering Conversation

Collaborative Work Systems Design

Community Summits

The Conference Model

Consensus Decision Making

Conversation Cafe

The Cycle of Resolution: Conversational Competence for Creating and Sustaining Shared Vision

The Drum Cafe: Building Wholeness One Beat at a Time

Dynamic Facilitation

Employee Engagement Process

The Practice of Empowerment: Changing Behavior and Developing Talent in Organizations

Gemeinsinn-Werkstatt: Project Framework for Community Spirit

The Genuine Contact Program

Human Systems Dynamics

Idealized Design

JazzLab: The Music of Synergy

Large Group Scenario Planning

Leadership Dojo

The Learning Map Approach

Evolutions of Open Systems Theory

OpenSpace-Online Real-Time Methodology

Organization Workshop

PeerSpirit Circling: Creating Change in the Spirit of Cooperation

Power of Imagination Studio: A Further Development of the Future

Real-Time Strategic Change

SimuReal: Action Learning in Hyperdrive

SOAR: A New Approach to Strategic Planning

Strategic Forum

Strategic Visioning: Bringing Insight to Action

Study Circles

Think Like a Genius: Realizing Human Potential Though the Purpose

The 21st Century Town Meeting: Engaging Citizen in Governance

Values Into Action

Visual Explorer

Web Lab’s Small Group Dialogues on the Internet Commons

The Whole Systems Approach: Using the Entire System to Change and Run the Business


Closing Chapters

From Chaos to Coherence: The Emergence of Inspired Organizations

High-Leverage Ideas and Actions You Can Use to Shape the Future

Hope for the Future: Working Together for a Better World


The Challenge of Power

Thanks to Google Alerts, I discovered a great review of Engaging Emergence by Ron Lubensky, from the Centre for Citizenship and Public Policy in Sydney, Australia.

An excerpt:

This is the sort of easy-to-read book that you want to leave lying around so others will find it accidentally. Maybe they’ll recognise, as Peggy hopes, that modern life is not a predictable, steady state that is occasionally and annoyingly disrupted. Rather, life should be celebrated as an evolution of surprises, change and adaptation. Peggy provides us with a straightforward roadmap about how to constructively steward positive change.

In the last paragraph, Ron raised an issue about power (bolding is mine):

Engaging emergence requires that we talk to one another in a civil manner with mutual commitment. Perhaps wisely she has sidestepped the thorny challenge of motivating people who exercise power to graciously and generously devolve their authority to a shared enterprise. The book presumes that a situation where the practice can be exercised poses no political barriers to emergent change. Unfortunately, this would be a rare occurrence. So just like the enterprise of deliberative democracy, which requires the practice of engaging emergence, the initial challenge is just getting to step 1.

Illustration by Steven Wright

Since the challenge Ron raises is no doubt a common one, thought I’d share my exchange with him:

Thanks for your reflections on Engaging Emergence. I’m delighted at your enthusiastic response!

And I want to comment on the challenge you raised of motivating people with power. There are virtually always political barriers! Shame on me that I wasn’t more explicit on how to address them.

What I have found to be true is that when the issue faced is more important than their position, people in power positions will engage. In other words, they’ll step up when:

  • the situation reaches the point that they realize that they can’t solve it alone;
  • it is critical to their success; and
  • they’ve found a partner to work with that they’re willing to trust.

Essentially, these are the conditions when anyone will engage. It’s just that people with more to lose tend to wait longer. By then, the situation is really messy and they’re desperate.

I’ve experienced this shift in government agencies, like the National Institute of Corrections (NIC), and in organizations, like the Boeing Company.  As Chris Innes of NIC put it so eloquently, they stepped up to “make it up as they went along” when doing the same old thing was not worth the trouble.

Posted by Peggy Holman 05 October 2010 06:47 am | link


Peggy, thanks for your elaboration regarding motivations to stepping up. It also points our community of practice to work harder to generate opportunities using the non-instrumental language you recommend. ps, I’ve posted sections of my review to Amazon for you! Best of success!

Posted by Ron Lubensky 05 October 2010 10:18 am | link


Making Sense Out of Chaos: An Audio Interview

I did an interview on September 7th for the Community Learning Exchange –CLExchangeonair with Cheryl Fields on Blog Talk Radio.

Image by Susan Cannon

Below are some of the questions Cheryl asked and a summary of my responses:

  • Everyone is familiar with chaos, but I’d like to begin by describing what you mean by emergence for our listeners. What is it and how does it show up in our lives and in our work?

It’s a word to describe something we all experience, usually at the best and worst times.  The simplest definition I’ve found is order arising from chaos.  So we experience emergence in emergencies – something happens and people self-organize to handle the situation.

Then there are the times when we give ourselves over to the larger forces and follow our noses and something magical happens.  Think of great jazz or team sports at their best.

  • Early in the book you tell the story of how your own perspective on engaging emergence began. Tell us about that experience?

In the 1990’s I managed software projects.  I was excellent at figuring out the steps that needed to be done and then making those steps happen —  planning the work and then working the plan.

As the projects got bigger and more complex, I ran into a one that involved enough people with different opinions that that old approach just didn’t cut it.

Fortunately, I had the opportunity to work with someone who understood how to work in a different way.  Once I experienced it, I had to learn more.

  • It strikes me that one intention of your book is to provide people with tools for overcoming the emotions of fear, panic and retreat that instinctively emerge when we’re confronted with upheaval. These emotions are a natural response to crisis, but how do they get in our way as we’re trying to adjust to these disturbances?

I love your question because it gives me a chance to both answer it and demonstrate one of the simplest ways of doing what you’re asking about.

Change IS often an emotional roller coaster.  Just acknowledging that can take some of the angst out of change.  We dig ourselves deeper in because of where we focus our attention.  In other words, when we focus on how our emotional state gets in our way, we reinforce it and it gets more in our way!

Questions can be powerful influencers of the stories that shape our attention and action.  So, for example, what if we turned your question around and asked,

How could the powerful emotions we naturally experience support us as we face disturbances?

What do you notice when the question is asked that way?

Great questions do three things: they provide focus which brings some sense of order.  They attract those who care.  And they invite others to join in.

  • In your preface you talk about achieving breakthrough solutions rather than compromises that no one is happy with. We’ve seen a lot of the latter on Capitol Hill in recent years. How does engaging emergence help us to arrive at innovative solutions?

Rather than trying to force an answer, engaging emergence has us do almost the opposite: it suggests we make room for the unknown.  After all, if we had the answers, we’d already have pursued them. So instead of pursuing familiar paths, the idea is to give something new a go.  How do we do that in a way that something useful arises rather than devolving into chaos?

Create conditions for something useful to happen through:

Bringing clarity of purpose by asking disruptive questions compassionately.  For example, given the state of our schools, what’s possible to do on behalf of the children?

Inviting the diverse system of people who care about the question.

Welcoming who and what shows up, recognizing that even if it seems disruptive, it likely contains important kernels of truth that need to be discovered and incorporated into the ultimate solutions.

  • What are the five principles of emergence?

I have identified five principles based on what science teaches us about emergence.  They are helpful both when designing activities that engage a diverse group in addressing a complex issue or when operating in a challenging situation:

  • Welcome disturbance
  • Pioneer
  • Encourage random encounters
  • Seek meaning
  • Simplify

The Real-time Debut of Engaging Emergence

I did a session on my new book, Engaging Emergence: Turning Upheaval into Opportunity at the Organization Development World Summit.  I am delighted that Richárd Nagy-Hegyi, creative director of HR Cafe was there to record it:

Richárd described his vision for HR Cafe:
To make it a place, like you’d put together TED + Wikipedia (with the Wikipedia community) + World Cafe.

If you are inspired to help that vision come true, register to watch the video there and offer your comments.  You can also get the handouts at the site.  (If Hungarian isn’t your native language, just click on the appropriate flag in the upper right of the page.)

This was my first chance to get a public response to the content from people who don’t know me.  Needless to say, I was a bit nervous when I started and thrilled by the time I was done.

The session affirmed a pattern to the responses I’m getting.  From those familiar with ideas like order arising from chaos, welcoming disturbance, differentiation and integration, they say that I have taken what they know and framed it with greater coherence so that it becomes easier to act on the ideas and to share them with others.

For those who are new to the concepts, I have been thrilled and humbled by the strength of their reaction.  Several have told me the ideas are life changing, using phrases like:

“Little did I know that the book would have such a powerful impact on me…”


“It challenged what I thought I knew about change, about leadership, and about group dynamics. I very much appreciated those challenges, as I felt they opened not only my eyes, but also my heart, in new ways so that I will forever see disruption in a new way.”

So, watch the video or read the book, and let me know your response!

One last exciting note – The book has been at #1 in “Hot New Releases in Organizational Change” on Amazon.com since announced:


New Arrival

At long last, it is available.  I am delighted to say that Engaging Emergence: Turning Upheaval into Opportunity is now for sale from Amazon, Berrett-Koehler, Barnes and Noble, or through local bookstores.

I have a confession. I have an ambitious goal for the book: to meet today’s needs in the way The Fifth Discipline did 20 years ago.  And you can help make that happen.

You see, writing Engaging Emergence was a call I couldn’t ignore.  We face disruption in so many of our systems and people are looking for answers.  The book is my contribution to clarify what each of us inherently knows so we can not only successfully engage with disturbance but also grow that capacity in those we touch.

So, if the book moves you, buy a copy, give another to a friend.  And let others know about it.  In today’s connected world, there are many ways:

Send an email, blog about it, Tweet about it (#engagingemergence), mention it on Facebook, include it a newsletter.  You can link to it at www.engagingemergence.com or on Facebook at www.bit.ly/engagingemergence

Post a review on Amazon.  Scroll down to “Customer Reviews”, click on “Create Your Own Review” and jot down a few lines or make a short video.

Share book related event information.  I post upcoming workshops, webinars, and other places I’ll be talking about the book.  Join in and let others know.

Be old fashioned. Review the book in a local paper or an industry or other type of national publication.

Do the unexpected.  No doubt there are more ways to get the word out than I’ll come up with.  Be creative.  Do something fun and share the idea on the book’s Facebook page or in the comments at www.engagingemergence.com.

Thank you for your support in helping Engaging Emergence make its contribution.

With love and gratitude


It’s a Book!

I held a copy of Engaging Emergence: Turning Upheaval into Opportunity for the first time today, Friday the 13th of August, at 11:16am.  The event was foreshadowed by an email forwarded by a friend telling her that Amazon.com would be shipping her copy earlier than anticipated.  So I knew the book would reach me soon.

With the product of more than a year’s work in my hands, I found myself saying over and over, “it’s a book”.  As with any birth, I sensed that my life was about to change.

At the same time, I was aware of something missing.  The readers.  And more than readers, the people who want to engage with the ideas in the book.  If my life changes, it is because of the response the book evokes.

And so, while I’ve reached a milestone, the next one looms large: the moment when others receive their copies, read them, and respond.



Reflections on a Book Launch

My editor told me more than once that people want to know more about me – how I think, what I’m feeling.  So as I find my way into blogging, thought I’d offer up my latest book-related experience.

It happened faster than I expected.  Literally.  I thought my first announcement for Engaging Emergence: Turning Upheaval into Opportunity would go out sometime in August.  Instead, I learned last week that I needed to get the word out for pre-orders ASAP.  So I put aside plans for more web site prep and got started.

The message below went out yesterday – July 13th – to about 5,000 people.  I’m guessing that it reached two to four times as many folks.  The results?

I saw the the book’s rank at Amazon move to 4,100 from around 500,000 overnight.  And the good wishes coming my way are a thrill!  I feel bathed in  friendship and appreciated for the work I’ve been doing since last July.

Here are two comments that made me laugh: Continue reading “Reflections on a Book Launch”