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Evolving Startegy

Dialogue Evening Jan 13

What does it Feel Like?

Possible Structure

Background Thinking


Evolving Startegy

Initial Aim:
To collectively think though a strategy for accelerating an understanding and application of modern management concepts in Scotland.

VisionTo humanise our society – especially in context of the individual working within organisations and as a customer of the services provided.

Values (not discussed)
Equality – “A man’s a man for a’that”
Cooperation and collaboration
The Application of Knowledge

Social Science in context of “management” does exist. It is underpinned by knowledge that has been developed over the years though disciplined research and observation. It would undermine our integrity if we ignored this knowledge.

Aim (not discussed)
To have a society that is continually learning, especially in context of the systems that characterise its society.

What does it feel Like?
A theme that was raised a few times was asking “what would it feel like”

Action: – Might we ask for some contributions in this field. Maybe we could ask David Erdal and Jacqui Mitchell to describe what it feels like to work in a fully enabled organisation such as an employee owned organisation. We could also ask Colin Campbell to describe an involved community.

Keep it Simple
Reference the following two quotations

“I wouldn’t give a fig for simplicity this side of complexity but I’d give my right arm for simplicity on the other side of complexity.” – Oliver Wendell Holmes

“The aim … is to start the reader on the road to knowledge and to create a yearning for more knowledge” – W Edwards Deming

Action: The ULN through its web site will endeavour, through written text, pictures, stories and videos to make available the Social Science knowledge that exists. It aims to start with the simple concepts and stage by stage develop the full depth of the concepts. We would ask all ULN participants to contribute to developing this knowledge bank. (Gordon has purchased a camera that can take good quality video clips – so when he comes back from New Zealand he will be looking for volunteers to develop a series of informative video clips – we will of course tap into existing video clips from the likes of Dan Pink, David Erdal, Ken Robinson, Peter Senge etc.)

There is no one answer

There are a whole range of applicable concepts and theories. What applies in one situation does not apply in another. A strength of the Unreasonable Learners is the breadth of knowledge of the participants. A task for our future society is managing paradox and contradiction.

Major Questions that need to be answered

  • What are the predominate ways of thinking in our society – What is actually wrong?
  • What within Status Quo thinking is hindering our progress?
    Barriers – why are our organisations not learning?
  • What are the social forces that are creating barriers and hindering our progress?
  • What is the important knowledge that we need to appreciate?
    And how do we make it available?
  • How do we promote examples of best Practice?
  • How do we ensure that our organisations learn from examples?
    What is the Market?
  • We aim to influence the whole of Scotland – but how would you define that?
  • What is our “Marketing” story?
  • How do we approach Critical Mass?

Action: Let us encourage ULN participants to join electronic discussions, and even meet, to discuss questions such as above. – And for those involved to develop a plan of action.

These questions (and others) could be addressed in dialogue evenings – see below.

The ULN itself will want to develop the “discussion” facility available through its web site.

How – Leading the Bull with a Thread

This analogy seemed to catch people’s attention. We are to move forward through collaboration, cooperation and understanding. We especially want to appreciate the sterling work being done by many people across our society. We want to avoid confrontation though that is not always possible. The recognition that in the work situation the vast majority of us are trying our best; furthermore there is a genuine desire across Scotland for this more humanist society that we are envisaging.

How – By What Method – Action

  • Dialogue Evenings: Establish dialogue evenings across the main centres of Scotland.
  • The Whole: – The need to involve all sectors of society
  • Other Groups: – Connect with other groups – Investors in People and So Say Scotland being excellent examples. We should seek cross fertilisation.
  • Knowledge: – keep adding to our knowledge bank (not discussed)
  • Measurement:- We could form a group to develop a range of measures that would reflect the well-being of society. Also highlighting that most of the important issues are not measureable
  • Learning from Each Other: – The first Open Learning event for the ULN is scheduled for 21st March – more details will be on the web in the Events section
  • Conferences: – Abertay University are sponsoring a major conference in Dundee on 14th May ’13. The theme of the conference is “Collective Intelligence. – details will be on the events page of the web site
  • Group Activities: – The many groups that are part of the ULN will be running their own events. We would strongly encourage us all to place details of these events on the ULN web site.”
  • Connections: – develop connections – through such avenues as Social Media, Linkedin etc. To secure change we should envisage connections, and engagement with, a critical mass of Scottish Citizens. The Icelandic example suggested that this might be as low as 0.5% of the population – 25,000
  • Discussions/meetings – to focus on specific questions – see above.
  • Critical Mass: – Electronic Communication and Social Media: – (not really discussed) – There is great opportunity to tap into modern internet communication – especially in context of getting to a critical mass.

“Be the Change you want to see” Ghandi

  • Our Learning: – As we are asking organisations and society to be continually learning, we should reflect this value. We have the opportunity to learn from many sources including learning from each other.
  •  Connections: – It will require all of us to develop connections if we are to approach the critical mass envisaged.
  •  Development of the ULN:- The network needs to be continually evolving – from the contributions of the participants.
  •  Recognise that failure is part of success: – let us initiate many things.
  •  Our Inner Life:- Mindfulness



Dialogue Evening Feedback

28th January from 5.30 to 8.30pm

at Royal British Hotel, 20 Princes Street, Edinburgh EH2 2AN

We have simply typed up all the comments written on the past-it slips during the evening. Browse this extensive list (remember there were 30+ in attendance) and see the breadth of thinking – but also the amount of similar thinking.


To collectively think though a strategy for accelerating an understanding and application of modern management concepts in Scotland.

Gordon’s introduction

  • The concepts of management – such as we are intrinsically motivated and systems thinking which recognises that, in the main, it is the design of the system that determines outcomes – have been around for the past 50 years.
  • There have been many excellent examples, Gurus, teachers, organisations that promote new thinking, plus all manner of initiatives.  – Yet the majority of our organisations and our society are not learning. We do not seem to learn from either examples or books.
  • Management is getting worse – we keep applying simplistic solutions that are based on flawed assumptions. And when they do not work we try harder and make the situation even worse.
  • We believe the way forward is to address the whole.


Question 1: What things does the strategy need to address?

  •  What are the social forces that create barriers?// Is starting with the individual a result of analytical/reductionist thinking?// Does the system always dominate?
  • What are the predominate ways of thinking that means what works isn’t being invested?// Are we a ship sailing towards an edge
  • Are some of the changes we talked about likely to happen by default rather than design? – I am thinking about the growth in business start-ups and the fact that success in the SME sector are more about cooperation, collaboration, associate working etc.. Also reasons why people go into business for themselves – personal fulfilment, mastery etc.
  • I will go home tonight happy that so many bright people want to improve, collaborate and evolve in the life they are living. I am still sussing out where I belong.
  • What is important and how do we gauge which direction we are going in.
  • Do we need to support demonstrations of positive culture/systems structures at different levels e.g. small groups, locality, large organisations – seeking critical cross fertilisation.
  • What is fundamentally wrong? I think we all agree that there is something wrong with society but a lot of what is talked about is about the systems rather than the causes. // Who need to do something? Everyone – when and how – e.g. small steps – big bang? //  Agree that it is inside the room and not just someone else’s problem. Creating change is about good leadership – people like to follow someone who inspires them, so important to have good role models.
  • What are consistent forces which undermine effective social action? //Importance of collaboration.// What are the obstacles to people bring their: Best selves to work, Competent workplaces
  • Need for a culture shift// Variation between what society thinks versus how we think as individuals // Do we really know what systems thinking is?// Small steps// What small steps can we take which might lead to a tipping point. //Be the change ourselves. // Need to share success stories.//Setting up dialogue groups across Scotland.
  • Most important – there are examples of good practice close to home – how to find and promote these. // There are probably competing theories re systems ideas. Find a way of acknowledging that without getting too bogged down.
  • Bring their best self to work.// Intermediate way points our way to strategy outcome.// Viral learning.// Society stuck in a story (do eat dog). // Both … and//Need to re-humanise.
  • I’m not clear on the shared aspiration here. // Systems thinking, modern management techniques etc.// Are all inputs? // What will change? // David got closest to this with people “bring the best of themselves to work”
  • Vision: Establish a wider view – starting too low in strategic cycle. // Strategy: What is wrong today? What are the weaknesses and threats today/ How can we define a strategy without defining what is wrong with today’s thinking. // Tactics: has to be a change in thought re how we measure “progress” to new systems thinking.
  • One question – 5 challenges:- 1. Collective Thinking (what)  2. Strategy (How)  3. Acceleration (Speed) 4. An understanding & application of modern management concepts (defined)  5. In Scotland (the target) (the hardest)
  • There is a science behind us. //There is a hunger for something more. // Developing how we measure society – very important. // Talking about individuals trying their best reflects reductionist as opposed to whole systems thinking. //  We do have to address the barriers to organisational learning.
  • Learn from others. // re-humanise. // No work/life – just life. //Bring your best self to work. // We are part of the solution. // It is viral. // 1 small step at a time. // We are all LLBs. // We do not trust our kids. // Underlying problems/dog eat dog – I am part of that.  // Genuine.
  • We have not discussed what needs to be done to achieve it. // There does not appear to be a collective agreement.// Learn from outwith.// Science – be careful with use. //Dee Hock’s leadership – 50% on yourself.  Application of theory.// Share success stories within Scotland.
  • Themes – Sense of hope when coming to common ground/purpose/ ? // Inner wisdom – the I & We.// I & We are part of the problem as well as part of the solution. // need to re-humanise – allow people to reach full potential and be authentic. // Acknowledge that failure is part of success – don’t hide failure – open up dialogue in other spaces – capacity building.. / Focus emerging journey and process rather than outcomes/measurables.
  • Wasn’t focused enough on the question. // What’s the strategy? // What are these new management concepts?
  • Can we have a very simple definition. // What is the vision. // How do we bring our best self to work? // How do we all take day to day responsibility to make a difference? // Lot of discussion – talk talk talk. // Discussion – out there – is there a fear about bring it back to simplicity – individual responsibility?
  • For me it is about slowing down, challenging my assumptions to power and moving forward. // In my corporate life I was focused on goals and targets I had no time to do this.  // Education supplies knowledge. But not how we learn, and there is now evidence in neuroscience of learning- Feuerstein method.
  • Be the change you want to see (Ghandi) // We are all connected – it is believing we are separate and that the issue is out there that is part of the problem. // What can we do as individuals (as small groups/communities) to make small changes.
  • We are as much part of the problem as the solution. // The good news is- if we change the system changes. // It is about the little things as much as the big things. // Be the change.
  • Is the current system “bad enough” // Do people really care about the way they are managed? Are they willing to commit to change? // It is easy to complain about the system during the coffee break for example but it is quite something different to commit yourself to actually change it!!
  • Individuals create the system we live in. // Individual empowerment is crucial in order to create empowering systems so that they can mutually benefit. // The culture at large.
  • The ideas are not new – why have they not stuck? // Change the whole system – top down and small steps. // Bring our best selves to work. // We are all LLBs. // Change our conversations at a time – tipping point. // change behaviour to change thinking. // Confront rationalists with rational arguments – would operating at the emotional level not be more effective.
  • For me it is not a strategy. // modelling – improvement – system // Building capacity to change the story. // seeing our own light and shade and recognise where we have our foot in the future and in the past.
  • It transforms and empowers the conversation when I own that I am part of the system – both when it works and when it doesn’t (rather than point at them from the outside).  // Every rational step that offers progress will meet paradox and contradiction – I want help with managing paradox. (not pretending there is a dependable rational solution) // Measurement works and doesn’t i.e. where responsibility is held makes the difference – scrutiny top down is not as constructive as those doing it – owning the measures (e.g. GB Olympic cycling team) as feed-back to assist them achieve their goals. //  What helps us negotiate – both – and – in conversations and in work lifew (? Value & validate difference. subjective & experience)
  • What is happening already & where – why are we not learning // What intermediate areas to go for – academia, politics?  // What is the vision – destination. // What is modern management methods/thinking and what is systems thinking. // I want to read more – and what John Raven thinks. // What underlies the way the current system works and prevents organisations and society learning? // Allowing people to bring their best selves to work. // Is it strategy or tactics. // Delivering what people want and how they want it. // The story and our beliefs and assumptions need to be addressed. // Re-humanise the work place, being authentic. // there is a hunger for change. // emergent rather than directive, experience, normative. // recognise we are part of the problem – change the way I behave.
  • Measurement – analysis – paralysis // Individual appraisal – needs/wants  // Cultural – at all levels // Dog eat Dog – is alive and kicking. // Baby steps – by individuals on needs and ? //
  • What stops me bring my authentic self to the workplace. (in service of community and individuals) .// How do I create the conditions that allow others to bring their authentic selves to the community / the individuals.
  • Attention of inner life as well. // To serve the collective vision.// Special thanks to the creators.



Question 2. How might we  develop a strategy that encompasses the whole?


  • There is a real passion for a more humanistic form of management. // I like the idea of changing what is measured to more subtle humanistic values – or are they part of the 95% of the unmeasurable. // Are we involved in a political movement of a management theory movement.
  • Even those promoting participatory process feel defensive about their patch. So how do those aiming to maximise growth and profit think about unreserved sharing?
  • Be aware of (map) other like-minded networks – organisations – people.
  • Reflections around dialogue – wondered if my own inspiration and passion for my own piece of the jigsaw was perhaps narrowing the wider narrative. // Need to engage critical mass – what is cross sectional dialogue – visioning important.// Thinking together, citizens assembly – open process and document. // How do we open out and own our part of it?
  • Need to network more.// Importance of having collective conversations. // How to give people space within corporate environment to challenge assumptions. // Need for genuine progress indicators. // managing the unmeasurable. // importance of cross sectional dialogue. // need to engage with critical mass of Scottish people at grass roots level. // Should we be a political movement or management theory movement. // need to put concepts into language that people can understand. // not everyone is as interested in learning to the same extent we are. // What is the simple message. // What is the one thing that I can do differently tomorrow. // What would this actually feel like  if we saw it working tomorrow?
  • No mention at all of the market. // Is it to influence management techniques or management culture.
  • Need to agree what the outcome would be. // need to define measures of success // identify who needs to be influenced – I think it needs to be at the highest level. // need to identify appropriate measures, some may not be quantitative, may need emotional/soft qualitative measures. // need to look at the impact of measurements as what the measures are often direct behaviours and can be damaging.
  • Political group? – NO – diverse – YES. // How do we know we are measuring the right things.// Getting to grass roots level.
  • Key outcome – More Humanisation.
  • The need to address the whole community – cascading the message out to the community. // Measuring the unmeasurable. // empathy with the customer – Charlie Miller’s story. // need for progressive indicators. // being able to let go and not be possessive of our thinking. // language – very simple – keep it simple. // web site too many words – not enough pictures.// we cannot keep living this way. //what does it feel like if this is the outcome. // how do we get to Critical Mass. // The Icelandic story.
  • Challenge assumptions.// Harvest information.// are we measuring the wrong thing. // citizens assembly.// Story telling pictures. // Vision and values for Scotland. // collaboration. // reflective space. // what does the outcome feel like?
  • It seems that everyone in the meeting has a passion for betterment or advancement in culture. // We may have different opinions in how we implement that change. // To me the overall vision must transcend but include systems thinking, but to collectively embrace big ideas. The Evolution of consciousness and culture.
  • The Unreasonable Learners needs a good simple message delivered into a story. // Organisations that are willing need to be encouraged to enable employer to have time out to stop & think about how they think. // How does the UL connect with other key organisations to be a network of networks.
  • What would the outcome be, what would it look like – feel like? // how do we concretise the discussions and anchor it in reality
  • Most interesting input from “So Say Scotland”. // A possible powerful demonstration of a novel style of authentic engagement.
  • How would we define the whole? // Regulations of drugs, welfare changes, free up individual conversations, move toward collective, collaborative decisions. // Where can we challenge norms in the environment. //give shares – 1.5m to 3.00m turnover in 3 three years. // Cascade the message// Scientific progress indicators // KPIs around the purpose of the company // Cross sector dialogue and vision // Involve a critical mass of populace – equality // Story telling and picture – visualise and simplify the message // What can we all do tomorrow to make an incremental change which may lead to a significant change process.
  • Move away from theory to experimentation. // are we missing a dimension – personality – each different type will resist change in a different way. // Africa – data – real story. // indicators/measures do make a difference. // running about without the plug in. // not everything that can be counted counts … what is the simple message? // What is the one thing I can do tomorrow? // roundabout that is hard to get on. // Iceland 0.5% of population – in Scotland that is 25,000 // Blue tits flock – collective learning. // what should this group be – or become – is it political.
  • What is the purpose/ // Less training – lead by example. // Power of measures. // More talk , talk, talk.
  • Need to involve a critical mass of people. // Many groups dialoguing about things – part of the answer is to connect them up. // What is the outcome? (is part of this) – what does it feel like?
  • How might we go about this. //Find out what problem we are trying to solve – get data, rich data. //Genuine progress indicators. (Finland) // what are the right measures. // Associate Scotland – assembly dialogues // What Manfred Hellrighl does in Austria // Let things be simple and connects with people. // Courage to challenge current thinking in organisations and society. // Need more pictures and videos of what we are doing. // tell more stories. // We are all blue tits, we are more than we think // Brand story and meaning // What can I do personally that is different? // What would it feel like when we get there? And how would we know?
  • Creative ways of communicating what is unmeasurable. // Strategies has to reflect a large number of ideas. // Measurement – making connections // How do we understand our negative forces// It is a scientific challenge// To be able to run departments where people can tell the truth // how do we create organisations that continually learn // to invent new concepts of management // the importance of the inner life – mindfulness. // consumers // Connectedness – there is a tribe out there// Pulling a bull by a thread // Doing things in communities – collective approach. // the importance of relationships – the UL is so diverse. // change IS needed. // the Power of connections. // the power of diverse thing is huge.
  • Strategy might also involve tapping into areas/groups where similar thinking is happening (possibly seeming different groups) that share similar values/ objectives.
  • On strategy: maybe too much of an assumption that there is such a thing. // maybe still need time to be an open network and clearing house for ideas. // On measurement, where do I begin? // Systems dynamics adds numbers to the thinking advocated by Senge.



Question 3


  • Systems thinking is a useful tool to assist people and organisations to think/behave more in relation to the whole system, which can contribute to outcomes like a) how to collaborate in sustainable health and social care provision or b) how to contribute to a more sustainable Scotland within a more peaceful world etc. // Our inner life (mindfulness & awareness) is as important as our thinking and our emotional life in making progress.
  • Simplify the message // Should we be working within the system or challenging it from the outside? // Can step out of the game and change the rules – or not play in them.
  • Conversations that interrupt or disrupt unconscious patterns of communication can help new realities to emerge between people’s contributions.
  • Join the dots // Communicate



What Next


  • Small steps // reach out – connect more // I am part of the system // Humbled // Bull and thread analogy.
  • What will I do // Keep being inspired by the model of Gordon’s quiet determination // Be more confident in asserting the value of what is not measureable back into the system
  • Take personal responsibility for making change // Be clear about purpose
  • Each need to think of who else we can get involved in this movement. // using social media more effectively // set up local dialogue groups.
  • For me, building positive and generative process – space for difference , for reflection and honest questioning of assumptions , for humanity  // I will do that by growing space for dialogue and the structured approaches and hearing voices across social sciences (eg MIS, Third Sector, Government etc. // following up on the assembly approach// Continuing to bring the theory into practice in shaping development.



What Does it Feel Like

At the dialogue evening on 28th January the question was asked “What would it feel like” once we have achieved our aim of having a more human society. To live in a society and in organisations that valued the individual, their creative potential and their willingness to take responsibility.


The exemplars of organisations that value their people are “Employee Owned” companies so we asked David Erdal and Jacqui Mitchell for their descriptions. From a community perspective we ask Colin Campbell for his thoughts. The three contributions are listed below.


From David Erdal

From the perspective of a manager


It feels great to be a manager of an employee owned company, because you know in your bones that every person you talk to in the company has every reason to pay attention, and absorb it, and challenge it, until he or she understands what is going on and why., I also know that each person has a vote to confirm me as a leader – or throw me out of the job. I know that if I don’t tell the truth I will be shown up. I know that when I give out information I am giving it to people who are interested in it, because it is our company, together. I know that good ideas can come from anyone in any job, and that those good ideas will be picked up and tried. I know that each and every one of us can make a difference, can influence what goes on, and cares about the way things are done. I know that with that level of participation we will outperform, give better service, make better products, solve problems more quickly. I know that we are members of an ever-grwoing group of companies like this, and that each of us has a far better effect on our community than any conventionally structured business.
From Jacqui Mitchell

From the perspective of the non-management participant


“ I feel fulfilled at my work because I’m an employee owner. I have a good idea of how the business is doing because the management accounts are shared with us on a monthly basis and my manager explains anything that we don’t understand. I understand how my contribution has an impact on the bottom line and I collaborate with my colleagues to consider means of improvement. There’s no “them and us “ mentality between managers and staff. We all work hard which means that we all benefit. I’m happy for the management team and Board to have ultimate responsibility for decision-making because we’re all consulted whenever a major decision has to be made and our views are taken into account particularly as we have elected colleagues as Employee Directors to sit on the Board.  When putting forward my views, I try to consider the “big picture” and not just what would be best for myself or my department. On a day-to-day basis, I have much more autonomy than I ever had when I worked for a traditionally structured company. I feel more confident, more energised and more purposeful!”


From Colin Campbell

In context that a network of relationships is vital for the wellbeing of a community.

The network of relationships and values that connect individuals and groups in society (social capital) enable collective action and are vital to the wellbeing of communities and to ensuring a communities ability to engage in a broad range of economic and social activities. A study on community participation funded by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and undertaken by Demos (“Community Participation; who benefits?”), examined how policies to involve people in making decisions about their own communities are effective in building strong social networks. The report suggested practical ways to invest in positive social capital, in order to ensure equality in the decision making process. In particular, it recommended that participation initiatives should make sure that the right balance between formal participation in the institutions of governance and more informal participation through engagement. Equality and transparency lead to trust and cooperation. These positive relationships and connections are crucial to individual wellbeing and essential to the capacity of communities to thrive.





The management structure has still to evolve – but here is a suggestion of the possible groups to oversee this initiative.

  1.  A “Management” group to oversee the general management of the initiative – comprising 3 to 4 members. This group would ensure the web site is up to date, especially advertising the upcoming events. They would also produce a monthly newsletter. When we have financial resources they would manage these resources.
  2. A group moderating the Knowledge, Bibliograhy, Methods, Relationship and Articles pages
  3. A group moderating the Learning pages – where there are connections to e-learning opportunities and public face to face courses are marketed.
  4. A group specifically committed to the modernisation of our education system
  5. A group that would coordinate effort in regards to campaigns – Though it is likely that individuals will seek to lead specific campaigns relative to their own particular interest.

It is envisaged that a high proportion of the development of the site will come from the various discussions that will take place.

Marketing – it is envisaged that individual participants will market the initiative and work to increase the connections available to us all from the site.

Background Thinking

How the knowledge is presented, and the structure of the learning, etc. belongs to the willing contributors and the participants in the Unreasonable Learners initiative. With commercial enterprises that are owned by their employees; the assets, stock, buildings, retained profits etc are all owned by those working within the company. With the Unreasonable Learners it is the intellectual, rather than the physical, assets that are owned by those involved.

The reference book for employee owned organisations is David Erdal’s book – “Beyond the Corporation – Humanity Working” – where he establishes that employee owned companies are much more profitable and innovative that those companies owned by shareholders. There are also huge benefits in terms of the well being of the participants.

The Second book we would highlight is “We-Think” by Charles Leadbetter and 257 others, where he explores how the internet has  enabled amazing voluntary contributions that are not tied into a demand for a direct reward. Prominent examples of joint and voluntary development include Wikipedia, which has developed into a world wide highly respected encyclopedia. Another example is Linux, an open source software community, which was set in motion by Linus Torvads, a student in Helsinki. Leadbetter describes the Linux community as the most impressive example of sustained We-Think, with ideas shared among a very large community. In the past 15 years they have developed a highly sophisticated and reliable product. This site, itself, is hosted on WordPress, a content management system for web sites, that has also been developed by the participants.

The intention is year by year to grow the numbers connected to and contributing to this site.

If we might return to David Erdal’s book on employee ownership – what is evident is that these enterprises do still require “management.” That “management” is elected by the participants who are then required  to report back to the participants at regular intervals. Conversely the participants must allow the managers to do their job and to make decisions on behalf of the participants. If the managers fail to listen, communicate and implement agreed strategies then the participants have the right to replace their managers.