Archive for May, 2016

WorldBlu Freedom at Work Summit 2016 (aka The Power Question summit) closed on 11 May with what can only be described as a moving, powerful and insightful series of speakers and activities.  Plus a Night of Honour that was truly a celebration of the best of the freedom-centred, democratic workplace fraternity.

We started with a piece of history in Arun Gandhi.  Grandson of Mahatma and leader of the Arun Gandhi Institute (

Describing – so eloquently as you’d expect – the impact of violence in the world we are in.  And not just physical violence but behaviour that is violent to the planet and to humanity.  Stories of mischief in his youth were then beautifully annexed the frame of penance not punishment.  Punishment being considered a violent act and penance a retribution of non-violent consequence.  When an everyday white lie was exposed, instead of punishment, his father insisted on an 18-mile walk home as penance for his (Arun’s) misdemeanour.  So guilt ridden was Arun, he drove at a slow pace following his father.  

Lying caused him spiritual pain through penance and not through physical short-term resentful punishment.

When Arun uttered the “be the change you wish to see in the world” phrase you couldn’t stop yourself from feeling his Grandfather’s legacy and the impact of this oft-quoted phrase was not lost – it was amplified.  It had true meaning.

“How do you follow Arun Gandhi as a speaker?”  said our next storyteller Sam Chaltain.

Well, you do so by touching people’s souls with a message of hope and imagination in the world of education.  Wonder ( is a challenger organisation (my words not Sam’s) who are creating a modern education system fit for the 21st century and our future.

Metaphorically, the opening slide – and highly emotional short film – of a murmuration of starlings gave us a sound basis for our thoughts and Sam’s words.  Human beings are not programmable vessels we are complex and adaptive and our systems for learning need also to be fit for that complexity and adaptiveness.  It’s like the worlds of Organisation Development and education collided in my head for the first time.  I had a bit of moment about that.  Something I love and know/work in and something I love and want desperately to improve and change but don’t know how suddenly felt like two forces of gravity on the same planet.

An organisation that looks to set learners free of restrictive homogenous curricula? (again my words not Sam’s). An organisation that will convert a disused warehouse into a magnificent learning space.  An organisation that teaches through projects not subjects.

And then we have the looming Singularity : The coming together of the human and the machine intelligence and capability – the ability to have recursive self improvement.

If we have enough problems educating people in the world of now, how on EARTH are we going to educate our children in this technologically advancing world?

And for whatever hype you think sits in and around the concept of the Singularity, there’s some pretty sharp predictions that this will be with us from 2040 – in the shape of us no longer being able to comprehend the technology we have is actually capable of.  Quantum dilemma ahead.

And leaving us with the most moving of films aboard a kayak watching a murmuration of starlings form and shape the sky was the perfect metaphorical end for something about individuals being shaped by life instead of individuals that are shaped by a system.

Moving stuff I can barely convey in words because emotions genuinely took me over in listening to this amazing story of what we should all be thinking about: education and children.

And as if that’s not enough we then took another step into an amazingly dark world of slavery across the world.  Children – mostly – but adults taken away from their free lives and put to work for nothing more than rudimentary living standards and threats of punishment and persecution.  

Justin Dillon talked of his journey through being in a band to discovering his purpose: to expose the slavery that exists in most every product we normally purchase and consume.  Made In A Free World is his enterprise aiming to expose those companies who have a traceable 100% ethical footprint.

That Justin emailed Steve Jobs about precious metals in Apple products and got a reply is testament to the power in this area.  

Not just a nice poster campaign and a movement of principle but a set of makers who can be relied on with products that are free from slavery.  And a tool for industries to check if their supply chain is high, medium or low risk of some form of slavery in the acquisition of materials, labour or supply.

A moving film showing a little 9 year old boy freed from slavery working moved us all to tears; when asked what do you want to be when he grows up he pointed at Justin: “like him” he said.

No child or adult deserves to work in dangerous or unhealthy conditions and absolutely no-one should be working in slavery of any kind.  Justin’s mission is to help people not just in those conditions but those who unknowingly perhaps, help it continue.

It makes you wonder at the state of the world and how money drives people to do such cruel things as trick teenagers into being trafficked and steal children from their parents.  As money is the catalyst for this to happen, money and choice can overcome it and make it truly a thing of the past.

So this was a pretty moving experience.  

And when we needed a hero, up pops the most humble sort; activist of the Occupy movement in Hong Kong Benny Tai.  A real sense of spirited journey through political and controlling administrations post the handover of Hong Kong to China from the UK.  Benny shared his most troubled times leading a movement to challenge the Government on democracy.

And yet it wasn’t about him, it was about those with him.  Benny is a force of nature but it is clear that you can see he is inspired by his mission, his beliefs and the people who join him.  To answer the call from the Lords of History is quite some personal feat.

And a yellow umbrella that signalled the resistance to force and power was most poignant.

And we weren’t done yet because those organisations that form the WorldBlu list and community had their turn.  Nathan Donaldson, Ed Wesley and Garry Ridge all underscored what freedom at work was about.  A bit of a fast-forward from slavery-supporting capitalism to a form of more humane and conscious commercial application, Boost, DreamHost and WD-40 are making good on their operating mode by being inclusive, imaginative and working without fear in hiring/letting go decisions; change and restructure and a culture of learning and support.

It’s not easy being human.  Especially in the working world we occupy now.

It’s not easy taking on the system, racketeers, a profit only mentality, controlism, fear-inducing power-hungry leaders, helping scared people and children.

It’s easier with a full heart, a clear head and emotional drive and belief though.  We need other people to help us do this and the WorldBlu community and its associations with Made In A Free World, Occupy and WonderByDesign are all showing us that the movement is to be respected and regarded.  Admired and enhanced.

We all live in a complex, adaptive system.  We all need to be aware of that and work with flow to bring the best from that complexity and be adaptive to the changes we need to make the world a really good place to be for us all.  Starting with our own self, our schools and our workplaces.  It’s becoming imperative we all work towards better and not just more.

Watch out world – freedom is coming to get you.

So I’ll leave you with Nina Simone’s “Feeling Good” for that’s what we all felt after the most amazing WorldBlu summit experience.

Birds flying high you know how I feel

Sun in the sky, you know how I feel

Breeze drifing on by, you know how I feel.

It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day, it’s a new life for me.

And I’m feeling good.



It’s Day 2 of the WorldBlu Power Question Summit in Miami and a day full of insight and conversational flow.

And it’s flow that I’m feeling. Flow as in Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi variety. The right amount of skill and pressure to gain the state of optimum performance and application to something we want or need to do.


It was this state that kept popping into my head as we addressed fear.

Fear that we might fail. That we are ill equipped. That we are not allowed. That we are facing adversity we cannot contain or control.  Fear that others will think we’re out of our minds thinking it doing something.  Fear we don’t believe in ourselves. Fear we’ll compromise our values.

Many types of fear we face in our lives and ways of working.

With the scene set by Traci Fenton CEO of WorldBlu, we worked through some exercises that defined fear for us and gave a frame to the fears we have.


Henri Hyppönen kicked us off with his research into fear.


Fear that makes us less socially connected. Fear that makes our IQ drop. Fear that means we resist change.

And most importantly for – the plus point of the day for me – keep the fear outward facing in an organisation and create safety within it.

Henri stated there is a problem with a burning platform of fear to change: people may get burned on it.

Kirsty Spraggon is a sharp minded Aussie who has previously been a high performer in real estate sales.


And then she confronted a fear live on a TEDx stage in Malibu. Something that held her back for years. From that point on Kirsty provided inspiration to others to face similar fears and the story of one woman’s outing of a fear brought all to tears.

Kirsty left us with a great thought : if you bury the fear you also bury much potential joy in your life. And an A-Emotional hum to your life does you no good at all.

We heard of the fear of slowing down and of slow generally. Carl Honore has faced his  fear of slow and built slow, calm, in the moment to his life and he’s better in a dimensions. The stigma attached to slow is a societal pressure that is leading to over or peak work, low attention spans and snatched living.

We heard of the use of the Power Question to bring clarity to bear in both leading and change by Ed Wesley, Garry Ridge and Nathan Donaldson.

We heard of authentic push backs on bullying behaviour from Miranda Ash. Overcoming a fear of loss and discovery of a place of power despite the loss.

And we plotted our own fears and made sense of an inventory of fears.

We worked through a fear in details and  shared it with our thought partner.

And then we built our story through Travis Thomas and Mat Matheson’s improv techniques.

And my “a-ha” moment?

Something you fear and realise you need some work doing to? Let it out of your head and invite others in.

People care about what your fears are.  People want to help others through things that they fear.

And back to flow.

You are in optimum performance state when you have high skill and high pressure.

For high skill read tactics, definition and determined energy.  For skills you might not have, others may have to lend to your cause.

For high pressure read a situation of fear. Of significance. Of challenge.

Then you have freedom to flow. Creating a state of flow from a state of fear is likely to lead to resolution strategies, confident application and belief.

Freedom to believe in your state of flow to overcome fear and create action.



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WorldBlu Freedom at Work Summit 2016 (aka The Power Question summit) is underway here in Miami, FL.  Yesterday afternoon (May 9th) I had the absolute honour of co-facilitating an Open Space session with John Engle (CEO of Haiti Partners) and over 40 participants at this year’s event.


Expertly positioned by John, the participants formed the biggest circle possible in our Open Space.  One by one we did what used to be known as the “creeping death introductions session”; yet this was no cringeworthy exercise: This was where each participant revealed a piece of themselves in their pursuit and belief in freedom-centred working.

My contribution with John was to create the space and share the principles of the Open Space method and let the participants drive their contribution to the event and what was on their minds and in their hearts.

I positioned the question “How do you create a freedom-centred workplace?” yet I invited something much bigger, bolder and more personally powerful to those participants: today we could change the world we live in for better work and working lives for those around us and those coming on after us.  

We had the chance to feel the power within us and ask the questions that mattered to us and the world we work in to truly make a difference.  I felt a surge of emotion as I talked through my belief in the people in that room.  From Zappos to sole practitioners; from Nearsoft and Widen to Red Bubble and GE; from Haiti to Copenhagen; from New York to Cedar Rapids.  From first timers to veterans of the WorldBlu summit.  We ALL had something to bring, share and create.

We heard from growing democratic workplaces keen to see that growth continue but feeling the tension of challenge to the model that’s made the success possible.  

We heard that leadership in a democratic organisation is vital and that decentralisation is as critical.  

We heard about the rise of work-related stress and consideration that a democratic, freedom-centred way could be a way out of this “epidemic”.    

We heard from people keen to start their journey and others wanting to build a firmer epicentre of trust to what they already had.  

We heard about more fun in the workplace and the need for more diversity in that open, democratic workplace we already value.  

We heard that innovation, disruption and a sense of restlessness was a worthy consideration in working towards a freedom-centred vision.  

And we heard that we can all spread the word of democracy at work and invite the world to be more participative in something meaningful for all.

Most of what I heard was a power in each and every participant and therefore in each and every one of us.

We rarely gift ourselves with the realisation that power is in us.  We see power in others, in social and legal constructs, in collective affiliations and in politicians and companies.

We all have power.  All of us in the room yesterday afternoon are now part of something bigger than themselves and potentially bigger than we realised we were.

We have something to do. We have others with us in spirit, in mind and in soul.  We have asked of ourselves and we’ve invited and shared with others.  We have given ourselves the gift – even if momentarily – of power.

When we think of our power we may shy away from our potential or be just a little apprehensive about our impact on the world.

My hope is that we now think differently about the power in ourselves.  That we create a fusion of energy, belief and actions that helps realise the reason we were drawn to that room yesterday afternoon.

For in ourselves lies the true greatness we deserve to unleash on the world.  

Individually we may seem a mere atom in the cosmos yet connected to others as we did yesterday, we are the universe.  

The power of self.

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Johanna Wilde is a practitioner I had the pleasure of meeting in October last year around a conference on Organisation Design.  I recall us entering into some passionate discussions as part of an Open Space group and we seemed to have equal passion and Johanna tons more experience and wisdom.  Johanna posted a smart and short blog post

And I replied to it thus:

A leader that gets people up, tuned in, energised and applied towards something meaningful and useful is critical.

I’ve seen leaders hold a place together because at one level there are leaders with toxicity and greed, power-lust and ambition and that’s been countered by other leaders being human, smart, caring and responsive to people’s needs.

The best examples we’re seeing in the world of leadership are when the human and the dignified ambition combine to urge people onto great things collectively. THAT’S great leading in my view.

So this iS another post on leadership and it’s a reflection on what a leader can do in creating a place where human endeavour

(and I used those words in Post 1

thrives and gives rise to meaningful activities, fulfilling lives and joy in accomplishment.

A place where there is freedom.

Freedom to express yourself – who are you not just what do you do.

Freedom to be creative – show us what you think the world could be like.

Freedom to be collaborative – let others around you join in with the brilliance you want to be part of.

Freedom to be vulnerable – when things aren’t as they should be, there should be protection, preservation and perseverance.

Freedom to learn – let yourself go wild and find the things that make you a better human, a better part of something.

Freedom to celebrate – when your excitement at accomplishment is unstoppable and you want to let that joy out.

I’m not advocating we have a new model, a workshop or an event around these themes but I think I would desperately like those of you who read this and who have the privilege and the position of leading to take note:

When you think about you as a leader what do you TRULY believe others will say about you?

Will they say they have freedom to express, be creative, collaborative, vulnerable, to learn and to celebrate?  Or some or even one of these?

Because if they aren’t honestly able to attest to all 6 of these, then you my friend, have work to do.

This is not an all-knowing click-bait “6 things leaders need to do more of”.

It is though a plea from the soul of everyone who needs you to lead purely, clearly and with freedom in your heart.  And if you have fear, let the fear be known and be worked on together and not used as a springboard to power, push, assertion, direction and panic.


That’s why this next 3 days of insight and sharing at the WorldBlu Summit on the Power Question are so important to me and others:


What would you do if you weren’t afraid?


So leaders, what WOULD you do if you weren’t afraid?  Would you let people have the freedom to be, in the work they do with you?  Or will you control and be the thing other leaders think you ought to be?  Being yourself without fear holding you back, could open up something new, special and powerful in all the right ways.

So what WOULD you do if you weren’t afraid..? for more and #thepowerquestion #freedomatwork #WorldBluBritPack

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#WorldBluBritPack Blog 1 – The Power in Freedom.

There’s something in the air.  Frederic Laloux used this phrase and it was based on his much talked-about work featuring in the book “Reinventing Organisations”.  Teal organisations – whether you like the phrase or loathe it – is about a shift.  A shift in the way we – as endeavouring Human Beings are approaching and want to feel enabled by our work.  I don’t even like calling this sort of thing a job anymore.  The “job” proposition has such a controlled, locked in and owned feel to it.

My good friend Simon Heath has an even stronger view than mine saying “human endeavour is what gets the hairs on the back of your neck stand up.  Work is a damp fart”.  

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I get that I really do.  We should LOVE what we do.  Even if it feels a bit choresome – take pride and feel the sense of worth, value and accomplishment in what we do.  Our machine and commoditised existence means we have created low value jobs for people who don’t really want to do the work but need the money and that’s given rise to growing distrust in people.  That we have so much management and controlling policies is because we believe we cannot rely on ethics, principles or belief in each other.

I know the receptors in my brain light up when I’m given work to do that I KNOW will have a positive impact on others.  Whether that is actually fixing something or creating something new that delivers something better or more fulfilling than before.

I’m lucky and focused on who I’ve found to work with and believe in, and what I’ve found as the things that I NEED to work on.

#FreedomatWork is one of those.  Which is why I’m delighted to be headed to Miami to join the WorldBlu collective.  Even more than joining in I’ll be holding the space on a session on Monday as the soft start of a 3 day summit around the principles of democracy at work and the pursuit of freedom centred working and leading.

That we even NEED a summit like this is a shame.  Because in many respects and for a long time, we’ve dehumanised work and we’re about to see more work going the way of machines, technology and automated devices.  I won’t go down this route because this is a post derived from my belief in the human spirit and in the sense of purpose.

Back to there’s something in the air.

There is.  I don’t believe I’m alone in this but I know there are millions of doubters and deniers, decryers and denouncers.  Yet I can feel a gentle surge of humanism set against a forceful clinging of power by the incumbents.  

If there’s one thing I truly believe in it’s that overuse of power means it eventually destroys itself; and that hope, belief, compassion and generosity prevail.  It’s cyclical.  Dark needs light and good needs bad.  Yet the rhythm and the impact of both need to provide sustainable ways.  When we face adversity, we group and work together or we turn on each other and fragment  When there is no adversity, we create it and do the same.  It’s the rhythm of life, the force of nature whatever you want to call it.

Yet controlism has had it’s time in the light and now is – in my view – ready for the dark to allow freedom to come back into the light.

If you look at the world you’d think “sure there’s some developing nations but surely we’re more prosperous than ever (despite the odd 4-year crisis every 10 years).  We’re getting to live longer and diseases aren’t wiping us out like before.”  That may be the case in some places but drug addiction, crime, domestic violence, fraud,radicalism etc exists and creates disharmony and a challenge to living without fear.

If we don’t live without fear how can we possibly expect to work without fear?

Controlism causes the creation of new forms of anti-controlism.  Wealth creation but inequality brings discord and uprising.  Brutal regimes force people to fight back and overthrow them.

So the more we try and control people at work through systems, financial frameworks, managing, contractual and litigious ways the more people will feel the discord, fight back or withdraw and fight or flee from harm.

Controlism.  That’s what we need to be rebelling against by diverting our energies to whatever brings more freedom.  I see people light up when given the freedom they need and deserve yet even a tiny hint of suspicion and a feeling “can this be real?”.  SO used to controlism are we that are unsure when we are given freedom either because we’re conditioned to accept and work with controlism or that we feel no longer competent without controlling methods.

Freedom.  It is such a big and beautiful word.  Just the sense of it lifts my soul when I utter the words “I want to be free”.  When I hear people say “I felt so free…” I have the most empathic reaction and feel enriched by one simple word.  Freedom.

If you believe in yourself and in making a way through life that matter to YOU, then freedom is important.  

Freedom to work how you want.  

Freedom to live with who you want.

Freedom to choose the way to live that creates good for others (be it financial or otherwise).  

Freedom to create choices that do good.

Freedom to create more freedom for others.

There will be more from The Power Question Summit this week from me as part of the #WorldBluBritPack.

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The Power Question is WorldBlu’s focus for the summit in Miami between 9-11 May 2016 – “what would you do if you weren’t afraid?”