20 Questions Tuesday: 192 - Chris Corrigan

A few years ago (a little over 3 to be exact) my wife had the amazing opportunity to work with 5 other incredible individuals and help re-shape an existing conference into something deeper and more meaningful.  At the time it was pretty close to assembling the Avengers with my wife playing the part of the rookie hero. One of the tried and true members of this super hero troupe was Chris Corrigan.  Chris is, in an enigmatic phrase, a presence. He holds space and extends himself to create appropriate containers for group wisdom.  I wish I could explain more concretely what it is he exactly does, but it is a very nebulous line of work that he and my wife find themselves within.  Oh, you want more than that?  Chris uses dialogic practices and technologies to harvest group wisdom about client driven issues. If you want me to go all corporate double speak, I could leverage his action items some.

Anyway… I have had a great time getting to know my wife’s co-workers and Chris is waaaay up there with the most fun and the best.  So, without further ado… onto the questions!

I am going to get this one over really fast because I think it will be a launching point for other questions. I was born in Oklahoma, grew up in Alabama, went to college in Ohio and decided to settle down in Ohio as well.  Question 1: What is your geographic story?

Wanderer.  Born in the city of Toronto where I spent my first 10 years.  We then moved to England for three years and lived in three different towns - Cheshunt, Hertford and Widford, all in Hertfordshire, just north of London.  In Spurs country.

We moved back to Canada in 1981 and I lived in Toronto for five more years until I pulled up stakes and moved to Peterborough, Ontario, where I lived for five glorious years, studying Native Studies, writing music reviews for the local paper, hosting radio shows and playing lots and lots of guitar.  

Also met my wife there, Caitlin, who was born in South Africa but raised in Vancouver.  Together we moved to Ottawa for three years and when she got tired of the cold we up and left for the west coast of Canada.  Arrived in Vancouver in 1994, had a couple of babies and then up and moved to Bowen Island in 2001 where we no live and where I hope to spend the better part of the rest of my life.  Bowen is only a few miles from Vancouver, but we have a two mile wide moat around the island, traversed by a ferry, which means that no one knows anything about us.  And we all like it that way.  

My second home is the Vancouver airport. I travel extensively doing all the ineffable things you have valiantly tried to describe in your introduction.

Clearly, within all of that, you have definitely called Bowen Island home.

Question 2: Since you are an EPL Tottenham Hotspurs fan, what the hell is going on with Redknapp?

You mean the offshore bank account and the gift from his former Chairman?  It seems like more of a misunderstanding and a naive move on his part rather than anything malicious.  But others would accuse me of being partisan - no shame in that.

But I think the sentiment of most Spurs fans was best captured in the terrace chants from the Watford FA Cup draw the other week: “He pays what he wants, he pays what he wants, Harry Redknapp, he pays what he wants!”

At any rate, we love Harry at the moment.  He has a lot of credit with the Spurs faithful and we look well set to make the Champions League again, so hopefully he doesn’t go to jail or get picked to succeed Capello. What a choice.

Honestly, I am just happy that some teams have broken up the perennial top 4.  I may not love Man City, but it is nice to see a different team vying for the Prem title.  I thought the Redknapp case died last year, and I was honestly surprised to see it rear its ugly head again this year.

Question 3: Which of the places that you lived in the past would you most like to go for an extended long-term stay (I understand that no one is capable of making you move away from Bowen Island) and why?

I also love that the top 4 are getting broken up, but I still resent Chelsea and Man City for buying their way in.  At least Liverpool, ManU, Spurs and Arsenal have academies to speak of, and home grown players in their sides.

As for places I would take an extended stay - I love eastern Ontario.  Still feel very at home when I’m in Ottawa and Peterborough, and could easily go back there.  But having just returned from a couple of weeks in England and Ireland I have to say that I think I could definitely feel at home in the Hertfordshire countryside as well.  I went walking with my dad on some old paths that we walked on 30 years ago and it felt like home to me.  That was a surprise to me, how familiar and comfortable it still felt.  Thirty years is a long time to still have that memory in my bones.

The more the perennial top 4 gets broken up, the better.  Even though Chelski and Al ManC did buy their way into the top 4, diversifying up there and in the European tourneys can only be a good thing in the long run.  The money clubs will not last as serious contenders because they are always looking for quick results.  How many managers has Chelsey had recently?  How have they been doing compared to their rosters as of late.  When you sink that much money into a team, 2nd is an unacceptable result.  Mancini will not be at City next year if they do not win the Prem, and they purchase headcases like Tevez, Balotelli, and phenomenal over purchases like Torres.  That is not a long term successful solution.

I know a bunch about the Birmingham, AL area, but it is not a comfortable place.  I honestly do not think of any place other than the Columbus area that is home-like to me.  

Question 4: So… Cake or Pie?

Pie.  Especially cherry pie.  Unless you mean cheesecake and then it’s cherry cheesecake.  Pie rules because it’s all about the crust and a good crust is hard to make, and so I appreciate the best ones.  Artistry in cake is more like sculpting and I have seen many a beautiful cake in my time that has tasted like poo.  You can’t fake pie.

Also pie can be sweet or savoury and I love me a savoury pie.  Veggie pot pie, tourtiere, spanikopita, and then sweet pies like cherry, peach or whatever has just fallen off the bush or tree in the heat of summer.  My birthday is in June, so my family always bake me a salmonberry pie, and that is like eating rosewater lotus manna straight from heaven.

It is always fun to see people’s answer on the cake or pie question, because people are typically very passionate about their answers without realizing that they have that amount of passion for something so banal.  In fact, your Treatise on Pie makes me realize that the whole “savory” aspect could be added into this question. which reminds me….
I have heard tale of a magical savory cheesecake.  It is a mythical feast born on the backs of unicorns and basilisks.  They say that the treasure at the end of the rainbow is not a pot of gold, but a savory cheesecake guarded by leprechauns and fey warriors….

I know from my unfortunately limited time with you that you have an impromptu hobby of rock balancing.  Question 5: How exactly did that hobby come about?

Well, back in the mid nineties when I first moved to Vancouver there was a guy who balanced big rocks on the seawall near Granville Island Market in Vancouver. It was crazy to see what he was doing, because he balanced huge 50 pound rocks on fine points and edges using no adhesives or anything.  

He started a bit of a trend actually and soon people were doing similar work along various stretches of the seawall.  One of my favourite evenings was a summer night when we walked past dozens of rocks that had been set up at low tide with each one holding a candle.  The candles were lit, the sun went down and the tide came in making it look like these flaming rocks were balanced on end on the surface of the ocean.  Amazing.

I started doing this little hobby by, well, just doing it - which is how I get into all sorts of trouble.  It became a little obsessive, and I have since created a collection of photos of rocks balanced at impossible angles from places I have been too all over the world.  You can see them here:

Anyway it’s a fun pastime, very meditative, a creates ephemeral and delightful art for passer’s by.  And sometimes it can do more.  Once I was balancing rocks on the seawall in Victoria and a woman sat down next to me and asked me to teach her how.  I showed her and she started balancing rocks with me.  After a while she asked me if i thought this kind of thing could save a person from committing suicide.  I stopped and we chatted for a while.  I said I thought that it probably could, because every day the rocks fall over and every day you can come back to put them up again and make a little beauty.  We kept going for a while and then I took my leave and went to my hotel for the night, a little worried for my new friend.  The next morning as I was taxiing on the seaplane past the place where we had been balancing, I saw her there putting up rocks that had fallen over in the night.  

So it’s interesting the things that can happen when you mess around with an impromptu hobby.

That is pretty much one of the best stories I have seen in a while, and truthfully, rock balancing is a bit addictive.  Little Man was trying his hand at it the last time we were in Nova Scotia.  He was pretty good too.  It seems anytime we find medium sized rocks, there ends up being a few balanced together.

Question 6: Since for both of us, childhood seems like a long time ago, is there any activity that you took part in your childhood that you wish you were able to (or made the time to) do in your adult life?  For me, it was the occasional wonderful activity of rock climbing.  I had a few sets of friends that had boatloads of equipment for rock climbing, and I was able to tag along occasionally and be a rock lizard for a day.  I kind of miss that.

Seriously?  Rock climbing eh?  I don’t know WHAT is keeping you from moving to British Columbia!

I really miss winter things, especially living here on the west coast.  Especially I miss skating and playing hockey outside.  On cold winter days growing up in North Toronto we used to play hockey up at Eglinton Park where there was a public outdoor skating and hockey rink.  Shinny games would go on for hours, from the time school ended to 10 o clock at night when they turned the lights off.  I can’t describe to you the incredible sensation I get when, back in Ontario, I hear the sound of a puck being shot against the boards on a cold and still deep winter night.  It is enough to nearly bring me to tears thinking about it.  I think I miss that the most living here on the temperate west coast.  And I long for those nights almost more than anything from my childhood.  

Funny because I actually misread your question and wrote these paragraphs about things I have CONTINUED to do since childhood.  So maybe you’ll be interested in that too.

As I think about it I guess I have to say music has been a constant, which I started late in my childhood (if 11 can be considered late).  My dad had a guitar and used to sing a lot in my childhood, all kinds of popular white folksongs from the 1950s like Pete Seeger stuff and The Kingston Trio.  I found all that music kind of hokey in my preteen years and my attention turned to Queen for whom I developed a serious fanboy complex. I started singing along with Queen records, putting on little rock concerts in my head.  In between listening and singing with Queen, I was learning a little guitar, and learning how to put my voice and guitar together.

A little while ago someone asked me if I had a spiritual practice.  While I have certainly gone through phases of “spiritual practice” I had to admit that the thing I do everyday that brings me a little closer to the source of life in the world is to make music.  I play guitar, sing, play Irish flute and tine whistle, and I am pretty competent on various percussion instruments and didgeridoo as well.  And that means that every single day, if only for a few minutes I make music, and I can’t honestly think of a day that has passed when I haven’t done that.

And also I read, which I started doing before I was in kindergarten, again thanks to my dad teaching me.  As a kid I was a voracious reader, even reading the phone book if there was nothing else to look at.  These days I read like a crow - dipping into to whatever seems shiny.  I don’t seem to have the attention I once had for sitting down with a book and reading all the way through, but I read all the time anyway - blog posts, essays, poems, articles, short stories, non-fiction, sacred texts…whatever grabs my fancy.   One of the things I love about having an iPhone is that I can read almost anything anywhere, so that is something else I do every day that I have done since childhood.  

What have you kept doing?

I started “seriously” drawing around the age of 5, and I have recently (within the past 5 years) re-picked up the pencil, pens, and markers.  That is something that I am trying to do for at least 5 minutes daily… I would love to be able to consistently carve out an hour or 2 a day to devote to drawing, but the wee beasties need food and for me to go to my job and keep the roof over their head.

Question 7:  you already answered what I intended to make my Question 7.  It was going to be “What activities from your childhood have you kept?” So, now my Question 7 has hit a hard right turn… Question 7: When and how often do you read my mind? and how did you come to the realization that you could read my mind?

I don’t know Scott.  I think it must have something to do with feeling like I knew you long before i met you.  You see, your wife talks ALOT about you, they kind of person you are and her real admiration for you.  When i finally me you I think I had a sense of a little of who you were already.  And then as our friendship has slowly grown over a long distance it turns out that we have common interests and also that we need each other to fill out our picture of the world.  For example, there are very few other people I can ask about Jeff Cunningham’s transfer to Guatemala.  So as I learn about MLS some, I have you as the deep resource.

Not to make more of the question than maybe you intended, but a large part of my work in the world is actually about helping people find this place that we have as friends, because it can be a productive and generative place…it can create things in the world that otherwise wouldn’t have any chance of living.  This interview for example. Or the work I get to do with Tuesday which, as much as it is made possible by me and Tuesday being friends, is also made possible by our families being a part of what is held.  So, perhaps it is in working like this that means I’m not surprised that from time to time, mind reading goes on.  

Also I love that you still draw.  And I still have that little sketch you made of me playing guitar.  So that is one place where both of our childhood talents overlapped.  Cool.

I keep telling that woman to keep her mouth shut about me!  I am supposed to be an enigma, a cypher, a code that only a few understand, but that wife of mine, with her yapping flap tells everyone my bidness.

As far as the Cunningham thing goes, I guess that Guatemalan team was looking for a ball hog with no vision.

Question 8: So (and, dear readers, this is about to get just a bit off the norm) when you are actively holding space, for am open space or cafe or some other collaborative process can you intuit where and when negativity or other damaging energies (could merely be super unhappy deep rooted skepticism) into that space? I ask this prior to entering the boringest meeting known to man.

No I can’t intuit these things in advance.  I am sensitive to what is happening in the moment though.  Over the years I have developed a sense of courage I guess to be able to name such dynamics.  It helps that I don’t really belong anywhere, so I can sit in with a group and just name negativity and cynicism.  I try o name it in a way that is helpful, noticing patterns or thinking in a group that is getting in the way of working together.  

Seem times people knock what I do as “touchy feely” but I have a different perspective.  I think good relationships are important in every kind of group. Without good relationships you cannot do good work because you spend all your time and energy fighting, distracting, protecting turf, being mean and so on.  Not much time left to be cool, innovative, kind, creative or productive after all that.

Anyway, I hope your boring meeting goes well.

I was so hoping that you had some kind of super-power for holding space, sense there is a noticeable container that you place around any of the spaces you are holding. Oh well, my conception of you is shattered.  Question 9: Is there an appropriate function for cynicism in collaborative processes?

This is a good question and it puts me in mind of this Jessica Nagy diagram:

Now when I am working collaboratively, I don’t mind working with skeptics, because they bring useful reality checks to the situation. Cynics on the other hand, are generally poisonous.  

Having said that, I do spend a lot of time building processes in which cynics are ultimately welcome, but it’s not a good idea to involve them in the planning of these processes.

Cynics can be converted to skeptics sometimes.  What it takes is working with them to find out what they believe IS possible and what they are holding out for. Even the staunchest cynic has a little hope (see diagram).

Interesting, I never thought of Skeptics being Hopeful Doubters, but that makes sense.  My issue is that I am rather sarcastic and often people will think that my skeptic sarcasm turns the corner to cynicism.  In truth I am typically healthily skeptic.  My cynicism only rears it’s ugly head in my belief that the horrible hateful humans who attempt to sabotage collaborative processes (I am looking at you JG and SG) can change and be helpful instead of being self-loathing process road-blocks.

So, I am sure that when you were growing up, you did not sit back and think, “When I grow up I will be a group process facilitator/host.” Question 10: When you were getting ready to enter the professional world… what were you going to be?

Dude…skeptical snark is sometimes quite helpful, if only in making me laugh. Witness football terrace culture.  Cynical snark has no place at the heart of a process.  Such witty terrorism needs to be dispatched with haste.  (Am I kidding? Am I?)

As to your question, when I was a teenager, I was going to be a minister in the United Church of Canada.  In fact when I was about 14 I did one of those aptitude tests that help you think about what you might become and it came out equal as a minister or an army officer.  Heh.

Those aptitude tests are ridiculous, because, as I tell my kids all the time, the job you will do in ten years hasn’t been invented yet, so there is actually no way you can learn it at school.  Even something traditional like a plumber or a lawyer or a pilot are all completely different jobs now than they were 20 years ago.  

In some ways I look back on that calling and I actually see that I am doing the best of what I wanted to be doing as a minister.  I am looking after the quality of groups and communities, walking alongside people as they find their way in a confusing world and asking good questions.  So in a funny way, perhaps this really is the calling I felt drawn to as a teenager.  

None of the jobs I have ever done are jobs that I wanted to do with my whole life. The job I was most proud of was “writer” which I did for two years, writing business cases for a management program.  My other actually jobs have included lifeguard, cemetery worker, gas station attendant, policy analyst and public information and consultation advisor.  Since 1999 I have been hard pressed to describe what I actually do, but “helping groups of people sort out complex situations” is pretty close.  

None of those were on my “to do” list.  The only other thing I wanted to be as a kid was an airplane mechanic, but that went out the window when I found myself cursing at basic bike repair.  It occurred to me then that I perhaps didn’t have the temperament to fix 737s, nor should I probably be allowed in the proximity of the mechanical workings of a 737 with that impatient attitude.

For the longest time I was going to be in the US Air Force and fly fast planes, but that turned out to be more of my dad’s dream than mine. With my rather healthy obstinence and contrariness, the military really wasn’t a good idea for me.  Sadly, I did major in math like my brother and my dad.  I guess the apple doesn’t really fall that far from the tree…  but a minister?  That just does not seem to fit at all theologically.  That being said, as a medium to bring people from disconnectedness to community, I could see that.

My wife would like to ask you a question, so Question 11 is from Tues… Question 11: Who is your favorite bi-racial female Art of Hosting host you have worked with who is solidly behind introducing Art of Hosting to the social justice field? (warning, she has stated that if you get this question wrong you will be punched)

Perhaps you need to update your theology, or take a closer look at what I actually do for a living, but yeah…you’re on the right track!

As to this question…Well there is a reason it is 20 questions Tuesday, isn’t there?

So I know you’re fishing for something here - well truthfully you are being put up to something - but I’m going to take the bait.

Your wife, Tuesday Ryan-Hart, is amazing.  She is a smart, warm, funny, generous and very serious practitioner of her art.  She is one of my closest friends in the work, and a great colleague and a great teacher.  We have done some truly huge work together, running consecutive Food and Society Conferences for 600 people core to the good food movement, which was a task that would have been impossible without her deep dedication to the justice angle and the harvesting work.  We have rocked social justice activists in Chicago and New York - and that is no mean feat.  We have sat in deep reflection together on issues of race and gender and power and love.  And we strolled with all the confidence in the world into an exclusive country club in Virginia and hosted 40 type A east coast social entrepreneurs in what began as a great punch line and ended as the best staff retreat Ashoka Changemakers had ever had.  She is simply one of the few who I would never hesitate to have alongside me in the work in any context.  

So I hope that’s the right answer, but if it isn’t I’ll happily take a punch, because it was a pleasure to get all that gratitude out.

She is truly an amazing person, and I am extremely lucky to be able to share my life with her. What I love about the work that you and Tuesday do is that she absolutely loves the people she works with, and, in most cases, loves the clients that she works with as well.  As our wee ones get older, I am sure that her enjoyment of her work will only grow.  Truth be told, I am a bit envious of her vocational situation since mine is a bit craptastic currently.

Since you are a person who is continually growing, Question 12: where do you see yourself targeting your own growth in the near future?

Targeting my own growth.  Mmm.  Sounds strategic.

A few years ago someone asked me what my business goals were, and my response was that I have no goals.  And that is the truth.  It’s impossible for me to know how this job will evolve so what I do is just hold questions and follow those,  some of the questions I am holding right now include understanding the relationship between talk and action and love and power, figuring out how to balance the information and creativity in group settings, and looking at how conversation as a leadership practice translates into organizational structure and design.  I find that holding these questions as inquiries leads me into all kinds of interesting situations.

If anything my business model consist of invitation and friendship.  I pay attention to invitations and issues invitations and I cultivate and work with friends.  That model has served me really well over the years, both from a business point of view and from a personal point of view.  I am a learner, and I try to put myself in situations where some new insight will strike me.  That is true of work, parenting, music, living in community, playing soccer, whatever. Mi get bored easily if I’m not learning, so the only targeting I do is to put myself in novel situations.  Always on my edge.

Seem times when people ask me what I do I say that I help groups of people live with the complexity of unanswerable questions.  When this is your core mission, work never gets boring because complexity always throws up new challenges and new questions that we have never dealt with as humans.  That is a growth industry.

Having said all that, I’m definitely trying to get better at playing centre back. Figuring out how to tackle people who are faster than me is an ongoing challenge!

Center back (notice how we can switch between Canadian spelling and American spelling fluidly, we are truly multi-lingual) is a tricky position, especially if you are playing with a 3 man back line.  The way you close down faster opponents is all about angles and reading the passing lanes.  You have to rely on guile and wisdom when dealing with a faster opponent.  That and it helps if you broke someones leg a few games beforehand… then the forward tends to dish the ball off instead of trying to get past you. Overwhelming fear is a great defensive tactic.

I feel I did a disservice to my previous question in my phrasing.  For example, the targeting for growth that I am doing currently has to do with accepting failure and realizing that is sometime necessary for long term success.  Also, I am trying to take care of my physical health more.

Back to your hosting practice. Question 13: Do you feel that being biracial affects your hosting practice?  

Well thanks for the advice on playing centre back. And my answer stands about targeting my growth.  But then I’m good at over complicating things.  It happens at centre back too.

As to the question, it’s hard to tell, given that I have never been anything else. Things is that although I have Native ancestry, I have very white skin, and so in multi racial families in Canada white skin often means ” oh good…we can keep it a secret.”. However due to a helpful great aunt (who, like my grandfather, had skin the color of burnt mahogany!) I discovered the secret.  A few years later talking to an Elder about it, he told me I was like a living treaty and that everything I felt inside, all the confusing feelings about unreconciled ancestral relations was actually useful, because I could feel what society was feeling.  The difference of course is that an individual can know those feelings while society generally doesn’t and as a result often engages in shadowy activity.  Hosting is a good way to help society deal with all the shadowy bits, but sometimes the bits that are unresolved in me get charged up, so it’s a blessing and a curse.  That’s probably an area for growth I should target.  

The moniker of “living treaty” has been helpful for me in thinking about my hosting practice, and the idea that I am hosting some little bit of the energy of the bigger field has also really helped me.

Reading back that sounds very west coast.  Is there a Buckeye way to say what I just said? If not, then the answer to your question is “yes.”

I know that for Tuesday, her biracial status definitely informs all of her hosting.  I also love the “living treaty” aspect of who you are.  I love learning about other cultures and cannot wait to spend more quality time chatting with you about our disparate cultural roots.

Let’s go deep into collaborative process.  In my brief and limited exposure to the application of collaborative processes and, more importantly, the results that come out of these processes, it seems like these methods have a great generative energy.  The resulting projects that fall out of this generative energy tend to slowly wither on the vine prior to developing its promised fruit.  To clarify: These processes seem to really generate good energy, but are hard to sustain and even harder to come to a good closing point. Question 14: Is this a phenomenon that you have noticed?  and if so, why do you think this is the case?

That is an interesting analysis Scott…I wonder if yer not doin’ it right.

The point of collaborative process is to generate sustainable and effective ways forward.  My mantra is designing these kinds of things is “I’m not planning a meeting, I’m planning a harvest.”  In other words, it is easy to create a gathering of people that have a good time together - that is called a party - but that isn’t what I do.  For me it’s about generating a powerful and positive mix of good relationships, powerful and necessary work and appropriate co-learning.  If you are missing one of these three things, you don’t get sustained smart action.

I think lots of facilitators are in love with their tools, and certainly when many people learn a new process they are keen to try it out, but if you use these things in the absence of a context of need, then you don’t get action planning, you get commitment ceremonies.

For me, meeting design is about process design, and any given meeting is embedded in a context of need.  Why do we need to do this?  What are we putting in place up front to ensure sustainability?

Also, it’s important to notice that in complex situations we can’t know in advance what the answers are, so it is important for some actions to whither on the vine. We call those “safe to fail initiatives.”  in other words, if you are putting the pressure on every little idea to be the right and correct way forward, you will miss the possibility of learning from and adjusting to things that don’t work.  In working in complexity, failure is as important as success, and without that good generative energy, failures can often rip a system apart.  When people are in good relationship with one another, the system becomes more tolerant of failure and is better able to embrace it, and learn from it.  Failure becomes as important as success for moving forward.  That is a good definition of resiliency.

Another thing: we often measure results in limited ways, making it hard to see changes that have actually happened.  Sometimes the desired results don’t occur, but many other changes have taken place within a system.  We have to learn to look at those, and work with results in complex ways, not merely identifying the causes and effects that we can see.  Complex system contain many invisible relationships which are far outside of our control, but which have important consequences for planning and action.  Willful blindness to these dynamics creates a kind of delusion that contributes to the assumption that we know what we’re doing.

Lastly, to your point about closing.  Some things have a life span and some things don’t.  In complex and evolving systems, there are no finish lines.  We move from start line to start line, heading in a general direction and learning as we go.  For example, you can work for world peace, but if you measure your success by whether or not you stop every war, you will be sorely disappointed.  Also, if you DO stop war, you can’t just sit back and put your feet up…the work continues.  In this world right now we have an obsession with finish lines that sometimes is unhealthy.  Things are so geared to outcomes that we forget our place in the world.  We tell our funders or our bosses that we have more power over the context of our work than we do, and when things don’t work out the way we promised, we blame others.  It’s not helpful.  My biggest wish for the world is that we would learn to think about complexity properly and learn how to take appropriate action in a complex system.

An example.  If you are a professional centre back, does it makes sense for you to have a contract clause that says you will make five sliding tackles in every game? Of course not, because the circumstances and situations in every game are different.  You COULD go out there and get your five sliding tackles, but that has nothing to do with the game or the result. You could even keep to that contract clause for a whole season and yet concede 7 goals in every game, and you’d still be a success by the standards of your narrow definitions of outcomes.  That is the kind of thinking that powers the world at the moment (thank you “management by objectives”), and collaborative process, especially tied to the needs of working in complex systems, helps to give a new view to things so that we can act more appropriately and effectively.

That all makes good sense.  In my experience, I have seen a few ideas get caught in the generative energy.  Basically, I think (for those times) in the generative space, people over-estimate their level of energy for a project.  

So, Question 15: In your opinion, is there an optimal number of people for collaborative processes?

Now that I think about it, I think it’s not really true that energy is generative if it catches ideas like a whirlpool.  That is a kind of trap.

As to optimal sizes, it all depends.  Innovation generally starts with individuals, so I like to build time into to processes for people to just be quiet and think for a bit.  Small groups can help refine and test good ideas, and large groups can help propagate ideas and connect them to larger patterns.

In small group work, in general, working with an odd number is helpful because it creates an instability that keeps the group moving.  If you want solidity, you work with even numbers.  So it goes like this:

1 = innovation, idea generation, inspiration and commitment
2 = Pairs are good for long and exploratory conversations, interviews, and partnering
3 = Good number for a small team to rapidly prototype a new idea
4 = A good number for a deep exploration.  You benefit from having two pairs together, and from having a little more diversity in the group than in two.
5 = good number for a design team; there is always an instability in a group of five and good diversity, but the group is not so large that people get left out.
6 = Good for noticing patterns, and summing up.  A group of six can be entered from three pairs coming together as well, allowing for insights gathered in pairs to be rolled up.
7 = At this scale we are losing the intimacy we need for conversation, and so generall I will work a group of seven into 3 and 4 if we need to break up.
8 = is too big.  And it is no coincidence that big conferences are boring, because most hotels have tables that can accomodate 8, 9, or 10 people which is too many for real conversation.  At these scales, people start to be able to dominate and introverts dry right up.

It is a good practice to use a huge group (like in the dozens or hundreds) to source the diversity that is needed for good dynamic small groups, and then to find ways to propagate ideas from the very small to the very large.

This is good…I’m going to go post this on my blog now!  Thanks for asking the question!

I live to serve.  I have often been credited by people who are uncreditable for helping them flesh out ideas merely by saying things like “Huh?” “I don’t get it,” “Say again,” and “are you gonna eat that?” It is a talent.  Sometimes I just need to walk into a room and pause beside them.  I am an idea catalyst by my very existence…

Seriously, that answer seems to make super great sense.

Which leads me to ask Question 16: Bearing in mind your previous answer… What is your specific sweet spot?  Of those numbers 1 through 8 numbers, is there 1 or 2 sized groups where do you most enjoy seating yourself as host and processing?

I’m partial to five for lots of things.  And I like 1s and 2s as well.  You know it really depends on what we are doing, so it’s hard to say what my favourite number is.  2 is perfect for a date.  3 is not.  4 is perfect for a double date. 5 is awkward.  6 could be good for a triple date, but that seems culty.

Context matters, y’dig?

"Culty" is now a word I will use… That one has made it into the everyday usage lexicon (unlike “lexicon” which is only brought out for special occassions, much like the good silver).  Context always matter, but I think your gut reaction to 5 speaks to the type of group work you enjoy most.

This is the last random question for this 20 Questions.  Q’s 18, 19, and 20 are prescribed to cap off the 20 Questions.  So, I will try to make Question 17 count. Question 17: When are we going to see another match?  I mean seriously, that needs to happen this spring/summer sometime maybe 4-28 for Whitecaps at Crew (only Crew v Whitecaps game this season) or some other game at BC Place?

4/28 will be tricky to make, because my son will be playing in an Ultimate Tournament in Seattle.  But I wouldn’t completely discount that possibility…let’s just see.

As for coming here, you know, anytime.  And you will be my guest.  I share six season’s tickets with six other guys and we divide them all up and all get to see a fair number of matches.  We have great seats on the edge of the supporters section, on the 18 yard line.  Right in the atmosphere and the glory of the Southsiders, of which we are members.  With my travel schedule this year, I think I can only make 7 home games (not counting CONCACAF Champions League which we will certainly qualify for this year!).  My son and I are heading to the opener tomorrow against one of all time bitter rivals, the Montreal Surrendermonkeys.  

Going to watch the Crew with you and Tim Merry last year was a delight, and I hold out for the day when we get to watch Vancouver and Columbus do battle live (or who knows, Spurs/Fulham…?). I think our friendship will not only survive that test, but be strengthened by it.

And by the way, what is the stake on this year’s game?  Last year you won a BowenFC shirt and a sweet Whitecaps scarf off me.  We are a better team this year, but I we’ll see how our road record in the eastern time zone is.  So what would you like to win off me this year?

Ha!  I would love for you to get here for the 4/28 game.  Since it is so soon, I was kind of coyly throwing it out there, but if it sticks, you are more than welcome!  It is too bad that the crew and the ‘Caps are only meeting once this year.  I totally dug grabbing a game with you, your lovekly wife and Tim this past year.  I liked it even more since the Crew beat Colorado.  This year, I think we should slip back into something less permanent like food… who doesn’ like food?  I proudly wear thr Bowen FC shirt all the time, and the boy loves the scarf. I am also proud to say that Vancouver has taken over for Houston as my “away team I follow.”  So let’s go caps.  Your team this year seems to have some really amazing personalities on it, and I hope that they are able to gel into a strong cohesive unit.

Turn about is fair play… and I am a bit nervous about this question… Question 18: Is there anything you want to ask me?

Okay. Food it is. Some kind of smoked salmon for you. How about a box of those crazy good Buckeye chocolate things from you?

As for a question for you.  Let me pick up on that nervous bit. I have a favourite question from Peter Block that is right for these kinds of occasions. What is the gift you have for the world that you haven’t yet offered us all?

Done and done..  That stuff is called Buckeye Crunch and is made by the Krema Nut Company… next time you are in town and not crazy always busy, we should go there and take a look at the wares.

As for the answer to your question…. for the world: I do not have the mathematical chops to extensively and rigorously test a theory that I have that would shore up a fundamental piece of mathematics.  It has to do with Bertrand Russell’s paradox as seen in his treatise on set theory.  More specifically it has to do with sets and compliments of sets.  To get the full theory, libations are necessary and graph paper… you can always use graph paper.

On a more local scale, I do not feel (at the risk of sounding pompous) that my overall potential for graphic recording/ graphic facilitation group and participatory process harvesting has not been even remotely tapped.  I feel I have a far different perspective that I could offer in that type of role… if only AoH type of work had a strong benefits package…

Question 19:  What are you taking out of these 20 Questions that you didn’t have with you when we started it?

Wow. Those answers were good. I have no idea what you are talking about with the first one - so yes, libations seem important. As for the second, it is true that hosting practice has limited benefits, but they are great benefits. Anyway when you move to Canada you won’t have to worry about health insurance. So that will free you up.
What have I learned?  Well considering that we started this a while ago and the restarted it, I’ve been the beneficiary I something like 52 questions from you.  I think I’ve learned how much I enjoy staying in touch with you, bit of banter, bit of serious chat. I’ve learned more about you, and it’s all good!
So less learning and more rediscovering our friendship. Glad we’ve taken the time to do it. And I look forward to spending some face to face time together. I’ll see about scheming up an excuse with your partner for getting to Columbus during football season. See if Renteria is really all that!

Renteria can be a beast, but he needs someone to run off of, so the 4-5-1 is not his best formation. I have enjoyed the absolute heck out of this one.  You are a deep and wonderful person that I am happy to have met, and extremely fortunate to get to know more thoroughly.  I look forward to our increased connection and watching some footie with you.  What this has done for me is really let me know that I need to make a greater effort to keep in touch.

Now for the last question.  It is open-ended and awesomely vague… Question 20: So, what’s next?  

What’s next… Things unfold, stuff happens, calls come and I go and try as best as I can to help serve the longing that humans have to be whole, for their interior lives to count for something just as their exterior actions matter too. And to dive into it with friends, this is the greatest gift of my life. So I’m off to do that, in Minnesota, Chicago, Toronto, Calgary, Slovenia, Denmark and in who knows what other places near and far.
It’s a pretty sweet life, and I’d be a fool not to just ride it with  a wave of gratitude.

Thanks for asking. Good questions!

The pleasure was all mine.  This was absolutely great!

To recap:
The wife is in Minnesota right now with the good Mr Corrigan
I am a little jealous of them both at the moment
Except they are working like dogs right now
I think for the 6.5 days that my wife is in Minnesota she has approximately 3 hours of free time
And somehow she has to find time for hygiene during those 3 hours
The wee ones are doing well
And eating like royalty
It really is the “This is the food the kids love” week
Mainly because I don’t want to deal with the grousing
Went to the physical therapist about my feet yesterday
The therapist did this weird stretch on my right foot that allowed my foot to work better
It was amazing
I am seriously surprised I was able to get that level of change with one crazy stretch
Then they used ultrasound on my feet to help reduce the inflammation
It was really surprising
yet, my feet are sore and tired today
Chat with you yokels later
If anyone wants to ask me to hit them up for questions when I am not doing these interviews
Leave a comment or get in contact with me
If anyone wants to be asked 20 questions by me, also let me know
I have a few more interviews going on right now, but I could use a few more
It is always nice to get some new perspectives
Have a great weekend everyone!