Empower People to Innovate

For our purposes, people have power in their lives when they believe they have choices for achieving their destiny. Three stories illustrate how a perceived lack of power pervades our society.

A few years ago, we staged a three-day DesignShop at the Leadership Center. Among others, a principal of a Nashville charter school attended. At the end of the second day, she approached me in tears, confessing: 

Carter, I’ve felt miserable for two days, and I’ve kept asking myself why. I just realized you’ve been asking me to dream, and I had forgotten how to dream. I’ve got it back now, and I’m never going to lose it again.


J. D. Vance, the author of Hillbilly Elegy, shares many poignant stories showing how people in the heartland feel they control little in their lives. They believe they’re playing a game rigged against them. Taking any escape, even opiates seems perfectly acceptable behavior.

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Carter AndrewsComment
Processes for Assembling High Complexity Emerge

In 1981, Professor Ackoff provided the next insight into releasing high complexity’s potential. In the machine age, we believed a complete understanding of the world was possible. We analyzed everything to reduce it to its individual elements. Systems work, Ackoff emphasized, proceeds in a path opposite that of the machine age. 

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Carter AndrewsComment
Lean-Forward Meetings (or Why You Should Ban Powerpoint)

Our work at The Leadership Center revolves around the mantra “Work Together, Have Fun, Get Results.” So why do so many meetings revolve around Powerpoint? Sadly, we still see too much “Death by Powerpoint” at our world-class, nature-filled space: there’s nothing there about “together;” even your funniest memes do not last long; and we have yet to see “results” projected from a PPT.

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Jody LentzComment
What Science Says About Releasing Potential

In 1956, Ross Ashby, a pioneer in cybernetics, formulated the foundational law for governing high complexity. 

His law is known as the “Law of Requisite Variety.” If a system is to be stable, Ashby contends, the complexity of its control mechanism must be greater than or equal to the complexity of the system being controlled. This may seem confusing but simply stated, only the variety in complexity can govern complexity. 

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Tools to Cultivate Authentic Trust

In working on culture and strategy with dozens of client organizations since 2004, the word that shows up most often when they discuss their challenges is Trust. Whether it’s individual Trust between staff and management, management and executives, executives and the Board, or organizational Trust between us and our customers, vendors, partners, etc., Trust is a critical success factor – maybe THE critical success factor!

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Swap your SWOT for a SPOT

Is your organization weak, or do you just have problems?

We may hate to admit either, but reflect your reality: no one lives in a business world of unicorns and rainbows. The cornerstone of many strategic thinking and planning processes is the venerable SWOT (Strengths - Weaknesses - Opportunities - Threats) Analysis. SWOT is a useful and concise tool, but the term “Weaknesses” has always bugged me: it sounds pejorative, like a character judgment.

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Community Holds the Key

As a society, we rarely use community-based collaboration to unlock potential. At best, we try to “manage” communities. More often, we “deal” with them. Too often, we “ignore” them. We simply haven’t had reliable models to help complex communities evolve constructively. So, understandably, we default to what we know.

Releasing potential in “living systems” is inherently messy. And leaders don’t like messes. Bringing diverse people together to design a future is risky. And most leaders don’t like risk. And giving decision-making power to a community of people captured in a static system—well, precious few leaders will do that!

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Think With Your Hands with Jody Lentz

On April 5th, forty people came out to play seriously at the Nelson Andrews Leadership Center for the Think With Your Hands: an interactive workshop for teams powered by LEGO® Serious Play™. Participants walked away with new insights on innovation, new ideas about working together as a team, some cool legos, and a few new friends!

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High-Complex Systems Become Locked Up

In high-complex systems like healthcare or education, synergy underdevelops. Actors compete with crossed agendas. Issues play out in silos. Disciplines have their own professional vocabularies. Cultures rarely communicate with each other. Everything is related to everything else, but synergy—the ways things connect—largely remains untapped. Entropy ensues. The whole is worth less than the sum of the parts.

Dr. W. Edwards Deming, a professor, engineer, and statistician, reminded people the system itself—not the individual players—creates the majority of quality errors. Employing a metaphor, he explained once a factory is completed, quality faults create problems that cannot be fixed without redesigning the factory itself. Consider the example of the Avery Fisher Hall in New York’s Lincoln Center. Despite millions of dollars spent to fix the problem, the acoustics in the hall remain “out of tune.” The problem is baked in.

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The Power of Play for a Purpose

“Play for a purpose" is adult play. Play is certainly “the work of childhood” (thanks, Jean Piaget and Maria Montessori via Mr. Rogers), but play for a purpose is something we need as we grow older - there needs to be a reason to play. And play seriously.

That led two professors — and the grandson of the Danish carpenter who first carved LEGO bricks during the Depression — to create a product (and process) called LEGO Serious Play. I was on the team that launched this business line and it was the most transformative professional experience of my life. Since 2001, I’ve had the pleasure to facilitate LEGO Serious Play processes in "play for a purpose" settings with thousands of people around the world.

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Collaborative Design Dialogue

On March 14th, we welcomed Tyl van Toorn and Charlie Ursell of Watershed Partners to the Nelson Andrews Leadership Center and invited the community to learn from their collaborative design experience and engage in a conversation around complexity. The leadership center is proud to belong to a global network of practitioners in this field. 

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Rockstar Scribe Workshop with Peter Durand

On March 9th, twenty-three budding scribes participated in a full day workshop covering all the basics of how to effectively draw large-scale maps and diagrams to capture ideas, lead innovation and impress the heck out of a PowerPoint-jaded audience. Scribes walked away with more confidence to help people understand complex systems and make better decisions.

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Three Tools to Help You Do Less & Accomplish More

Who doesn’t want that, right!?

Around the turn of the millennium, I met Bill Jensen, a researcher and author, and got switched on to his Simplicity Survival Handbook, a companion volume to his first book Simplicity. Since then, I have led dozens of workshops for clients using some of Bill’s key concepts (and can do one for your team too - hit us up!) that help you cut through the clutter and compete on clarity.

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It Starts with Wicked Problems

In 1973, Rittel and Webber, professors of design and city planning at UC Berkeley, published a classic paper on what they called “wicked problems.” These problems, they explained, are largely immune from our traditional methods for managing complexity. Wicked problems, for example, include systems of education, homelessness, and climate. The professors argued that everything is related to everything else, so high complexity seems to defy analysis. We’re stuck in a game of whack-a-mole, where we progress in one area only to lose in another.

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Nashville Rockstar Scribe Basics with Peter Durand

Friday, March 9th from 9:00 am - 4:00 pm

Want to help other people understand complex ideas and make better decisions?

We will cover all the basics of how to use your body effectively to draw large-scale maps and diagrams to capture ideas, lead innovation, and impress the heck out of your PowerPoint-jaded audience. 

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Furious Activity Is No Substitute for Understanding

How many organizations are afflicted with this malady? How many people and teams continue to spin their wheels madly while gaining no traction? Judging from the weary and knowing reactions when the Bishop's wisdom is shared, it's widespread and pervasive. People acknowledge that it's real, but are they doing anything about it? Can they stop long enough to step back from their Work and understand their (the team’s, the organization’s) Purpose?

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Unlocking the Potential of Highly Complex Systems

The Nelson Andrews Leadership Center supports leaders and communities to achieve the futures they desire. With a world-class facility and collaborative processes, we help people, organizations and their systems realize their full potential.

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