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August 26, 2011

Gone SUP’ing

I’ve swapped the fishing rod for StandUp Paddle Boards and goggles/snorkels … yes, I am on family vacation and will return home on September 9th. See you when I get back.

Tropically warm regards from Geoff


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August 2, 2011


I couldn’t resist … my background as a Health and Safety Consultant make these images as funny and they are scary! We men seriously over estimate our capacity to do things and remain safe!








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June 14, 2011

The addictive ‘flow’ of an always-online world

Johnnie Moore writes over at his blog here about research into productivity in the workplace. It resonated with me on a number of levels and this quote from Antony Mayfield got me thinking …

“… digital tools and networks can be used to loosen clogged bureaucracies and ways of working. But if we don’t think about how they are being used, don’t challenge unproductive and corrosive ways of working, they will establish new workplace tyrannies and inefficiencies.”

My use of online media has resulted in many new networks, friendships and business relationships. As my own work habits have changed (dramatically) since blogging, tweeting and Skyping, I have experienced these tyrannies and inefficiencies first hand. The addictive pull of these ways of working can lure are us into thinking that we can multi-task AND remain creative and focused. When we read the brain science and social research, we know that multi tasking makes us less creative and productive. When whole groups of people get in-the-flow of these ‘corrosive ways of working’, it becomes BIG problem.

Getting in the flow at work …

Flow states are often attributed to great sportspeople – who are ‘in the zone’. Researcher Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi coined the term ‘flow’ to describe this heightened state of consciousness when people at their creative peak.

“In the flow state … people from all professions describe feeling a sense of competence and control, a loss of self consciousness and they so absorbed in the task that they lose track of time” Keith Sawyer (p. 42) – Group Genius

Not surprisingly, business leaders look for ways they help their staff to enter these heightened states of creativity and flow. Most of what we read about ‘flow’ is that it’s a positive and desired state … right?!

(Oh, and 1 little point I find interesting … at work, Csikszentmihalyi found that the most common place people experienced flow was in conversation with others. Conversation leads to flow and flow leads to creativity. So please STOP bagging Talk-Fests!)

Addictive flow at work …

What about the times when ‘being the in the flow’ works against us? We know that flow can be fabulous, like when listening to music – immersed and so lost in the melody that time disappears!

Well, these descriptions of flow seem to describe the state we can all enter when lost in our ‘always-on-online’ world. Some of us can even forget to drink, eat and breathe when lost in these online tasks!

Whilst many books on our shelves suggest how we can enter the flow state, not many talk about how to get out of addictive flow – when our immersion in the task or behaviour is doing us (and others) harm.

The Power of Reflection …

Reflection is a human, cognitive capacity that allows us to break out of the prison of automatic reactions and patterns of behaviour. Reflection allows us to observe ourselves with objectivity. Reflection helps us to reconnect with others. Reflection is 1 way we can break the experience of flow when in the grip of habitual patterns of behaviour – some online gamers will know exactly what I am talking about here!

In his series of Mindsight books, Daniel Siegel explains the neuro-science that underpins our capacity to reflect. He introduces us to a metaphor he calls the Tripod of Reflection. Here he suggests that there are times when we absolutely don’t want to get lost in the flow! Instead we need to recruit our powers of reflection to pull ourselves out-of-the-groove.

Without any 1 of the 3 legs of the Tripod working, our reflective lens becomes shaky and our capacity to see clearly is diminished. The 3 tripod legs are:

Openness implies that we are receptive to whatever comes to our awareness and don’t cling to preconceived ideas on how things should be – we let go of expectations and perceive things as they are.

Observation is the ability to perceive the self, even as we are experiencing an event. It allows us to perceive the moment by moment interactions and is a powerful way to disengage from automatic behaviours and habitual responses. With observation we can also find ways to alter our behaviours.

Objectivity permits us to have a thought or feeling and not become swept away by it. It allows us to view our own thoughts and feeling as just activities of the mind, and not the totality of who we are.

“So the essence of reflection, which is central to Mindsight, is that we remain open, observant and objective about what’s going on – both inside us and inside others. Without any one of these three tripod legs, Mindsight becomes unsteady and our ability to clearly see the mind, of ourselves or of others, becomes compromised.” Dr Daniel Siegel from his Mindsight writings.

I’ll return to our human capacity to Reflect in my next post, but here’s a question that relates to leadership as we learn to integrate New Media into our workplaces …

“What are we doing to build the capacity of our people and teams to remain open, observant and objective about the stuff that’s going on right now?”

The Tyranny of ‘New Media’ in Workplaces … and the need to start talking about leadership!

In returning to Johnnie’s post, I’d like to bring these ‘flow and reflection’ concepts with me and introduce some other observations about the New Media revolution in workplaces (and I use New Media in place of Social Media … all media is social anyway!).

One of the most common conversations I have with clients is about their inability to access YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and even my own Blog! Their IT departments say it’s all too risky. But, the unspoken reason is the fear of the unknown and mistrust of employees. It’s really a question about leadership!

Many business leaders and managers are fearful that the New Media experiment will result in reduced workplace productivity. Some also fear that employees will start working outside of the organisational silos. The assumption (often unspoken) is, “If we give employees access to Facebook and online collaboration tools, we’ll lose control and they’ll waste time!”. The focus of the conversation I hear is always about the ‘rules and tools’ and never about the leadership. From my viewpoint, it’s the latter we need to focus on. Quite frankly, the ‘rules and tools’ conversations are boring and assume that our work is predictable

Chris Corrigan says something similar here in the context of ‘complexity’. I like this quote from Chris …

“In a world besotted with analysis, this is a tough sell, and yet increasingly I meet decision makers who suspect that something is up with the way they have been taught to reason out every situations.  Rules and tools are increasingly failing us as we become more aware of how difficult it is to manage in complex and chaotic domains.  Principles and practices are much more useful.

As to what those practices and principles are, well, it depends.  And that is an invitation to a jumping off point for diving in and learning together.”

More Questions for Leaders

I like this question as it shifts our focus away from ‘rules and tools’ and onto principles of leadership …

“As leader, who am I being that my organisation cannot be trusted with open access to new media?”

Another question …

“What leadership is needed cultivate a workplace culture where New Media can thrive?”

And …

“What do leaders need to do to integrate New Media into day to day practices?”

My next post will delve a bit deeper into these questions … once I figure out where on earth this post is going!?!?


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May 3, 2011

What it’s like to make change & bridge social capital

Like Johnnie Moore writes here, I too loved Chris Corrigan’s post describing ‘what it’s like to make change‘.

The part I loved was the observation Chris makes about the need (from some with certain mindsets) for a clear path toward paradigm shifts and social change. That demand and search for the divine ‘clear path’ and a ‘certainty based mindset’ drives a lot of what I see happening in people/groups/organisations.

Chris’ response to this in his post …

“We don’t know what we are doing.  Everything we have been doing so far has resulted in what we have now.  The work of social change – paradigm shifting social innovation – is not easy, clear or efficient.  If you are up for it you will confront some of the the following, all of the time:

  • Confusion about what we are doing.
  • A temptation to blame others for where we are at.
  • Conflict with people that tell you you are wasting their time.
  • A feeling of being lost, overwhelmed or hopeless.
  • Fear that if you try something and it fails, you will be fired, excluded or removed.
  • Demands for accountability and reprimands if things don’t work out.
  • Worry that you are wasting your time and that things are not going according to plan.
  • A reluctance to pour yourself into something in case it fails.
  • A reticence to look at behaviours that are holding you back.”

I can see a side link here to Robert Putnam’s ideas on social capital. Andrew Rixon has just written this post after hearing an address by Robert Putnam (who I was inspired by years ago with his famous and controversial book, Bowling Alone).

Robert introduced Andrew to 2 types of Social Capital. The first is ‘bonding’ social capital which are networks that are looking inward, composed of people of like mind. The second is ‘bridging’ social capital which are different types of networks with people who are looking outwards and briding the social capital between different camps.

People who confront the list of experiences outline by Chris, are most likely working across vastly different networks with different worldviews. Not surprisingly, Robert Putnam and other authors like Peter Block are more interested in this bridging social capital. This is where the ‘hard work’ of social change is found. And it requires a mindset that embraces Emergence and one  that applies Principles & Practices rather than Rules and Tools as Chris describes here.


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February 11, 2011

Farewell Gran

For as long as I can remember, my Gran has been there. On Wednesday, and in the presence of her husband Jim, Gran took her final breath. She had suffered from dementia for more than 10 years and all she knew in the end, was Jim … her true love and life long partner.

Gran and Pa have resided at the Anglesea Nursing Home for the past 5 years, and at a hostel in Frankston for a decade prior to that. It is sad to see a family member’s mind and body deteriorate so progressively and it’s been really tough on my mum (Jessie), Sheena’s only daughter.

Over the past 10 years, Gran’s death has been predicted by medical specialists at least a dozen times before. Her ability to survive against the odds is legendary. And despite her cognitive and physical frailty, it seemed that Gran would outlive us all!

Gran’s passing was peaceful and dignified. Huge thanks goes to all the staff and volunteers who have cared for Gran and Pa at the Anglesea Nursing Home.

Family and friends will gather in Queenscliff next Thursday to celebrate the life of a true Scot, a traveller and a woman who knew how to throw a party! Gran and Pa were trailblazers when they migrated from Scotland to live in Mount Beauty in Victoria’s high country back in the 50’s.

My mum put these words together this morning …

Jean (Sheena) Galloway (28/11/1924 – 9/2/2011) passed away peacefully @ the Anglesea Nursing Home. Adored & loved by Jim, her husband. Much loved mum to Jessie & Donald & Graham. Loved Gran to Geoff, Janette, Clayton & Ingrid and Great Gran to 5 little blighters! And as a true Scott Gran always said … “It’s a braw bricht moonlicht, nicht t’ nicht”.

Goodbye Gran

Love, Geoff

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January 24, 2011

Nearly 3 years on and 350 blog posts later, I though it was time reflect on the BIG lessons – those ah-ha moments and times when writing things down changed my worldview.

Blogging is about the most important thing I do in life. The craft of writing allows me to explore emergent ideas. The reading of other people’s blogs nourishes my own learning and challenges what I believe. When other’s pick up my ideas and build on them … that’s a gift. Something that my mate Chris Corrigan calls The Gift Economy.

“An idea isn’t anything until it’s been published and offered to the world” Can’t remember who said this?

So, as I reflect on 3 years of writing, here are the posts, stories and ideas that I seem to get drawn back to again and again …


My reflections & lessons from the year 2010

The day after open Space – reflecting on a 4 day gathering

Lessons from my Teachers

Rapid reflections on facilitation

Amateur vs Professional

The SLIPs – and how we collaborate across the oceans

Getting out of the way

Reflections on 2009

Which conversation do you choose?

Unconferencing – a new standard for conferences

The Art of Invitation

Space Invaders, Holding Space and Improvisation

Collaboration & Connections

Emerging possibilities & collaboration

What’s so scary?

Clay Shirky on Collaboration

Community & Emergence

Community & the Caravan Park

Starting Somewhere – a local community story

The fun & improvisation of a music festival – the back story


Noticing the Nature of things

What will it take?

When is enough, enough?

Community Home Assessment Training Model

Complexity & all things Wicked

Great use of YouTube by Dave Snowden – a range of videos that have shaped my thinking

My introduction to Systems Thinking

Agile planning – the observations of a facilitator

Podcasts I’ve been involved in (mostly with my colleague & friend Viv McWaters) …

Participatory Evaluation of a Community Leadership Training Program – with participants from the program

Using Improv to Save the World – with Belina Raffy (Maffick Ltd) and Andy Middleton (TYF Ecosapiens)

Bushfire Recovery & Community Leadership – with Viv McWaters and Nicole Hunter

Why facilitation is necessary after a disaster – Viv and I chat with Gil Brenson-Lazan

Interview with Patti Digh from ’37 Days’ and ‘The Circle Project’

Interview with Anne Pattillo on Facilitation

How stuff spreads & changes

Big lessons from a Sustainability Behaviour Change project – a turning point in my life

A personal story about food, people and change

Behaviour Change revisited


The Improvisation of Bodhichitta

Improv when Parenting

Trying too hard- a personal story

Plan less … prepare more!

Put down your clever & pick up your ordinary

Trying too hard?!

Letting go of the plan

Space Invaders, Holding Space and Improvisation

Visual Thinking & Presentations

A visual story of the “Show Me The Change Conference”

Inside the Flashpoint Forum

Conversations lead to flow & creativity – 2010 Gurteen Knowledge Cafe with the RSA (Aust/NZ chapter) and KLMF

Seth Hierarchy of Presentations

The Space between Action Learning & Social Media – 2009 ALARA Conference

Starting somewhere – a community story

The many a varied ways to communicate a story

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September 23, 2010

My introduction to systems thinking – a map by Kielhofner

OT Community Mourns the Loss of Dr. Gary Kielhofner

Yolanda writes about the loss of a inspirational man, Gary Kielhofner …

“Gary Kielhofner was a remarkable man, a visionary, a passionate scholar. As a beginning scholar, over 30 years ago, he had a dream of advancing the field of occupational therapy in order to assist individuals with chronic health conditions and disability live fulfilling and satisfying lives. His dream became a reality when he crafted the Model of Human Occupation, also known as MOHO. Gary’s work has inspired and impacted the lives of thousands and thousands of therapists, students, clients and colleagues. He made history, broke ground, and shaped the future of the profession. He shared a unique sense of pride when mentoring students and colleagues, bringing out the best in them. As a visionary, he thought of a world of peace, in which social justice reigns and individuals’ occupational performance needs are met.”

Gary’s ‘maps’ and ‘models’ of human occupation influenced a generation of practitioners in Occupational Therapy and fields beyond. As a 17 year old entering the Occupational Therapy course at LaTrobe University in 1998, the name ‘Kielhofner’ was everywhere and I struggled to understand his “Model of Human Occupation”.

image source

The basis of this model has three elements:- Volition, Habituation & Performance Capacity.

Volition refers to the process by which persons are motivated toward and choose what they do. Habituation analyses the person’s habits and routines. Performance Capacity analyses the persons mental, physical & sensory capabilities

“Volition, habituation, performance capacity and environmental conditions always resonate together, creating conditions out of which our thoughts, feelings and behaviour emerge” (Kielhofner 2004).

BIG maps and models of our world

During the early years of Occupational Therapy, I struggled with Kielhofner’s model. Now I realise that Occupational Therapy nurtured our growth as ‘systems-thinkers’ and to see the world (and the people we worked with) as an ecological system – where each part is connected. I have no doubt that the struggle we experienced early on in our study, has shaped us to see the world differently.

It wasn’t until 1999 that I started to see how much the Model of Human Occupation shaped my worldview. At about this time, I became a passionate about sustainability and permaculture. The ecological models and maps I began to read seemed so familiar and easy to grasp. My ability to apply them and ask relevant questions surprised me at the time.

As I entered the world of facilitation and community engagement in 2004, my struggles with everything ‘Kielhofner’ in the 80’s, again prepared me well.

My friend and mentor Viv McWaters once asked me, “Why do OT’s make such great facilitators?”

My answer, now, is because we were challenged to learn and apply models (and maps) of the world like Gary Kielhofner’s Model of Human Occupation.

Gary … you will be missed.


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September 11, 2010

Community and the Caravan Park

Since the age if 4, I have been part of many ‘caravan park’ communities. These communities have shaped who I have become and many of my strongest childhood memories include the people and places in them.

My parents took my sister and I to caravan parks in Phillip Island then to Inverloch (Victoria) – which we revisited for the next 10 years! Same camping site by the beach, same group of families, same 4 weeks of the year (and the same F&C’s and ice creams at Dutchies).

To these caravan parks (which are scattered widely along Australia’s endless coastline) strangers come together to their ‘favourite place’. A home away from home where everyone is equal … income brackets and suburban postcodes exclude nobody from communal activities. The problems and struggles that people leave behind diminish and the time-out from home rituals provides a new perspective. I can even remember times (during those adolescent years) when I felt like I could become a new person and leave behind the parts of me that I didn’t like.

These annual pilgrimages to distant places allow us to ‘connect’ with others and feel a sense of belonging – for me a sense of ownership and sense of place is a big part of the experience.

And here in Yamba 2010 …

I have my own family now and we are self confessed caravan park ‘campers’. Whilst we don’t visit the same park with the same people at the same time, its the connection with other people that makes any place special.

We are a social species and we seek connection with others (deep down whether we recognize it or not). This herd like behavior has been on show in our children (and in all the children here!).

Children are inquisitive and playful and they are drawn to each other. When you really watch them (and I mean really notice their interactions), they rarely say no to other. Nearly every offer is met with a resounding yes – which leads to adventure!

During this 2 week stay at a caravan park in Yamba (nth NSW), our kids are scootering, climbing and playing together. If they had it their way they’d hang out all day together … and on some days that’s what happens.

Through our children, we parents are drawn together and share stories of our lives. We find things in common and share stuff with each other … photos of our kids together, that can opener we left at home, surfboards and left over food when we pack up and leave.

Yesterday, our 3 boys (7, 5, 2 yrs) were drawn to talk with the 3 girls (15, 13, 10 yrs). These initial, tentative steps lead to playing games and sharing stories of home. Before we knew it, the eldest girl offered Ingrid and I their babysitting services so we could grab a meal together – we kindly accepted their offer and ate at the local Thai.

We then got to know their mum and grandparents, contact details were shared bw the kids. Our boys were sad to see them leave and they talk about these and girls and their family with great fondness. All that love and trust was built and shared in 48 hours in a Caravan Park. It is social interactions like these that make a place so special.

Geoff, signing off from a Caravan Park in Yamba.

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August 11, 2010

Starting somewhere …

… anywhere.

A little while ago I wrote here:

“I am frustrated with my apathy … and the apathy of those around me in relation to the big challenges of our time. Climate change, social justice and inequality are just a few.”

I have also had a run of people asking me the same question, “What’s happening with that Transition Town project you guys got started?” My response in each was the truth, “Nothing at all”. Then the automatic run of excuses about why nothing has happened like ‘running my own business’, ‘being a father of 3 young boys’ … HOLD IT RIGHT THERE GEOFF! I can smell hypocrisy.

Yes, I am a father of 3 young boys and rather than making excuses about inaction, they should be my inspiration for doing something now. When I imagine them in the prime of their life, I want them to be in a world that is worth living in. The most important legacy of our generation (the generation currently knocking on the doors & corridors of power), will be state we leave the planet in for our children.

And then an email came in from a friend of mine about the current Federal election campaign in Australia:

“Pardon my flagrant electioneering, but……. desperate times cry out for desperate measures!

If you’re as underwhelmed by the election campaign as I am, you’re possibly considering …”

And like you Scott, I am ‘underwhelmed’ and your email inspired me to do something. Read on to find out what …

Planets Align

I was sitting at my desk, stewing on Scott’s email … then 2 more email came in about this weekend’s Walk Against Warming event – National, grassroots, collective action to send some clear messages to our political leaders.

So I decided to mobilise a Flash Mob. Well not exactly, because this gathering of people has a purpose and an intent. But the word-of-mouth principles in the invitation/recruitment hold true. It’s simple, we have a time … a place … and the purpose is to take a provocative photo that is part of a message to politicians. Whoever turn up are the right people and we will decide in the moment what the photo will be. My next door neighbour has been my sounding board and assisted me to frame the invitation. Thanks Ewan!

Here’s the description of the event in viral email #1 …
“Hello Friends

“Walk Against Warming” is a national day happening this Sunday and we are inviting you to join others in a simple activity in Aireys Inlet that will take no more than 15 minutes. Here’s a link to the Environment Victoria website to find out more about the ‘Walk Against Warming’ campaign and another link to our own Transition Mangowak website that describes what we have planned.

In 15 minutes on Sunday, what do we have planned?

Using ‘word-of-mouth’ (like this email) we invite as many people as we can to be at the Spilt Point Lighthouse in Aireys Inlet at 11am this Sunday 15th August. Please use this email and the attached flier to rally support and muster the herd!

At 11.05am, everyone forms a human sign stretching out below the lighthouse – the actual word or symbol we form will be decided ‘in the moment’ … let’s be spontaneous!

A photographer, perched high in the lighthouse then takes photos of the MOB and we use this image to send a message to our political leaders. We get the photo and our messages in the media, on website and wherever else we can.

Who should come and what should I wear?

If you are FRUSTRATED by the current election campaign and tired of climate change INACTION in Canberra, then please come along and join forces with others. Groups all over the country are sending messages in their own ways.

Given the weather forecast, wear something warm … and maybe a little loud so you can spot yourself in the group photo!

What’s the campaign message?

At this year’s Walk Against Warming we are calling on all parties to commit to:

Make the polluters pay by putting a price on carbon
Replace our most pollution power stations like Hazelwood with clean energy
Create new clean energy jobs and industries
Guarantee to cut pollution over the next term of government
Support poor and vulnerable countries to tackle the impacts of climate change and invest in sustainable development.
All Walk Against Warming events in all states have joined together on these key asks to make sure that our political leaders hear the call loud and clear.

Hope to see you there!”

And here’s the poster …

Just the beginning

So we shall see what happens this Sunday. What difference will this little event make to climate policy, the election result … probably none. But that sort of focus misses to point. These type of events are about creating a sense of ‘belonging’. Events like this, where people come together to co-create something purposeful, have a cumulative effect. Over time, they build relationships between people within and across community. They provide space for conversation and reflection.

Other events like these have emerged in our own community of late. On a small scale, a monthly ‘Chai Conversation’ at the local primary school. On a larger scale, the Aireys Inlet Open Mic Music Festival.

So, starting with this week’s lighthouse event, I’m now going to do more … be more disruptive … embrace criticism that comes my way … rattle the cages of business-as-usual … be a heretic.


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June 4, 2010

I have seen links to this 8 minutes of animation way too many times on Twitter and other’s blogs to ignore … so it gets a run on my space as well! Show it to your kids and have a chat about what they see happening here.

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