Creating the Conditions for Emergence

Posted by  GeoffBrown —August 1, 2011
Filed in Facilitation, Living Systems & Complexity, Space, Sustainability

“As Bloom once told a reporter: “We were looking for exceptional kids and what we found were exceptional conditions”. […] The “exceptional conditions” we found can be summarized under the headings of opportunity to learn, authentic tasks, and exceptionally supportive social contexts.” ~ Lauren Sosniak, p289.

I found this quote here in Doing What Works in Solutions Focussed Change and it got me thinking about my work, parenting and change.

In my last post, What are you a student of right now?, I shared this little word-graphic on the fields and practices that shape my learning …


As parents we pay attention to our children and hope that they will end up happy, with a healthy mix of self confidence, resilience and empathy toward others. We are also blind to much of what others, outside of the family unit, can plainly see. Lately I’ve been playing around with some ideas and they are all about cultivating the right conditions at home … conditions that allow my children to learn, make mistakes, say yes more often(!) and reflect. The quote above has me determined to experiment a little more and be much more playful along the way.

Here are some things I am playing with to help create more ‘exceptional’ conditions …

– Play improv game more with my kids and get them comfortable with the discomfort of ‘not knowing’ the next step, the script and in co-creating something in the moment with each other

– Use Playback Theatre methods (like Machines) to allow them to explore and express emotions by using their bodies and movement

– Open up daily times for reflection (conversation) on events and moment that occur during the day. Sometimes we find out about a significant event that happens at school weeks later. As parents we ask “Why didn’t they tell us about this?”. Well, maybe in the hectic day 2 day schedule of life, we didn’t provide them with the opportunity to open up and share these precious moments

– Play more ‘noticing’ games that orient the focus of family attention to the present moment. The stuff that is unfolding right in front of our eyes now … the bird tapping at the window … The wind in the trees … The silence of the moment. This requires that we, as parents, be present first. That our kids hear and see us being absorbed in the moment.

These all appear to be simple, small things. In practice they are actually very challenging. Creating the types of conditions needed for our kids to thrive has a key question at it’s heart … “Who am I being, that my children need me to be?”

I can’t remember where I heard this little lesson, but it comes from Theatre … “Act like people are always watching, even if no one is there.” This lesson was in reference to a live performance where actors played out scenes in many rooms of a house. The audience moved from room to room, at their own pace, in their own time. Many rooms contained only actors and no audience, but the performers kept on going … as if the audience was present.

Imagine if we all, as parents, as leaders, as friends, as co-workers, acted with integrity and honesty … even when no-one is watching.


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