Five Things To Walk Out Of (and Five Things To Walk On To)

Meg Wheatley and Deborah Frieze's latest work, Walk Out Walk On, takes you inside seven communities around the world where people walked out of limiting beliefs about change, leadership and their own potential, and walked on to experiment with new beliefs and practices that made it possible to solve seemingly intractable problems. The book focuses on seven common assumptions that, if challenged, can liberate people’s creativity and capacity. Five are offered here to stimulate your own thinking; see what they provoke from your own experience.

1. From Power to Play
Most leaders believe that people are not self-motivated, that without directive control, no work gets done. They use external means, both punishment and reward. Yet when people are engaged through imagination and play, creativity blossoms in just about everybody. Seemingly impossible work is accomplished, and we experience joy both in the process of working together and in the results we create.

Question: Have you experienced times when your imagination, playfulness and creativity blossomed? What conditions led to this?

2. From Efficiency to Resilience

Conventional attempts to solve problems of scarcity focus on efficiencies—attempting to do more with less by cutting budgets and staff, minimizing resources, optimizing outputs. Yet resilience is achieved through a wide variety of small local actions that create the capacity to adapt to unending challenges.

Question: Think of times you have been adversely affected by the efficiency mindset. What have you learned? What, in your experience, creates the capacity for resilience?

3. From Hero to Host

When a community stops waiting for a hero to save it, it discovers internal resources and solutions to solve otherwise intractable problems. Using collaborative processes that rely on everyone’s contribution, people create long-term solutions that they fully support.

Question: How often do you play the hero, wanting to help people by rescuing them? How often do you trust other people to come up with their own solutions?

4. From Transacting to Gifting
Today’s transactional culture promotes self-interest and scarcity; people strive to take as much as they can and accumulate more than they need. In a gift culture—common in most traditional societies—people know they’re interdependent. When we give to one another, we are gifting to ourselves. Generosity prevails and money loses its disruptive power.

Question: How are the demands of consumer culture impacting you, your family, your work? Have you experienced times when gifts of service or work were freely offered, no strings attached?

5. From Scaling Up to Scaling Across
Taking things to scale doesn’t happen vertically through one-size-fits-all replication strategies, although this is today’s dominant approach. Change happens as local experiments move horizontally through networks of relationship, scaling across communities and nations. People become inspired by one another’s discoveries and create their own initiatives; they also support one another as pioneers.

Question: Do you know of small local efforts that grew large not through replication, but by inspiring others to keep inventing and learning?

Thoughts? Reactions? Ideas?