A Sneak Peek into Enlivening Edge at a Crossroads

By Edith Friesen for Enlivening Edge Magazine

What happens when you go on retreat to re-invent a global organization? From my experience, it’s like walking into a hushed forest shrouded in morning fog. Even though you don’t know what’s around the corner, you respond to the silent call to move deeper. Then, slowly and serendipitously, the sun dissolves patches of mist. There is a sense of forms becoming clearer, of people coming together, of something alive that holds the forest in its arms and breathes through it.

Welcome to one segment of Enlivening Edge’s ongoing re-invention journey, which transpired in Seattle, USA, at the end of September, 2017. Five of us North American Partners participated face-to-face, and another three European Partners attended via Zoom.

There are many ways to tell the story of what happened during these three full days with spillovers on either side. This time I will tell it through the lenses of Wholeness, Self-management, and Evolutionary Purpose.

From the moment we converged on the house, which became our home for the next three days, there was a sense of joy, trust, and freedom. This is remarkable considering that, as a group, we had never worked in the same physical space. Some of us had never met face-to-face. Yet we all felt comfortable expressing our wholeness.

If you had been a fly on the wall, you would have seen us living under one roof—sleeping, eating, brushing our teeth, and playing Scrabble. You would have heard us sharing deep and inspiring stories of the passion that drew each of us to EE, and also laughing and being silly. And you would have sensed us becoming even more of a coherent team than we were before. You would have witnessed us working long hours, being incredibly productive, and free-falling into co-creative whooshes. You might have even felt the wind beneath our wings.

Each morning, we began with a group meditation. This put us in touch with the larger energy field or spirit of Enlivening Edge. We also built into the day, after each few hours of intensive focus, some break time for digestion or integration.

Our re-invention journey had begun months earlier, when we completed an in-house survey around our wicked problems and strengths. We had also converged on our strategic focus, the integrative meso-level driver we’d been missing. Now we were meeting to discuss the implications of the survey, which had been run through several lenses by the Survey Harvest Team, and to make organization-wide decisions.

Our Partners from Europe joined us for five hours each day via Zoom. When they went to bed, we did our homework. And when we went to bed, they did theirs. In this way, the spirit of EE worked around the clock. It felt so effortless.

Before diving into our meso-level strategic concerns, we took a meta-view of EE’s resources and results through a rich 12-dimension framework. This over-arching framework, a riff on Ken Wilber’s 4-Quadrant model, gave us an expandable and precise way to map our Holacratic(R) roles, projects, indicators, survey results, and evolutionary strategies.

From this eagle-eye perch, we began to see anew how everything in EE is interconnected and how it flows from our Evolutionary Purpose. We were able to discern the root causes of our wicked problems, our blind spots, the ripple effects of our decisions, and natural strategic flows. In addition to giving us clarity, this framework will continue to serve as both a foundational and a living document.

Of course, the map is not the territory, so we were introduced to a business model canvas to help us concretize our Evolutionary Purpose. After brainstorming a cornucopia of possible revenue-producing projects, we mapped one of them onto the canvas.

Self-management was evident throughout the days. While we had created a loose agenda the night before the retreat began, emergent and situational leadership arose naturally, without prompting. As well, spontaneous roles emerged—food provider, cook, kitchen cleaner, process maven, recorder, challenger, fun meister—and everyone did what needed to be done.

And, yes, there was also a party. We cultivated the local ecosystem by inviting everyone we knew. Synergies emerged, and we were delighted.

It became apparent that our Evolutionary Purpose was alive and well. Somehow, we talked ourselves into accepting the opportunity of curating the Teal Organizations Track of the Integral European Conference in May, 2018, which is an enormous project. This will be our major focus for the next six months.

We left the elephant-in-the-room for last. Namely, what happens when EE’s founder, George Pór, moves out of so many roles? Thanks to our Holacracy coach, we were able to formulate a plan B. We also realized that our Evolutionary Purpose, like water, is more powerful than any individual or collective.

We emerged from our re-invention retreat with more clarity, coherence, and energy than any of us could have imagined. And we will be offering some of what we learned and developed to other Teal organizations. We’ve always regarded ourselves as a prototype, and this attitude was evident throughout. So, stay tuned.

If something in this sneak peek into our re-invention journey calls to you, come play with us. If you long to contribute your gifts to the emerging wave of human consciousness—as it manifests in Enlivening Edge—then meet us in the sunlit forest of forests, and join your breath, hands, and heart with ours. Contact us now.

Photo credits: Jan Sage


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As a lifelong writer, Edith has worked in diverse organizations and coached writers. She enjoys helping people write in Teal-inspired ways that touch the body, heart, soul, and mind. Send email to edith (at) enliveningedge.org.