Fernando Flores new offerings

Many of my readers know that I worked with Fernando Flores for over 20 years in a variety of companies and roles. I am his student, admiring colleague, and friend.

Now that he has completed his term in the Chilean Senate, Fernando has begun to roll out new educational offerings. He has started to deliver the new program he has been thinking about for some time now, with a center of operations in the US. His central premise (my summary) is that there is nowhere available today an educational program that addresses the challenges of the most serious problems facing us in the world today — working across enormous cultural and geographical distances, and building programs (and people) with the kind of  ‘staying power’ to keep thinking about and developing approaches to problems that will not be swayed or stopped because some groups have found compelling sound-bytes and mastered techniques of speaking ‘loudly’ in whatever media.

To address this need, he has built a short workshop that introduces the program, a four-month long course about working effectively in small groups, and is at this moment piloting the second of what he expects could eventually be a set of four or five courses.

I am currently participating in the first of the four month long courses. I’m convinced that his diagnosis about the dimensions of education and preparation for working in the 21st Century that he is thinking are on the mark. And, I have been very impressed by the accelerated learning that takes place in the environment that Fernando and his colleagues have designed. The combination of a rich philosophical context, guided play and discussion, and the use of a virtual reality environment for interaction gives a place for learning that is both full of challenges and at the same time allows students to take risks and develop new practices fast without risking their identities in their normal workspace. Most participants report important results developed very quickly.

If you have followed Fernando’s ideas and writings over the years at all, and found or suspected that important benefits were possible there, I strongly recommend that you contact Gloria Flores at <gfloresletelier@gmail.com> and discuss with her how to participate in the emerging new work.

The following are introductory comments from Pluralistic Networks’ introduction to their offerings. Pluralistic Networks’ website can be found at http://www.pluralisticnetworks.com. The name comes from the observation that important work all over the world must come from teams of people assembled from deeply varied communities, backgrounds, and training, and those people must learn how to come together and work effectively with each other very quickly. There is no way for us to all ‘grow up in the same village together’ in order to learn to work effectively together.

Our Introductory Session is currently called Building and Thriving in Pluralistic Networks — A New Approach for Learning Critical 21st Century Skills.  It will take place in SF on Feb. 23rd – 25th.

This session is an intensive three day conference led by Dr. Fernando Flores.  During the three days, participants will experience a new way of learning that combines Virtual Reality Games, Guided Reflection and Discussion, and grounded theoretical work to constitute a Virtual Reality Learning Laboratory that enable our students to rapidly develop new skills and sensibilities that are critical for our world today.  During the three days, participants explore:

-the skills and sensibilities we must cultivate to build stronger relationships and act effectively with others in a global, complex and constantly changing world.
-the use use new networked technologies as learning environments for developing new skills and sensibilities.
-their own abilities to work effectively with others, including the behaviors that may get in the way. Throughout the course, participants engage in hands-on group exercises using a virtual reality game environment, and emerge not only with a new awareness of themselves and the skills they need to cultivate, but also with a sense of ambition as they begin to articulate a personal roadmap for learning to navigate in the world of pluralistic networks.

The WEST program (Working Effectively in Small Teams) is our Four Month Learning Laboratory focused on working in teams.  This program is not what you might expect from a “team building” type of course; but rather, our focus is on developing an awareness of how we invent our identity with others, and on learning new skills and sensibilities that enable us to not only coordinate more effectively with other people, but also to build trusting relationships and to be more sensitive to each others’ moods and emotions.  Our students work as teams, and in the process of engaging with each other, they discover what works and what does not work in the way they build their relationship with their team mates (and in real life) for the sake of completing their missions.  The program includes exercises that allow our students to begin to develop the ability to observe themselves in action, not get triggered by negative emotional reactions, and begin the process of cultivating emotional fortitude — the ability to cope with adversity, change and uncertainty as a routine part of life.

When he finished his term as a Senator, the Chilean Government asked Fernando to do several interesting things that I am sure he will share with students and in his blogging when the time is right.
Advertisements

Recommending Russell Bishop’s new book, Workarounds that Work

Russell Bishop and I have followed each others’ work for decades, but only recently did Ron Kaufman introduce us. I recommend to your attention his new book, Workarounds That Work: How to Conquer Anything That Stands in Your Way at Work. His website is here, and his bio at the Huffington Post is here.

I first encountered the word “work” in the way that Russell addresses and plays with it in his book when my father gave it as his excuse for not being available to play with me when I was a child. He said, “I’m sorry, son, but I have to work.”

That caught my attention. What was this mysterious thing that was taking my father away from me? “Work” has been interesting to me ever since, at first as an enemy of my relationship with my father, and later as a central issue in all of our lives.

In the middle of this era of vilifying theory and worshiping practice*, it is inevitable that this book must be positioned as a book about practice and emphatically not about theory, but really I think that positioning hides some of the most important things that the book is about.

Russell is a wise and experienced man who has started several companies that have made huge contributions to very large numbers of people. He is also an editor and regular blogger at the widely-read Huffington Post. He knows well the substance of the old and oft-quoted adage, ‘…to practice without theory is to sail an uncharted sea; to work with theory without practice is not to set sail at all.’

In his book, to make it a happy one for a modern reader, Russell puts the practice in the foreground and the theory in the background and the spaces between the words.

A better way of talking about this book, at least for me, might go something like the following.

In Workarounds that Work, Russell models – in his way of speaking, in the way he reveals himself, in the examples he brings, and in his recommendations – a way of being that revels in the challenge and joy of work, and does not flinch nor whine about the myriad roadblocks that inevitably confront anyone trying to do anything serious in life. He is a joyful warrior in the middle of the mess of modern working life. Russell shows clearly the power of humility, gratitude, an indomitable spirit, a commitment to find alternatives and not remain stuck in ruts, and the soft underbellies of the enemies we face in everyday working life.

I often say that the fifth of my story about five great generators of waste in our modern working world – the interpretation that we are doomed to a kind of indentured servitude called ‘work’ – is the nastiest and most destructive. ‘Thank God it’s Friday’ – the announcement that we toil away five days of every week just waiting for a brief respite of freedom and meaning each weekend – is our declaration that we consider 5/7ths of our lives wasted. A tragedy.

Russell’s book is an antidote to work as toil, and full of good things.

*(My aside: Vilifying bad theory is may sometimes be worthwhile, and can be satisfying, and the fields of management and leadership are particularly full of bad theory.)