Connecting More Deeply

July 19th, 2016

ConnectingMoreDeeplyI’m riffing some ideas here based on the four themes we’ve been exploring for Creative Leadership:

Having bolder conversations
Connecting more deeply
Engaging the resistance
Staying alive

This is one of those things that’s easy to say, hard to do. We all like to think we’re okay with change, yet when it comes to the crunch, we all struggle in our own ways. I do, that’s for sure. I love travelling. Yet, on nearly every single trip – no matter where, no matter how good, or how exciting –  at some stage I wish I was home. I yearn for the familiar.

I guess the familiar equals safety. I can’t imagine what it was like for my ancestors to be bundled onto boats and shipped across the planet to an unknown, unfamiliar country. I can’t imagine what it’s like for people to do that today.

Connecting more deeply works for me at a number of levels, not just personal. It’s also about connecting to myself, being aware of my own needs, and also connecting to place – finding something in an unfamiliar place or even, emotional territory, that I can connect to.

This August, I’m lucky to be able to reconnect with some dear and loved friends from around the world. Just being with them will remind me what it’s like to open myself to change. Maybe that’s what we all need – to spend more time with people. One of my favourite ways of connecting is through play. As adults, we often don’t have the time, or the people, to play. Sometimes we think we don’t have permission to play. There will be plenty of play at our leadership workshop in Cambridge, August 31 – Sept 2. You betcha.

It’s true – mistakes are more fun

September 24th, 2013


As I enter my last week in England for this extended trip, we finally found a convergence of people, time, weather and willingness to go punting on the River Cam. There was an element of relief – how could I spend a summer in Cambridge and not go punting? And an element of anxiety – this was something I’d not done before. It was a nice reminder that any new experience creates some level of anticipation and fear.

Our experience of punting ranged from some to none, our skills unknown. We might end up in the river instead of calmly gliding along on top of the river. There were obstacles – other boats, trees, bridges, stinging nettles, ducks and dogs. We got up close and personal with all of them.

And we laughed so much my sides hurt (or maybe that was from lifting the pole).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe made lots of mistakes – what Simo calls ‘happy mistakes’. That’s Simo there trying to avoid the stinging nettles. We each figured out what worked best for us, we crashed into the bank, weaved across the river, stopped and watched in awe those who were effortlessly steering their punt down the middle of the river. We disentangled the pole from overhanging trees and pulled it out of the mud just in time. All the time laughing and having fun. And learning how to punt.

As our competence grew, there was not so much laughter. More tranquility. Enjoying the glorious weather. Satisfaction in achieving what we set out to do.

If you’re going to try something new, pick your colleagues wisely – people like Johnnie Moore, Simo Routarinne and Barbara Tint. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPeople who will laugh with you, who will let go of mistakes you, and they, make, who will have fun, and be there to catch you if you fall.

Fail often, and quickly, and laugh a lot.








Waking up in Cambridge

July 9th, 2013

This morning I woke up in Cambridge. That would be Cambridge in the UK, my home-away-from-home for the next three months (with a huge thank you to Johnnie Moore for providing said HAFH). Just in Cambridge itself there’s lots to do. I have a bike to get around, some familiarity from a short visit last year, maps (just in case) and oodles of daylight. I am loving the long hours of daylight. Then there’s London, less than an hour away by train. And there’s all the people I’d like to catch up with. Oh, and espresso martinis – I have the challenge of discovering the best espresso martini in London (for the record, the best in Melbourne can be had at Nobu Bar on Southbank). Of course, I take these challenges seriously and have co-opted Kay Scorah to help with said search. (Who wouldn’t co-opt a conspirator who has a web site called Have More Fun!?)

Pete has already cycled across France and is about to enter Switzerland on his epic cycling tour across Europe. My image of jumping on a cheap flight to catch up with him has been shattered by the reality of last-minute bookings that are not-so-cheap and the lure of train travel (a much more attractive option) that is even more expensive. Sigh. I’ll figure something out.

On the work front, Johnnie and I have just completed a week’s training on action learning. Not your usual training gig. Not your usual training. Lots of thoughts and ideas tumbling about my brain after that. Lots to write about, one day soon.

And who knows what else will come up in conversations, random meetings and while day-dreaming on planes or trains?


December 10th, 2010

If yesterday’s prompt was hard, this one is a no-brainer. What social gathering rocked my socks off in 2010?

I’ve mentioned The Slips before, here.  We had just completed a few days work together. It was our final evening as a whole group staying in an apartment in the city. We’d been out to dinner each night, and finally exhaustion (or if the truth be known, the introversion of a couple of us) kicked in and we simply wanted a night in, to chill out and relax in each other’s company. Pizzas ordered, a few bottles of wine opened, a few beers, some nibbles. Everything for a great night in. Nothing remarkable there.

Then someone mentioned we needed a theme song. Out came the guitars – played by the talented Chris Corrigan and Geoff Brown. And the whole evening rocked from then on. We share a common interest in improvisation, so it was no surprise that improvised singing was the order of the night.

Johnnie describes his memory of the night: “I suspect we’ll all fondly remember the after-gig entertainment in Melbourne where we improvised a self-mocking song to mark our first shared collaboration, and I mischievously smuggled its chorus into an apparently serious radio interview the same evening.”


I’m taking part, with 3000+ others, in a 31-day blogging challenge called #reverb10 to reflect on the past year and explore hopes for the coming year. You can read more about it here. December 9 – Party. What social gathering rocked your socks off in 2010? Describe the people, music, food, drink, clothes, shenanigans.

Finding love through improv

May 22nd, 2010

William Hall, founder of BATS Improv in San Francisco, wrote about finding love through improv. He says: Improv is one of the most playful things we can do as adults.  It combines fantasy, role-playing, social interaction and the excitement of performance.  It’s an emotionally charged activity.

Is it any wonder then that people fall in love playing improv?

Which got me thinking about the principles of improv and how they are, yet again, pretty cool principles for life with the people we love – whether we fell in love with them through improv or otherwise. Here’s some that come to my mind. What others would you add?

Make your partner look good

Make, and accept, offers…say ‘yes’

Be present – pay attention

Be average

Believing it’s possible at Bells

May 17th, 2010

My friend Chris Corrigan introduced me to rock balancing, so it was only appropriate on a recent visit to Bells Beach (when the surf was pumping BTW) that Chris took the opportunity to do some rock balancing on my home turf. I hope to do the same on his home turf, Bowen Island, some time.

Walking towards Southside (away from the rocks), I looked back. A surfer was making his way towards the surf when suddenly the balanced rock caught his eye. He stopped dead in his tracks and stared. Then he walked around, maybe trying to figure out how it was done. There is no trick however. As Chris once described to me, you simply have to believe it’s possible. I’m sure the surfers on those huge waves understand. Believe it’s possible. Yes!

A more satisfying way of working

May 14th, 2010

We’d just finished working together face-to-face for a week. We gathered in one of our apartments, too tired to venture out for dinner. We opened a bottle of wine, a few beers to celebrate and ordered pizza. Someone suggested a song. Two guitars, a group of friends – singing, laughing, improvising.

What were we celebrating? Our friendship. Our collaboration. A new way of working.

We come from Australia, New Zealand, UK and Canada. We share a love of improv, are skilled facilitators, blog, use open space, are curious, adventurous and love to travel. We like to do risky, edgy work. We each have our own businesses and work, naturally, in different parts of the world. We’re generous, with what we know and what we share. We each bring different, and complementary, perspectives. We play together. We work together. We’re individuals. We’re different. We agree, we argue, we struggle, we care.

Are you seeing a theme here?

Before we worked together we were friends. Separated by oceans. Connected by ideas. Inspired by an audacious plan. We’re still friends. Maybe even better friends. Family. Love. This is what binds us. This is what makes working together a joy. This is why we’ll do it again.


April 4th, 2010

I sometimes talk about life-changing moments, decisions, change, choice, and accepting offers. It all seems rather trite right now.

For a friend of mine, a few moments on Friday changed her life, and that of her four young children, forever. It will be a defining point in their lives. Her husband, their father, was killed in a motorcycle accident. Instantly.

It is at moments like these that I am lost for words. And so unbearably sad.

Being prepared

March 14th, 2010

My friend Geoff Brown is a talented facilitator, father of three energetic boys and a sometimes musician. In his spare (!) time he helps organise the excellent Airey’s Inlet Open Mic Music Festival. This year the festival in the small coastal community of Airey’s Inlet was held over three days, with seven stages and more than 120 acts.

I caught up with Geoff this afternoon as the festival drew to a close with a special mystery act – Colin Hay and his band who made a flying trip from Melbourne to play on the lawns of the pub with one of the best views on the surf coast.

Geoff played yesterday afternoon with his mate Clayton Derrick. He told me about their rehearsal schedule – this time 12 months ago at last year’s festival!

I love that.

Instead of having a plan, they were prepared to get up on stage and do what they do (and they do what they do very well), willing to improvise, have fun, make each other look good and entertain the punters to boot.

Remembering Brian

February 3rd, 2010

I sit here writing this post through my tears as I remember my dear friend and mentor Brian Bainbridge, who died yesterday morning, in his sleep, apparently of a heart attack.

Brian was a Catholic priest. We were invited to his 40th priestly celebration a few years ago. It was an odd event for us – we were proud to be there as his friends, and probably the only non-Catholics in the room. I still recall the puzzled faces as people asked my connection to Brian. “We work together,” I would answer, “in Open Space.”

Brian began as my Open Space teacher, advisor and mentor. We became friends and colleagues. We delivered Open Space training together, plotted the odd gathering including a World Open Space on Open Space (WOSonOS) in the now destroyed town of Marysville, travelled to WOSonOS events in Vancouver, Goa and San Francisco, and met often for lunch. He would drive down here for dinner, staying over night and quietly slipping away early in the morning as if he’d never been here.

In fact, that’s how he died. Quietly. In the manner of an Open Space facilitator – invisible, no fuss. But his impact on the world is anything but invisible. He lived an open space life. He opened space for others and was unendingly generous in his support and encouragement.

He was proud of what he achieved in his Parish, using Open Space, to transform it from a traditional hierarchy to a more democratic and inclusive way of being. It was not always easy. He persevered. He quietly opened space and allowed ‘whatever happens to be the only thing that could’. I’m glad he wrote it all down, in his eBook The New Parish Priest.

And it’s also his work in the world that I celebrate. His contribution to every single World Open Space on Open Space – USA, Canada, Germany, Australia, ‘Swenmark’, India, Russia, Ukraine, Taiwan. And his opening of space in places as diverse as rural Australia, Papua New Guinea, Cambodia, USA…

I remember him sitting in a circle – it could be any gathering, anywhere – quietly, listening no doubt to all the babbling around him. He would listen and he would wait, and then POW! He would say something that would have everyone reconsidering, thinking, nodding, puzzling. He would tell a story. And conclude with “I reckon”. Or if he was writing, it would always include, IMHO.

Oh. I will miss him!