1. My fraught relationship with the idea of ‘leadership’

    November 29, 2021 by Harv

    Where did this start?
    As a teenager I had a real issue with the term leadership. It made me anxious, and I felt deeply insecure with the idea of being a leader at any point.

    My family had been under extreme stress, and as a 13-year-old I was often the one who was stepping up and trying to keep the wheels on a very unstable unit. This was not healthy, or appropriate, but hey – that’s life sometimes. So, right from the get-go the concept of leadership to me…was if I found myself in a leadership position, then as a family we were in the sh*t.

    As I grew older, I started to seriously doubt some of the grown-ups in these so-called ‘leadership roles’, as I witnessed the deceit and ineptitude of people in power having an adverse impact on my distressed family. This is a story all of its own, and rather than expand on it here, I just want to give a little context for the starting point where my thinking on leadership has evolved from.

    Reclaiming the word ‘leadership’
    Over the past few months, I’ve been on an accelerated journey – crystallising nearly 50 years of discomfort and distilling the fog that has been disturbing me all this time.

    Many things have collided this year to help me gain clarity on my views on leadership.

    Our desire to build a new vision to guide development of the Collective Intelligence community has really stretched me. We started the journey with our own Impact Team intervention in March – working with staff to distil where we needed to go, followed by many members generously contributing their views on our future direction. All the while, our wonderful Advisory Board has been at my side, as we move through the process of defining what our future holds and what we can achieve.

    But it is Mother Nature who had the biggest influence to date on helping me get to this point, and I’ve already written about some aspects of this. And yep…I’m that person who has read heaps of literature and thought about this topic of leadership for like, ever. I’ve poked at it, toyed with it, tried it on for size but never been comfortable with it. This crazy idea of a single person ‘leading’ others is just spooky. Do they know the way? Yeah right!

    And then…I took a pause this month and some time out.

    Lessons from nature on leadership growth
    Our Collective Intelligence Base-Team took some time away from the office to go walk-about. We headed to the ngahere (the forest) at Pūkaha National Wildlife Centre at Mt Bruce in the Wairarapa and went for a morning hīkoi (walk), with their fabulous Pou Kaiarahi – Everlyne Chase. Here, deeply immersed in this special place and learning via a new lens about something I thought I knew a little about (trees), something shifted for me.

    We walked and we talked with Everlyne about the Te Ao Māori worldview of the forest and the connections between land and people. I got to see and build a picture for myself of what true leadership growth could look like if we use the analogy of our temperate rainforest as a starting point.

    It made real sense to me, so let me try and explain using the stories of a couple of trees from the Pūkaha ngahere as an example.

    Harv and Everlyne and Koro Rata

    This first photo (above) shows the base of an ancient 300-year-old rata and Everlyne greeting ‘her koro’ as she does every day. At the top of the image, you can just see the start of what is probably a community of thousands of small plants and other seedlings (not to mention critters) that this enduring forest leader supports and is interconnected with.

    A gnarly tree

    This next photo (above) shows a well-developed gnarly tree that I snapped a shot of as we went into the Kiwi House, near the end of our hīkoi. It summarised beautifully for me what we had just learnt indirectly on our walk about what leadership growth could look like in action. Growth that is enduring, layered, interconnected, made up of a range of ‘less-than-perfect’ organisms that are reliant on each other, and who work together to nourish the next generation. It’s messy and beautiful and makes sense now (to me at least!).

    Regenerating totara

    A thicket of regenerating Tōtara seedlings in a section of bush that I helped protect via a QEII convenant (on the Mangatainoka family farm of my childhood).

    Making leadership more than a word
    The other part of my ‘collision process’ was being introduced to Professor Brigid Carroll of the Auckland University Business School, by member Felicity Lawrence. I have yet to meet Brigid, but my research of her brought up this article from 2016, and I thought, “I wish I had written this!” I have also ordered the book that Brigid co-wrote at the time.

    Why do her words resonate with me so much?

    Back in 1994 when I was first trialling the concept of Collective Intelligence, I was motivated by frustration. Frustration that I had in seeing that sending CEO’s off to one-off ‘leadership courses’ didn’t seem to make any real difference to their development. There was no accountability and no long-term process to support their ongoing growth. Often it was just all about hanging out with other people of status and looking good. What a colossal waste of time and money!

    Off you go – attend a motivational speaker session, do a course…and then head home back into the maelstrom of life and ‘bam – it’s all dissolved in just a matter of weeks, or at best, months. Our professional athletes train far better than most of our country’s professional leaders. They do long, slow, continuous, incremental training that compounds over years.

    It’s pretty obvious that if leadership development worked, the world would be humming right now! But there have been trillions of dollars spent on leadership development since World War 2 and yet, humanity has gone backwards in so many areas. We’ve produced some of the most unsuccessful companies the world has ever seen – think Facebook, Amazon, Trump Inc etc. All lead by people who are making the world worse, not better. Their investors are doing just fine, but not so humanity or the planet. So much western leadership has been focussed on short-sprint goals. KPIs and quarterly profits. We now need to focus on 50 to 100-year impacts to gain better alignment and set a new, regenerative trajectory.

    The monoculture of leadership development
    The old model of leadership development looks like this to me:

    Pine plantation monoculture

    This does not work in our increasingly complex world. Science has proven this. Monocultures do not regenerate our environment, or any environment, be it human-centric or plant-based.

    The magic of biodiversity in its broadest sense needs to be better understood on every level and instilled in us at the earliest age. Leadership growth is a beautiful, messy, evolving, continuous process.

    Biodiversity is the variety of life on earth

    Pertinent sign on the wall of the Kiwi House at Pūkaha – Mt Bruce.

    For the first time in my career, I am willing to embrace the concept of leadership but I’m viewing it in the context of a whole new paradigm.

    I think the Collective Intelligence ecosystem is now primed to expand our role in developing a new breed of leaders, nurturing a new way of being leaders; one that disrupts all the traditional definitions and multiplies the glorious effect of biodiversity.

    2022 – bring it on!


  2. Regenerative capitalism – here we go!

    October 22, 2021 by Harv

    I first read about the term ‘regenerative capitalism’ in the book Green Swans by John Elkington, and it immediately captured my imagination.

    If you go looking for a simple definition of regenerative capitalism, you can find this one, which I rather like:

    Quite simply, regenerative capitalism is seeing the forest where capitalism sees only individual, profitable trees.

    Capitalism has been a phenomenal movement, just out of kilter over the past 40 years or so. We currently have operating some of the most successful companies the world has seen, but they are the most harmful to society at the same time. Think Facebook and Amazon, for example.

    The journey begins
    We’ve been a BCorp for 4 years, and now Collective Intelligence is taking it up a notch and heading down our own path to embracing regenerative capitalism, and it’s exciting! This journey was kick-started with a well-directed, framed-up question from the super-smart Maria King:

    “What could be created if you shed the old paradigm of treating Collective Intelligence as a traditional business, and took on regenerative practices, like you have with your farm?”

    That question disturbed my sleep for some 6 weeks, as my subconscious grappled with Maria’s challenge (which was issued as part of our Impact Team intervention in March 2021).

    The first glimmer of understanding for me came with the realisation that we could use Aotearoa’s temperate rainforest as a model to design our whole ecosystem – our Collective Intelligence community – as well as our business model.

    These past few months we have been working through what our collective vision could be, with our Advisory Board collating information and feedback sought from our facilitators, members and alumni. Meanwhile I had been on my own vision journey, going back to Maria for clarification and guidance.

    A few weeks back our whole Board came together to share what each process had crystalised, and this is what it looked like, as we realised that we had all reached the same vision.

    Our board enjoying the vision-setting process

    This photo captures the sheer energy and joy of that moment (thanks to Bettina Anderson clicking the camera).

    I’m not going to share our vision with you just yet, as we are crafting the next pieces, and this blog is not about the vision, it’s about our journey of discovery that we are in the middle of right now.

    Building a regenerative business
    What’s so profound is that the parallels are becoming clearer for me, between a regenerative soil for example, and a regenerative business. A regenerative soil, because of its porosity, absorbs, and holds more water. As a result, it does not flood like traditionally farmed soils do. It is also able to support a greater diversity of species both under and above ground. It doesn’t need artificial/chemical fertilisers or sprays. In essence, it takes less dollars / hectare to run, and produces higher nutrient-dense foods.

    As a regenerative capitalist company, Collective Intelligence is now heading down a similar path, which is feeling familiar, messy, and fun – sometimes. However, as I write this I just want to take back control of this vision process and just tell everyone to ‘crack-on’ and do it my way – okay! Instead, under the regenerative model I know I need to be patient and let the nodules develop and connect to form the foundation that we will grow from.

    Here are some of the parallels I have noticed so far with our company’s journey and the regenerative soil I am nurturing in the paddocks in my own block:

    • As a business, we are becoming way more porous. There is more opportunity for people we know and trust to participate in growing our ecosystem, and this is happening organically and spontaneously. I’m really encouraged to see this, as it allows me to move away from controlling the business. Our ecosystem will be way more robust and expansive as a result.
    • I’m also noticing how harsh some of our old models of thinking and communicating have been. Subtle things like job descriptions are gone for us for example. We are more and more focussed on looking at our work as a biological system, where everything is intertwined, like how the mycelium in the soil connect.

     
    Preparing for growth
    Right now, we are focussing on building our base before we go out to our community at large. We need to prepare for the growth that will come from this new paradigm, and be clear on the new messaging, and direction.

    We have come up with a safe word for use in the office as we venture into the unknown and get a little wobbly… which goes like this: “I’m STUCK!!!”. It’s been a really useful stopgap, for when we hear this cry we gather as a team and focus on the blockage together. Often, we find it centres around our old thinking butting up against the new paradigm. This happened just an hour ago here in the office!

    The key learning here for me is that you need a bloody good culture, and people able to disagree with each other openly and happily, to work out a way forward. Thankfully we have that!

    I’m going to be writing regularly about this evolution of ours as a way of recording our learnings.


  3. Public vs private sector: let’s co-create rather alienate!

    September 24, 2021 by Harv

    Why do we alienate?
    Last month, Kate Hawkesby said on Early Edition, “Isn’t it interesting how much lower the bar is for bureaucrats than the private sector?” when talking about the Director General of Health – Ashley Bloomfield (here’s the whole transcript).

    Her headline-grabbing opinion prompted me to think of views like this that I have heard before, and the significance of why is it that the private sector generally takes a smack at public servants? I’m not sure I have ever heard the critique focussed back in the other direction…?

    The comments I hear are things like, “the private sector works harder, smarter, longer…” and “we are the backbone of the nation.” Or, “If only the bureaucrats were as switched on as us” and, “They have no idea what they’re doing.” I wonder if this attitude has been passed down from the colonial settler-battlers of a bygone era responding to early governance from Wellington? Hmm?

    Then, I reflected upon a memory that I too used to hold the same view as Hawkesby (about 10 years ago). “The bloody bureaucrats were numpties! I could show them a thing or two!” Maybe watching Gliding On, that wonderful 80s TV comedy depicting public servants as being a bit dull and incompetent, influenced my views? But then, that would be like comparing Fred Dagg to real farmers, right? More hmmm-ing.

    What have I learned?
    Fortunately, at Collective Intelligence I have had the privilege to work with both public and private sector people drawn from a huge range of industries and professions – hence my desire to get some thoughts on this subject out there to add to the mix.

    What I have discovered, is that when viewed from the outside you have little to no idea, just how complex the work-world of public servants is. Add to that the public scrutiny they come under, and the pressure they face can be extraordinary. The other aspect is that when they do their job well, nobody notices. But when there’s a cock-up all hell breaks loose, often when the mistake is not even theirs.

    At times, the private sector gets surprised by new policies and compliance put in place by bureaucrats from central and local government. This seems to cause much gnashing of teeth as their autonomy is challenged. There is a definite need for public servants to be able to communicate in a language that the private sector can hear, and respond to, in a way that they feel heard.

    Recently mental health advocate, Mike King, called out the Ministry of Health over a wide range of issues. That’s his right, and he has a track record of being a very passionate voice for improving mental health outcomes.

    But did he consider the impact he was having on mental health workers on the front line, as he went about making his point? I did wonder about this – on the impact he was having and what sort of demotivating effect it might have had on our already over-stretched mental health staff? I get that he is frustrated, and fair enough, but it seems to me that pointing the finger never helps. It just makes things worse in such a small country as ours, as blame gets personal very, very quickly.

    People behave in ways that make sense to them, and struggle with understanding behaviour that doesn’t make sense to them. Sounds simple enough – but it trips us all up, and often. Seeing the perspectives of others can be a very elusive skill, let alone practicing empathy.

    Recently I listened to the Director General of DoC, Lou Sanson, being interviewed by Kim Hill on Radio NZ. A smart, passionate, well-informed, self-deprecating, knowledgeable and humble civil servant was who I heard. In many countries he would be held in far-greater esteem than here. I have learnt this on my journey with Collective Intelligence. Public service is not appreciated here nearly as much as it is in the UK for example. Why’s that I wonder? Colonial battler syndrome again?

    Public servants generally know what to do, personally and collectively and are highly motivated, but their ministers can be a handbrake. Public servants can be there for years and years accumulating deep knowledge, yet a minister is often only there for three frenetic years, or less.

    These Ministers and politicians get no professional development; they are generally stretched, and then need to trade with their caucus members to get resources and time allocated – such is politics. Every one of these politicians and bureaucrats wants to do a good job, so what needs to happen for that to occur? Possibly a lengthening of the election cycle to 4 years.

    Let’s co-create!
    What I’m really interested in is how we go about developing the skills and attitude, where public and private entities can co-create new initiatives. One of the best examples I’ve seen is the co-designed New Zealand Food Network set up by the founder of Kiwi Harvest, Deb Manning in conjunction with the Ministry of Social Development. It was developed in response to the food shortage brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic. The initiative is a total success, and neither party could have created it without the other. There was enough focus here to combine the might of the public sector, and the savvy of the private.

    We need to create more of these collaborations, and the only way to do that is to understand each other’s perspectives, not point the finger.

    Just think – what else could we co-create across these sectors if we started to understand each other’s reality?

    Human psychology tells us that the social groups you hang out with have a huge impact on your world views. They are more powerful than your family in determining your opinions. Just by connecting with great people from different backgrounds you will become less set in your views, and more inquisitive as to what else might be going on!

    That’s our work every day here at Collective Intelligence – so, go on – get curious and come see what we’re all about.


  4. What’s this perfection bullsh*t all about?

    August 29, 2021 by Harv

    A personal topic

    This is a very personal topic for me, as my poor mother Lois was a perfectionist and I saw first-hand the incredible harm it caused. I think Lois suffered from perfectionism as a trauma response to losing her own mother when she was 7 years old. Unfortunately, in that era she got no support to deal with the effects of her loss.

    Or maybe the cause was something completely different, but the impact of intermittent perfectionism on her life was huge. I won’t go into details, as I will just come across a bit judgy, and bitter, as it was a major factor in my early life.

    This blog topic is due to a prod from the team here at the office, particularly Bettina, who considers me the anti-perfection person. Not sure if this is a complement or not?

    When Bettina started working at Collective Intelligence HQ, she had a background in science/research and subsequently consultancy, where being ‘right/perfect’ was highly valued. She then went to work in the museum industry, where she learnt many voices and ways of reaching an endpoint were the norm – but facts and ‘getting it just right’ were still very important.

    So, it was a bit of a culture shock to come and work in an entrepreneurial company where minimum viable product is the standard. We had many conversations around, “that’s good enough to launch Bettina, so launch it”. It was a stretch as she wanted to get it just right, and I was saying, “launch and modify, or not. Make mistakes, tweak, then get onto the next thing.”

    It was a stretch, but Bettina has definitely embraced the anti-perfection movement, although she jokes that she still clings to her perfectionism like a sinking ship.

    Excellence vs perfectionism and the artistic process

    The difference between excellence and perfection is huge. Excellence is just fine.

    I have always enjoyed art. Looking at it, that is. My fine motor coordination (fingery things) is not great, and my drawing and painting at school was shite. The focus was to get it right, and so I just withdrew from art.

    Years later I had the pleasure of watching a true artist in action. Her name was Val Joyce. She had magnificent, beautiful fingers. Val would create all types of garments for the Wearable Arts and other competitions around the country – often made from recycled materials.

    Her greatest win that I remember, was a garment made from milk bottle tops and other paraphernalia. She laughed as the model wore it backwards on stage, such was the mystery of the outfit, and it won. Val then declared it looked better back-to-front.

    Unfortunately, the photos of her Wearable Arts pieces are not great, but thanks to her daughter Kath Joyce-Kellaway we have a photo of one of her earlier garments, and one of Val herself looking rather glam:

    Val JoyceVal's Rothmans entry

    Left: Val Joyce wearing one of her own creations. Right: An example of her textile art that won four prizes in the Rothman’s Fashion Awards.

    I learnt the most from Val whilst watching her create art. I’d watch her throw a creation out mid-way with a smile saying, “that’s not very good”, and then start again and again. She was not trying to get it right, she was experimenting. She did it with her cooking too.

    So, one day when I thought about picking up a chisel and chipping away at some wood in my shed, I started experimenting. Lo and behold I became a surprisingly reasonable sculptor over time. My fingers were still shite but my hands worked fine.

    Without Val’s demonstration of non-perfect artistry, I would not have prevailed.

    Val is the grandmother of my kids, and she died on August 24 whilst I was midway through writing this blog. I’m sorry she did not get to read this tribute, but she knew that we all loved her – that crazy artist woman!

    That new beginning with wood started a whole chain of events for me, as sculpting was never in my DNA and didn’t make sense. I was a sporty, running around kid, not an artist (or so I thought). So, I wondered if I can sculpt, what else can I do that doesn’t make sense?

    Harv on the carve

    Harv ‘on the carve’ in his workshop.

    The prize of imperfection – what’s possible?

    There’s this word ‘authenticity’ that’s bandied about. It’s almost a buzz word in some spaces – unfortunately.

    What’s fascinating with authenticity as seen in people, is that it often doesn’t look that flash. Plus, authentic people seldom use the word to describe themselves. It’s just something they do naturally, and imperfectly.

    Authenticity in people is not perfect in any way.

    “Oh that baby – she’s perfect!” No. She is not perfect, and don’t start putting that label on her before she starts thinking that she needs to be perfect.

    Sadly, there are kids today who are so hamstrung by parents who want to produce perfect beings, they have no idea that making mistakes is wonderful stuff. And feminism has taken a hit with all the pervasive pressures of being a perfect mother.

    Oh, and social media is soooo helpful too in generating this perfection bullshit. One of my fondest ‘giggle memories’ was watching a ‘perfect’ young couple in a restaurant. I know, that’s creepy, but I couldn’t help it!

    They were out for a romantic dinner – or that’s what the Instagram post would have read. What amused me was they didn’t know how to talk to each other, laugh, or possibly even fart! But every now and then, they would pose for a wonderful pouting selfie together, and she would tap furiously on her device and send off the most perfect image of the most perfect evening they were having.

    I was choking trying not to make a scene. I thought, you poor buggers. They could be cool in a photo, but not in real life.

    So, what’s this perfection nonsense all about?

    It’s not good for us. Any of us.

    Perfectionism creates:

    • Doubts and concerns
    • Less achievements
    • Lower self-esteem
    • Poorer health
    • Less connection to others

     

    Every time you pose as being perfect, you are harming yourself, and more importantly others.

    I sought our Collective Intelligence facilitators’ views on perfectionism, and they shared this with me:

    From Jon Lasenby:

    “I think the Leadership Circle would hold that perfectionism is often an obstacle to leaders doing delegation well. I see the struggle with perfectionism and control crop up pretty much for every leader as they truly make the step in their development to let go of “fixing it” themselves or flying (sometimes literally) to the crisis.

    I have often observed that this crops up for leaders quite early on in their careers i.e. as they make their first steps into management. I also notice that leaders who are quite senior, or who have been leading for a while, still have more levels of work to do to keep rebalancing their relationship with perfectionism…after all – it’s not wholly negative. We can’t decide to banish it forthwith, we need some of it. The ability to spot the places where it is getting too dominant seems to be an ongoing mission for a leader as they develop.”

    From Sarah Tocker:

    “I agree with Jon’s whakaaro. A little bit of perfectionism isn’t an issue, but if you don’t have any other tools at hand, and it’s the only one you deploy, especially from a position of leadership, it is of course deeply problematic.

    I would also suggest that it reduces your ability to be courageous, because courage is often required when we can’t predict or know how a thing will turn out. This means you’re stuck in a loop of needing to know the unknowable which = heightened stress = inaction = exhaustion = lonely = and eventually alone in your leadership.”

    From Manda Jane Johnson:

    “Perfectionism by nature is a means of attempting to control the outcome. This is very limiting, as so often what is actually possible is more than we can actually imagine. It is worth exploring as a leader the question, “what is it that I am attempting to secure, and why?”

    Perfection by nature is a fixed form – there is no further movement that can be generated from it.

    There is a real difference between perfectionism and precision. Precision being the art of attuning to what is in the current circumstance within the present environment. If one can live with a fine attention to the present moment, we get to understand in the fullest sense of the word what is needed. ‘Understanding’ as an integrated experience within my body, within the emotional tone in my system, in my clarity of thinking, delivering reasons for my choices taking a particular direction, and in my intention towards an agreed purpose. The ‘next steps’ then become clearly visible and are often surprising, delightful and can even include playfulness, and dare I say it, love!

    Precision is relevant to how we speak, how we plan, how we execute and how we harvest what we have learned – it is an emergent process rather than a fixed product or outcome.”

    And from Sue Johnston:

    “My thoughts as follows are heavily influenced by my own recovering perfectionist tendencies and the research of Dr Brené Brown.

    There’s a big difference between striving for excellence and perfectionism. Perfectionism is not about self-improvement. It’s focused on other people and earning their approval and acceptance, “What will they think?” A lot of us were raised being praised for achievement and performance (sports, grades, manners, appearance). Somehow along the way the message becomes, “I am what I achieve”, therefore “I need to be perfect.”

    Perfectionism becomes self-destructive when we believe that if we look, live and do everything perfectly, we can avoid shame, judgement and blame. Brené Brown calls perfectionism, “the 20-tonne shield that we lug around thinking it will protect us, when in fact that’s really preventing us from taking flight.” Being perfect is a subjective and unreachable goal. Whatever we do is ”never enough’”. It can stop us from innovating and actually keep us from being successful – because we know that doing something for the first time will not be perfect.”

    A perfect conclusion

    The above is why I love working with the clever people who facilitate our teams – they think about this important stuff!

    So, if any of this resonates, please remember perfectionism doesn’t need to be forever.

    The good news is that it’s curable (if you get some help), and at Collective Intelligence we offer a team-based prescription for just that!


  5. What does it take to ‘belong’ in 2021?

    July 28, 2021 by Harv

    This is a question I have been pondering recently. It’s one of those subjects that has never really featured in my head – then all of a sudden it is everywhere in my head. I’m not sure what that’s about, just one of those ‘universe-at-work’ things I expect.

    A special book on belonging
    Bettina Anderson gifted me the wonderful book Belonging by Owen Eastwood in our office one Monday morning, and said read this. She’s very assertive like that.

    Owen Eastwood Book Cover

    Reading is a big part of my life at the moment. I get sent books to read continuously, which I appreciate as it keeps me up to date with what is going on in the world. I’m eight books behind right now though, so one more was like, really B? But she said the magic words, “you need to read this!”. And so I began.

    And then the English soccer team starts winning games, which is a new phenomenon. And then I hear that they are winning due to the help of Owen Eastwood, and his book Belonging, and here am I reading his book.

    Inspired by whakapapa
    Owen hails from Southland and is now a UK-based performance/culture coach. The world is littered with them, so what makes this fella special?

    Well, he is a Ngāi Tahu descendant and uses ancient Māori cultural concepts, with a focus on whakapapa, to enhance modern day performance. And it’s working.

    Whakapapa has many meanings, but the most common one is related to your genealogy. Where have you come from, and what do you belong to? Used in this way it’s a powerful concept for any team to connect with. Owen’s take on it, shown in the video below, has a beaut image of the unbroken chain of whakapapa that we are all a part of:

    These ideas got me reflecting on a whole bunch of things. I realised that there is a huge void in today’s world, with people struggling to truly connect and belong, either at work, in their communities and sometimes with whānau.

    Our ancient need to belong
    We see it at Collective Intelligence, with some new members who are okay at fitting in, but not at fully belonging to their team. We’ve reflected that we need to get better at integrating new members and we’re currently working to establish some new systems that will help our newbies settle and feel seen and included more quickly.

    However, even then I know that we will still struggle to get some members to fully belong. From experience I’ve seen too many people leave a team when they are challenged with something tricky. Something that surprises them or upsets them. They then walk away with hardly a goodbye to their team that they have been involved in for some time. It makes me realise that all this time they have just been ‘fitting in’ and not belonging. And the team realises they did not even know who this person really was.

    Is this a fundamental human attribute that has been eroded in the modern era? My gut feeling says, “yes”.

    Certainly nurturing ‘belonging’ is an indigenous practice found in many cultures across the globe, and the telling of simple stories about “Us” is very powerful and drives behaviour in the here and now.

    A good friend of mine, Pam Morrison, recently introduced me to the Samoan concept of vā – meaning relational space.

    Pam sent me this, which I think is rather stunning:

    Indigenous Samoan tradition is based on the idea that sacred relationships exist between individuals, between people and the environment, and between people and their ancestors and the divine.

    Emeritus Professor and Samoan writer, Albert Wendt, describes it in the following way:

    “Vā is the space between, the betweenness. Not empty space, not space that separates, but space that relates and holds separate entities and things together in the Unity-that-is-All, giving meaning to things.”

    Because all things are in relationship, vā, the connecting space, needs not only to be acknowledged but also nourished and honoured. La teu le vā. This, according to Samoan tradition, means maintaining sacred space, harmony and balance within the relationship.

    Principles at play when people behave in a way that cherishes vā include: reciprocity; balance; symmetry; respect; mutual trust.

    From my own experience

    Then there is this wonderful Brene Brown quote:

    Belonging is being accepted for you. Fitting in is being accepted for being like everyone else.

    I know exactly what this feels like. I joined the local golf club and took up golf at the grand age of 52 years – not ideal. Anyway, I have learnt to swing a club, but don’t know much about the intricate rules, and to be fair, couldn’t give a toss.

    I have a profession that is unique and different from others at the club, and I don’t do much locally as I’m away a lot of the time. So, at the Golf club I felt like a misfit, trying to be like everyone else, just not very well.

    But I got a break one day when I realised that some of the trees on the golf course needed pruning, and I did know about pruning. I asked if I could prune some trees, and sell the subsequent firewood for the club funds. Boom! Just like that I could be myself and was far more included as a result.

    How often are we not included, because we are a little different from the clique, or mainstream?

    Tui Brewery Tower
    Image: Tui Brewery Tower. Source – Te Ara – The Encyclopedia of New Zealand. Photograph by Shirley Williams.
    This item is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 New Zealand Licence

    Recently I discovered while reading some historical journals, that my great grandfather Henry Cowan, and grandfather Edgar Harvey built a tower they didn’t really need during The Great Depression. Henry Cowan had bought a small brewery in 1903 from receivers. He went on to create the Tui Brewery in Mangatainoka, from a tin shed on the banks of the river and growing it into a thriving business, which I have always been proud of. To me, their greatest legacy is that they commissioned Fletchers to build a tower to store grain to keep the rats out in 1930. This coincided with the depression and sales of beer plummeted, yet they chose to go ahead with the build, using hundreds of local tradesmen to keep them in work.

    It’s amazing how that story resonates inside my body. I think…you bloody beauties! Yes, business had been good to them both, but they went ahead and built a tower for £5,000, using local labour. They didn’t end up using it until eight years after it was built, such was the economic effect of the Depression.

    I wonder why my family didn’t tell this part of the brewery story, choosing instead to focus on the beer that was produced? Well, now the building of the tower is part of our Harvey whakapapa, and has had an impact on my personal beliefs and behaviour.

    A powerful example of belonging
    Recently, I came face to face with the most powerful example of belonging at ‘The Christchurch Invitation – Harnessing Difference’ event, held last Friday at the James Hay Theatre. The evening launched a new movement, Mahia te Aroha, to continue the compassion and aroha experienced in response to the events of 15 March 2019 in Ōtautahi Christchurch.

    The highlight for me was the six young poets, all from different backgrounds, performing the most moving, healing and forgiving words in relation to the massacre. Young people from Māori, Muslim, Samoan, Palestinian, and Pākehā backgrounds, some of which had lost whānau in the shootings, all up for building a more inclusive community in the future.

    Some talked of their struggle to belong in their new country, Aotearoa, that they had moved to as children and where they looked and spoke differently to the mainstream. About being the ‘others’. It was very confronting to hear these words.

    Christchurch Invitation event
    Image: One of the moving moments with the six young poets at the Christchurch Invitation event.

    Powerful and moving. I will lift my effort to be more inclusive in my actions as a result.

    In time, I will be able to share the videos created that night.

    For now, I am going to continue to explore this belonging phenomenon and wonder how we can increase the experience of it in our daily practice at work and play.

    I would love to hear your thoughts. Message me.

    FOOTNOTE: September 2021
    Thanks to those who sent me their thoughts after reading this blog – here’s a couple of key ones I’d like to share from:

    Peter Roband:“A quote I read this morning that ties in well….”

    Longevity researcher Dan Buettner on the health benefits of friendship (From ‘The Power of Positive People’):

    “I argue that the most powerful thing you can do to add healthy years is to curate your immediate social network. In general, you want friends with whom you can have a meaningful conversation. You can call them on a bad day and they will care. Your group of friends are better than any drug or anti-aging supplement, and will do more for you than just about anything.”

    Lindy Nelson: – “Thanks for the blog on belonging – a topic so close to my heart and one I have spent my life supporting others to find for themselves.”

    Listen to Lindy;s recent thoughts on this at the Boma Conference in May 2021:


  6. Taking a step back in order to fly!

    June 29, 2021 by Harv

    Embracing the title of Founder
    When I look back, it’s interesting to reflect that not too many years ago I was reluctant to even say I was a ‘founder’. Pauline Milne, who was in my own Collective Intelligence team for a number of years, was the driving force that helped me put on the founder’s jacket. I have never worked out why it was so uncomfortable to me. However, I will be forever grateful that Pauline kept pushing me to step up.

    Then along came Mary Beth Robles. She worked alongside me as the CEO of Collective Intelligence for a period and brought a distinct view of the need to ‘honour the founder’. I found this uncomfortable initially, but then I started to understand that without a founder with a vision, nothing gets started.

    Yep, we can be a pain in the arse as we hover over our baby, however, a little understanding of what drives us goes a long way. There is so much personal investment and over-functioning that goes into bringing an idea to life – it can border on being unhealthy.

    We trip over ourselves, continually. We get in the way, we are unrelenting, can often be oblivious of the effect we have on others, and are difficult to govern effectively. I’m gonna stop there as this list is getting waaaay too long. But you get the idea.

    When there’s nothing to copy
    One of my biggest challenges has been that there was nothing to copy, when setting up this community of ours. I love stealing the ideas of others and adapting them into new shapes. Unfortunately, this model of ours is unique, with nothing to copy. It’s been a challenge continually learning and breaking new ground, and it’s damn tiring too!

    The gift of my own naivety has been a real bonus too. I have spent years just ‘making shit up’, testing, reflecting, and then trying it all again. I’ve also been grateful for the honest feedback from our community of members and alumni, which I’ve used to constantly refine what we offer. If I had been some sort of expert to begin with, I believe our model would have been stilted and static.

    Starting a new chapter
    Now after 14 years, I’m looking at how I can ‘step back’ a little from the operational nitty gritty of Collective Intelligence, and start to entrust my creation to be moulded more and more by other hands and hearts. Hands and hearts that will take this concept, and our Collective Intelligence community, strongly into the future, and eventually onwards without me at all.

    How do I feel about that? Hmmm…I don’t think I have written a blog quite so slowly before. At this point, this is my third attempt at getting my thoughts down. Lots of contemplation, and reflection along the way and I know I’m wrestling with an age-old issue that founders face.

    But upon reflection, I have realised three key things:

    • OMG! I have created something here at Collective Intelligence that others value and seek out. People who I respect, and trust, are into what we do. That was never assured.
    • I’m not going through this process alone, many founders have done this before me, and the next steps are opening up a whole new set of possibilities for where a member-lead vision for our community could take us.
    • I’m more excited about what these possibilities will bring than ever before in the history of the business.

     
    A ‘step back’ can look like many things, but for me it’s starting to re-shape my role and look to re-linquish more of the day-to-day operational detail so I can focus on the re-generation and re-invention of our Collective Intelligence community. This includes being the champion of a new vision for what our community can achieve together if we mobilise our collective superpowers.

    Whakataukī

    What’s possible from here?
    I know we’re building upon a solid foundation, and the highlights of what we have learnt from the last few months of working on our business are:

    • Getting our heads around the fact that the millennials and generation X, Y, Z’s and beyond understand our Collective Intelligence model better than my generation do – as do Māori. This fills me with hope and the promise of inspiring things to come, as Collective Intelligence becomes even more relevant to the success of our collective future.
    • Distilling down what it is we do for our people: we break down barriers between industries, between people, and within people, to create unique connections and pathways for our member community to flourish.
    • Summarising succinctly what we are as an entity: we’re a regenerative ecosystem for change-makers!

     
    And, after 14 years of having nothing to copy, we’ve now identified the perfect model for us to mimic – a rainforest! Yes – a rainforest. Collective Intelligence is a human-centred version of a rainforest and we’re going to use the concept of an above- and below-ground forest ecosystem to guide our development going forward.

    I’m excited to have worked out this biomimicry, this biological blueprint, whilst sitting on the office sofa one Friday morning chatting with Michelle Gudopp, doodling as we spoke. Boom! Nailed it.

    The Collective Intelligence Ecosystem V1

    A sketch outline of our Collective Intelligence community as a rainforest ecosystem.

    We are currently crowdsourcing our guiding vision for the next ten years with our smart, diverse Collective Intelligence member crowd, using a model that is unfamiliar to me. I am no longer the only one responsible for creating this future, and that is a liberating feeling for a founder.

    So, I asked myself, ‘what’s my vision for where I will fit into this regenerative ecosystem of ours?’ Over the next decade I want to become the bird that visits each of the trees, eats the berries, and then helps foster new growth in the shade and protection of our network.

    And how do I feel about all of this now? Re-energized and regenerated!

    [To be continued – watch this space!]


  7. What might it be like…being the ‘other’ culture?

    May 26, 2021 by Harv

    As an old, straight, white man, I have had no need to ponder this question, as us fellas have ‘dominated’ most, if not all other cultures for a wee while now. And bloody good we are at it too, I might add.

    So, what’s the fuss? It’s all going swimmingly!

    Women have the vote, Māori are better off because of colonisation, we tolerate the gay people, and that LGBT lot we just ignore now.

    Let’s just be thankful for what us white boys have created for everyone and carry on eh!

    There you go – shortest blog I have ever written and aren’t we all thankful…

    Once upon a time, this might have been me. For some of the people I know, this is still them.

    However, recently I experienced being the ‘other’ rather than the ‘dominant’ culture that I am so used to. Looking back, I have been the ‘other’ a few times before in my life, without realising why I felt so pissy.

    This time I knew exactly what was going on, and the fact that I was firmly in the ‘other’ stable. It was a complex family situation and came as a surprise to me.

    Here is the thing I learnt (apart from feeling like a spare part), which is that when you are in this ‘other’ dynamic, it’s hard to fit in and engage with the dominant culture. In fact, I have since learnt that ‘dominant’ cultures often don’t have any idea what impact they are having on the ‘others’. The barriers are real and imposing, yet don’t seem that way to the people who created them.

    A wonderful learning experiment
    Last week I attended a workshop created and facilitated by the talented Sarah Tocker, entitled ‘When Cultures Meet’, as I’m now fascinated with this topic and need to learn more.

    Sarah has designed a wonderful learning experiment. Teams were assembled and each team given a particular culture that we needed to embrace, and a task to complete. Easy as. That is until the rules changed, we lost our resources and then had to engage with other teams of differing team cultures to complete the task. That was a whole new ball game.

    Our team went in with wonderful intentions to help out and full of good cheer, only to be frowned at and not understood as we brought our culture into their space. We had 17 minutes to complete the task at hand. Our team added no value, were marginalised, and talk about resentful! That was us – all in a matter of minutes in a make-believe setting.

    We then needed to vote for the best thing a team had created, and there was no way I was voting for the team we went to help. In fact, I didn’t even want to vote for any of the bastards and took myself away from the action all together. F**k the system.

    This was make-believe, happening in a controlled environment and I thought, what would I be like in a real situation, where it is like this every day, week, and month, for years? I would end up in jail very quickly, just by battling an unjust system.

    '181 years and you want more time' protest sign

    A protest sign that ‘sums it up’ from our local Manawatū Māori Wards hīkoi on 11 May 2021.

    What is culture?
    Here’s a subtle example:

    We might first encounter culture when we visit a friend’s home for a sleepover at say 10 years old. At that age, you might think that all families are like yours, do the same things and stuff as yours does. That is until mealtime, when this family might join hands and bless the food, or eat in front of the TV, or outside, give the leftovers to the dog on the floor, eat their greens, and other weird stuff like that – and right there you have a simple introduction to cultural differences. This family may even be from the same socio-economic, and ethnic makeup as your own, but they appear a little ‘weird’ when measured up against your family’s ways. Heaven forbid if they are a different skin colour and born in a different country, speaking English as a second language.

    A good culture is like oil in an engine – without it, the magnificent moving parts overheat and grind to a halt even when they fit together. A poor culture, and there is less to no oil in the engine.

    Getting curious
    So, what am I going to do about this heightened awareness of being the ‘other’ now I’m more conscious of it?

    Cultural Intelligence Model

    I’m going to get curious, then courageous, and hopefully a bit more competent (which is our Cultural Intelligence framework that we have adopted at work). Here’s a few things I’ve found helpful or am working on:

    • Reading up. This article on the six top tips for being a workplace ally is the most thought provoking I have come across so far, and it really got me thinking.
    • Learning more from authors/thinkers/commentators like Moana Jackson – here’s a recent comment-piece of his that struck a chord for me.
    • Working on understanding my personal privilege and what impact it has on others.
    • Helping my buddies (who might still think a little like my intro paragraph) to understand the effects of colonisation on Māori, without pissing them off. This is tricky.
    • Also, I’ll be trying not to be a righteous bugger when I find that I am the ‘other’ and will be looking for ways to stay connected. This might well be the hardest one of all.

     
    So peeps – take notice of when you are the dominant in the crowd, and think about what you are going to do, to bridge that gap. From my experience, your individual actions will start to make, and add up to, the ‘difference’ that we all need to see in our world.


  8. When URGENT and IMPORTANT collide

    April 22, 2021 by Harv

    URGENT and IMPORTANT don’t often align. But they are on a collision course right now!

    If humanity doesn’t sort out our shite in the next few years, we are toast – literally, in the next 100 years or so.

    We have all the science we need to get clarity on the pickle we are in now. It’s documented perfectly in the book, The Future We Choose: Surviving the Climate Crisis by Christiana Figueres and Tom Rivett-Carnac.

    We also know what to do.

    So, how is this playing out on the ground in Aotearoa right now?

    Here’s what I’ve seen as I’ve travelled around the country over the past few months:

    • Few (if any) companies are comfortable with where they are at right now. Many established businesses are not even sure what industry they are actually in now, such is the rate of change.
    • No company is big enough to believe that they are not a ‘dinosaur in waiting’.
    • The pesky millennials are not settling into the old sweat-shop corporations and slaving away in the hope of making partner one day – as previous generations signed up for. Nope, they are just not sticking at it and are heading to more impact- or purpose-led companies.
    • Bullying is rife – as senior managers and leaders let their frustrations out on the next level down. It seems to be an epidemic at the moment and the stresses of COVID-19 have only exacerbated the problem. This can be attributed to the insecurity senior managers are feeling, due to the parameters that they established, now crumbling around them.
    • Just because you are doing good work in an organisation, does not make you a good person to work with. For example, there are some amazing arseholes to be found in the NGO and charity spaces.
    • Leading edge companies now have a culture of change embedded in their systems, where change is expected and happens every day.
    • Communication is still the most important and elusive skill in the workforce.

     

    In light of this, here’s what I believe is essential looking ahead:

    • Having just gone through the first stage of our re-certification as a B Corp, I am sure this will be a minimum requirement to practice as a company within the next 10 years.
    • Indigenous frameworks are going to be a game changer for future-focussed companies.
    • Values, values, values! These are essential cornerstones for any organisation and must be written in the company’s own words.
    • Highly developed emotional intelligence will be prized above most technical skills in the organisations of the future.
    • Regenerative capitalism is a thing, and now documented in a new book by John Elkington called Green Swans. This is a massive opportunity for anyone in commerce to focus on.
    • Collaboration will become an obsolete word, as companies learn that it’s an essential action day after day – to the point they will not even talk about it in five years time.

     

    Aside from my observations, what do others think?

    Well, here in the office we’ve been dipping into the New Zealand Productivity Commission’s new report into the economic contribution of our country’s most productive (or “frontier”) firms – just released this week.

    There’s a lot of good stuff in there and here’s a few themes (and quotes) that caught our attention:

    • The need to build dynamic leadership capabilities in our businesses:
      • “Firms with more strategic, entrepreneurial ability (dynamic capabilities) can sense areas of competitive advantage and then seize opportunities in these areas by innovating while identifying and effectively managing risks.”
      • Dynamic leadership capability (ie, sophisticated governance and leadership, risk management processes, and the ability to detect and pursue new opportunities) was one of the four interrelated characteristics (along with exporting, innovation, and scale) that the Commission used to distinguish New Zealand’s leading firms from those behind the “frontier”.

       

    • Chapter 9, devoted to Talent and Leadership, notes some key points around our country’s leadership skill deficits:
      • “High-quality management, leadership and governance are important determinants of firm productivity. Evidence suggests that many New Zealand firms lack the management capabilities needed to lift their productivity.”
      • “Many of the skills needed for effective management and governance are built through commercial experience rather than formal training. If New Zealand can grow or attract more large multinational firms, this will help grow future leaders through on-the-job experience. It will also help create career paths, and support diffusion as skilled people move between firms. Connecting with talented and well-networked New Zealanders via the Kiwi diaspora is another way for firms to build their leadership capabilities.”
      • “Building the entrepreneurial and leadership capability of management and boards is critical for lifting the performance of New Zealand’s frontier firms.”

       

    • Their thoughts in relation to the role of Boards:
      • “Boards of directors play an important role in nurturing a firm’s dynamic capabilities. Key roles include appointing the CEO, supporting the development of the firm’s long-term strategy, and enabling innovative investment decisions. Boards also need strong capabilities of their own.”
      •  

        High performing boards


        Image: New Zealand firms: Reaching for the frontier, NZ Productivity Commission, April 2021.

       

    • A plug for the importance of the type of team-based leadership upskilling work that we do here at Collective Intelligence (particularly for mid-career leaders):
      • “Support for building ordinary and dynamic management and leadership capabilities should be considered in the broader context of education and training (such as courses on entrepreneurship and management), on-the-job training, and migration policy. For example, three submitters said that tertiary education providers should offer more short courses and/or micro-credentials, to better suit mid-career learners.”

       

    • And finally, on a topic I care deeply about:
      • “Māori approaches to business can offer lessons for other New Zealand firms. For example, the drive to serve multiple bottom lines brings a long-term focus to strategy and decision making. Long-term investment horizons are important for supporting experimentation and innovation, and long-term value creation.”
      •  

        Features of Maori firms


        Image: New Zealand firms: Reaching for the frontier, NZ Productivity Commission, April 2021.

     

    There’s a heck of a lot more to read here and I encourage you to take a look, plus they’ve put together some wonderful visuals that help with the ‘digestion’ process. I’ll leave you with a final quote from the report:

    “New Zealand faces the major challenge of transitioning to net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. To achieve this goal while maintaining acceptable living standards will require productivity growth. The transition will mean profound and widespread changes in every part of the economy…”

    Business ecosystems
    Image: New Zealand firms: Reaching for the frontier, NZ Productivity Commission, April 2021.


  9. Honouring Te Tiriti o Waitangi as a private company

    March 29, 2021 by Harv

    How can Collective Intelligence honour Te Tiriti o Waitangi as a private company?

    That was the question Riana Manuel posed to me, over lunch, in Auckland last November.

    Riana’s like that.

    I was very eloquent in my reply, “Ummmm, I dunno, how?”

    “Well, if any company can do it – Collective Intelligence can”, was her response.

    The thing with Riana, she is a force of nature!

    And so, our journey began.

    I met with my mate, Che Wilson, for breakfast the next morning, and I posed the question to him, “How can Collective Intelligence honour Te Tiriti o Waitangi as a private company?”

    “Great question” was his response.

    Che holds extraordinary knowledge when it comes to Māori custom, history and values. He then shrugged his shoulders and said he needed to channel his ancestors (which he promptly did in the cafe). I just sat there in awe of the depth of skill of this tane.

    Nothing crystalised from that, so he simply said, “We need a hui.”

    So, we hosted one online with a range of Māori leaders. Riana was there of course, and I asked her to introduce her question, and the thoughts behind it.

    There was unanimous enthusiasm for the kōrero this question might create.

    It was agreed on our zui that there was something credible to examine in this question, so we set a date to meet in person (8 March 2021) to flesh out what could be done with this challenge that had been set down. It’s a date I will remember for a long time.

    As a Pākēhā business, we had never posed this question to ourselves. With me being an older white fella, it was always ‘the Government’s job’ to honour the Treaty. So this was new territory for me.

    So, the kōrero ahead of us was both exciting and daunting. Maybe even a little heavy – to think what does this mean we may have to take on?

    On 8 March the sun was streaming into the historic building called the Thistle Inn in Wellington, as our group met. Not everyone knew each other. No one was sure what would come out of it. Some weren’t sure if the question was plausible. And yet they came from across the country, under their own steam to embrace what might be possible.

    We spent the first hour exploring the source of the question, the frustration of racism, the lack of movement in certain sectors to embrace Māori culture. At times I wondered, “Are we making any progress with this kōrero?”

    And then the focus altered slightly, and the term ‘cultural intelligence’ sprang up as the conversation broadened to include other cultures…and from there, things crystalised with stunning speed.

    I shared my journey of discovery with the Māori culture, simply jotting down the steps I had taken:

    Being conscious – getting curious – then a little courageous – and becoming competent

    What I absolutely love about this framework is that it’s a beginner’s mindset and ends up being an infinity loop. You can progress to ‘Competent’, fall off, and then start again. I have seen this happen numerous times as we explore new cultures as a company, or facilitator, or as an individual.

    At no stage do you become an expert or say, “I know the way!”. Cultural Intelligence, I believe, is just too complex and subtle for the expert mindset.

    Cultural Intelligence Model

    When we hit this point, the team who had assembled that afternoon at the Thistle Inn were all relaxed and happy. The best indicator that our work was done for the day. Yet, our work with the Cultural Intelligence framework is only just beginning for Collective Intelligence.

    Since then, I have thought to myself, “is Collective Intelligence underway in beginning to honour Te Tiriti o Waitangi?” I think we are!

    With any idea/startup, timing is imperative, and the timing for this is spot on. I sense with many forward-looking companies there is a desire to support and embrace indigenous wisdom in commercial operations across Aotearoa. There is a growing appreciation of what depth lies beneath the Māori heritage, language and customs. This is not tokenism. This comes from a place of respect.

    So where to from here?

    I am keen to share this new framework with our Collective Intelligence teams, and explore how we can open source it, creating a platform that people can add insights, resources, and learnings to that is shared openly. It’s early days, but I know it will work.

    And who was the team that met at the Thistle Inn? Anake Goodall, Che Wilson, Erin Wansbrough, Amy McLean, Bettina Anderson, Peter Butler, and of course the force of nature, Riana Manuel.

    I cannot thank these people and their generosity of spirit enough, for giving us this gift – of a place to start.

    Hui Attendees

    Members of our 8 March hui who generously gave of their time to explore how private organisations like ours could honour Te Tiriti o Waitangi.
    From Left: Bettina Anderson & Ian Harvey (Collective Intelligence), Riana Manual, Che Wilson, Amy McLean (on laptop!), Erin Wansbrough, Anake Goodall, and Peter Butler. The venue was the historic 1840 Thistle Inn in Wellington where Te Rauparaha it was said (probably fancifully) beached his waka on the foreshore to whet his whistle in the Thistle.

    Whakatauki


  10. A question for you…

    February 25, 2021 by Harv

    Harv asking what?

    This is my thinking face.

    And this… is my question to you to reflect on for the month ahead.

    What the f**K is going on here?

    It’s a question I’ve been using a lot over this past month to explore something that’s been weighing on me.

    Our Collective Intelligence (and Impact Teams) processes are focussed around the art of intelligent questioning. A good question is worth a thousand good answers.

    This is one to ask yourself when your emotions are running high, when you’re feeling overwhelmed, under-appreciated, judgey, and all armoured up.

    I used it to take a pause, dig in, poke about… to see if I could see what was going on under the surface and what there was to be learned from my feelings and actions.

    It worked for me.

    Let me know how you get on with it!


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