1. Rust never sleeps

    June 27, 2022 by Harv

    For those under 64 years of age – the title of this blog is the name of a 1979 album released by Canadian-American singer-songwriter Neil Young and the band Crazy Horse.

    Throughout the Collective Intelligence community in this post COVID-lockdown era, we’re having to dust off our rust and get back into the mode of meeting in-person. It’s been a bit of a wake-up call to see how squeaky our well-oiled meetings-machine has become at times, and how some of our members are rusty too when it comes to engaging with their teams. Real face-to-face human interaction takes practice!

    It’s truly wonderful to be back in action and getting feedback from members after their catch-ups over this past month. We never got this type of rich feedback from the online team sessions. We love our work with people.

    The gift of COVID has been that many of us have learnt how to engage effortlessly on Zoom meetings and the like. It’s an awesome way to do business, cutting down on climate-unfriendly travel, and allowing us to work from home more. However, as we know, there’s nothing like being in the same room with people to really connect.

    Team Whanau Harakeke

    Image: One of the first Collective Intelligence peer support teams to meet in June – Team Whānau Harakeke – pictured here in the Wairarapa with facilitator Sue Johnston (far left). Empty chairs around the table are still a feature of face-to-face meeting life – as sickness and a host of other big life’s-getting-in-the-way reasons continue to keep people apart.

    Recently our Collective Intelligence Advisory Board got together in person for the very first time and it was awesome. What I found interesting was at the next board meeting (which was back online) we had a whole new level of trust and interaction because of that previously nurtured in-person connection.

    So, here’s what I have been pondering. Are some people just happier connecting virtually than in person? I don’t know the answer to that but I suspect that it might be the case. Or are we losing/forgetting the skills so essential to village-life and community-making in general? I suspect that might also be the case.

    Trust is a huge part of effective face-to-face relationships and peer-to-peer learning and support groups like ours – as this excellent recent article from HBR sets out.

    If you look at our world leaders, they go to extraordinary lengths to meet each other in person. That’s when the trade deals are done, always in person. It’s a big deal – even now.

    It takes effort to engage
    And so, as our Collective Intelligence community comes blossoming back to full in-person meeting life, and our teams meet in-person again I urge you, our members, to remember the effort it takes to engage with other humans deeply – not for a few superficial hours online, but in all your naked (figuratively!), in-person glory for a day and a half.

    We cordially invite you to join...

    That’s where the magic is and always has been, being open and vulnerable in each other’s presence. The busy-ness (and business) can wait peeps – invest in yourself and others and you will be amazed again at the rewards.

    Doing our work with aroha
    It was pointed out to me many years ago by former Collective Intelligence member Che Wilson, that one of the key pillars of Collective Intelligence’s teamwork setting is ‘aroha’. Our work together is always done with ‘aroha’ – ‘the potential within that you direct to other people’ – a reciprocal sharing of breath, of mana, and of love. Something that needs to happen kanohi ki te kanohi (in-person) and it’s a real joy to watch it in action. Not quite sure what I’m on about? Have a listen to Che’s 3-minute explanation of the subtleties of this beautiful Pasifika concept.

    So, my question for you to reflect on is this,

    Are you ready to engage with the world in person yet?


    If not, what needs dusting off?

    If you’re craving some of that in-person aroha to enrich your life at the moment, that alchemy of a special group of people showing up for one another…then get in touch with me to have a chat about our membership options.

    Want to become a different type of leader?

  2. Don’t die wondering…

    May 30, 2022 by Harv

    “Don’t die wondering!” This was the advice I got from my sage mate, Anake Goodall, on the way to the airport after hosting the Impact Team that had come to help us work on our future plans for Collective Intelligence.

    I’m now in the 63rd year of my life, and some days I feel like an irreverent dinosaur trying to navigate technology and other days, like a bright-eyed youngster excited about the path ahead.

    It’s like flip-flopping between two totally different states. I’m doing some of my best work ever curating and facilitating, and I’m not so onto it with other aspects. I feel the gap is widening and I need to gather more resources to close it up. But time is ticking on… and at my stage of life it’s got a little bit ‘squeaky and sharp’ thinking about this. So, I’m working to make the most of my time like never before.

    I’ve been reading about our Stolen Focus recently and undergoing some training with Sue Johnston on increasing my personal focus. I’ve already made some adjustments, and I need to, as I’ve got plenty of stuff that I want to be doing.

    One thing, which is a big deal for me to acknowledge, is I’m going to ‘write me a book’ about my journey and why I started Collective Intelligence. During the process of plucking up the courage to map out a book (with the help of Andrew Melville) I had to dig deep to identify when my life underwent a trajectory change. Classic thing is – it’s not what or when I thought. It’s like I have finally worked out my purpose, and that feels wonderful, so now I need to step into that space more boldly.

    And so I am and so I shall.

    However, I can only achieve so much. It will require the help of many.

    I feel very proud that here at Collective Intelligence we are creating a governance team and culture that is dynamic, fluid and adaptable. This is the result of careful curation to bring together a mix of talent and pragmatism that I have never had around me as a founder. It’s next level!

    CollAb - our board

    Our next-level governance team known as the ‘CollAB’ (Collective Intelligence Advisory Board): From L to R: Harv, Andrea de Almeida, Tina Jennan, Finn Shewell, Matt Doyle & Marg Kouvelis. Absent: Rārite Mātaki.

    The CollAB at work in an ecosystem in May 2022 (not our ecosystem – but the Pūkaha-Mt Bruce bush ecosystem).

    The first multi-disciplinary team I’ve curated has been The Wellbeing Protocol, which is working together right now on a wicked alternative to the welfare system. Have a read of their White Paper – it is epic systems change on a grand scale.

    Then there’s the aspect of redesigning our traditional business model from an ‘organisation’ to a ‘people ecosystem’ – a concept that has been captured and represented by our wonderful new music by Horomona Horo and Dr Jeremy Mayall (hear all about it in Episode 58 of our Stuff that Matters podcast).

    Near the end of the interview, you will hear Horomona quote a proverb from Te Puea Hērangi of Waikato:

    “Ko te ohonga ake o taku moemoea, ko tērā te pūāwaitanga o te whakaaro.”
    “The awakening of our dreams, is the blossoming of our aspirations”

    This pretty much sums up how I’m feeling right now on this journey of discovery and wonder. It’s so easy to stop dreaming when you are up to your elbows in the doing stuff.

    ‘Don’t die wondering’ now means to me to… be bold…be brave…believe in the planning, and believe in the f……g amazing people that are helping with open hearts and wickedly smart minds.

    And Anake, I assure you… I’m not going to die wondering brother!

    Header image credit: Bonny Beattie

  3. Inside the Collective Intelligence chrysalis

    April 28, 2022 by Harv

    Whilst on a Zoom call with Cheryl Reynolds recently, she pointed out to me where Collective Intelligence is on our journey of transformation. I said to her, “it feels like we are in some sort of start-up mode again”. Cheryl smiled and said, “Nope, you are in the chrysalis stage Harv.” Bang-on! She had just given me a mental image that made waaay more sense.


    Well, as I understand it, this is what happens inside a chrysalis. Much of a caterpillar’s body breaks itself down into a ‘goop’ that contains imaginal cells (undifferentiated cells that can go on to become any type of cell). These imaginal cells put the caterpillar back together into a new shape. A few parts of the body, such as the legs, go through the process more or less unchanged.

    Imaginal cells – I like the sound of those big time! At Collective Intelligence we have been imagining ourselves new for the past 12 months and are now very close to being able to emerge from our chrysalis.

    What’s cool about undergoing such a transformation in Aotearoa-NZ, is that we are in good company, for there are about 2,000 different types of native butterflies and moths. More than 90% of these are found nowhere else in the world. Didn’t know that did you!

    Given this, it makes sense that moths feature prominently in Te Ao Māori (the Māori worldview) with this whakataukī being very apt for the topic of this blog:

    He iti mokoroa e hinga pūriri
    (the little mokoroa grub (pūriri moth larvae) fells a pūriri tree)

    It’s a reminder that even small things can have a big impact.

    So, back to our Collective Intelligence chrysalis… a chrysalis is one of the least inspiring-looking formations on earth when viewed from the outside. But on the inside…magic is happening!

    The Collective Intelligence chysalis at work

    For us, this magic includes:

    • Strengthening our foundations: ensuring that we’re able to endure and support our community of members whatever our unpredictable world throws at us in the future,
    • Enhancing our member experience: providing places and spaces for you to connect more widely than just with your team or at an individual level, thereby deepening and expanding the connections and value we offer you
    • Refining our collective story of community and impact: this is building on our initial work around sharpening up our brand and what we stand for, and how we communicate clearly what we do and who we are.

    That’s the rub for Collective Intelligence right now. From the outside it looks like we’re all just business as usual. But on the inside – ‘foof’ it’s all alchemy at work!

    Starting in May you’ll start to see the first practical elements of our transformation from the chrysalis, and we will be seeking out people’s input and feedback on our new initiatives as each one begins to unfold its wings.

    Rest assured that for all the work the imaginal cells have done on creating cool, new structures, just like in the caterpillar all the good bits, the foundational cells upon which our face-to-face, peer-based team-learning environments are built, will still be there.

  4. Using our adaptability intelligence

    March 30, 2022 by Harv

    Well it seems, unfortunately, that the subject matter of adaptability might be more relevant to you, then anyone would really want right now…

    This was how Collective Intelligence alumni, Rich Alderton, opened his hour-long online session on adaptability intelligence in our recent March MeetUP. We Kiwis found ourselves deep in the cresting wave of Omicron sweeping our country and here was I – sitting on Zoom at 10am on an autumnal Wednesday morning in my office in Feilding. There in front of me was Rich – sitting in his lounge in Cambridge, UK at 9pm, delivering to us a succinct presentation on one of the most important ‘intelligences’ a company can have.

    Adaptability, as defined by Rich, is the confluence of three key things – curiosity, courage and speed:

    Adaptability is having the curiosity to see the opportunity or need for change, the courage to embrace it, and the speed to pivot quickly.

    ~Rich Alderton: High Performance Change

    We have all seen examples of when the ‘right change’ at the ‘wrong time’ has yielded the wrong result – yet Rich stressed the importance of grabbing the window of opportunity when it arises. Applying your adaptability skills effectively needs to not only involve the ability to learn new stuff, but also the ability to un-learn old stuff.

    Basically, if you are open to the idea of change you are progressing, if you are not, you are regressing as a business – and there’s a monster gap between these two possible outcomes!

    As I listened to Rich’s presentation, I reflected on the work we’d done that had led me to this point – 3 days deep into a 2-week long virtual meet-up of our members and alumni that we had put together with 3 weeks notice. Here we were, putting into practice those very adaptability skills being talked about on-screen.

    As a business that brings people together, throughout this pandemic we have aimed to respond (and respond early) to the limitations imposed around what we can and can’t do; delivering our service to our members as best we could as each ‘new thing’ crossed our radar. When Omicron reared its spiky proteins in our part of the world, it forced us in early February 2022 to make a call to shut down our first tranche of face-to-face team meetings for the year.

    We called an online hui with our team facilitators, and asked, “So, now what team?” Sue Johnston was the first to respond, with a, “Let’s do something completely different!”, and then Manda Johnson followed with a, “Let’s do a big online get-together…”

    Within 20 minutes we had the bones of an idea mapped out, and everyone was 100% committed to delivering a three-sessions-per-day, one-week long, online meet-up (which later morphed into two weeks). Karen was up to doing the necessary Zoom training and program planning, Bettina got onto the comms, and Michelle piped in with, “Why don’t we include that conversation about loving yourself and your nation gig you’ve been mulling over”. I then got on the phone and coerced some panellists and a few presenters – although most stepped-up of their own accord.

    What I love about this story looking back now, is that it was a true team effort delivered at the height of a pandemic in response to a real challenge. Plus, for us the timing was right – as Collective Intelligence is just starting to expand our reach beyond just our long-standing, individual team-based model to a more team-based ecosystem-inspired community model.

    Many of the presenters were alumni of ours who quickly put their hand up to help as a way of re-engaging with a group of people, and a way of looking at the world, that they miss. The epic two-part UNscripted conversation sessions that we thew open to the public saw many people attending who had never engaged with us before.

    UNscripted Zoom call in action

    Our UNscripted online conversation in action on March 7.

    Oh, and the feedback we got on the whole thing has been pretty good – an excellent shot in the arm for us when thinking about how we might offer more value to our community in the future.

    So, back to me sitting at my desk with Rich and the crew…I had always thought our adaptability intelligence in the office was pretty good, and here was the evidence of it in action. Thinking back to Rich’s key adaptability intelligence ingredients – curiosity, courage and speed – what did we learn from this exercise in changing direction?

    • Constantly firing up our collective ‘curiosity muscle’ sits at the heart of how we work, and it works well for us. We ask lots of questions; we seek input from lots of people and we like trying new things! And new things can become usual things very quickly. Thanks to the success of our big meet-up experience we’re now planning to hold twice-yearly, mini online meet-ups for our community, with a program structure modified in response to the feedback we’ve received.
    • We’ve been practicing flexing our courage muscle more . We’re exploring with, and learning from, different segments of our Collective Intelligence community on how we can best go about creating more connections like those sown in this recent event. This courage will culminate later this year with us releasing a new IT platform to host greater interaction between current members and alumni.
    • We’re a small but nimble base-team, which means we can usually move pretty fast to enact an idea. More importantly we know some clever people in our networks who also work at speed (thanks Erica Austin, Hannah Smith, and our facilitators). In a situation like this (with just 3 weeks prep to put together and run 2 weeks of online events), they helped us upskill, learn and deliver.

    We also support the leadership development of a bunch of VERY cool and adaptive people – our members and alumni. People who can also see the value and the need to adapt to a world that is rapidly changing around us, and who are keen to jump aboard this journey of discovery with us.

    I’m so looking forward to seeing what other muscles our team and our community can grow from here in 2022!

    And if you want to watch Rich’s presentation – here it is:

  5. Our circles of influence

    February 23, 2022 by Harv

    Many years ago, I read Stephen Covey’s book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, and came across a diagram that shows our ‘circle of influence’ and ‘circle of concern’.

    Essentially, effective people focus on what they CAN influence, rather than on the stuff they have little control of. It’s a simple reminder in these complex times about where it’s smart to focus your energy.

    Circle of influence diagram
    Image Source: Covey’s Circles of Influence

    For example, I have not focussed much of my energy on the protestors in Wellington. I understand they feel disenfranchised, and they don’t like mandates. Fair enough. A lot has been written about what is going on – my favourite is Jehan Casinader’s article – it’s an excellent account of the situation.

    But for me, I need to remember that COVID-19 and the complexity it’s added to our lives, is a mere blip compared to the challenges of climate change and biodiversity loss that we face. COVID-19 doesn’t threaten the fabric of human existence, but those two are – right now.

    Here’s a song from 1929, written after the biggest flood in US history. It’s a wonderful expression of emotion on what we are really facing here.

    Even before this other ‘big C’ turned up, I was wondering about our ability as citizens of this lovely country to lift our game and take on the challenges ahead. I wondered if it was possible to lift the collective emotional intelligence of our population? Lift it in a way that would allow us to engage in more robust conversations, conversations that would allow us to sort out strategies to enable us all to flourish. Conversations in which we are able to recognise our biases – biases that gobble up our intelligence; and conversations where we are open to talking about topics and perspectives that we do not like or agree with.

    I met with some mates last year: Anya Satyanand, Felicity Lawrence, Che Wilson and Rosalie Nelson. I wanted to test this idea and see if others were interested in collaborating with Collective Intelligence to lift the emotional intelligence of the country. To my surprise and delight they didn’t laugh me off. Instead, they challenged me with ideas around the concept of, ‘What does it take to be an effective citizen of Aotearoa-NZ?’. Wow – stunning question.

    And Che then chimes in with, ‘What does it take to love yourself and country in this time?’. That really got my heart pumping.

    We sat on this kōrero for a bit. Waiting for the right time to raise this question and assemble a diverse panel of smart thinkers to thrash it out.

    March 2022 seems like the right time to us.

    So, on March 7th at 12.30pm you are all invited to join us (at no cost) for a two-hour, online hui to see how we can operate at a higher level than we are collectively right now.

    We’ve invited a stellar panel to get this conversation underway for us:

    Nathan Bramwell – Manager, Rainbow Hub Waikato (Collective Intelligence Member)
    Margaret Kouvelis – Executive Director, Talent Central (Collective Intelligence Alumni)
    Felicity Lawrence – Professional Development Manager, University of Auckland – Business School (Collective Intelligence Member)
    Anya Satyanand – CE, Leadership New Zealand
    Faumuina F. Maria (Ifopo) Tafuna’i – MD, Flying Geese Pro (Edmund Hillary Fellow)
    Che Wilson – MD, Intugen Ltd (Collective Intelligence Alumni)

    And of course, the question they’ll be reflecting on is:

    How do we love ourselves and our country in 2022 and beyond?

    It’s going to be interactive, real and at times a little bit raw and we would love to hear your views on the topic. Please join us – you’ll need to register beforehand via this link to attend.

    UNscripted conversation event banner

    Since we can’t have ‘all hui and no doey’ – the conversation will be in two parts:

    March 7 | The Hui (initial conversation): sparked off by our conversation-starter panel
    March 14 | The Doey (follow-up): identifying ‘Where to from here’ and defining a course of action & inspiration.

    Registering gives you access to both conversations.

    For now, I’ll leave you to reflect upon what being a ‘citizen’ (of our nation and the world) and the concept of citizenship means to you. See you on the 7th.

  6. Individualism to Collectivism (how the h*ll do we do that!?)

    January 26, 2022 by Harv

    It was once all about me…
    As a kid growing up, I can remember it was my feats as an individual that were the ones that got me the most kudos. While I was also credited when helping others, it never had the same status as individual endeavour.

    As I matured, the feats of individuals succeeding for themselves was highlighted and focussed on time and time again. The likes of Gandhi, Mother Teresa and later Nelson Mandela were often overshadowed by the individual bastions of industry and sport.

    Being self-made was the Kiwi pinnacle of success.

    When embarking on my own professional pathway, my measure was of course how well ‘I’ was doing, and that mostly meant what was my level of financial gain. There was no sense of what impact I was having on the environment, or my own wellbeing, or social impact…in any of the strategic thinking or planning around me. Just, ‘How much money can I accumulate while doing the business?’

    Looking to nature for guidance
    In 2022, I am intrigued by how we might go about unravelling the thinking that has been the scourge of the world the past few hundred years – or more? The question, ‘How do we create a legacy that helps others?’ is so much more rewarding.

    I’ve read many business books about performance, and that hasn’t really helped. I’ve read sports books that are all about competition and winning, and that hasn’t helped.

    So what a delight to read over the long summer break books about a) fungi (Entangled Life by Merlin Sheldrake) and b) trees (The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben). Both gave me inspiration and a glimpse of what is possible…what we can learn, adopt, and copy to create a better future.

    Decomposing funig book

    As a non-biologist, I thought I’d share with you here what I have learned so far and the fascinating similarities I see between these natural ecosystems and our own people-ecosystem that is Collective Intelligence.

    Fungi and mycelia – transforming our understanding of our planet
    Fungi are not that well understood as they have only been properly researched in the past 50 or so years. There is still very little known about them and their complex role in our world.

    The fungi we see on the ground (mushrooms and the like) have this stuff underground that looks like a cobweb – called a mycelium. Mycelia make up the biggest living biomass class in the world – by a long way. They can live for thousands of years if they are not sprayed or ploughed up. As a living organism, a mycelium actively senses and responds to its surroundings (often in unpredictable ways) as it searchs for more food. When faced with many choices, a mycelium will branch off and take several routes at once.


    A mycelium is a type of ecological connective tissue that ingests and transports nutrients, and water, not just for the fungi, but also surrounding trees and grasses. Without it, the soil is buggered, as it holds soils together and stores water. Mycelia are possibly the most important living things on this planet.

    A mycelium network has no head, or central brain and is basically a decentralised organism. Mycelia can regenerate themselves and coordination takes place both everywhere, and nowhere, all at once. Left alone, they could be immortal.

    They have incredible sensing powers – attracted to things that appeal and away from things that don’t. Mycelia are intelligent. They can choose. They form a dynamic and responsive network. They can’t run away from danger so instead they remodel themselves as a flexible network.

    Then there is this stuff called mycorrhizal fungi – critical members of the plant microbiome that form a symbiosis with the roots of most plants. Basically, their job is to seek out other living organisms to form symbiotic relationships with. They look for partners who can do what they can’t do on their own. For example, mycorrhizal fungi can mine phosphorus in the soils and share it with plants, which can then grow quicker. Wicked eh!

    In return, mycorrhizal fungi can partner with plants to photosynthesize for them and provide the fungi with sugars. They are like ecosystem engineers and are altruistic.

    Some other very cool things about fungi that I took away from my reading:

    • We know that ecosystems are complex and that there is no single fungal solution that will work in all sites and all conditions.
    • Mycorrhizal fungi spend more time-sharing resources (via mycelium networks) with other plants, than competing with them.
    • Interestingly – fungi spend as much time in decomposition as composition. About a fifth of all plant and animal species rely on dead wood to survive.
    • And radically – fungi will send out a toxic substance into the soil to kill pest insects, releasing nitrogen for trees if they are in dire straits. Again – wicked eh!

    And…this guy, Paul Stamets, is like the godfather of fungi:

    Trees – interconnected forest ecosystems
    An undisturbed healthy forest is happier and more productive than any human-managed forest. They like sorting themselves out.

    Trees will pump nutrients towards each other to help each other via their underground mycelium networks. Nutrient exchange and helping your neighbours in times of need is the norm. Forests are a form of superorganism laced together with interconnections – not just a random cluster of individual trees. Once connected, they actually do not have a choice but to exchange.

    Why would trees do this? By themselves they cannot establish a consistent local climate. Every tree is valuable and worth keeping around for as long as possible. Even when they die they are important. By themselves they are not a forest.

    By themselves they can grow too fast, allocating so much energy into growth that they don’t put energy into protecting themselves. When that happens, they are vulnerable to being attacked by insects and other forms of ‘nasty’ fungi.

    A tree is only as strong as the forest that surrounds it, and so intuitively they do not hesitate to help each other out. Trees need to be open-to-partner with many thousands of fungi, as these will literally grow into their soft root hairs.


    A diverse range of tree species provides security for ancient forests as well as promoting a diversity of fungi – as they all rely on creating stable conditions. They support other species under the ground, through their roots, so that they are not as vulnerable to one species collapsing.

    Young seedling trees in a natural forest will quickly become tied up within a complex, interwoven, and stable parent tree network from the get go. As they get older, they grow faster and are less fragile as they age, due to this interconnectedness.

    Their network needs to be a flexible network. While they are ruthless in wanting to survive as individuals, there are safeguards for those trees that take more than their share of nutrients. If they do not give back to the ecosystem, genetically they will die out over time (how do scientists work this shit out!?).

    Trees also need rest and the continual light provided in some urban settings can deprive trees of sleep causing poor health and even death in some tree species – just like us.

    So…what’s this blog all about?
    There is much to learn from nature if we are to survive as a species on this planet. We have been on Earth for a mere blink of an eye, but as we have modernised we have made a bloody mess of things – buggering our environment and building companies that have done more harm than good.

    This quote, from Ursula Le Guin, sums it up for me:

    To use the world well, to be able to stop wasting it and our time in it, we need to re-learn our being in it.

    For Collective Intelligence, 2022 is our fifteenth year in business and it is also the year that we will be activating our people ecosystem. We’ll be using technologies and human connections to mobilise our membership to help each other in our respective spheres of influence.

    Already we are seeing our members stepping up with ideas of what they want to be a part of. Here’s some examples:

    • Michelle Middleberg and Mary-Beth Robles are working on creating a new team model that will allow former members to connect up again virtually, and possibly locally. Our alumni miss the conversations and culture of the Collective Intelligence teams they once belonged to.
    • Finn Shewell, Alana Crooks, and Andy Ayrey are leading a talented team (I call them ‘The Cool Kids’) who are developing a wicked new web platform that our whole ecosystem will be able to connect up on. Our people will be able to access people they can trust easily, on a non-social-media platform. Plus
    • Alex Hannant and a few others are currently exploring the new world of Web 3.0, and how that can be integrated into our ecosystem model.

    All of the above has been instigated spontaneously in an environment where good ideas hit fertile ground and take root. So, what else can we do?

    People are like trees – we are better and stronger when we work together
    As an individual, I am really into relearning and reimagining the constraints of how we have always done things, and as a founder I want to let go of any perceived ‘control’ I have more and more.

    I dream of Collective Intelligence evolving from being a founder-led ecosystem, to a founder-inspired one. And I am going to turn to nature to learn how to do this.

    Will you join me?

  7. 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!

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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!

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