Imagine A Movement
The common quality that affect all needs is that people think a certain way. Our perpetual objective is to engage people's thinking to bring out the best solutions. People talk to those around them. They associate with others who might welcome a different view if they should happen to hear it. They take the lead in forming small initiatives and presume that energy for change is everywhere. People find each other, become a group, and work together.
A value that can integrate their efforts is 'the good of the whole,' a larger purpose than winning an election. It means implementing the best thinking on scores of fronts at the same time, affecting all facets of society. With a desire to be active and a unifying concept, what next?
How can a few people can share conviction and direction that eventually affects millions? To affect larger numbers, a few must expand to many. We undertake this by inviting others to do something with us in a way that numbers increase. And what is that 'something?' What do people need to think about in order to carry this out? This is the key question:
so our action is effective?
Following are some critical points around which a group can define itself.. Take your group through a thoughtful discussion of them to help it unify its focus. More on these ideas is available in Finding your Inner Lenin: Taking Responsibility for Global Change. Page numbers in parentheses indicate the beginning of a section in Lenin that treats the idea in more detail. If you click here, (button,Yes! Let me buy the book now) it will take you to for instructions on purchasing it as an ebook, paperback, or hardback.
What's our primary life responsibility?
It's to remain in goodness. Our first issue is always what heart we put into what we do. This principle is fundamental to religious and ethical systems and successful cultures throughout the world. People are good to each other. They manifest this with positiveness, realism, and wisdom. Joy results from basking in goodness (pages 35, 113). How do you and your group manifest goodness?
Why do we need imagination?
Concrete details reach our five senses, but the whole subsists only in our imagination. We imagine in order to hold onto our global vision, understand society, or even grasp the potential of our group. To bring about change, we have to be able to sustain a comprehensive picture of a group insightful, united, committed, and large enough to be a matrix for solutions for the whole (pages 12, 37, 107). What is your vision of the eventual form for your group and the results of its efforts?
What is the most common reason we do anything?
It's because someone else asks us to. We're all deeply enmeshed in responses to the expectations of others and tend to share with each other what we value. In this world of reciprocity, we're continually alert to requests from others and give weight to our own ideas as we invite others to an action. We need to think through what active response we want (pages 45, 108, 138). Do you find it hard or easy to invite others to share something you value? Do you invite others about things that are inconsequential or significant?
What's our main action?
Our main action is communicating a truth while in contact with another. Credible people communicate reasonable ideas with integrity until systemic changes take place (page 59). What makes you comfortable communicating ideas and what makes it hard? What do you need to practice?
How does it help us to master a body of knowledge together?
A common body of knowledge becomes our language for being together. We need to 'be on the same page' and relinquish idiosyncrasies in order to elicit the best thoughts of all and synthesize them into a common viewpoint. The price of accomplishing a large change is for large numbers to apply themselves in similar ways to the same idea (pages12, 102). What knowledge would you like to see unite this group? What would happen if this occurred?
How does reading figure into our learning?
Reading enables us to assimilate knowledge at our own pace. Some of our commitment to prepare ourselves shows up in what we choose to read. A way to tell if we're reading well is if we can read, think about it, and explain it to someone else (page 131). How can you make your reading more fruitful?
How does rationality matter to civilization?
Civilization is a rational construction. We constantly seek to apply outwardly a flexible order we create in our minds amid the potential chaos that surrounds us (page 127). How do you evaluate national policies in terms of their rationality?
What threatens our rationality?
Our subjectivity is the main threat. Attitudes, emotions, and viewpoints constantly challenge rationality. Sometimes we're wilfully unreasonable, feel invalidated, and place our ego needs ahead of the requirements of the task. We tend to see what we want to see and fail to notice contrary information. We screen out what's distasteful to us and so can't incorporate it into our analysis. We can truly consider others' contrary opinions to the extent that we look at our own opinions skeptically and seek continually to return them to balance (pages 57, 108). How different are you when you're at your most subjective compared to your most objective?
What diminishes the quality of our group thinking the most?
It's our accommodation to others. Because we don't want discord, we placate others. We fail to challenge their views even when we don't agree, let them get away with mediocre thinking, and expect them to do the same for us. In ordinary contacts, we often pass over these injuries to rationality just to make life easier. Left unaddressed in an organization, they can hinder its effectiveness. They're like a mild sickness is to the body. A single one slows it down and several can kill it (pages 31, 134). What organizational flaws have you seen persist because people were silent about them? What could have changed that?
What's the most fragile aspect of any enterprise?
Because of all the ways we can be irrational and mistaken, the most fragile element is simply to think well about it before we do it, to remove the threats to its quality. We can be stuck in roles, stereotypes, ideologies, surface impressions, pain, selective memory, hard-heartedness, desire for power, dependence, ignorance, overuse of strengths, false consistency, and many other reasons for irrationality (page 55). What sources of low quality thinking are most critical for your group?
How do we correct the limitations of our thinking?
Removing them requires much patience. Better ideas are often hidden within harder ones. We balance our emotions, and release non?essential preferences. We especially welcome feedback and correction, invite others to question our thinking, and weigh their answers carefully. We notice what's occurring around us, how we spend our attention moment by moment, and discipline ourselves to seek out what opposes our assumptions and preferences. A key step is to identify the objective evidence which if collected and understood leads us to a better idea. The group needs to elicit everyone's best thinking and sustain close connections despite displeasing each other. We make it impossible to change if we take personally others' attempts to correct us. The patterning of our mind is likely to continue exactly as it is unless we assertively question its assumptions (page 129). Do you find it hard to welcome correction? What can make it easier?
How should we respond to negative conditions?
We should respond with effective action but a positive attitude. We focus our thoughts and emotions on the most constructive path available to us so that our character is fed by what we truly want. We infuse ourselves with what strengthens us and makes us better. Then holding a positive inner state, we deal with negative conditions without their infecting us rather than by immersing in anything toxic. We manage our inner state deliberately, and refuse to blame our depression, helplessness, or anger on other people's negative or selfish actions. We use firmness as needed, however. Standing against evil, injury, or destructiveness is sometimes the necessary action (pages 120, 123). What negatives in the world invite you personally to respond? How do you resist negative conditions from taking you over while you deal with their practical aspects?
How can we blend objective and subjective qualities in our thinking?
To create the world of our experience, we combine the world inside us with the world outside us. We're objective, accurate, and consistent in attuning to the reality outside us. We're true. We then supply this objective picture with what we value from our subjective world-our creativity, values, and perceptions of higher qualities. We nurture high values within us that we offer to and express in the objective world (pages 138, 168). How do you bring into balance the subjective and objective sides of your life?
REACH OUT TO OTHERS
What's the difference between information and views?
Information feeds our rational mind. As we accumulate it and reason from it, we readily join our thinking to that of others who do the same thing. With verifiable facts and data, we arrive at conclusions others can accept. Our views instead are our creative use of the information, our beliefs about it. Values are essentially our preferences about what to emphasize, so they can make us distort information or set aside rationality to bend information to our uses. This generates conflict with others who either rely on information or who view differently. Irrational conflict remains so unless rational solutions are pursued deliberately. We problem?solve better after distinguishing whether the issue is one of information or of resolving views (page 130). What has been your experience with irrational conflict? How do you differentiate between your own views and information?
What is the main value we want to communicate to others?
They need to know that we're on their side, that we work for their best interests. The idea of the good of the whole incorporates all values so that everyone prospers. This means relinquishing an advantage?driven strategy in favor of one that serves everyone (page 113). What's been your experience of seeking solutions that serve everyone?
How does the Golden Rule apply?
'Do unto others as you would have them do unto you' applies thus: We habitually want others to agree with us and help us succeed. We want them to put us first. The rule instructs us to do the reverse, to put them first and to give their needs greater weight than our own (page 116). What issues are important enough to you that you put them first over your own needs? How can you redefine your needs to make room for such actions?
How do numbers of people figure in?
Individually we're powerless in the face of impersonal social forces. We change by accruing together the power of many. We seek allies, invite them to think through values and plans with us, meet with them, build an organization, and increase our capability to do more. A movement develops as a system of action toward a valued goal becomes clear (page 143). How do numbers figure in at the different stages of the changes you want to see? How do you envision your own link to many allies?
How do we bridge to another's idea?
We listen carefully to their explanation of it, summarize it so they know we understand it, appreciate the values it expresses, discuss aspects of it, ask their permission to respond with an alternate view, and hold open the expectation of further discussion (page 55). How hard or easy for you are these features of communication?
How does ideology help or hinder?
An ideology simplifies our thinking, but also can lead us to ignore contrary evidence. The more unified a group is, the more it tends to play out a single ideology, so when a group is constantly unanimous, it may be a clue to invite fresh thinking from the outside (page 108). Do we want to represent an ideology or not? What are the upside and downside?
What limits ideology the best?
Keen observation of the world plus humility limit ideology. Reality's varied qualities and understanding our own limitations help us fit our ideology to the world (page 136). To the extent that you adopt an ideology, how do you balance it against reality?
What should we look for in talking out opposing positions?
The most constructive action often is to find conditions that validate aspects of our pponents' position and acknowledge themy. This encourages them to do the same toward us (page 123). What has been your experience of trying to understand people who disagree with you?
What causes trust to vary in face to face situations?
Trust varies with six aspects. The first of the following pairs enhances trust and the second undermines it: being equal vs superior, provisional vs. certain, spontaneous vs. strategic, problem?solving or controlling vs. empathic or neutral, and evidence?oriented vs. evaluating and blaming. People also need to know both that we want to and do understand them. We convey this by summarizing carefully the message we hear from them and allowing them to correct us. When they hear us represent accurately their feelings and priorities and notice us act in their behalf, they have reason to trust us (page 47). In face to face situations, how do you manifest these six conditions? What's the effect when you check your understanding of others' messages?
What's our view of human motivation?
Much social policy addresses economic issues, but in their personal lives people respond to an array of values. We give priority to one over another by calling it to each other's attention and talking about it. Others' response to a value depends largely on what they're invited to do by the situation they're in (page 11). How do the issues that interest you reflect material interests and/or a common ethical base?
How do we make ourselves untrustworthy?
We threaten trust mainly by wanting our own advantage, seeking to advance our interests. When we want others to give ground to our needs and views, they know they must be vigilant. When we go to extremes in our self?interest, others in defense must limit us, especially to protect the powerless. To be worthy of trust, we seek the truth that opposes our position, and adopt the interests of the other ahead of our own. Trust between ourselves and our opponents begins with a desire truly to benefit each other (page 20, 28). Examine all the ways that your beliefs and actions might cause others not to trust you.
START A GROUP
What's the first need people have around others?
The first need people typically experience around others is to be validated, accepted for who they are. The most common way to accomplish this is to listen to and refer to others' ideas respectfully (page 49). What's been your experience of being validated (or its opposite) in meetings you've attended? How did that influence your link with the group?
How do people find their place in a group?
When people enter a new group, they must settle the question 'Where do I stand?' before they can get down to business. They sense whether 1) they're in or out, are truly received, are like or unlike others they encounter; 2) are on top or bottom in terms of status and influence; 3) are near others or far from them in closeness. If their answers to these questions are acceptable to them, they consider staying (page 63). How do you personally decide whether others accept you in a group? How do you extend acceptance to others?
What are five steps to becoming part of a group?
To become part of a group, newcomers need to 1) gain a sense of connection, 2) be impressed with the value of its actions, 3) have an opportunity to express their own ideas, 4) notice that the group enhances them, and 5) find an activity that fits them (page 74). How have these elements played out in groups you've entered or want to create?
What does the group need in regard to personal closeness?
While not everyone needs to be equally close with everyone else, the group prospers by avoiding cliques, status, and turf and by everyone relating to everyone else in an open, valuing, and appreciative way. Emotions are important in a group, but more through accepting their natural expression than by generating them artificially (page 75). What's been your experience of the effect of emotions in groups you've belonged to? How do you want others to accept or relate to your personal feelings?
What three conditions together are most powerful for changing people's ideas?
We tend to change our ideas when people, values, and actions unite. Attractive people hold values that appeal to us and are the basis for the group's action. We adopt the whole together-doing these things with these people for these reasons. We fail by not offering people a place in a group, or by the group being inactive, or if its action has no value (page 63). How do you describe your personal scale of values? With which people do you share them, and how do you express them in action?
How are large problems resolved?
Large problems are resolved by large numbers of people collaborating. This presents two recurring objectives alongside anything else we do: expand numbers and coordinate action (page 143). How does enlisting new members figure into accomplishing goals important to you personally? Are others needed, or can you do everything yourself?
What limits people's willingness to commit to a purpose?
Uncertainty about how others will cooperate is a major barrier. Everyone has to see others making similar sacrifices. Passing on personal experiences that occur while acting for the group helps to cement the group. Members know others are reliable. They must also perceive that they won't be harmed, and within the scope of the time horizon to the goal, they foresee benefit for themselves or others they care about (page 116). How reliable do you consider yourself? How do you weigh sacrifices, benefits, and scope in terms of your group?
What is the basis of a group's strength?
It lies in members' depth of conviction about its guiding ideas. The ideas then take on more influence as larger numbers adopt them (pages 12, 102, 168). What ideas do you think best unite large numbers of people?
What enables an organization to survive?
An organization survives only if it solves many small, individual problems, any one of which can cause it to fail. No single element insures its success. People need to understand why mistakes were made so that they can be avoided in the future, and manage the subjective factors limiting the group's energy or vision (page 93). In your experience, what features enable groups to be successful?
What is the first task of a social action group?
It must form a clear picture of its mythus, its definition of 'who we are, what we do, and why.' It develops a conscious model of what it is and where it's going, addresses predictable problems, decides how it will handle the variances in human nature, and defines facets of its direction and inner life. Generalities come alive as the group treats individual details about its purpose and functioning. Two criteria for achieving this are if the group's mythus and activity can be taught readily to a new person, and if its model can be transported and duplicated elsewhere (pages 82, 99). Do these criteria apply to your group? How does your group define its mythus?
What's the most basic aspect of group membership?
It's showing up, a willingness to be bothered, to take time (page 171). How does this willingness fit into your picture of your life?
Why are meetings important?
Meetings are the best vehicle for clarifying group thinking, developing goals, deepening a sense of unity, determining appropriate action, and assigning responsibilities (page 73). If you've experienced a great meeting, what made it so?
PERFECT THE GROUP
Why is courage important to a group?
Moral courage often demands taking a public stand that's either unpopular or uncomfortable. Sometimes our most important role is just to stand against what we consider evil. Everyone who upholds a standard of truth makes it easier for someone else to uphold it. We grow in moral courage by never deliberately surrendering a contest involving it (page 118). How does moral courage figure in to what you want to accomplish?
How can we think of development of character?
Development of personal character can be thought of as a gradual shift from our first idea to our best one. Four overarching elements of it are completely under our control: choosing the best, taking responsibility, diminishing the influence of ego, and diminishing irrationality (page 77). How do you apply these four elements?
What is Hunt's three?step formula for success?
The three step formula for success suggested by Nelson Bunker Hunt is to determine what we want to achieve, determine its price, and pay the price (page 119). How do you apply these steps to your group?
How do we deal with diversity?
We enlist others who have competences we lack so that the group becomes more versatile. The more unfamiliar people are to each other, the more time they need just to establish a basic connection. To realize that we can work with others, we need a mutual desire to reach past differences, and must spend time doing so (page 103). What's been your experience of accepting or being accepted by people different from yourself?
What values are central to your group?
Certain values are central across the human race: Giving complete attention to others to receive them fully, giving unconditional love, and taking total responsibility for all that happens. To affect the world, we need at least an orientation to action and an unselfish desire to help others (page 113). How do you assess your group in relation to these values?
How do we perceive values?
We perceive them only by holding them consciously in mind. Even though we may subscribe to them theoretically, values such as love, truth, kindness, fairness, justice, and responsibility usually lie on the outskirts of our perception while practical conditions preoccupy us. Because they don't automatically intrude on our awareness, they require our diligent attention if we're to cause them guide us. Group systems always enhance some values over others (page 80). In what ways do you personally retain an active sense for your personal values? How can the group aid this?
Why is it crucial to perfect the group's functioning?
How we treat people determines whether they cooperate with us. Many facets of a group may attract or repel them, so enhancing their experience in it is a resource for anything the group wants to accomplish (pages 93, 96). What's been your experience of the quality of a group's internal functioning affecting its accomplishments?
What does it take for you to make a change in your life?
We change behavior by changing thinking. We're each embedded in a system of life that holds us in place by habit, others' desires, and obligations we accept. It's a challenge to free up the time and energy for anything different. But if we think as we've always thought, we'll do what we've always done. And if we do what we've always done, we'll get what we've always gotten. If we want different results, our existing mental constructs won't get us there. To take up one thing, we release another (page 168). What changes do you want to make? What can you release and what will you take up?
How does identity figure in?
Our identity is a strength and a drawback. What we consider our strengths often become our worst enemies when we overuse them: 'Tell me your past and I'll tell you your future.' We have the traits we do precisely because our identity holds us in old thought forms that may misconnect with our current world, but we're not frozen there. Anyone who has more than one trait can decide which to employ, and the traits we use most tend to develop most (page 153). In what ways are you patterned or unpatterned? How do your patterns or lack of them help or hurt your life?
What increases our insight?
We first acknowledge that we see only what we're capable of seeing. We can't see beyond the level of our growth. To see more, we have two avenues: First, we look back and notice what enabled us to change before and do that kind of thing again. Second, we welcome others' challenge or stimulation to our thinking (page 81). Does it seem appropriate to you for your group to do these things together?
What four factors influence the group's ability to duplicate itself?
For its inner life the group needs three things: proportionate amounts of learning (so people develop a common view of what they're doing), mutual support (so they don't burn out), and dedication (so they're motivated to carry out the steps needed). These supply balance to a fourth factor, action (so they achieve realistic outer results) (page 82). What's been your experience of the balance or lack of it between group support and group action? How do these two factors apply to your present group?
Why is member training and development important?
People do what they're prepared to do. For our actions to have significant results, they need to arise from a reservoir within us that's emotionally and morally capable of such actions. A commitment to prepare ourselves is one of the creative forces of civilization. Years of invisible labor by some enable what appears later to spring spontaneously from the effort of many. A group aiming for long?term results attends to the steady development and training of its members (pages 77, 172). What preparation for a future task interests you? Is it of interest to you to become skilled at helping society change?
Why is awareness important?
Accurate and complete information precedes the best solutions, but many issues are so complex and obscure that we can only guess at them. Answers lie in delicate perceptions of elusive reality. If we don't see accurately, we don't realize soon enough that we really don't want something we're working to obtain. We gather knowledge in order to carry out the purposes of the group (page 127). How have you seen inadequate knowledge affect group accomplishment? How can the group gather and use the broadest thinking?
How does balance figure into group life?
Many groups die by the excesses of their leaders or members. If we let our urges and instincts rule our lives, we continually destroy with impulse what we labor to create with discipline. We survive longer if we can recognize imbalance when it shows up and make conscious effort to return it to balance. Other balances self, elsewhere balances here, weakness balances strength, thought balances feeling, invisible balances visible, old balances young, rest balances action, and one person balances another. We wish to move toward balance (page 120). How do the issues that interest you manifest imbalance? How can seeking balance help to correct them?
What basic quality makes a meeting good?
A case can be made that what makes a meeting good is a mild self?discipline everyone exerts in seeking only what benefits the group and its common direction (page 73). What mild disciplines would you like to see in meetings you attend?
Why should we strive for excellence in group activities?
Any team with serious intent sets standards of excellence so that members try to elicit each other's best efforts. They gradually apply the group's expectation of excellence in every action they undertake, leading others to aspire to higher standards. People are drawn to beauty, efficiency, harmony, and balance in human systems as well as in the technological and artistic. A symphony becomes beautiful when its parts are performed precisely at their designated moment. Many human activities require a similarly intricate harmony of parts. Because social conditions are influenced by multiple causes, changes need to be thought through carefully and many threads of influence integrated. The same applies to a group's inner life (page 58). What for you marks the presence of harmony in a group? What do you understand excellence to mean for a group interested in social action?
What are our first considerations when conflict emerges within the group?
If our team has conflict, we first need to check our goals. Confusion about them points people's energies understandably in different directions and conflict is a symptom. People's personal needs can also be the cause. If these two issues are resolved, then knowledge and high quality reasoning work out conflict better (page 94). What are we really about? What do individuals need from the group?
Why is a planning team important?
A group's perpetual challenge is to think well about whatever it does, which means mastering many details. Because a large group can't do this, we delegate planning to a few willing to spend time at it (page 83). How have you found group planning important or not?
What does a planning team do?
The PT meets separately to plan meetings that are efficient, inspirational, and inclusive; design group activities, suggest (or monitor) assignments for each person, and arrange for the learning, development, support, and expansion of the group. At regular meetings, everyone's assignment and report is accounted for. The PT seeks to enable every member to learn and become competent and effective, and reflects on how best to unite the goals of the group with members' individual capabilities (page 85). How do you envision this process occurring with your group?
What two factors need to be in balance in the group?
People deepen their commitment as they talk through how they connect their thinking and values with their outer action. They put into words how they balance thought and application, so that they're neither 'off in the clouds' nor acting blindly. We absorb best the ideas we ourselves express in words that others can respond to (pages 75, 79). How have you done this in group situations?
How much agreement should we seek within the group?
Aiming for unanimity means expecting to weigh everyone's best thinking. We communicate carefully with those who disagree with us to find the most stable, long?term knowledge and agreements. When the group enlists everyone's best ideas, decisions tend to be unanimous and more successful (page 80). What's your experience talking things out with those who at first disagree with you?
What is a big reason for organizational failure?
Status and differences in power separate members, weakening the quality of decisions and members' commitment to carry them out. Group structure should minimize these influences (pages 89, 93). What's your experience of the effect of status and differential power on group functioning?
What's our main vehicle for learning?
Ongoing small group discussion enables people to talk through the values and priorities affecting the group's life. Minimum guidelines include: look at the speaker, leave a brief silence after each one speaks, invite everyone to speak, ask questions, and connect with others' ideas. Looking at people lets them know they have the group's attention. Brief silence equalizes talking time by allowing an opening for the next speaker, and enables everyone to weigh the prior message before commenting. Inviting each one's views includes everyone. Questions draw them out and enlarge a subject. Connecting with others' ideas builds a common train of thought (page 80). Do you want to become better able to express ideas? Are you willing to participate in regular discussions in order to generate a common group understanding?
What determines our ability to grow in numbers?
Our ability to grow to larger numbers depends completely on how we treat each other in smaller numbers. We must first demonstrate a quality of thought and personal connection that show others that good ideas are emerging, action is on target, and they personally have a significant role (page 144). How do you assess the quality of your group's thinking, its actions, and its personal connections? What changes in them might enable the group to grow?
What's the most basic action on a personal level?
We can't do anything until we make a commitment to communicate. We call and talk, exchange emails, stimulate each other's thinking, read and discuss common material. Then we plan a single step ahead, agree to carry it out, and check back with each other. If we can think together and then make simple plans that carry out agreements, we can aspire to involving more people (page 60). Think back to the explicit agreements you made with others about group activity. How did you keep them, and what was the effect?
What makes action desirable?
Our actions are the most powerful formative influence we have over our ideas. Acting on them expands them in our mind, giving them vitality and realism. The energy we enjoy most is what we generate from our own effort. An ongoing, valuable action is to reach out personally to others to meet an urgent need, and invite them to cooperate. When we notice that action is effective in a way we value, we're more likely to welcome being called to do it (page 78). What activities energize you or might draw you to an action group? What could the present group ask of you that fits you best and challenges you?
How can we tell if we've assimilated our group's thinking?
A signal that we've assimilated our group's thinking is a sense of urgency in our desire to pass it along to others and to exert energy for it (page 61). How have you drawn on such a reservoir in you before?
What do people need in regard to a task assignment?
They need clarity about it above all. They need to know the specific action they'll undertake, and when they'll account back to the group for it. An agreement with even one other person can be a motive strong enough for us to follow through, and without this we often delay and forget. Feedback on progress toward a goal is one of the strongest motivations for continuing the effort. Accounting to others for it shows us that it adds up to something. We see success accumulate. If our goal is to talk to a million people, we need to see how our effort constitutes a step. The planning team needs to know the range of tasks available and members' capabilities to perform them (page 96). What has been your experience of having others think about your needs and challenge you with tasks?
These ideas distill many you'll find in my book Finding Your Inner Lenin: Taking Responsibility for Global Change. If there's another way I can help you succeed in your efforts for change, please let me know.