Etymology of “Conspire”

Gail Taylor is doing exciting new things with Tomorrow Makers and is seeking conspirators. Going through the new website today, I learned:

To conspire, in its literal sense, means “to breathe together.” It is an intimate joining.

Here’s what Google has to say about the etymology of “conspire”:

Here’s something I wrote on Faster Than 20 a few years ago about literally breathing together when collaborating.

Leadership Learning Community

In the second half of 2006, I took a hard look at my list of projects and opportunities. I decided that I needed to be brutally honest about what I wanted to accomplish with Blue Oxen Associates, and that ultimately, I wanted two things:    (LTL)

  1. To have a wider impact    (LTM)
  2. To give more quality time to fewer projects.    (LTN)

That meant not renewing existing commitments and saying no to a lot of great people.    (LTO)

In the midst of all this, I got an email from Elissa Perry asking if I’d be interested in becoming a board member of the Leadership Learning Community (LLC). LLC is a community that takes a network-centric approach to leadership development, focusing particularly on the graduates of the many foundation leadership programs across the entire sector. Elissa had participated in our first two FLOSS Usability Sprints, and we had chances here and there to chat about our respective work and organizations. We were definitely on the same philosophical plane, and I loved hearing about the great work LLC was doing.    (LTP)

That said, my first instinct was to say no. But I decided to sleep on it, and I started having second thoughts. When I started Blue Oxen Associates, I originally wanted to focus on the nonprofit sector, and while we shifted our strategy midway through our first year, my heart never left that space. Over the years, I met many great people in the sector, I worked with a number of foundations and two nonprofits (Planetwork and People for the American Way) as clients, I joined the board of a nonprofit (Tomorrow Makers), and I did several projects with Aspiration, most notably the usability sprints. But I never got the chance to really get my hands dirty with one particular group. Focus was always the issue.    (LTQ)

Joining the board of LLC would give me the chance to focus my energies on one nonprofit and simultaneously impact the entire sector. If I were going to make that commitment to one organization, I wanted to make sure it was a good fit. I decided to research LLC a bit more, and the more I read, the more I felt kinship to the mission and the execution. In many ways, they were trying to do the same thing for leadership that I was trying to do for collaboration. I loved their emphasis on learning as well as their methodology. Most importantly, I saw ways that we could learn from each other.    (LTR)

In the end, I said yes. I was confident about my decision, but after participating in a board meeting and in one of their learning circles last month, I am ecstatic about it. Everyone there is smart, action-oriented, and full of heart, starting with the executive director, Deborah Meehan. That also goes for its board. The board meeting felt like… well, like one of Blue Oxen‘s workshops. Except it wasn’t a workshop, it was a board meeting! This was not your typical, sign-off-on-the-budget-so-we-can-go-drink meeting. This was a welcome-to-the-family, stretch-your-mind, now-get-down-to-business meeting, and it was infinitely more effective and fulfilling that way.    (LTS)

The learning circle, for me, sealed the deal. Not only did I get to watch the LLC staff do their thing, I was also blown away by the caliber of the participants, who were mostly from foundations. I live in an area and work in a field where I am constantly surrounded by brilliant people, and to be very frank, I have always been underwhelmed whenever I’ve attended gatherings of foundation people. This was a notable exception. I was struck by the breadth of experience, the depth and rigor of thinking, and the respectful and authentic discourse among the participants. My brain was overflowing by the end of the workshop.    (LTT)

As I said a few weeks ago, a week with the LLC generated enough thoughts to fill a thousand blog posts. I won’t write that many, but I hope to spit out a few, starting with this one. In the meantime, if you’re interested in leadership, check out the web site, participate in one of the learning circles, and come participate in the annual Creating Space workshop in Baltimore, April 11-13, 2007.    (LTU)

Welcome, Gail and Todd!

Those who follow my blog regularly know how much I respect, admire, and occasionally collaborate with Gail Taylor. Some of her stories have trickled onto this blog, but they represent only a fraction of the thinking that she has helped inspire. Gail and her co-conspirator at Tomorrow Makers (and son), Todd Johnston, have been long-time fans of Wikis, and they recently joined the blogosphere. If you’re interested in deep thinking and great stories about collaboration, I strongly recommend subscribing to their new blog. As expected, there’s already a rich set of stories and thinking there, with much more to come. Welcome, Gail and Todd!    (L5C)

While I’m at it, it’s also worth mentioning Matt Taylor‘s real-time notebook. Matt is another one of Gail’s co-conspirators (and her husband), and his online journal has been available for many years. It’s not technically a blog yet (no RSS or Permalinks), so you can’t subscribe to it, but I highly recommend perusing it. There’s an amazing wealth of information there.    (L5D)

World Economic Forum Gossip

Blue Oxen Associates has been working with Tomorrow Makers to help with the design process at this year’s World Economic Forum. Sadly, I couldn’t be in Davos this year, so I’ve had to resort to good ol’ fashioned remote collaboration tools to keep up with what’s happening. I had this funny exchange with the most excellent Alicia Bramlett just now:    (K4E)

eugeneerickim: i’ll expect full gossip on any world leaders you rub elbows with 😉    (K4F)

abramlett: China’s Vice Premiere showed up today and John Gage just strolled thru. Its a strange place 🙂    (K4G)

I’ll gladly share any juicy, second-handed gossip with any of y’all, but you’ll have to ply me with booze first, and you run the not-so-unlikely possibility that I’ll be making it all up.    (K4H)

Camels and Group Process

This morning, Gail Taylor told me where she first came across the term, “Group Genius.” From the Tomorrow MakersFAQ:    (GIK)

In 1976 I stumbled on Lawrence Halprin‘s personal notebooks in the library. He had written the words “group genius” beside one of his stories. At that moment I realized that my work was all about what has comed to be called Group Genius.    (GIL)

The story?    (GIM)

“A camel is a horse designed by a committee.”    (GIN)

This old saw demeans the camel – which is an admirably designed animal (for the environment in which he lives) and the group design process. It is not the ideas of collective creativity which has failed but the committee idea itself: which attempts to function without clear understanding of the necessary processes involved in group problem solving. (Lawrence Halprin, 1974)    (GIO)