January 8, 2012 by Crane Wood Stookey
Michael Scott was for many years CEO of Precision BioLogic, a medium-sized medical products company rated one of the Top Ten Best Places to Work in Canada. He’s now Executive Chair.
For a few years now Michael has been pushing the chairs back against the boardroom table whenever he sees that they’re out of place. He makes sure the chairs are evenly spaced and neat. He’ll do this at the end of any meeting he’s in, after people have left or as he’s talking to someone who stayed behind. If he walks by the open door to the room and sees another group has left the chairs in disarray, he’ll go in and arrange them, and whoever might be walking with him has to follow him in.
His employees began by thinking this was odd, Read more…
March 27, 2011 by Crane Wood Stookey
Wind whistling in the window screens makes me nervous. When I was a child, in summer my windows were left open for some cool air, and when the first thing I heard in the morning was wind whistling in the screens I knew it was windy but I would have to go sailing in my Optimist Pram anyway, to sailing class or to a race, and I would be frightened. Even before I was fully awake, some part of me would hear that sound and I would open my eyes with fear in the pit of my stomach.
My brother David, 11 years older than I, was a hot shot racing sailor in college. One day when I was about 10 it was so windy that, to my great relief, my sailing class was canceled. Then David said, “Get your pram rigged up, you’re going to learn some heavy weather sailing.” “No way”, I said, over and over. But David Read more…
December 29, 2010 by Crane Wood Stookey
Good morning everyone! The child is born, the candles are lit, the days grow longer again. The celebrations are soon over, and it’s time to enjoy ourselves.
At sea, the sun rises from the edge of the world and the ship’s crew rises with it. We scrub the decks and polish the brass before breakfast. When the ship is clean and shiny, she becomes a worthy mirror for the new day, a mirror that reflects back to us the best we each have to offer.
In the city, my cooking pot is clean and bright, and my oatmeal bowl is patterned in blue. There is a chip in the rim, which fits my thumb nicely, and brings a moment of sharpness and attention when I touch it.
In the dojo, the Aikido master Wendy Palmer works with her Japanese teacher to bring the fullness of herself to her training. Her teacher cries out to her, “I want to see your NOBLE. I want to see your AWESOME. I want to see your SHINY.”
Our noble awesome shiny is with us always, of course. But when it’s hard to find, the world can be our mirror. Polishing our brass, cleaning our pot, touching the sharpness of real things, whatever we do to make the world bright and vivid makes life mirror-like. The mirror commands us, and the command is, “See this noble awesome shiny. Enjoy yourself. Enjoy yourSELF.”
When this command is hard to give, the mirror-like world can give it for us.
What works for you?
December 21, 2010 by Crane Wood Stookey
Here are some reflections on Alice’s story from the last post. I hope you will add your own reflections to the discussion in the comments.
To me, the main point is that Alice didn’t try to shift the people in her team. She didn’t hand out copies of an article on being a team player for everyone to read. Rather she shifted the environment the people were in, with flowers and food, and then the environment shifted the people for her. Her approach was not directive. It was cultural.
She didn’t propose team-building exercises or other made-up activities. Her flowers and food were real, and had the power of real things.
She used this power of real things to cut a space in the stuckness of the situation. Her gift of flowers woke people up for a moment and paused the momentum of negativity. In this space there was a possibility for something new to arise.
She took her time. She applied her technique in stages, allowing its influence to accumulate. When one of the men asked for his favourite cookie she offered instead her first command, “Maybe you’d like to bring some next time.” It was a command that could be obeyed. It might have backfired, the man responding, “I don’t bring cookies. That’s your job, isn’t it?” But things had already progressed to the point that such a response was no longer necessary. Read more…
December 19, 2010 by Crane Wood Stookey
Alice worked in a company where her team had weekly all-team meetings. They were hellish occasions, thick with territoriality and blame, a regular weekly gut-shot to morale, creativity and effectiveness. They were also male-dominated and hierarchical, with an entrenched and fearful leadership. Alice, in a new position at the bottom of the ladder, hardly said anything, and what she did say was dismissed.
Alice really didn’t want to get sucked into this culture, which everyone else seemed resigned to as the norm, but she felt powerless to address it. To introduce some softness into this inhospitable environment, she began bringing small flower arrangements to put on her desk. Finally one week, she took her flowers and put them on the side table against the wall in the meeting room before people came in. Read more…
November 28, 2010 by Crane Wood Stookey
Have you ever slept on a row of oars? No? Really never? Well you should try it. Oars are excellent teachers.
At the Nova Scotia Sea School crews of ten teenagers and two instructors sail the Nova Scotia coast in 30-foot open boats with no engines, no cabins, no electronics. The boats have two masts with sails, and eight 13-foot-long oars. Those are the engine. We anchor at night in some protected cove, but we live in the boat, sleeping on the oars under a tarp. The teenagers learn to take command of the boat, and of their lives, but we accept that the boat is really the one in command. Read more…
November 20, 2010 by Crane Wood Stookey
Prof. Eduard Franz Sekler, an old-world Austrian gentleman who is one of the patriarchs of the Harvard Graduate School of Design, had a magic rock. We didn’t know it was magic at first, but it turned out to be our Honourary Professor of Wakeful Perception.
Professor Sekler taught a seminar I took, which met in a small room, six of us around a table. At the start of class he would set his papers and notes on the table and put the rock on top of them. We could tell by the way he placed it each day that he was very fond of his rock. Though we didn’t pay much attention to it.
One day Prof. Sekler asked us to consider how design can influence the way we perceive the world. He picked up the rock and handed it around to us. We all held it, felt it, admired it. For the first time we really paid attention to it. Read more…