A remarkable new community member, Anthony Lawlor, got me thinking about transitions this morning. In August I blogged about the experience of consciously moving from four different perspectives: individual, self-organizing group, community, and planet perspectives. He’s curious about what the transitions between these places look like. I am too, which may be why, although we’ve only just met, I’m already pretty sure that he’s a genius.

Community ask:

If you have a talent for drawing (and reading between the lines), and would like to draw images for future transition-related posts, will you let me know? Please don’t make me draw these images on my own, my friends. It might break my brain.

Three stories of individual and self-organizing group transitions follow. The three stories together are also a story of community. In upcoming posts, I’d love to add drawn images to further illuminate one or more of these transitions. Creative friends, what does the transition look like between and among:

  • Our individual selves and our self-organizing group selves?
  • Self-organizing groups and self-organizing work groups?
  • These self-org group selves and my community?
  • Our individual selves, self-organizing groups, and our community?
  • Our communities and our planet? (You’ll need to rely fully on your own imagination for this one.)

The story of Doug and Lori

In the fall of 2010, Doug emailed me when he recognized something of himself in the Collective Self blog. We met for coffee and learned we’d both left Microsoft several years back. We immediately liked one another and believed that we could be better together than on our own, in part because our areas of focus are very different from each other. At that first meeting, I invited Doug to join the Seattle Consultants Grotto group I was part of, and we began to meet monthly as part of the group. By January 2011, we were talking weekly, as friends, and decided we’d like to work together somehow. Here are the highlights of what we’ve become and done together this year:

1. Across the spring:

  • We created and submitted several conference workshop proposals together. The first was unsuccessful, the second one was accepted. Although still not fun, being rejected together felt considerably better than being rejected as an individual, and I spent less than 5 minutes feeling sorry for us before moving on.
  • Doug found new, paid consulting work thanks to the Seattle Consultants Grotto group.
  • Lori found a new group to study thanks to Doug’s recommendations and spent time with that group.
  • Doug invited Lori to lunch with his friend Greg, who brought along his friend Cathy. Cathy and I connected immediately.

2. Across the summer:

  • We facilitated a workshop at the Organizational Systems Renewal conference at Seattle University. We had a great time, even though I was recovering from food poisoning the day of the workshop. Had I been facilitating this workshop on my own, I would have cancelled because I couldn’t have done it alone. Doug’s friend Neil attended the workshop. Neil is now my friend and we recently started talking about working together as well.
  • I invited Cathy to join the Seattle Consultant’s Grotto group.
  • In our spare time, Doug and I wrote an eBook together—a first for both of us. I met Doug’s family and learned about a great group his wife Wendy is a part of, which I talked about a little bit in this blog post. During one meeting with Doug, I started to cry because I was so thankful to be learning with him and not on my own. This blog post, one of my personal favorites today, is a result of that meeting. Doug learned that sometimes my gratitude bathtub runs over and spills out my eyes. I learned that my best work is improved by my tears, not hindered by it. We planned to finish the book in June (ambitious since we started in May) but Doug had a lot of commitments in June and July. There was one day, one moment, when as an individual I worried that Doug wouldn’t or couldn’t finish the book. I decided that the experience writing it with him was more valuable than the finished book itself and let go of that worry. We finished and published the eBook to our Web sites in August.
  • In July, Doug, Cathy, Doug’s friend Neil, and I together created a speaking proposal for a 2012 conference that none of us has ever spoken at before.
  • From his boat one sunny day in July, Doug called me and told me about another person/group he thought I should study.

3. Across this fall:

  • We haven’t been working together as much, each moving on to new work. However, we did manage to create another workshop proposal for a conference that Doug has spoken at in the past. Feels like it takes us almost no time to throw proposals together now.
  • I met with the new group that Doug recommended to me this summer: a group I intend to feature in the new Different Work eBook I’m writing with Bas. Learned so much!
  • We continue to meet monthly via our Seattle Consultants Grotto group. I love hearing about what Doug is working on now.
  • Later this month I’ll be interviewing Doug to include his story in the Different Work eBook I’m writing with Bas.

The story of Cathy and Lori

Cathy and I met on May 19, 2011, at a lunch arranged by my friend Doug and Doug and Cathy’s mutual friend Greg. Doug thought there might be an opportunity for connection, since we all do consulting work. I liked Cathy immediately. She’s so open, welcoming, and warm. She has an amazing smile. She also has a very different life and work history than me—having spent most of her career working for and within the school system (my background was within business and several non-profits). She reminds me of my sister—another person who has spent her career within the school system. Cathy and I both have doctorate degrees (Yea, another book nerd to hang with!). She received hers studying trust. Here are the highlights of what we’ve become and done together this year:

1.Later that same day (that we met):

  • Cathy sent me a list of questions about self-organizing groups.
  • I invited Cathy to join our Seattle Consultants Grotto group.
  • Cathy and I began discussing self-organizing groups and trust—a discussion, from my perspective, that is unlikely to ever end, because I’ve believed from the beginning that Cathy and I will be friends. Some of our earliest learning is in this blog post.

2. Across the summer:

  • We continued to exchange ideas (our own and others) about trust and self-organizing groups. We got to know each other better as Cathy went through a medical crisis with a family member and I talked to her about my own experiences with medical emergencies and chronic illnesses within my family. I was pretty surprised to be sharing this much with someone I’d just met, but I trusted my trust in Cathy (after all, I’d trusted Doug from the very beginning and that turned out pretty well, plus, isn’t someone who spends years devoted to studying trust likely to be among the most trustworthy people on the planet?).
  • We created a proposal, together with Doug and Doug’s long-time friend Neil, to speak at a conference together next year as a panel.
  • Cathy joined our monthly Seattle Consultants Grotto group. I continue to be amazed by this because she lives more than an hour away (more than 2 during rush hour).

3. Across this fall:

  • When I expressed my desire to start working with some of the Grotto group members, Cathy was supportive and the first person who volunteered.
  • We’re now writing a paper (or maybe eBook) together titled, at the moment, Coming to Trust as Self-Organizing Groups. We chose an informal dialogue format so that our collective learning, vulnerability, and growing trust—as a group—is documented. We decided that the outcome of the work, whatever it is, is pretty much icing on the cake. The cake is our friendship, which will outlast this and any other work we do.

The story of Bas and Lori

I’m not entirely sure how Bas and I met—that is, which events came first. It might be that our mutual friend Ali (in Jordan) told Bas (in The Netherlands) about the Collective Self blog and Bas then showed up as a contributor to it. Or it might be that Ali told me about Bas’ The Project Shrink blog, and I showed up as a contributor there first. Or maybe we found each others’ blogs on our own and our mutual friend Ali had little to do with it. Can’t remember and it makes little difference to me now (although thank you Ali, if it was you). Here are the highlights of what we’ve become and done together this year:

1. Across this summer:

  • Bas and I began reading each others’ blogs and regularly contributing to them.
  • We began recommending each other within our respective online communities.
  • I learned where Zandvoort, The Netherlands is (had to Google it) and decided to add it to my travel “bucket list”.
  • I read Bas and Ali’s eBook.
  • I remembered my experiences working with the best project managers at Microsoft (hi Josh and Maura) and decided it’d be really fun to work with a project manager again.
  • Bas spoke so highly of the Collective Self blog in his blog that I offered to do his laundry for him the next time he’s in Seattle.
  • We began speaking regularly and reviewed some work for each other. I learned that I can be my whole self with Bas.
  • I included a picture of Bas in one of my first posts about community.
  • We started following and supporting each other via Twitter and Facebook as well.

2. In early fall:

  • We had a couple of Skype conversations, which is a little challenging but mostly fun given our 9-hour time difference. Doesn’t bother me in the slightest to meet at midnight my time so that some of our conversations can be morning conversations for him. This is a very different experience from my days at Microsoft, where I was at times resentful for having 10 p.m. conference calls. Heck, I’d meet at 3 a.m. if Bas wanted to meet then.
  • I asked Bas if he’d like to work together and he replied YES roughly 10 times. We decided to work together.
  • Two weeks later, we’d begun research for an upcoming eBook, tentatively titled Different Work.
  • We enjoy working together enough that at some point we decided to consider this the first book in a series. Telling people I’m writing “an eBook series” is just a cool thing to get to do. Makes me feel fancy.
  • I told Bas that I’d learned with Doug that it’s not a successful work group for me until I cry–in gratitude for collective learning–as least once. This didn’t scare him off. In that moment I decided that I really like The Netherlands–yes, the whole country–as a result. Any country that could produce Bas must be pretty great.
  • I learned that Frau Shrink (Bas’ significant other) is an amazing photographer. So is my husband. Coincidence? I don’t think so.

3. This past month:

  • Bas took on another large job on top of his current work. He feared he wasn’t working on our book to the extent that I was. I said I don’t care if I do 100% of the research work, I’m just happy to be working with him, which is true. That momentary pang of “Yikes, will he finish this?” that I had with Doug back in July taught me that no momentary pang of this nature is needed. We’ll finish eventually. Staying connected matters more now than finishing one particular project.
  • We’ve found ~20 groups to include in the book and are plugging away on story gathering right now. Bas, who feared he wouldn’t have time, appears to have found ample time. As a researcher, I’m in heaven getting to talk to new groups almost every week between now and February.
  • I’ve recommended Bas’ site to several project manager friends and people in my Seattle Consultants Grotto group—people who thought they might need my help. I think his work is more likely to help some of them than mine is, given what they need right now. Mine can be a bit long-winded for busy folks working within large organizations.
  • Bas learned what the Seattle skyline looks like, thanks to the lovely image Daniel recently created and added to the Collective Self blog.
  • I’ve begun sending Project Status reports to Bas periodically. He doesn’t seem to need them. Who is this magical project manager who feels no need for status reports?! 😀 Another score for The Netherlands.