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July, 2011                                                                                                                 Number 14
Welcome to the New Possibilities Associates newsletter. Each month we will offer articles on sustainable solutions to tough problems in environments of rapid change.

New Possibilities Associates LLC is a team of highly qualified facilitators who design and lead retreats, create small and large group experiences and facilitate groups and organizations, as they move from chaos to new results.

We hope you will find these articles useful, interesting and thought provoking. We also hope you will share this with you friends, or unsubscribe if you prefer.

Howard Mason
New Possibilities Associates LLC
In This Issue
From My Experience -- "You" Becomes "We"
Tips for Treading Powerfully in Chaos -- Being and Becoming: Newtonian Leadership in a Quantum World
Contact us
Services of New Possibilities Associates LLC
Social Change Book Club 6.0 meets 3rd Mondays

Klein Bottle
A Klein Bottle has no inside or outside.
The New Possibilities Imperative
"For every complex problem there is always an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong."
- H. L. Mencken

High complexity demands new ways of learning, thinking and solving problems.

About New Possibilities Associates
We Live in a New World

These are unprecedented times. It has simply never been this way before. Our world has never been more interconnected and interdependent.

Leaders today grapple with seemingly insoluble problems - wicked problems - problems that, by the very nature of the world today, don't respond to traditional solutions.

Leaders need to be able to tap the potential for innovation and action in any group or team and to shift recurring group patterns that block productivity and creativity. As executives, managers, consultants and teachers, we need to facilitate rapid growth in the collaborative capacity and collective wisdom of our teams.

New Possibilities Associates knows what it takes for people to successfully lead in the face of complex, diverse and rapidly changing reality.

Our commitment is to finding new solutions to wicked problems. New Possibilities Associates is dedicated to advancing the success of teams that are forming and working together in new ways to make organizations successful, address the most pressing problems, and create sustainable communities.

We support the leaders who are engaging fresh practices and approaches, shifting cultures and bringing new life to their communities and colleagues.
From My Experience
"You" Becomes "We"


I have found it important to understand how people choose the word to address a group they are in: whether they say "You" or "We."

The most apparent level of meaning speaks to inclusion. We say "you" when we do not feel included, either by the group inviting us in or our including ourselves into the group. We say "We" when we do feel included. "You/We have come a long way and but we still need to go further."

Circle of people

Another level of meaning voices commitment. We say "you" when we are not committed to the vision, the issue, the people or the work. "You/We certainly have a problem." If we are not part of the "We," it is easy to give advice or prescriptions without taking responsibility for implementing it. Saying "We" shifts to shared commitment and accountability. "Here's what I think You/We should do."

The choice of "You" or "We" relates the level of commitment and contributes to the level of expectation others in the group will come to form. People who consistently count themselves out of the "We" by using "You" are less likely to be listened to, trusted, and relied upon.

Using "You" says, "I am outside, apart from this group." Using "We" says, "I am inside, a part of this group." Making this step from outside to inside is often critical in developing understanding the issues and conditions that the group is experiencing. Living systems cannot be understood from the outside. We are not served by being "objective." No amount of analysis, mapping, diagraming puts us in touch with the complex web of human relationships that only become visible when join the web.

When we become part of the "We," we are able to discover who cares about the various aspects of an issue, who is willing to take action, who will step forward to lead, who needs care, who needs support and encouragement.

Whenever I am invited to work with groups, I early on ask permission to use "we" rather than "you," to take the step of inclusion. I need to be able to become part of the web of the living system to gain any deep and meaningful understanding and to offer anything of value.

Finally, when dealing with living systems, there really is no "outside." Both the problem and the solution comes from the inside. Everyone in the the system is part of the cause of the problems. Today's problems come from yesterday's best efforts at "solutions." Using "You" says I am not part of the problem, but also not part of the solutions. In order to make change, we have recognize that we have to be part of both and that there are no enemies to blame. Some of us remember the saying, "If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem." In dealing with organizations and groups, "If you're not part of the problem, you can't be part of the solution." By moving from "You" to "We," step into the position to make change.

Tips for Treading Powerfully in Chaos 
Being and Becoming: Newtonian Leadership in a Quantum World 
Being and Becoming 1a by Worden Day

Being and Becoming 1a by Worden Day


Western ways of making sense of our world are shaped by a pair of polar assumptions about the nature of reality that have their roots in pre-Socratic philosophy. Two thinkers from those times (circa 500-450 BCE) represent the duality well. Parmenides postulated that reality is constant, without change - he advanced the being view. Heraclitus held the becoming view - reality is all flux and change. These competing views have persisted and still underlie the differences in contemporary ways of thinking about nature. 

The being view has come to dominate and is the one most closely aligned with modern thought. The being view leads from the ancient Greeks to Isaac Newton who gave us our clockwork, mechanistic view of nature. It tells us that the universe is orderly, the order is knowable, and by knowing its order, nature can be controlled.

The being view is so dominant that for most Westerners, it has been the only view. We apply that view to not only the conditions where it best applies, but to all conditions and situations. This becomes problematic when applied to living systems, which are constantly adapting and evolving. So we end up treating organizations, groups, communities as machines to be engineered and controlled. And we find that is increasingly ineffective and problematic.

The clockwork metaphor of this paradigm, which has dominated the physical and social sciences for over three centuries, is being questioned. Advances in the new sciences have drawn attention to occurrences that do not fit the being perspective - events that don't have the mechanistic predictability this view attributes to nature and humankind.

The new sciences (in particular quantum physics, chaos theory, and complexity science) suggest that another way of thinking about nature, using another set of metaphors, is needed. In contrast to the being paradigm, the newer paradigm proposes that nothing in nature is fixed, events are not predictable, and control is an illusion. This paradigm aligns with the becoming assumption.

Yet leaders believe they should be in control, and when difficulties arise in their organization or group, they act to hold or gain control: they analyze more data, design new systems, and install added procedures in order to stay in control - but, even with their best efforts, the problems keep arising and they go through the same process over and over again. Leaders typically use linear, mechanistic thinking when they would do better using alternative ways of thinking, especially when trying to deal with complex problems.

The shifts leaders need to make is to relax the assumption that leaders can control change.

Let's consider the vocabulary. Here are lists of words associated with the being and becoming perspectives:












Of course, there are lots more. For any given reference to one or the other, all you need to do is pick one from its column. For clarity's sake, let's use Newtonian and Quantum in this discussion, although in conversation, linear and complex are probably used more.

Differences in the Newtonian and Quantum perspectives

In the Newtonian perspective, it is assumed that the laws of nature are knowable, events are predictable, and control is possible - even in social matters. An effective leader uses organized simplicity to control. In the Quantum paradigm, nature is seen as often being complex, chaotic and unpredictable, and beyond much control through direct human intervention. The job of leaders is to understand complexity and create the conditions for the highest potential to emerge.

These are beliefs inherent in these two paradigms:




Focus on functional parts.


Focus on relationships, integration.


Assumes certainty and predictability.

Emphasis on control.


Value in uncertainty and ambiguity.

Requires trust, intuition.

Nurtures emergence.


Whole is the sum of its parts.

Parts exist independently.

Parts are interchangeable.

Coordination must be imposed.

Emergent, self-organizing

Whole greater than sum of its parts.

Each part defined by relationships with other parts.

Order or patterning emerges spontaneously.


Selective/exclusionary - There is only one truth, one best way.

There is an inescapable tension between the individual and the group.



Individual and group are mutually defining in dialogue with experience.


Focus on 'here and now', facts, actuality.

Values ignored.


Focus is on creative, thinking outside of box, exploring unknown, potential.

Values factored in.

Subject/Object split

Leader detached from people of the organization - the world is 'out there.'

Participatory universe

Leader is 'in the world' - both are mutually co-defined.

Presenting two perspective in side by side lists invites us to question whether they are mutually exclusive (either/or in the Newtonian perspective) or coincident (both/and in the Quantum perspective). My view is that the Newtonian universe is a subset of the Quantum universe, but that's another discussion.

In leading organizations, we need to use both perspectives, because the Newtonian lens is appropriate for understanding some aspects of organizations while the Quantum lens provides insights into other aspects. By using both perspectives, we will develop better understandings of more aspects of leadership.

Parallels in thinking processes

Recent developments in brain science suggest that there are "Newtonian" and "Quantum" modes of thinking, each grounded in distinct brain functions.Brain areas

Newtonian thinking includes both serial and associative thinking. Serial thinking relies on a sort of neural "wiring" called neural tracts. These tracts consist of chains of neurons in which the head of one neuron connects to the tail of another, in series mode. Neural tracts are strengthened with repeated use and resist change once established. They are like computer programs. Neural tracts are associated with rational, logical thinking. The thinking they support does not tolerate ambiguity or nuance. Serial thinking is what a PC does.

Another sort of neural wiring supports associative thinking. Associative thinking involves neural networks that consist of thousands and thousands of interconnected neurons - each neuron acts on and is acted upon by many others simultaneously. To complicate things, networks themselves are interconnected; and networks in the brain are connected with networks throughout the body. Associative thinking is the kind of thinking that is mimicked by parallel processing computers, which can learn or adapt their programs. Associative thinking is involved in trial-and-error learning. It tolerates ambiguity and nuance - it is what enables us to recognize a pattern even when up to 80 percent of it is missing. However, associative thinking is prone to the limitations of habit and is difficult to change. Because it is often non-verbal, associative thinking is difficult to share with others.

In Quantum thinking, neuroscientists have indications that this thinking is supported by an energy field that is generated by the oscillations of electro-chemical currents in many, many neurons in both tracts and networks. Quantum thinking involves integration of serial and associative thinking; it allows us to "see the whole picture" or gestalt.

Quantum thinking is called into play when the unexpected happens, in situations of crisis or opportunity when our rule-bound serial thinking and habit-bound associative thinking can't cope. In the brain, serial, parallel, and Quantum thinking structures are integrated and work in together to generate our thinking processes

This perspective on thinking processes helps explain research findings that decision making and problem solving do not necessarily proceed in a linear fashion. For example, it has been noted that leaders' decision making and problem solving sometimes involve judgment, intuition, and schemata. The integration of serial, parallel, and Quantum brain functions is what supports humane or moral thinking processes.

Newtonian and quantum perspectives on leadership 

Linear Quantum linesIt has been said that leadership is not mobilizing others to solve problems we already know how to solve, but helping others confront problems that have never yet been successfully addressed.

In the Newtonian approach to organization, leaders concentrate on objects - humans, materiel, contexts - and control those objects to achieve goals and results. Newtonian leaders value tight objectives and single-minded dedication ("stick to the knitting").

In contrast, in the quantum approach to organization, the leader assumes that in complex systems prediction with certainty is impossible; the leader accepts ambiguity, indeterminacy and paradox. In light of this, the leader relies on intuitive feel for situations, and trusts in the character, creativity, and abilities that both she/he and others bring to the organization. Consequently, quantum leaders strive to help build a culture of cooperation and integration that is very different from a Newtonian culture of control.

Characteristics of Newtonian and Quantum Leadership

Newtonian Leadership

Quantum Leadership

Assumes nature offers certainty and predictability.

Assumes nature is essentially uncertain and unpredictable.

There is one best way.

There are many ways of getting things done.

A primary emphasis is control through hierarchy, power concentrated at the top among a few.

Relies on nonhierarchical networks, influence is a function of personal attributes and distributed widely among members.

Division of labor, functional specialization, competition.

Personal versatility, integrated effort, cooperation.

Individuals are passive resources.

Members are co-creative partners.

Organizational change is initiated at the top, is reactive.

Change can start anywhere in the organization, is experimental.

Values efficiency, effectiveness of the organization.

Values meaningful relationships, individual wellness.

Here are take away points about the two paradigms and their usefulness to leaders. 

1. Leaders need to understand that the Quantum paradigm should or will not replace the Newtonian paradigm. Instead we need to appreciate that each lens explains different aspects of life in organizations and we would be wise to become adept at putting them on when appropriate. The Quantum and Newtonian paradigms are complementary.

2. The Newtonian perspective is useful in the analysis of relatively simple organizations that are in equilibrium (or changing only incrementally) and in relatively stable environments. This paradigm lends itself to situations that are predictable and subject to control by leaders. The Quantum paradigm is useful for understanding unfamiliar events in complex living systems that are in turbulent environments. It lends itself to situations where there are strong pressures to change, events are chaotic, objectives have become ambiguous, and order seems to emerge of its own accord.

3. The two paradigms have significant overlap. Both include the belief that all members of an organization, whether it be simple or complex, are truly motivated when they perceive that they are valued fairly in proportion to their contribution. In other words, individuals will be their best when they are protected against personal diminishment and when leaders value "wholeness" and possibility in members, the organization and the world.

In a Quantum World

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New Possibilities Associates LLC
1225 Bates Court
Louisville, KY  40204

Howard Mason, Principal

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Services of
New Possibilities Associates LLC 

New Possibilities Associates LLC is a team of highly qualified facilitators who design and lead retreats, create small and large group experiences and facilitate groups and organizations as they move from chaos to clarity. We specialize in sustainable solutions to tough problems in environments of rapid change.

What does it take to realize sustainable solutions in the face of complexity, diversity and rapid change?

Transforming the well-being of our communities and organizations calls on us to meet new challenges of complexity, uncertainty, diversity and rapid change. Here are some of the ways that New Possibilities Associates can help:

Hosting Conversations for Change
Almost all of our work begins with hosting conversations that matter within organizations and communities. We help the discovery of how much we have in common and how much we collectively know. These conversations lead to deeper understanding and opening the door to the emergence of new possibilities and wiser action. We see more of the whole picture, we develop insights that can guide our actions, we find courage to move forward. It begins by making a place where it is safe to speak our truth and where we are really listening to each other.

Sometimes hosting conversation blends with presenting or training. We look for opportunities to share our learning from communities and organizations about what helps to build healthy and resilient organizations and communities. We are able to share insights about key practices, such as conversation, inquiry and collective meaning-making. We help groups learn to reach new levels of working together, whether in  one-time meetings or large-scale systemic shifts.

Consulting/Hosting Communities of Practice
Conversation and creating spaces for co-creation for new futures are the beginning of the work. If we want different results, we have to make some new commitments. We are called to enter into a relationship with each other which has a clear focus on both action and learning. This is a community of practice. Communities of practice exist at different scale, linking people within a particular community or organization and linking people from different communities and organization. For communities of practice to really work, communities and organizations have to consciously commit themselves to new frameworks for action which are explicit, visible and transparent to all involved. Literally, we make the path by walking it and there are a lot of stumbles as well as leaps of faith along the way. The engagements that work best are the ones that allow us to work with a group over time.

Facilitation is similar to hosting. For us, the difference is that facilitation often works with the questions and needs that some one, usually organization leadership or a decision-making body, brings to a group of people. There may be a partial sharing of decision-making power, but almost always facilitation means working with a group of people to make their views, priorities and concerns a vital part of a change process.

Often those who are in positions of leadership need someone from outside their organization who can talk with them about transformational change. We help leaders think in new ways about their difficult questions, connect them with others with similar issues, and work with them to find new approaches and ideas.

Social Change Book Club 6.0 
An independent gathering furthering learning on social change,
now in its sixth year.

on the third Monday of the month at 6:00 p.m.

Our home is Heine Bros. Coffee, 119 Chenoweth Lane, St Matthews. We are grateful for the hospitality.

In our July book, Walk Out Walk On, authors Meg Wheatley and Deborah Frieze invite us on a learning journey to seven communities around the world to meet people who have walked out of limiting beliefs and assumptions and walked on to create healthy and resilient communities. These Walk Outs Who Walk On use their ingenuity and caring to figure out how to work with what they have to create what they need.


For back-to-school month, August, Diane Ravitch takes on the big issues of American education today, articulating both the central importance of strong public education and the central elements for strengthening our schools. In The Death and Life of the Great American School System, Ravitch addresses today's education controversies, using a combination of anecdotes, case studies, and statistics. August only, we will meet the fourth Monday, August 22, at 6.


The Social Change Book Club is now in its sixth year of monthly meetings. It is open to everyone who is interested in understanding, participating, leading, or supporting social change. Each month we select a book and get together to discuss. Selections rotate among three themes: social changes, how we work with others to make change happen, and the inner qualities needed to bring change into the world.


People just show up if they are interested--no RSVP, commitment, etc. It is great when people have read the book, but that is not a requirement to come and discuss.


We got this going because there is a lot to learn about how to make social change happen and people who are interested in changing the world need opportunities to share stories and experience community with others who care.


A complete list of the books from the Social Change Book Club since its beginning is available at the New Possibilities Associates website.