In the previous post, I listed “building learning communities” as one of the lines of development essential for success at Decurion.  In this post, I want to share our understanding of what the process of building such communities involves.

A characteristic of learning communities is their ability to recognize the “other” as legitimate, to embrace difference and diversity.  Too often, we regard diversity as a problem to be solved rather than an opportunity to be prized.  Unlike mobs or cults, healthy communities embrace differences as opportunities to falsify their assumptions of wholeness.  They convert their suspicion of the “other” to a recognition of their own incompleteness. Read the full article…

In the previous blog post, I discussed how we are building Decurion as the sort of company we want it to be through the practices in which we engage.  In the post before that, I set out our understanding of developmental growth, including the recognition that there are different lines of development (or what Howard Gardner, Daniel Goleman, and others have called multiple intelligences).  I noted that we take an Aristotelian approach, believing that acts or practices create habits or settled dispositions, the aggregation of which constitutes our character.  Some years ago, we tried to make explicit what lines of development are important for success at Decurion and what practices or habits spur progress in those lines.  Here is what we generated: Read the full article…

While theories are like maps that describe already existing territory, practices actually create new territory as one engages in them.

At Decurion, we are creating new territory through the interaction of our ideas, our commitments, and our practices.  Servant leadership, systems thinking, confronting the brutal facts, and spiraling the quadrants (to name just a few examples) are not only ideas but also practices in which we can directly engage.  We are continually doing our way into knowing.  And we have identified four levels of knowing.  The levels are:  understanding, practicing, internalizing, and building.  It is one thing to understand how a certain practice might enhance our effectiveness (level 1).  It is another to engage in the practice (level 2) until we have internalized it as a settled disposition (level 3).  And it is a significant step to see that disposition as object, not subject (as something we have rather than something we are) so that we can apply it or build systems based on it (level 4).

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Developmental growth lies at the heart of Decurion’s approach to business. One of our axioms is that individuals and communities naturally develop. One of our values is learning, a belief in providing an opportunity and environment for individuals to develop, grow, and contribute. And our purpose, to provide places for people to flourish, includes creating conditions for people to develop more fully into themselves. So what do we know about developmental growth?

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In my last post, I mentioned something called “the quadrants.”  This is a reference to a model developed by Ken Wilber, a model we have found useful in our approach to business.  (In a recent survey, 86% of our members reported that “when doing my job, I take into account all four quadrants.”)

Wilber’s quadrants capture a simple but powerful idea.  It is that anything we might want to think about, talk about, or act upon can be viewed as having an interior and an exterior (or an inner and outer aspect) and as being singular or plural.  Combining these two dimensions gives four possibilities:  inner/individual (Upper-Left Quadrant), outer/individual (Upper-Right Quadrant), inner/collective (Lower-Left Quadrant), and outer/collective (Lower-Right Quadrant).

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In my last blog post, I shared a document we created about ten years ago, “Decurion’s Operating Philosophy.”  Over the decade since we first shared that document with our members (employees) and prospective members, we have made several efforts to refine and clarify the way we explain our approach to business.  In this post, I present one of our earlier efforts, “A Note on Decurion’s Operating Philosophy.”

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Ten years ago, more than a decade after we had identified Decurion’s purpose, we attempted to capture in a document our approach to business.  We wrote it mainly for our members (the term we later introduced for employees).  And then we used it in our recruiting efforts.  While imperfect, it did help people here better understand what we were up to, and it gave people thinking about joining us an idea of what they could expect to encounter.  Other than adding an axiom (see below), we have not found it necessary to alter the document.  It remains an accurate description of why we are in business and how we approach it.  So while we think Robert Kegan and his colleagues did a great job of describing Decurion in their Harvard Business Review article “Making Business Personal,” I want to share this document as our best take on ourselves.  We refer to it as “Decurion’s Operating Philosophy”:

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The April 2014 issue of Harvard Business Review includes an article that features Decurion prominently.

More than 20 years ago, we identified Decurion’s purpose as providing a place for people to flourish (updated three years ago to providing places for people to flourish).  Since then, we have been on a journey to make that purpose more and more true, more and more a fact of day-to-day experience at Decurion.  We have got clearer on what it means to flourish, and we have introduced practices that apply to individuals and to communities.

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When I was 16 and on a family trip to Greece, I visited the tomb of Nikos Kazantzakis, author of Zorba the Greek.  On his tomb was written, “I hope for nothing.  I fear nothing.  I am free.”  As I begin to talk about myself and about Decurion, I recognize that I have at least as many fears now as I did then.  Among other things, I fear appearing ignorant, uninformed, or confused.  I don’t want to be reduced, diminished, or dismissed.  And I am averse to having others characterize or functionalize me.  All of this is bound to occur as I speak about what is most important to me.  But my hopes are bigger than my fears. Henry David Thoreau wrote, “If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be.  Now put the foundations under them.”  I want to create contexts in which people (including me) can pursue full and meaningful lives.  And I have pursued that aspiration largely through my work at Decurion.

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