A KOAN Conversation with Seth Godin and Jennifer Lyn Simpson
In a time of systemic breakdowns and cultural divisions, leaders and organizations need new ways to generate open conversations that encourage innovative solutions. With her new book, the KOAN method: Breakthrough Leadership for a Divided World, Integrated Work CEO Jennifer Lyn Simpson shares a new way of leading and organizing to evolve how we come together to create strategies and breakthroughs that address global challenges.
During the third in a series of KOAN Conversations, Jennifer talked with best-selling author and changemaker Seth Godin about collaborative projects that call on us to experiment and reimagine systems and models, and how the KOAN method supports collective breakthroughs. Seth’s projects include The Carbon Almanac, a global collaborative publication created by a network of hundreds of contributors, including Jennifer and others on the Integrated Work team. His latest book, The Song of Significance, is a manifesto on leadership, teams, and the art of making a difference.
Tapping the Power of Networks for Innovative Solutions
With the Carbon Almanac project, Seth hoped to create a climate action resource that incorporates ideas and inspiration from people around the world. It reflects his belief in the power that can be found by tapping into networks to rethink systems and processes and helping individuals see the role they can play. “What we actually get to do is change the system. Part of the magic of [the KOAN method] is it’s a systems book,” Seth said. “It’s about how do we create a system where we can be generative and healing?”
It is especially relevant today when social and environmental challenges reveal the limitations of current systems and processes. As the global community becomes more connected through technology, we’re more likely to encounter people with lifestyles and beliefs that differ from our own, Seth said. “We bump into people who are different than us, and we try to create communities that aren’t homogenous,” he said.
That’s when it’s most important to listen and learn from others to reimagine what’s possible, he said, and also speak up publicly for the issues we care about. “Systems change isn’t simply you deciding to compost,” Seth said. “What really matters is that you’re organizing composting for your village. … If we really care about where things are going, we have to change the system.”
Inspiring People to Step Into Bravery and Create a Regenerative Future
Taking action for the collective good also helps inspire others to do the same, Jennifer said, which is especially important at a time when current challenges require new ways of thinking. “That gives people courage. That’s what has people step into the bravery,” she said. “To inspire people that if they already have [a desire to change] in their heart, they have most of what they need.”
To help create the future that we’d like to see, Jennifer said, we need to act with intention and in networks of others who also are ready to shake up the status quo. “The stories we tell shape the futures we have available to live,” she said. “What is the story we want to be living our way into? Can we be intentional about crafting that?”
In creating the KOAN method, Jennifer incorporated the principle of a Zen koan: The idea that sitting in uncertainty long enough for breakthroughs to find us is part of the work. “We can’t already have figured out the answer before you begin and expect to learn something new,” she said. “The world teaches us to be really uncomfortable in uncertainty. That’s actually a practice to cultivate.”