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My great great friend Jono sent me the below poem sometime back. I find it speaks true and from within the depths of my heart. I love it (and Jono does too). I wanted to share it with you.

Merry Christmas! 🙂

The Invitation – Oriah Mountain Dreamer

It doesn’t interest me what you do for a living. I want to know what you ache for, and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart’s longing.

It doesn’t interest me how old you are. I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool for love, for your dream, for the adventure of being alive.

It doesn’t interest me what planets are squaring your moon. I want to know if you have touched the center of your own sorrow, if you have been opened by life’s betrayals or have become shriveled and closed from fear of further pain! I want to know if you can sit with pain, mine or your own, without moving to hide it or fade it, or fix it.

I want to know if you can be with joy, mine or your own, if you can dance with wildness and let the ecstasy fill you to the tips of your fingers and toes without cautioning us to be careful, to be realistic, to remember the limitations of being human.

It doesn’t interest me if the story you are telling me is true. I want to know if you can disappoint another to be true to yourself; if you can bear the accusation of betrayal and not betray your own soul; if you can be faithless and therefore trustworthy.

I want to know if you can see beauty even when it’s not pretty, every day, and if you can source your own life from its presence.

I want to know if you can live with failure, yours and mine, and still stand on the edge of the lake and shout to the silver of the full moon, “Yes!”

It doesn’t interest me to know where you live or how much money you have. I want to know if you can get up, after the night of grief and despair, weary and bruised to the bone, and do what needs to be done to feed the children.

It doesn’t interest me who you know or how you came to be here. I want to know if you will stand in the center of the fire with me and not shrink back.

It doesn’t interest me where or what or with whom you have studied. I want to know what sustains you, from the inside, when all else falls away.

I want to know if you can be alone with yourself and if you truly like the company you keep in the empty moments.


Embedded Sustainability: The next big competitive advantage

By Chris Lazslo and Nadia Zhexembayeva

Greenleaf Publishing 2011

I put together a summary of Lazslo’s and Zhexembayeva’s book as part of my LEAD Europe training in leadership for sustainability. The book is very good and so the summary worth sharing with you here.

The book is organized in two parts: business strategy and change management.

1.    Business strategy – This part explains why embedding sustainability creates business value.

There are three distinct but interconnected trends that are putting increasing pressure on business to be sustainable. Whether business managers like it or not, business has to transform. These trends are as follows:

  • Declining resources (i.e., fish, and other natural capital rapidly diminishing),
  • Radical transparency (i.e., increasing number of activist organizations and NGOs using social media to catalyze change) and
  • Increased expectations (i.e., employees wanting to work for ethical companies; customers not willing to pay a premium for sustainable products, but wanting smarter products with sustainability at their core).

Lazslo and Zhexembayeva argue that the most adequate way for business to transform with sustainability at its core is by Creating Shared Value (CSV) for both stakeholders and shareholders.  Pursuing both stakeholder and shareholder value creation means value is created for both business and society. Responsible business does not have to compromise profits. CSV creates increased competitiveness by getting business to embrace what is sustainable whilst realistic and possible. CSV also ensures that business invests not only in the present but also the future.

Lazslo’s and Zhexembayeva point out that business strategy tends to focus on adding and removing costs, making trade-offs, mitigating risk, reducing energy and waste, differentiating products, entering new markets, protecting and enhancing brand and influencing industry standards. In all these, it does not normally look at resource  and natural capital availability and value chain security. This is despite that resources are declining and value chain security is rapidly diminishing.

It is good practice to look at business strategy as an opportunity:  i.e. pursue change proactively, systemically and aim for zero harm and positive benefits. Sustainability strategy should be no exception. Pursuing sustainability may be about a radical and disruptive move-away from the classical business paradigm. Pursuing sustainability should be inherent to the business, as well as motivating and aligning employees around a common vision for sustainable business. In this, product differentiation and radical innovation (facilitated by methods such as The Embedded Sustainability Cloud) are key.

2.    Change management – The second part of the book outlines the methods, competencies and processes for embedding sustainability.

The authors point out that embedding sustainability means incorporating health, environmental and social values into the business with no trade-offs in product price and quality. Embedding sustainability means a radical transformation in values, mindset, consciousness and behaviors. Here are some of the key messages:

  • Building transformative relationships is at the core of embedding sustainability. Cooperation with competitors is a source of gain.
  • Developing new competencies such as design, inquiry, appreciation (open mind) and wholeness is important. Leadership and design thinking should join forces.
  • There has to be on-going cultivation of an inspiration-ideation-implementation cycle of feeling-thought-behaviour. This cycle, if inspired by values around sustainability, can be deeply transformative. Topsy Turvy (reverse brainstorming) and appreciative inquiry are useful methods to cultivate such a cycle. Same goes for learning the language of systems thinking and practicing lifecycle analysis.
  • In order to get change to stick in, we must harvest the low-hanging fruit, balance short-term with long-term thinking, monitor and evaluate and remain open to change and circumstance.

The messages the authors put across in the book are simple yet sophisticated. To sum them up, the authors quote George Orwell who once said that industrialization has cut the soul of man, but he did not notice it for many years. In a similar way, the paintings of Tamara Lempicka from the industrialization age show lots of beautiful however sad and empty people surrounded by grey and cold buildings. In my mind, embedding sustainability in business and our lives is key to achieving not only a comfortable balance with our environment, but also a new way of living life. We can do it.

I love Rome. Especially these days, I really, really appreciate it. Seeing a third day of riots in London, it makes me really appreciate Rome – one of the safest cities in the world, especially in the dead summer month of August! (Watch out though, especially in the dead summer month of August …)

I  love Rome also because, after having lived in it more than five years, I am still discovering it. It is still offering me little surprises that make for great , sometimes deep and thoughtful experiences. 🙂

For example, last night, I stumbled across a (free!) Bibliotheca di Roma open cinema on Isola Tiberina. It was right by the river and next to the big Isola del Cinema. The Gladiator had just started showing. Without giving it much thought, I sat down and watched. And as I did that, thoughts about past, present and future mingled in my mind into a nice cocktail. I guess some might call it awareness.

I had already seen the Gladiator. The movie came out on 2000 and I first saw it with my sister Mol Mira Guerrero. We saw it on a big screen and it was amazing.

Back then, I remember feeling an awe for the beauty and greatness of the Rome they have in the movie. I remember thinking how much such beauty and greatness resonate with what I have in my heart. (It is probably nothing more than a certain flare for the deep and the dramatic.) I was probably thinking I should be somewhere like that, drawn to the beauty and intensity of it.
And now, where was I? Right in the middle of Rome, by the Tiber river smelling its algae and mud (not too appealing actually!), watching the Gladiator with a different set of eyes. I had made it to Rome, or Rome had made it for me to get to it. I guess I had seen what Rome is like, today. … I had never thought life would bring me to Rome, but it had.
Definitely Rome still has lots of greatness and drama which we often lose in the details of our lives. (Luckily, films like the Gladiator are there to point us to that when we can watch and listen to ourselves.)

Another theme I found in the movie just as I had found it back in 2000 is the theme of greatness. Greatness has a life of its own, and no person can take control of it. It takes control of us, and gives itself to those who have it in them, already. Greatness takes many forms, and follows no prescriptions. Small people moving the crowds is one form of greatness. Another is transcending boundaries and doing the right thing. Greatness makes the world go round. We are pushed and pulled by it in our searches for ourselves. Greatness knows no fear but (overcoming) fear is part of it. Perhaps another word for it would be love?

And finally, the theme of life and death. Back in 2000 it definitely did not resonate with me like it does now. Now the words ”you will see them again, but not yet” have extra layers of meaning. Now it is not just mere belief that people have (about what happens after people die, or how they begin a new life, or just go back to where they were before …), now it goes much deeper into my awareness about the world and the Universe. It is something I am grateful for, accepting that there would have been no other way for me to learn it but by loosing someone I am deeply connected with to a form different from the one I am in. Sadness is part of it, but so is awareness and understanding, both precious in terms knowing about life.

I will see you again, Mol Mira Guerrero, but not too soon! Also, I know you were watching the movie with me, especially in the final song, remember? It is one of our favourites:

Hans Zimmer’s and Lisa Gerard’s ”Now we are free”

Thank you, Ridley Scott, for the great movie! And thanks for seeing myself in it and being able to have these experiences.


This is cross-posted from an internal Food and Agriculure Organization of the United Nations (FAO) blog. The post is created by Elena Di Paola. Elena is my colleague and Knowledge and Information Management Specialist in FAO’s Office of Knowledge Exchange, Research and Extension.

”In Kabuki theatre, there is a gesture which indicates ‘looking at the moon’, where the actor points into the sky with his index finger. One actor, who was very talented, performed this gesture with grace and elegance. The audience thought, ‘Oh his movement is so beautiful!’ They enjoyed the beauty of his performance, and the technical mastery he displayed. Another actor made the same gesture, pointing at the moon. The audience didn’t notice whether or not he moved elegantly; they simply saw the moon.”

This passage is taken from the book “The Invisible Actor” by the Japanese Master Performer Yoshi Oida. In his work the author expresses preference for the actor who shows the moon to the audience; the one who is able to become invisible. According to him, an actor’s role is not to display how well he performs but, through his performance, to enable the stage to come alive. In this way the audience is carried along and becomes part of the story.

Management experts drew inspiration from Yoshi Oida’s lines to describe the features of an effective leadership style, typical of some Asian countries: Invisible Leadership.

As Professor Tojo Thatchenkery, Director of  M.S. in Organization Development & Knowledge Management School of Public Policy at George Mason University says, in most Western countries …: 

“Leadership is closely connected to charisma and visibility. If you are not visible, you are not a leader. In many other parts of the world, especially in Asian cultures, leadership is not about being visible. It is the opposite: quietly doing your work and assuming that rewards will come. […] they practice a form of quiet or invisible leadership because of an unconscious, deep rooted cultural assumption that leadership is about enabling and empowering, not about bringing attention to oneself and shining”.

The behavior of invisible leaders exercises a relevant influence on knowledge sharing dynamics. Research by Fritjof Capra concluded that:

“The most powerful organizational learning and collective knowledge sharing grows through informal relationships and personal networks via working conversations in communities of practice.” 

The invisible leaders are those who belong to and promote networks of conversation within the organization that go from bottom to top and top to bottom and, back again, in a continuous flow of feedback exchange. The use of these networks provides them a more complete overview on the organization’s resources and needs, and helps them make informed decisions.

Invisible leaders’ core values, privileging the collective over the individual, are beneficial to a knowledge-sharing culture.

If you are interested in more practical details, here is my personal vade-mecum for those who want to practice invisible leadership.

The invisible leader promotes:

  • Open door policy
  • Team work
  • Facilitation versus direction
  • Informal relationships through networks of conversation.

The invisible leader involves the team in:

  • Setting goals and visions
  • Decision making
  • Consensus reaching.

The invisible leader increases sense of inclusiveness, responsibility and gratification by:

  • Confidently delegating
  • Sharing successes with team mates
  • Giving voice to all (even to the silent that tend to hold back valuable input when overcome by predominant personalities)
  • Making feel everyone equally important.  

To go to heart of the matter, the key to invisible leadership is mainly about doing the best things in the best way for a common objective. This attitude leads to quicker and more successful results than when power is exercised as dictated by hierarchical differences.

On that note, find the invisible leader within you and let them express what you want to see happening in your team, in a way that is subtle, delicate and yet determined. This is what will make you effective in leading your team.

I recently had a chat with a small organisation (the name of which I am not going to mention) about the nature of leadership and how servant/facilitatory/transcendant leadership helps to cultivate a learning organisaiton.  Here are some of the points that we mentioned:

Participatory/servant/facilitatory/transcendant leadership:

  • not a ”standard” top-down sort of leadership
  • key components are facilitation, collaboration and sense-making
  • sense-making is framing what is happening in a context that binds it and accords it well with the mission and purpose of the organisation
  • sense-making is important as it keeps the whole team aligned and motivated and makes it clear how all team members have an important and valued role in the process
  • sense-making would normally rest on the organisation’s vision, in fact more so on how people see this and identify with it
  • sense-making is also about harmonising tensions and viewpoints -> if you can do that, you are a good sense-maker and leader
  • important not to assume sense is always clear to people who are part of the team … sometimes we think it all makes sense but only to us. … servant leadership in this sense seeks to empower all to lead by continually making sense for them and facilitating a process of on-going learning
  • in servant leadership, everyone is a leader and the challenge is to find a way of cultivating that sort of a mindset within the team
  • servant leadership has loose boundaries -> everyone one leads just not all team members at the same time, based on expertise and skill and other circumstances
  • in servant leadership, there is an on-going appreciative inquiry going on in the group
  • servant leadership is about listening and coaching each other based on skills and strengths
  • facilitation is essential in leadership to ensure all team members buy into what the organisation is doing by contributing in the way in which they want and can do best
  • facilitation in leadership creates conditions for a learning organisation by the leader/leaders being sensitive to what people think and how they want to work
  • facilitation in leadership is both about people and the team (two different types of organism)
  • you need individuals in order to have good teams, meanwhile people usually want to identify with groups and teams that help them bring out the best of themselves -> this is what a facilitator does (bringing out the best in people) and this is what servant leadership is about
  • facilitation as part of servant leadership is about being comfortable with ambiguity – if we are not, we can not lead!
  • true and genuine and the most productive collaboration is based on interest and motivation. servant leadership cultivates people’s interests and encourages people to follow their gut provided that it makes sense for the group/team to do so (here link with sense-making)
  • servant leadership is also about humility
  • to be there, servant leadership is cultivated (facilitated, brought-in, encouraged) in a team, group, organisation
  • good leaders are those who know themselves well, know exactly what their strengths and weaknesses are and understand how others in the team help them optimise the strengths and work on the weaknesses -> they see how they and all others are essential for the group/team and therefore also them to exist -> they see things as part of a complex system with many cross-cutting layers to it: technical, personal, emotional, etc. …

Emotional aspects of leadership:

  • for all of the above to be taking place effectively, it is important to understand and accept effective leadership is about leveraging and steering our emotions
  • effective leadership actually rests in our emotions and how well it works is based on how well we know ourselves as individuals
  • if we know ourselves well we can well leverage ourselves to serve others -> servant leadership
  • based on all that, every single servant leader is different because s/he is a different individual -> what is important is that they are bringing out the best in themselves in order to serve the group and wider collective
  • emotional support is part of leadership and essential for building trust
  • good leaders can give support to others when they need it

Group think:

  • group state where all team members do alike even if they do not necessarily think alike
  • good to have but only to an extent -> a learning organisation is not a group think organisation
  • group think may feel quite comfortable but could well be stinting our learning
  • a certain dose of group think is necessary and good for any team and organisation though
  • servant leadership has the role of cultivating a dance between group think and individual think, a nice mix of keeping things comfortable and keeping things on the edge

Maximum size organisation:

  • size of organisation and number of people is important as it defines the skeleton of the organisation/organism
  • leadership and related approaches are essential to giving life to this skeleton and actually making it work – > just skeleton is not enough (obviously)
  • focusing too much on the skeleton but perhaps not so much on what would go around it in terms of flesh and blood to give it life such as leadership, motivation, learning, cultivation of interests etc., is not good enough
  • need to make the skeleton and organisation work well for the people who are part of it -> start cultivating an appreciative inquiry mindset amongst the members of the team … see above notes on servant leadership

Remote working:

  • working remotely is different from working in the same office
  • for example, it is much easier to come across as rude and insult people online than face to face
  • remote working takes away some important aspects of the communication process (i.e., visual, face expression, overall state of mind and being, and lots of other tacit cues) which, when they are not there, can make communication (much) more difficult
  • important not to assume others understand us online in the same way as they do when they have us face to face -> usually, even the most intuitive and sensitive and sensible of people may not
  • it can be particularly difficult to do sense-making and serve-lead remotely, unless the group is aware of the challenges and figures out some solutions, such as skype chat windows, skype calls, and other ways of keeping synchrony and motivation present
  • remote working, in order for it to work well, is about a certain shift of mindset, both individually and collectively
  • remote working process works well if facilitated
  • team/group members can take turns to facilitate remote working


  • in order to be comfortable in delegating, there needs to be trust within the group, as well as openness to experience
  • when we delegate, we accept the output/outcome may not be as what we originally envisage -> could actually be better -> if not, we intervene to make is as what we originally envisaged
  • delegation is key in cultivating trust, developing capacity and pushing team forward

Hope this helps! 🙂

Amazing, beautiful, hopeful and truthful. Speaking out of the very bottom of my mind and putting it all out there with facts, numbers, thoughts, ideas, hopes, and directions for action. This is what the 11th hour movie is like to me, now. I think you should see the movie, now. See it and see how it makes you feel, then do something about your feelings.

You can watch the 11th Hour movie online for free:

I admit the movie greatly inspired me.
Synchronicity (Peter Senge et al) is when things come to you when you are thinking about them, when you want them at their very best, and finest, when you are ready to face them.
Law of attraction (Ronda Byrne et al) is off course the same thing under a different name, i.e., when you are thinking about and calling something in your thoughts, then it comes to you, because the wavelength of your thoughts attracts the wavelength at which the things you want are at. 
Law of attraction has been around for much longer than synchronicity btw, btw. Which came first does not matter though, what matters is that we know.
And so I’ve been thinking about complexity, systems thinking, environment, business and international organisations, and how the system in which we are all, inherently, should change and how are of the above have a role to play in all this. And then off course the 11th Hour comes to me, like an order I’d placed (a friend sent me the link, a friend I almost never talk to but we are on the same wavelength, and we know it). And so that is that, I am not at all surprised, I’ve learnt to not ignore the seemingly insignificant, and am now inspired. 

Some facts, thoughts and ideas for action that I drilled out (not that I like that verb …) from the movie:

Some facts:

A recent study in the US showed that, at a certain age, after watching on average 2.5 hours of TV per day, children in the US can recognise on average 100 corporate brands …  In other words, children grow up well tuned to a society driven by consumption, consumerism, speed, wealth, and greed (in a way, albeit not always greed in a straightforward sort of a sense). Many of them want the same things they see on TV … unless when they see through and change their thinking.

The Earth is our mother, our base, you name it. If all of the Earth life support systems were to be switched off. Today, it would cost us 35 trillion of USD per year (I think this is what it was …) to maintain our life here on Earth. Meanwhile all of the economies on Earth generate about 18 trillion USD per year. And so the Earth is super generous to us, she holds us, she protects is. Meanwhile, we’ve been driving its ecosystems out of balance. And this is a problem. It is not good behaviour. We’ve got to stop it.

The Earth is such an amazing place. Here, temperature is right for life to exist, and we can breathe oxygen from the air. The carbon dioxide we breathe out is recycled by forests and trees. A simple expression of our life in a system that is life-supporting. We are so lucky to be on this planet.

We, people, are disconnected from nature and all other species. We keep thinking we are the most supreme species on Earth, and so can rule over, govern everything else. And so we exploit everything else, including we ourselves as people. (I think of New York, a city where I would quite like to go to, and think there such disconnection would be at its finest.) However, such disconnection is far from true. We are inter-dependent on everything else, on every animal, every plant, every insect, on the water we drink and bathe into, on the air we breathe … the cells we are made of give out and take back from our environment. We live in a system, we are part of a system.
Some of us would be taken aback by such a statement, some would agree in theory, and some, and I think we should all be like those last some, would not only agree, they would feel their inter-connectedness throughout the system of life down to their very bones, and heart, and mind. And every day, they would want to do something about that, every single day!

People have been expanding on Earth, but the Earth itself has not been expanding. Sure this is not sustainable. Sure we must do something about this.

One day, things will be green, and replenished on Earth. Balance will be restored. And you know why? Because the Earth has all the time in the world, whereas we don’t.

Some thoughts:

Global warming, climate change, and the like: these are symptoms, not causes. symptoms of how we think and feel, how we see life. The outside reflects the inside and vice versa. And so, it is not global warming and climate change we should care about, the most. It is how we think and feel that we should care about.
What is this about, at the end of the day? Money? Work? Ambition? Achievement? Sure it would be about those things, but motivated by what? I think it is mostly about responsibility to ourselves and our loved ones and then every other person on Earth. By what we do and how we do it, and how we think as by how we think we make things happen, too, we make things happen in a certain way. Firstly and most importantly, it is about seeing and understanding life as part of a system, and being humble, and happy. Then things happen as they should, and so not only individually but also (and importantly) collectively.
(Is this the above a distinctly female way of looking at things? Perhaps it is. … And both women and men can do it, it is not just women who can be feminine … and not just men who can be masculine. I mean actions, approaches, thoughts and ideas.)

If all people were to rise their level of awareness of not just global warming and climate change as issues but also and more importantly of what makes them happen collectively as part of a system, then people would be empowered to act by feeling, thinking, and doing. The biggest challenge for humankind, today, and for the future is learning to feel, think and behave collectively, be an organism, just like your body is. We must recognise that nature has rights, too … and so then That is evolution of mind which comes next for the human species. As they’ve been saying, the Earth will survive because it has all the time in the world. We don’t have all the time in the world and so it is time to recognise how small we are and so then how big we can be.

Culturally, almost everywhere on Earth, people are being cultivated into achieving more, into doing more, into making money, into progressing, into exploiting resources. I guess you can call this greed, drive, etc. Greed is perhaps the very worst, negative end of this spectrum … And, greed is institutionalised in corporations, and business, oil companies, food companies, travel companies, banks … So what do we do? Corporations are systems within the system that are eating it up, that are destroying it. This is OK actually, it is just that people may not be in the system once it’s been destroyed and transformed. 🙂

Some ideas for action:

How to make evolution of the human mind happen? Wanting it is the very first step. Educating oneself and others is the next step. Cultivating one’s feelings and intuitions is yet another step, like when you know about something taking place when it is, without nobody telling you. Then you move towards collective consciousness. I know that, have experienced it many times, mostly when facilitating meetings and group events. And, have you seen The Men Who Stare at Goats …? Another great one, see it and think about what it’s telling you.

How could we change our minds, and hearts, understand our part of the big system, and do something about it, every single day …? Well, it may sound a little hippie (well, to some of you Westerners … not to some of you Easterners) and I am sorry if it would do that, but the one thing that would make all of that happen is love. Sure love for your friends and family, and culture, and all that you care for. But not just that, love for people, for humanity, for high values, for what you are passionate about. Love that motivates all that you do and drives your passions. Love that makes you feel good. Love when you think, love when you dream, just love. It is a simple foundation for a number of complicated, complex, chaotic sorts of endeavours through which we can influence the system(s) in which we live.
(Oups, is this a feminine way of looking at things, again? Sorry boys, you can do it too though. It is easy. Guys can be a lot more feminine than ladies actually. It is all in the mind.)

Follow your passions, always. Find what you are passionate about when it comes to sustainability, and do it, everyday. Push for your workplaces to be conducive of your passions and dreams. (See what I wrote about this, here.) Be creative, feel the energy that’s coming your way when you are and create more in a positive spiral of some sort. This is what it takes, this is what makes us human … love, passion and high values all in one motivating what we do.

On a more practical side, slow movement seems to give many useful directions. Disengage from consumerism, do not want more than what you can responsibly handle (in terms of money and wealth), eat local food, take time out to spend with friends ad family (and so no need to make money, all the time), be frugal, i.e., use money wisely and thoughtfully, with an ethical strategy in your mind. I do that, try do, when I shop. Always wonder where the ingredients and the materials come from.

On a global level, it would take the tweaking of policies here and there for individuals and corporations to start walking an ethical journey. It would take willingness and courage to do this. Hopefully that will happen, it must.


What a beautiful movie and how it unleashed thoughts I’ve been having, for a while. Long live beautiful movies, long live life, and Earth.

What is the environmental impact of producing a movie of this sort? I don’t know. I would imagine not much. Not much, if as many as possible people see it and choose to change how they think, feel and behave.


July 2018
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