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Collective Inspiration: Winter 2022 Book Reviews

Winter is a great time to curl up under a blanket and read a great book. To help inspire your winter reading, our Collective Results team shares inspiration from great books that we have read over the past few months.

Liz: Lately I have been gravitating more towards resource books where I can review small parts at a time, reflect on what I have read, and then apply the ideas. I also should mention that I mostly tend to read non-fiction books. With that being said, my non-fiction book recommendation is Rituals for Virtual Meetings by Kursat Ozenc and Glenn Fajardo. While many of us have participated in and led countless virtual meetings over the past 2 years, we may not all have the right tools or ideas on how to make virtual meetings more engaging, productive and meaningful. This book is full of activities for all types of virtual meetings to support starting and ending meetings, increasing engagement, building connections and shifting cultures. I use this book as a resource when planning different types of meetings or facilitated sessions. It has given me many great ideas that so far have been well received by the groups!

Lindsay: The book, Think Again by Adam Grant was recommended to me by one of our Directors, Liz Robson. I am only a few chapters in, but I am really enjoying it so far. Already I can tell that this is going to be one of those books I talk to while reading…meaning the profound observations shared by the author will lead me to make comments out loud, such as “That is so true” or “Yes, I can relate to that” or “Wow, that makes so much sense”. The book discusses our ability to rethink and unlearn. In the most recent chapter I read, the author talks about “the confidence sweet spot”. This occurs when someone is confident in themselves but also has humility, recognizing their weaknesses and acknowledging what they don’t know. The author uses multiple real-life examples to illustrate how the research works which keeps the reader engaged and helps to demonstrate the lesson. I am looking forward to continuing to read this book!

Michi: The book that I wanted to highlight is Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Duckworth. It resonates with me as someone who was never the most talented person on the team or the smartest person in the class but still felt driven to persevere and succeed at some of the highest levels of athletic competition and education. Grit is a combination of passion and perseverance. Duckworth argues that what we eventually accomplish may depend more on our grit than on our innate talent. Gritty people are able to focus on a top-level goal for a sustained amount of time—they remain determined to reach their goal even through adversity. What I particularly like about the concept is that grit is mutable and can be cultivated over time. The next time you are selecting someone for your team or contemplating your next hire, who should you select–the most talented or the grittiest person you can find?

Amy: I’m a voracious reader. I read mostly fiction books, and I listen to non-fiction books while walking, driving or doing chores. I have found this to be a great way to work in some personal and professional development content at times when my eyes are a bit tired. I could make book recommendations for days, but one that has gripped me recently is Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmer. This book has given me so much to reflect on about Indigenous ways of knowing, the environment, and our relationships with each other and the earth. Many parts of the book have also given me a lot of food for thought about work. There is one quote in the book “Transformation is not accomplished by tentative wading at the water’s edge” that really spoke to me. The author shared this idea in reference to work she was doing to rehabilitate a pond at her house. She was hesitant at first to embrace the muck of the pond, instead trying to do the work from the edge. She then fell in and realized she was so much more effective once she was fully immersed. There are so many parallels between this idea and the work we do around systems transformation. We must immerse ourselves in a system in order to really understand how it works, what the challenges are, and to make substantial progress towards solutions. This means experiencing systems, walking through processes, and engaging meaningfully with system participants, staff, and people who are excluded by the system. This is hard work though, and it can get messy. It is sometimes tempting to try to stay one step removed from the mess and complexity of the system. But we know that we will not accomplish true transformation unless we grapple with these things. This metaphor was so powerful for me. I’m sure I will think of it every time I start a new systems planning project and might be hesitant to get my feet wet.

Jennifer: Building on Amy’s reflections, we are working with a client who is engaged in an initiative that is truly intended to affect systemic change. They have jumped into the pond! We have been asked to evaluate this initiative and have chosen a developmental evaluation approach. The foundational book describing this approach is Developmental Evaluation by Michael Quinn Patton. This book beautifully explains that the experience of innovating often involves moving back and forth between problem and solution. A solution may initially appear ideal, but does not get at what was intended, so the problem needs to be re-examined considering what was learned in that experience. Evaluation is about critical thinking and development is about creative thinking. Often these two types of thinking are seen to be mutually exclusive, but developmental evaluation is about holding them in balance. In his book Patton explains that developmental evaluation combines the rigour of evaluation with the approach of social change innovation.

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