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To quote from the X-Files - “The truth is out there”. However I am not sure that it is. I rarely watch Question Time these days because I am irritated by seeing so many people who believe that there is an absolute truth and that they have got it. I believe most of the troubles in the world are caused by the “Truth”. And that if we could all accept that there are many truths and that they are all in some way valid but are not superior to anyone else’s, then the world would be a more peaceful place. This absence of the “truth” is illustrated beautifully below.


Brian Goodwin recounts this story in his article “Patterns of Wholeness”

The Prince and the Magician

Once upon a time there was a young prince, who believed in all things but three. He did not believe in princesses, he did not believe in islands, and he did not believe in God. His father, the king, told him that such things did not exist. As there were no princesses or islands in his father's domains, and no sign of God, the young man believed his father.
But then, one day, the prince ran away from his palace. He came to the next land. There, to his astonishment, from every coast he saw islands, and on these islands, strange and troubling creatures whom he dared not name. As he was searching for a boat, a man in full evening dress approached him along the shore.
"Are those real islands?" asked the young prince.
"Of course they are real islands," said the man in evening dress.
"And those strange and troubling creatures?"
"They are all genuine and authentic princesses."
"Then God also must exist!" cried the prince.
"I am God," replied the man in full evening dress, with a bow.
The young prince returned home as quickly as he could.
"So you are back," said his father, the king.
"I have seen islands, I have seen princesses, I have seen God," said the prince reproachfully.
The king was unmoved.
"Neither real islands, nor real princesses, nor a real God, exist."
"I saw them!"
"Tell me how God was dressed."
"God was in full evening dress."
"Were the sleeves of his coat rolled back?"
The prince remembered that they had been. The king smiled. "That is the uniform of a magician. You have been deceived."
At this, the prince returned to the next land, and went to the same shore, where once again he came upon the man in full evening dress.
"My father the king has told me who you are," said the young prince indignantly. "You deceived me last time, but not again. Now I know that those are not real islands and real princesses, because you are a magician."
The man on the shore smiled. "It is you who are deceived, my boy. In your father's kingdom there are many islands and many princesses. But you are under your father's spell, so you cannot see them."
The prince returned pensively home. When he saw his father, he looked him in the eyes.
"Father, is it true that you are not a real king, but only a magician?"
The king smiled, and rolled back his sleeves.
"Yes, my son, I am only a magician."
"Then the man on the shore was God."
"The man on the shore was another magician."
"I must know the real truth, the truth beyond magic."
"There is no truth beyond magic," said the king.
The prince was full of sadness.
He said, "I will kill myself."
The king by magic caused death to appear. Death stood in the door and beckoned to the prince. The prince shuddered. He remembered the beautiful but unreal islands and the unreal but beautiful princesses.
"Very well," he said. "I can bear it."
"You see, my son," said the king, "you too now begin to be a magician."

You can read the full article which gives a potted history of complexity at


"The opposite of knowledge is not ignorance but believing that you know
something when you do not."

*** David Gurteen Knowledge Consultant ***

"A man can fail many times, but he isn't a failure until he begins to blame
somebody else."

*** John Burroughs ***

"Faced with the choice between changing one's mind and proving that there is no need to do so, almost everybody gets busy on the proof"

*** Galbraith ***

Conversation Cafés

I have mentioned in my previous newsletters about “trojan thinking” which is an informal networking event held on the first Thursday of every month at Planet Coffee here in Hull. Recently I have been reading about Conversation Cafés which seem very similar to “trojan thinking” To quote from the Plexus Newsletter

“Conversation cafés are an intentional way to create a living network of conversation around questions that matter. A Conversation café is a creative process for leading collaborative dialogue, sharing knowledge and creating possibilities for action in groups of all sizes. When we consciously focus attention on "questions that matter"--for our families, organizations, and communities--we are contributing to the evolution of the knowledge and wisdom that we need co-create the future. We "grow what we know" individually and collectively. We notice the possibilities for mutual insight, innovation, and action that are already present, if only we know where to look.

People who have conducted conversation cafés have described these sorts of powerful conversations as having passion, energy, insightfulness, authenticity and the presence of new perspectives.”

If you want to know more try these links

“The Birth of the World Café”
“Connecting Diverse People and Ideas”
“Conversation Cafés: A Guide to Better Understanding”
“Conversation as a Core Business Process”
“Conversation Cafés: A Guide to Better Understanding”
Also Dave Guteen organizes a Knowledge Café – more details at


In the McKinsey Quarterly there is an article by Martin Bower about "The way we do things around here" It is an old article but still very relevant today.

This link takes you to the latest newsletter on Culture and Complexity by the MHA Institute.
(click on “Hot of the press: Infomine”)

A site relating to the “Corporate Soul”
A site about the changes that will affect corporations over next decade
A site about “Enlightenment” with several articles about different ways of thinking
The site of Dee W Hock and his “Chaordic Organisations”


The Open University and The Complexity Society Present
A Conversation with Brian Goodwin
Explorations of Complexity - A Science of Qualities

Tuesday 8th April at the Open University, Milton Keynes.

The morning provides an opportunity to hear about Brian Goodwin's own
research and some of the biological contributions underpinning complexity
science. He will talk about his thinking on the implications complexity
has for organisations and society, especially the moral and spiritual
implications of complexity ideas.

In the afternoon there will be an Open Forum led by Elizabeth McMillan of
the Open University and Frank Smits of Symphoenix Ltd. This will explore
the themes developed during the morning and the implications they have for
the way we structure and manage organisations.

Time: 10.00am - 4.30pm
Location: Systems Seminar Room, Venables Building, Open University campus,
Milton Keynes.
Fees: £20 for members of the Open University Complexity Science Research
Centre and members of the Complexity Society. £45 to non members.

To book please send your name and address and any membership details, with
your cheque made payable to 'The Open University', to Marlene Gordon. DPP,
The Centre for Complexity & Change, Technology Faculty, The Open
University, Walton Hall, Milton Keynes, MK7 6AA.
“The Meme Machine” by Susan Blackmore
Jokes, fads, rumours and many other things spread quickly and widely among people. How so? Zoologist Richard Dawkins, in The Selfish Gene, coined the word "meme" for the entity that might play the role of gene in the transmission of words, ideas, faiths, mannerisms and fashions. It is not a physical entity, as far as anyone knows, but a characteristic trait of the human brain. "The thesis of this book," Blackmore writes, "is that what makes us different [from other animals] is our ability to imitate." Memes, she says, "are stored in human brains (or books or inventions) and passed on by imitation." They can pass vertically, as from parent to child, or--unlike genes--horizontally in peer groups and obliquely as from uncle to niece. Each of us is a meme machine. A lecturer in psychology at the University of the West of England, Blackmore carries the idea far, examining the role of memes in such phenomena as the evolution of the enormous human brain, the origins of language, "our tendency to talk and think too much," altruism, and the evolution of the Internet.
“Turning to one another: Simple conversations to restore hope to the future” by Margaret J. Wheatley
Wheatley has turned to one of humankind’s earliest forms of communication – talking and listening - together. “I believe we can change the world if we start listening to one another again,” she writes. “Simple, honest, human conversa-tion . . . . where we each have a chance to speak, we each feel heard, and we each listen well.” She describes her inspiration in nature and complexity: “Nature organizes much more effectively than we humans do, and quite differently. For example, life works cooperatively, not competitively. . .” she writes. She also sets out the beliefs that support her conversational approach. Reflecting an understanding of the quantum nature of our universe, Ms Wheatley observes “Relationships are all there is.”

“Changing conversations in organizations: A complexity approach to change” by Patricia Shaw
One can mount a strong case that at its essence an organization is simply many conversations – conversations that produce both stable and novel patterns. With this view, changing an organization necessarily involves changing conversations. Such an approach to change is the fascinating and important topic explored by Patricia Shaw in the latest publication in the series on Complexity and Emergence in Organizations, a book called Changing conversations in organizations: A complexity approach to change Shaw contrasts a conversational approach to change with the intentionally designed, goal-directed processes developed over the years in the organisational development field. She calls for us to pay much more attention to everyday conversations and encounters, to appreciate their strategic value. And in this context she explores various approaches to conversations that are conducive to fostering creative endeavors and action:

And Finally

To finish where we began – May your magic go with you.

Best wishes