Inspiring Organizational Transformation and Leadership: A Breakout Session at the 2008 Global Philanthropists Circle Annual Meeting

A Breakout Session at the 2008 Global Philanthropists Circle Annual Meeting, September 23, 2008, The Rockefeller University Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Dining Room, New York City

Main Speakers
Miha Pogačnik, Violinist and President and Founder of Institute for Development of Intercultural Relations through the Arts
Peggy Dulany, Founder and Chair, Synergos

Miha Pogačnik simulates common workplace scenarios through the introduction of concepts, drawing and music. He takes the group through an interactive journey to raise awareness of individual and collective behaviors that often cause tension and then creates the conditions that create space for reflection on purpose for improved performance and well-being.

MIHA POGAČNIK: Violence. Everybody running around, because you are impressed with people if they run around.

Panic. Fear.


So what do the executives do then, as a result of death?


GPC Members Cynthia Hardy and Amy Brakeman with Miha Pogačnik

So they, “Listen to me: ah, ah, ah.” And death, this is the corporate cycle. Can you see? Pressure, panic, more pressure and death, and then they make a merger. Yeah. The typical corporate cycle, you know, pressingon people, people getting scared, financial crisis like today everybody is running around, losing jobs and fear, of course that is death.

This I call Titanic Syndrome. You know, when Titanic was going down, they still had music in first class. So this is Titanic Syndrome, and things go down, people get scared and say, “make business,” so they go in the offices. But we are actually like a frog, you know, more and more work. So do you get the point?

Let me go on, because we want to save time for Peggy, what she was commenting on. So I will play again. Way out of this. Or maybe I should analyze a little bit.

Let me analyze. So what happened here, what happened here?


So what happened here? Do you remember it was 1, 2, 3, go.

And now, because it is fear, it is only 1-2, go, 1-2, go, and then 1,1,1,1,1-Death.

Yeah. So and it goes down, ya?


So you see, this is called bottom line, where there is fear. People drop everything that is idealistic and they only watch bottom line and of course they end up down there under the sea. So that’s a problem. So what’s the way out of this dilemma? There’s only one way, and this is called Let Go.

Yeah? Let go is the way of going forward. Some of you who are married, you know what I am talking about! I don’t mean divorce, but you know, let go, let other ones have their way as well. So it’s letting go, it sounds like this.


Up to here now. Did you notice the reason, because a new beginning was created, a very different attitude suddenly enormous expansion happened. And here, that attitude was disaster. So, which means, after that goal, it means you have to start again with the same idea from a different position. How was the beginning?


That was the beginning. And now?


See, it is an octave higher. It says, if it doesn’t go, then you say to yourself, let me try to look at it from the bird’s perspective, from the big picture. Let’s see how that can unfold. And it is a new structure. What is the structure like?


Do you hear? It was canon. Somebody starts, and the next one says, “Oh, that’s interesting.” The first one says, “What about that?” “Hmm, why not?” There’s a, “Let’s try that.” Why not? Then the third one comes and says, “What are you talking about?” They say, “We won’t tell you.” “Oh, [Then we’re going to (the) internet. What do you mean?” So it is now a totally different structure with the same idea, which means we go on a journey, having fun, exploring, looking at it from a different perspective, great grapevine express, you know? What is it-flat organization? Yeah. These all wonderful things that we are all dreaming of in our organizations. Not talking to people. Yeah, so listen again how much fun there is, start two and the third comes.


Now the third one.


Three together!


Now starts from bottom up.


So, for instance, we are so fixed on doing things from top-down always. No. What about starting bottom-up? You know, you ask janitors, when they clean at night, what did they find out? They know everything about the executives, because they can see what they left behind. So.


What happened, what happened? You went away from this idea, something like this, because you know if you have a great idea, and you know that very well I’m sure. If you have a great idea, and you keep telling people the same things for a while, then they open umbrellas and go around you like that. You know, you can do it only for a while. And then they just make a detour, because they can’t stand it. You have to be an artist, at what time you draw up your idea and go on productive detour. You go away. So music goes away, because it’s not ready yet.


It is so different, no? What is it?


What is this?


Did anybody go to dentist in the last week or so? Yes? How does it feel?


This is the interval that was forbidden in music. It was the devil in music. It’s very, very shrill, very tense.


And you know they forbade it because it was you know the Middle Ages


It needs to be resolved.


It’s like breath. You can hold it for awhile, but then you die if you don’t let go. So, [PLAYS VIOLIN] you hold the breath and then [PLAYS VIOLIN].

It’s very archetypal. No. The first thing when you are born, what happens? You take big breath, and then you cry and scream. And then seven years later, you know, the last thing you do break out and everything is nice. So you see, this kind of tension, you’re happy to break.

So tension and resolution [PLAYS VIOLIN] and that is what makes you now enter the organizational or personal development. To go into tension, to go into file, and that’s usually missing in new processes. People don’t know how to access this whole world of feelings and emotions and all. So this is what music now starts doing! [PLAYS VIOLIN] What’s that?


But it’s the old general coming, you know? They noticed the organization. There are some people going forward, what do they do? Well, they give them assignment, a performance report or something, to keep them back. So, if you do this, if you start working with feelings, expect a lot of opposition, a lot of resistance. That’s the right sign that you’re on the right path. Resistance is coming!


Gets more intense now, huh?

More intense.


Now comes the midlife crisis! So, this is for artists. I don’t have the right kind of stuff, because it’s very dangerous for you back here. No. This, what happens here now, and I’m playing this on the D-string which you hear, is this D. Look, this is D. [PLAYS VIOLIN] And then, [PLAYS VIOLIN] in the fire. So, this happens usually in mid-life. Now you all have a lot of experience and know what I’m talking about.

But it’s more than mid-life crisis. It is a situation like when you come to the moment when you say to yourself, “Now or never.” And repeat that. You know, because if you don’t do it now, it’s forever lost. So it’s now or never. So you take every energy you have to get through this. It sounds like fire, no? Because the danger is that this spot, that this place, in biography of the entrepreneur, here you are like a teenager. You know, you push around, it’s fun. Here, you start discovering the other people around you. So then you come to this fire, and here many people give up when they come to the mid-life. So they see this fire coming, and what do they do? They go below, bottom line of life, and they become normal. So they become normal people. And you know, normal people, that’s really very sad. You know what normal people are like? Predictable, all the same. So that nobody wants to become normal.

Really the challenge is to go to the fire, let the fire do the job, and you come out with what?

MAN: Terrified!

MIHA POGACNIK: Yes, in essence. Thank you very much. Next time you come with me to therapy.

MAN: You have too much energy for me.

MIHA POGACNIK: The point is, you know, I always make the managers sing with me and scream, but we won’t do that today. We don’t have to. But, going into fire, somebody said to me once, “Well, you turn into fire. If you turn into fire, you could easily go in and out of fire, no problem.” So that it is secret, no? How to turn into the fire to go through and come to the other side through the ashes. Now let’s see what happens.

[PLAYS VIOLIN] So, repeat -- [MAKES NOISES] I make the questions, you don’t see that.

So, and the last one is the zero point. I call this last chord, can you hear this last chord? We are almost there.


Can you hear how empty it is?


Here, I make zero for that. I call it a “sacred zero point in life” -- heiliger Nullpunkt German.

Yeah, usually what happens in biography, end of the 40s. Sacred Zero Point. You could call this productive resignation. Do you know this term, productive resignation? This is one of the best leadership terms. Please, listen to this. Productive resignation means, you know, those people who resign take money and go, they are actually criminals. What really resignation means is to productively resign, like in Chinese they call it the Tao. Tao means you go into the thing even more, so much that you disappear. You are not there anymore. You are there, but you are not felt. That’s the real Leader. So you are so much present that everybody has space to step in. I call it “Secret of God.” You know, it’s very interesting. So this is the state when you arrive here.


And then you can continue, because Bach says here, just look people, this was all detours. All detours. Bach says, if you want to continue, you have to remember what you started with--what was your original idea? Because you forgot about this? So he says,


So he brings again original statement here, and everything moves to the next level. And this is significant also in biography, because in our lives, when we are young, we know what we want to do. And then they talk us out of it. Somebody says, “Oh, you should study engineering, you know? If you’re an artist. You’d never have money. Or be a doctor, you know? A good solid profession.” Then we are stalling for 40 years. And when you turn 50, you say, “Something’s missing. Something really is missing.” You are not there yet, but you will get there quickly.

Yeah, but you will say, “Something’s missing. What’s missing?” Well your old, original, absolute essence is missing. And then, if you know how to integrate that, then your profession becomes charismatic. You become a charismatic doctor, or you are a charismatic engineer. It doesn’t matter profession. But suddenly, a shine comes out of you, because now, it goes very differently from now on. Now we are back in childhood. Now, this mantra is called “Let come.” Now is the moment in life when you stop benchmarking, you stop looking back at what the other is doing. Now you are only answering to the call. Because you’re unique. Now understand. Now you went into fire, all the extra luggage is gone, and now you went to zero point, and now you’re unique. Nowyou can do whatever we want, and you don’t look back.

So how does it sound? Remember the beginning.

Beginning [PLAYS VIOLIN].

This is minor key music. The minor key, it’s negative, it says, yesterday! That’s beginning. And now, what comes here? The opposite.

Start at the bottom. [PLAYS VIOLIN]

Exact opposite. It goes bottom-up. It is positive. It is beautiful, it is like the sun. So it is a rising sun, but it is a special sun, that I call a musical sun. Let me explain that to you. And I’ll make it a little nicer, you know, after the artists are dead, they are very expensive. So I will make art for you, you can sell it after I am dead. So, the sun.

Do you see what kind of sun I make? With the rays coming from periphery. So, if you choose to remember something from this session, just remember this. I call this “Peripheral Leadership Style.” It means that at this stage, you stop telling people what to do; you just become that yourself. And suddenly, after a while, you have to suffer, to wait. You have to wait. You cannot immediately expect results. But you wait, and after a while suddenly, it starts coming to you from the periphery, what you want, without telling. This is a beautiful moment. I call it “sacred” because it’s like paradise on earth, because you have not said what to do. So this is beautiful. It’s called “Peripheral Style,” because you do it, and then you wait. And suddenly, it’s arising from everywhere. It’s a musical kind of conscientiousness. And that is what makes it possible for the whole process to finish and go into the final phase of integration, an organic kind of state, where all the elements come together.

Now, the last stage, and then I’ll play for you, and then I’m done.

[PLAYS VIOLIN] Do you recognize it? The first element was tense.

So chaotic element starts the process of integration.


This is the same you recognize here, you remember? Oh this one’s base. And the question. They all come together. [PLAYS VIOLIN] Poder in Spanish, you know, power? Remember here, power. We have to give this power. So, power element goes in, and then you’re almost done.

[PLAYS VIOLIN] Recognize that, here? Remember, I call this love. Love quality. And interestingly, I always ask myself the question, “Why does power and love appear almost at the same time?” And to me, it seems like almost if you have power, it’s useless unless you also know how to love. It’s related. Only power without love, it can be very destructible, cold, or something like that. So they come together, and create a finale.


And then, the last thing before the end, [PLAYS VIOLIN]. So you recognize the pattern, right? It’s the same original pattern, except now it has changed into question. The beginning was [PLAYS VIOLIN].

And the beginning it says, “I know it all; and you do it No? And, at the end it says, [PLAYS VIOLIN].

It says, “I don’t know.” So it’s significant that at the end of the masterpiece comes the identity question that asks itself: who are you? Sort of like looking back at yourself and saying, “What is this all about?” It takes such a long time until you come to the question of questions, which I call “Question of Questions.” And that is the final stage, and that everything comes to a conclusion. So, big question, and then everything comes to conclusion.


So, that’s finished.

So the last thing you see, of course, I call “Capital.” At the end comes the real strength, which of course is not money, but capacity, the capabilities in every moment in life to do the right thing. So this is how I, for instance, can trace the process of a masterpiece. And take any of them, of the great symphonies. You will always see these deep and intense meaning that goes through stages and go through transformations. And I think that most companies, who say if they go on transformation, they go on rearrangement trip. They rearrange things. And to transform it. And, we’d like to hand over to you to transform this, to go into the risk of fire, of the real, inner, real making of totality. So that’s what I want to share with you. Now, it takes seven minutes, but I would like to do it again, and play it once through, because it’s horrible what I did. So may I just play once for you, and then--are we on time? How much is left? 15. Well, oh, let’s then talk about it, and then maybe at the end I’ll play. Let’s now talk, because I would like really to have a chance to speak about this.

WOMAN: I will get into the fire!

Peggy Dulany, Founder and Chair of Synergos and Co-Founder of the Global Philanthropists Circle

PEGGY DULANY: So I mean, the first time I heard Miha, it was actually at the Schwab Social Entrepreneur’s Meeting in Zurich. And those of you who have been around Synergos long enough, know that we’ve been working on our own transformation through something called the “U-Process.” And so here was this guy I’d never heard of before up there doing something, drawing this completely chaotic thing, but in which there was a clear “U” and what he was describing actually had some resonance with what Joseph Jaworski and Otto Scharmer and others talked about as a way of group or societal transformation in which the left side of the “U” is observing learning, kind of trying to figure out what their present situation is, and then there’s a retreat from the actual sort of day to day to reflect deeply, both individually and as a collective on what is my key purpose in life there in the fire.

And then, actually, we do this, the Global Philanthropist Circle, for those of you who haven’t been part of it, take retreats on my ranch in Montana in the summer in which we actually go through this process. Everybody spends three days alone in the wilderness. But, alone but on the same mountain.

And so there’s a sense of unity at the same time that there’s a sense of separateness. And when people come back together, this is the fascinating thing I can hear in the music and hear in your experience. When people come back together, first of all, the reflection has been very cleansing, even if it’s been painful. You left out the painful part.

Thank you Miha.

POGAČNIK: Thank you.