Why ’10 Circles’?

10 Circles as name for this site and my ongoing work came to me intuitively as way describe what I experienced high-functioning groups do at their peak—cross multiple frames of reference (circles) to see and act from the whole.

Each of approaches a situation, idea, or challenge from our own frame of reference. In fact we use multiple frames that reflect different aspects of our personal experience. In a bit of poetic license, I am calling these frames, circles of reference.

Here are some of the typical circles that individuals I work with on collaborative efforts think and act from:

  • Individual story: our personal history and experience.
  • Identity: the location of our individual story in the wider community. Identity is a powerful circle (and depending on the setting multiple cirlces) and includes gender, race, religion, age, sexual orientation among many others.
  • Occupation/training: the specific set of perspectives and mental models given to us by our training—think the mindset of the farmer, carpenter, dentist, accountant, economist, or business executive.
  • Politics: the individual as a political being which evokes the ongoing tension of individual rights vs. collective obligations and traditional progressive and conservative divides.
  • Role/responsibility: since I often work with people who represent others as advocates or stakeholders, role and title become an important circle. The perspective of the chief sustainability officer is quite different from the director of procurement and more different still from the executive director of a community non-profit organization.
  • Geography: the location of the individual or organization in actual space. This circle often evokes the tension between local, regional, national, and global perspectives.
  • Species: the identification with problems from a human perspective which is often in tension with a broader ecological view point or the perspectives of other species.
  • Time: the individual actor located in a particular time. Many groups tend to look at problems from a short-term viewpoint and discount the interests and needs of the future.
  • Inspirational: the individual as connected to her deepest source of inspiration and creativity.
  • Aspirational: the individual as connected to her deepest aspiration for herself and all people.

This is not a rigid schema, rather a rough map of the territory as I have experienced it. Any of us can operate out any of the circles at any point and many of us can operate from many of them at the same time.

Deeply effective change processes and systems leaders can incorporate the wisdom and perspectives of many circles at one time. These processes and leaders push their boundaries and the boundaries of others to help us see simultaneously multiple individual circles and the widest possible aspirational circles. From this multi-circle view comes the real solutions to the challenges that we face.

Ranier Maria Rilke described reaching for this trans-circular this way:

I live my life in widening circles that reach out across the world. I may not complete this last one but I give myself to it.

10 Circles is ultimately my own effort to share what I have gleaned about widening my own circles. It is dedicated for the benefit of all.

Circles image by Brad Avison from the Noun Project