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It is not possible to know what’s possible.

And because this is true, we are free.

We are free to act assuming that our actions

—no matter how small—

could trigger the tipping point and set off tectonic shifts

of consciousness and creativity.


—Frances Moore Lap



It’s easy to fall into habitual ways of doing things, to rest in familiar territory. While this is essential in some respects, in many instances it can quickly limit our individual or collective vision and ability to move ahead and create lasting change.

In my work in creating sustainable communities, healthy organizations, and capable leaders, the challenge lies in finding a balance between the traditions and practices that serve us and in breaking new ground to unearth ways that we might leap forward in realizing our goals.

Next week, I’ll travel to Baltimore to participate in a gathering that remains one of my annual favorites: Creating Space is an amazing opportunity for those interested in transformative leadership to engage with one another to both share lessons learned and discover novel approaches to supporting collective efforts for social change.

Not coincidentally, this year’s theme focuses on “Breaking New Ground: Leadership Development for Social Innovation and Impact”. In “pre-flecting” on this event, I authored a guest blog post around the topic of “What Will It Take?” which pushes those participating—and the field more broadly—to be mindful of the vision we have for our communities and our world and where we might need to push further.

Innovation for breaking new ground depends upon our capacity for “creative disruption” and the tolerance or flexibility of any system—our institutions, our communities, ourselves—to accommodate and adopt that which is new. Oftentimes, systems will fight such changes by treating innovations as viral—and not in a good way. There are many organizations and neighborhoods that squelch new ideas because “we already have a way of doing that” or “that’s not the way it’s done”.

Successful attempts at breaking ground are not always disruptive—but they are creative, and art is central to pioneering alternative approaches to social challenges. At the same time, we must be able to understand and embrace complexity as we seek pathways toward addressing the issues we are working to resolve.

May 2013