Where Genius Grows

Navigating a rapidly evolving world: - What does it mean to find your voice? - How is our world changing? - What keeps society together?
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Aug 17, 2019

"I'd much rather look at the reality rather than the opinions people carry."

— Tony Quinlan

When we face intractable problems — wanting to change the trajectory of our lives and stalling, wanting to change the direction of our community and failing — an important area that we often don’t examine are the stories we tell ourselves and others. In this conversation I speak with Narrate CEO Tony Quinlan. We discuss how bringing into focus the stories that underlie our lives can open up previously unnoticed avenues for action there were always there.

Aug 1, 2019

"One of the things that we know from complexity theory — especially used in leadership — is that we can't figure it out. There is no plan that can work, necessarily. But what we can do is we can pay attention to the patterns of behavior and we can just try stuff, experiment."

— Carolyn Coughlin

Occasionally we find ourselves doing the same thing over and over again — at work, at home, with friends — and whatever we’re doing just isn’t working. When we try to control or outsmart or charm our way through this challenge, we only make matters worse. And if we do find a new approach that actually does work, we don’t have the wherewithal to sustain our efforts. Cultivating Leadership partner Carolyn Coughlin sheds light on this dynamic and offers for our consideration an approach that links complexity theory to the ideas we hold about our identity as well as the ways in which we experience our bodies.

If you were intrigued by what Carolyn has to say, you'll love this conversation in episode 56 with Carolyn's partner Jennifer Garvey Berger on adult development theory.

Readings Carolyn recommends:
Doug Silsbee, "Presence-Based Leadership"
Jennifer Garvey Berger & Keith Johnston, "Simple Habits for Complex Times"
Jennifer Garvey Berger, "Changing on the Job"
Carolyn Coughlin, "A New Resource for Cultivating Whole Leaders for Complexity"
Carolyn Coughlin, "Nine Panes, Nine Perspectives for Cultivating a Complexity-Adapted Self"
Carolyn Coughlin, "What the Mountain Taught Me about Complexity Fitness"
Carolyn Coughlin, "Three Ways to Cultivate Complexity Fitness"

Jun 26, 2019

"It is 100% based around the idea of making dreams come true and going above and beyond the regular steps of service to build an experience that will be a memory that lasts a lifetime."

— Nitiya Sin

We’ve all experienced moments in which time seems to stop. It’s as though we’re transported. To better understand what these experiences are made of, in this conversation we learn from someone who creates them. Nitiya Sin is a hospitality professional who most recently served as Concierge at the Washington, DC restaurant minibar.

May 31, 2019

"I can project, I can whisper, I can do all these kinds of things. But when I’m code-switching, there’s a mindful approach to how I want the information to be received and how I want to be perceived by this person. And I want to create connection."

— Alma Molina

How we communicate is highly dependent on where we’re communicating and with whom. The work we put into tailoring our delivery can range from hyper-intentional to largely unconscious. In this conversation, Dewey Square Group principal and multicultural communications strategist Alma Molina shares her experience in code-switching.

If you enjoyed Alma's interview, you'll find fascinating this conversation in episode 50 with Angela Hayes on respecting and appreciating diversity.

May 27, 2019

"Don't be too quick to say 'Ah, that's the issue,' or 'That's the issue with the issue.' It's just to be uncomfortable, to be ambiguous, to stay in that space until it is uncomfortable, because great awareness comes with — especially in the task-based society we live in these days — having the patience to listen."

— Magda Mook

The work we do day-in, day-out over decades shapes our bodies, our minds, and our souls. International Coach Federation CEO Magda Mook and International Coach Federation Global Board of Directors Chair Jean-François Cousin discuss with K Street Coaching founder Gideon Culman the profound impact that the work of coaching has on the coach.

If you enjoyed this interview, you'll love this conversation in episode 65 with Jennifer Garvey Berger on Unlocking Leadership Mindtraps.

May 15, 2019

"When we don’t understand ourselves well enough and when we don’t understand the ways we trip up consistently, we act as though we haven’t tripped up, and that gets us into even more trouble."

— Jennifer Garvey Berger

Jennifer Garvey Berger writes in her new book Unlocking Leadership Mindtraps about unhelpful patterns of behavior that we fall into without noticing that we’ve fallen into them. These are behaviors that treat the uncertainty, ambiguity, and change around us as though the world were more understandable, more predictable, and more constant than it is. In this conversation you'll discover some of the counterintuitive ways we can act that would be much more helpful, given the complexity and dynamism of the world.

Jennifer's latest book:

Unlocking Leadership Mindtraps:

If you enjoyed this, you'll absolutely love the first Where Genius Grows conversation with Jennifer in episode 56.

Mar 25, 2019

“Just because it’s rare, and just because somebody says it’s the best, doesn’t mean you even have to like it."

— Sarah Jane Curran

Sarah Jane Curran is the host of the podcast Beer Me! She has focused her studies on beer in culinary school and grad school, she has been a beer director at Eleven Madison Park and the general manager of DC’s Churchkey/Birch & Barley, and in this episode Sarah Jane shares with us some of the many ways in which beer makes the world a better place.

Jan 10, 2019

“The complexity we face is actually an evolutionary pressure. We evolve or we die. And we’re there. We’re there as a species, we’re there in organizations, and we develop or else. And that’s harsh, but it’s also a spiritual bootcamp. It’s a kind of evolutionary pressure on us to evolve into more complex ways of knowing, understanding, and relating, and so on. And so you can not not be in a gap. It just is the territory. And that normalizes it. It levels the playing field. There’s nothing wrong with you because you’re facing limits and meeting limits."

— Bob Anderson

Bob Anderson is the founder and chairman of the Leadership Circle and the Full Circle Group. His new book with Bill Adams, Scaling Leadership, shares surprising information about how senior leaders view leadership. In this conversation we discuss which strengths create the most effective leadership and which strengths undermine it. Bob contends that, no matter where we are, we always find ourselves in a feedback rich environment. Our challenge is to harvest the bounty of feedback and grow.

Dec 31, 2018

"If you do the work to get yourself and your group to Stage 4, where you're actually truly collaborating, you will be given offers in life to step in and participate effectively at Stage 5. This does not happen, this does not occur for the people at Stage 2 and 3. At Stage 3 they're too caught up in 'My need to dominate and control people around me' and at Stage 2 in my kind of worldview that 'I'm a victim and I can trust no one'."

— John King

John King is a rogue scholar and a founder of Cultural Architecture, Inc. as well as John King Partners. He is an author of the book Tribal Leadership, about leveraging natural groups to build a thriving organization.

Oct 4, 2018

“I always knew that this is a very complex issue and that I don’t want to go for the easy victory. And I think this is what you can very much see in the structure in how we run Germany Close Up.”

— Dr. Dagmar Pruin

Every year Germany Close Up brings 250 Jewish Americans to visit Berlin and get a close up look at a country that plays an outsized, terrifying role in their history. Learn in this interview with Dr. Dagmar Pruin about the experiences that led her to launch Germany Close Up in 2007, how over 2500 participants have added complex nuance to her views of German-Jewish relations, and the critical role this program plays in a time of fraying transatlantic ties.

Sep 29, 2018

“If you have been to a hockey game or a baseball game . . . you see a phenomenon where at some point in the proceedings a military person is recognized for their service. Always for their service. And I’m not meaning to denigrate the service that the military make, and certainly a very significant service. However, they are not the only people who are giving service to the country and to the community. Development workers often go to equally miserable places and they don’t bring guns, and they’re not wearing helmets, and they don’t have a long supply chain to take care of them. They’re living on the frontlines in khakis and a baseball cap and they get killed as frequently as military people get killed. I would love to see a day in which the Washington Capitals, or the Nationals, recognize a humanitarian relief worker for the service that they’re making to their country and to the world and for the risks that they’re taking to do that.”

— Jerrold Keilson

Jerrold Keilson is a historian of international development. This conversation details Jerrold's project to capture in a way that is immediately useful to people active in, or just entering, the field of international development the vast body of knowledge held by development pioneers who possess decades of experience. How can accessing this experience acting on it make a better world for all? Listen in and find out.

Sep 27, 2018

 “Let us not kid ourselves: These 22 volunteers alone are not going to transform the transatlantic relationship. And yet! Through their individual relationships that they build here, through the experiences that they get here, they are hopefully learning about discrimination, they are hopefully learning about political action, they are hopefully learning about the importance of intercultural communication and this transatlantic relationship that we’re talking about, and they’re taking it back to Germany, where they become part of a pool of people who share those values.”

— Mark McGuigan

Mark McGuigan is the US Program Director for Action Reconciliation Service for Peace, an organization formed in 1958 so that Germans could offer volunteer service as a means of atonement in countries affected by Germany’s role in World War II. Mark and I discuss the history and significance of Action Reconciliation Service for Peace on the occasion of its 50th anniversary of volunteer service in the United States.

Sep 11, 2018

"Exercise your witnessing muscle: Go find a good photography book and look at it long and hard. Look at the pictures and practice empathy. Practice witnessing a story that you weren’t there to see and I promise you will find yourself moved. And whatever the source of that empathy is, see if you can’t direct it to someone in your own sphere, someone physically in your own sphere — someone that you can witness, you might never thought needed to be looked at, or maybe you thought it was inappropriate to look."

— Katie Jett Walls

Documentary photographer Katie Jett Walls talks about how she has found her voice as a photographer, capturing images of the world's rapid evolution around us. We speak about the power of bearing witness, which Katie defines as being unafraid to be with someone.

Please explore Katie's work at

If you love this conversation, you will find episode 51 with Sara Taber captivating.

Sep 5, 2018

"We live in a world where your attention is the most valuable thing you have to offer. It’s in some ways even more valuable even than the money in your pocket, or even more valuable than your vote. The things you choose to allocate your attention to — the shows you watch, the news you consume, the social media platforms that you engage on and the conversations that you take part in there — those are going to be the things that shape the world around us."

— Arik Ben-Zvi
Arik Ben-Zvi is the executive managing director of the Glover Park Group, a strategic communications and government affairs firm with a global presence. In this conversation we discuss the critical faculties and the moral compass we must cultivate to navigate an increasingly complex mass media and social media landscape.
Aug 31, 2018

"We’re really interested in the plot of our lives, but we’re not as interested in the way the plot unfolds — the meaning underneath the plot. And if we were to get more interested collectively in not just what’s happening to me but making sense of what’s happening to me, that is a question that can keep you engaged forever. That question never gets old. You can ask it about anybody else in your life and it brings you closer."

— Jennifer Garvey Berger

Psychologists long assumed that our minds stopped growing after post-adolescence. Over the past four decades the field of adult developmental psychology has shifted this paradigm by mapping out how our minds continue to develop in complexity over the course of our entire lives. This is a conversation with leading theorist and practitioner Jennifer Garvey Berger about what we can do to meet the challenges of an increasingly complex world by actively developing sufficiently complex habits of mind.

Jennifer's books:
Changing on the Job:
Simple Habits for Complex Times:

If you love this conversation, you will find episode 46 with Bob Anderson fascinating.

Aug 10, 2018

“How do we change our economic thinking so that we start to become people who are living in a way that’s compatible with a sustainable planet?”

— Gray Cox

To look at the world and everywhere see strife and material consumption that our planet is unable to sustain can be demoralizing. But particularly as we stare at the prospect of likely peril, College of the Atlantic professor Gray Cox asks us to take heart and consider the simple habits of mind that are drawing us toward the brink of ecological collapse. How can we make subtle shifts in our very rationality — one person at a time — and thereby transform, and increase the odds of, continued life on earth?

Jul 31, 2018

“Listen and do your best to put yourself in someone else’s shoes. That trait is the thing that has saved lives. It’s when people cut themselves off from that recognition of the other person as a human being — that is what gets degraded when we move toward mass atrocities: one of the first steps is to remove the humanity of the other person. And so that’s a little act of resistance right there . . . to look across and see that humanity in the people around you.”

— Kate English

Kate English is the executive director of the Educators Institute for Human Rights. EIHR is an organization made up of teachers, most of whom are in the classroom full-time, who work to heal communities such as Rwanda, Bosnia, and Cambodia in the wake of mass atrocities. Learn in this episode how we all benefit from teachers focusing on human rights, genocide prevention and holocaust education.

Jul 27, 2018

“It’s important to listen both to understand the details of what happened, because remembering the victims and accepting the truth is important to survivor communities, and it’s also important just to make sure people feel heard. Sometimes it’s important for closure, sometimes it’s important as part of a process, sometimes it’s important for reasons that I’m not really sure of. But it is a very small thing we can do and it is meaningful.”

— Arthur Traldi

Arthur is a war crimes prosecutor who has worked on the international criminal tribunals for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia. In November of 2017 the international criminal tribunal for the former Yugoslavia obtained a conviction for war crimes and genocide case against Bosnian Serb commander Ratko Mladić. In this conversation you will learn how a genocide case is built and why it matters that we prosecute them.

Jul 27, 2018

“What people need to do is look at their lives through that lens ‘How much of what I do is intentional and how much of what I do is routine? How much of what I do is considered and how much of what I do is simply a function of I did it that way yesterday, I did it again today, and likely I’ll do it tomorrow?’”

— Jerry Johnson

Jerry Johnson manages relevance research at Brodeur Partners. His team helps organizations stay relevant in people's lives. In this episode Jerry discusses how to evaluate the many messages that every day appeal to our attention and our wallets. Learn how being aware and intentional about what matters to us can affect our lives.

Jul 13, 2018

“Anybody offering their truth to the world is a generous act. It doesn’t have to be perfectly wrought or perfectly abstractly conceptualized. But offering your authentic take on the world is just a gift, really. We don’t get a lot of honesty in the world. And emotional honesty is even rarer."

— Sara Mansfield Taber

Sara Mansfield Taber is a writer and a teacher of writing. She has a lucid understanding of what gets in the way of people writing well. Sara has released a book called Chance Particulars that swiftly moves us past our blocks by training our attention on the concrete details of the beautiful world around us.

Chance Particulars:

Jul 9, 2018

"Life is filled with great diversity. You see it all through nature. When we as people take the opportunity to respect and appreciate the diversity that we have as humans, we have the power to build a better and more just society."

— Angela Hayes

Angela Hayes is the owner of Collins Hayes Management and Consulting. As the communities we live in grow increasingly diverse, what can companies do to make sure they resonate with every customer they're trying to reach? In this conversation, we discuss what steps companies can take to avoid embarrassing and costly missteps, as well as how we all benefit from a focus on inclusion.

Jul 9, 2018

"I always like to say 'Stay vocal, stay local,' that focusing on the issues in your most immediate community . . . it never seems to get the recognition it deserves but it's always the most transformative role that we can play in our society."

Albert Cahn

Albert Cahn serves as the legal director for the New York chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. Albert's work recently resulted in his being barred from speaking at the temple his family has belonged to for generations. In this conversation, we speak about why it matters to civil society that interfaith relations make an effort to stretch well beyond what most people consider safe.

Jul 4, 2018

“We all do the best we can. And I think whatever someone decides to do is the right step for them. But speaking out does have an impact. And I know that sharing my story brought comfort to many women, brought accountability to one man in particular, got legislation passed, and I think served as a bit of an educational opportunity or a warning to a lot of other men. And that makes it all worthwhile. It’s all of that.”

Maryland State Senator, Cheryl Kagan

Cheryl Kagan represents Maryland State Senate District 17 in Annapolis. On March 1, 2018 she was inappropriately touched by a lobbyist. After she she called him out publicly, inspired by brave voices in the #MeToo movement, the lobbyist called her delusional and threatened to sue. Then Sen. Kagan produced video evidence and drove the legislature to pass an anti-sexual harassment law. In this interview, Sen. Kagan discusses what went into speaking up and taking action.

Mar 31, 2018

Everybody's going to have to do tax planning now. At least for the first year or two — to see what, if anything, they can do to reduce their tax obligation. Even if they're going to get a savings automatically, just from being who they are with the tax laws the way they're going to be, there may be additional opportunities for them to save even more.

 — Richard Chisholm

Richard Chisholm is a partner with tax law firm WardChisholm, P.C. In this interview we discuss the implications for taxpayers and society of the 2017 tax reform.

Mar 30, 2018

Most of us don't have literacy — we weren't trained in school to be literate — in the language of transformation, in the basic math and ABCs of transformation. So how do I learn to listen to my silent thoughts and feelings and track them down to core assumptions that are actually limiting? That if I can see them and break through, the whole game changes?

— Bob Anderson

Bob Anderson is the Founder and Chairman of The Leadership Circle and the Full Circle Group. In this interview we discuss his integration of leadership and adult developmental theory into the model underlying the Leadership Circle Profile 360 assessment.

Bob's book:
Mastering Leadership:

If you love this conversation, you will find episode 56 with Jennifer Garvey Berger fascinating.

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