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The art of possibility

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A book of practices: Rosamund Stone Zander, a leadership and relationship coach who models individuals to a life of vision, passion and contribution (File photograph)

As mentioned in our first column of 2023, we are dedicating our columns this year to those authors, books and podcasts that have been most impactful in both our work and our life. Thus, I am excited to share with you The Art of Possibility.

Several years ago, I spent the day with many others in Bermuda in a workshop led by Benjamin Zander.

Some of you may recognise Mr Zander as the conductor of the Boston Philharmonic. This day, however, there was no orchestra.

Instead, we were there to listen to Ben share the insights developed as he and his wife, Rosamund Stone Zander, were writing their bestselling book, The Art of Possibility.

The book was only recently released prior to our session in Bermuda and has been a constant on my bookshelf ever since – evidenced by yellowing pages and turned down corners.

My copy was autographed, and the introductory line on this autographed page states simply: “A book of practices”.

That is why I have repeatedly opened my now well-worn volume – practice can create possibility! How exciting is that concept? “A universe of possibility” is waiting to be explored and uncovered by expanding our mindsets and embracing practices that challenge these mindsets and existing frameworks.

The key premise that underlies the Zanders’ work is that “many of the circumstances that seem to block us in our daily lives may only appear to do so based on the framework of assumptions we carry with us. Draw a different frame around the same set of circumstances and new pathways come into view.”

They describe their book as a long song line, each chapter a variation. In this vision, each of our individual and unique expressions of thought and action play a key and constructive role in setting the directions for the groups of which we are a part.

The vision for this work is shared in the opening chapter: “Like a piece of music, this book has a long song line, a theme upon which each chapter is a variation.

“The long line portrays a world where the conflict between the individual and the collective that is intrinsic to our everyday reality resolves.

“In this vision, an individual’s unique expression plays an integral and constructive part in setting a direction for the group.

“The long line is the possibility of seeing deeply into what is best for all of us, seeing the next step. Each chapter of the book offers a separate practice for realising that vision.”

Many times, I have shared one of the stories from the book: A shoe factory sends two marketing scouts to a new territory to study the prospects of expanding.

One sends back a message that says “Situation hopeless; no one wears shoes”. The other writes back triumphantly: “Glorious business opportunity. They have no shoes”.

These differences in how the same circumstances are viewed illustrate the creative power of a perspective grounded in possibility.

There are twelve chapters in this book, each of which offers a separate practice. These practices each provide an opportunity for personal growth that can enhance not only our personal lives, but also the organisations and relationships to which we are a contributor.

The Zanders state that these practices are not about making incremental changes that lead to new ways of doing things based on old beliefs, and they are not about self-improvement.

They are geared, instead, towards causing a total shift of posture, perceptions, beliefs and thought processes.

Following is a list of the twelve breakthrough practices, which I am intentionally leaving undefined. Perhaps the titles will inspire your curiosity to explore this work, further!

It’s All Invented; Stepping into the Universe of Possibility; Giving an A; Being a Contribution; Leading from Any Chair; Rule Number 6; The Way Things Are; Giving Way to Passion; Lighting a Spark; Being the Board; Creating Frameworks for Possibility; Telling the WE Story.

The Art of Possibility was published by the Harvard Business School press as a book for both business, as well as lay audiences (including those in the arts)– a unique proposition at the time (2000).

A review of the book notes “Presenting 12 breakthrough practices for bringing creativity into all human endeavours, The Art of Possibility is the dynamic product of an extraordinary partnership.

“The authors' harmoniously interwoven perspectives provide a deep sense of the powerful role that the notion of possibility can play in every aspect of life.

“Through uplifting stories, parables, and personal anecdotes, the Zanders invite us to become passionate communicators, leaders, and performers whose lives radiate possibility into the world.”

Enjoy discovering the art of possibility, and finding the clarity that may follow as possibilities are uncovered!

Gayle Gorman, CEO, Bermuda Clarity Institute (Photograph supplied)

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Published January 30, 2023 at 7:33 am (Updated January 30, 2023 at 12:52 pm)

The art of possibility

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