Welcome to the Pons Asinorum

There is no easy fix

Entering Lonergan's Novum Organon

Facing the Reality of a Lack of Moral Courage

Joyous Insurgency & the Long Game?

A Strategy for People Celebrating Life


Feeding the collaborative wonder of mutual self-mediation is not an easy task. More art than science, it takes a certain amount of skill and training that can only be acquired through practice. Perhaps the greatest skill is listening, a focused attention to what is going on not only with each participant but with the cosmopolis-L team as a whole. And it takes time to recognize what is or is not important.

Perhaps the greatest problem preventing successful meetings is that the leader, by being in a position of control, can dominate any discussion. What happens then is that the participants either tune out, realizing that anything they say will not be heard, sabotage the meeting, or end up giving the leader with what he or she wants (groupthink).

The way out of this dilemma is to separate the two functions: leaders become responsible for the process, participants for the content. In this way, as long as the two are kept separate, people contribute freely within the context of a definite objective.

A second major reason for failed meetings is that all of us have been conditioned to pick out the flaws of any idea before anything else. There are two ways of avoiding such knee-jerk reactions: first by acknowledging that no idea is perfect and the challenge is to take an incomplete idea across the finish line, and second by initiating a formal technique call an Itemized Response (TM) such that three justified good points are pointed out before any critique and then the critique can only be presented in the form of a “how to” statement.

A third source of failure lies in an overidentification with one’s orientation so that any critique becomes an attack on the person. A useful technique to avoid this, while stressing that our current orientation is a work in progress, is by having each
participant introduce their comments with the phrase “From my current orientation, . . . “

Another dysfunctional source has to do with a participant feeling ignored, cut short, or otherwise not heard. There are a couple of ways to deal with this. If someone hasn’t been participating, ask if there is anything they want to say. If someone feels they are not being heard, either by you or by someone else in the group, point it out and have the reacting person
rephrase what the speaker said in their own words, and then ask the speaker what they caught and didn’t catch. And there are times questions are raised that are inappropriate for that point in the discussion, in which case note the occurrence, put them on hold with the proviso that you well get back to them, and then do it.

It is important to keep meetings on track. There is nothing that wastes people’s time and effort more then to have a meeting go off on tangents or personal hobbyhorses. Participants will appreciate your efforts; it will also help them to self-monitor, to keep themselves focused. Be careful though and check: perhaps the point being madeis important (don’t automatically cut if off because it seems irrelevant).

Leaders not only set the agenda for each meeting but establish the process to be used by the players in meeting the objective. They are also responsible for the overall strategy not only within each of the four basic stages but the entire process of building upon the first to achieve the last. The operational level is that of reflective understanding, a dispassionate intelligence that collects and weights the evidence for an accurate and reliable judgment.

The emphasis is not on self-will, i.e., on imposing a strategy or plan of action, but on identifying and meeting the necessities of our time. Being of service, real service, is the challenge.

The general focus is to provide the conditions for each individual to understand and practice what it means to have an unrestricted desire to know, for there are many factors that can constrain our intelligence. Sometimes persuasion is necessary; sometimes it is necessary to rely on the willingness of the participants, the players. It also includes such details as keeping track of time, making sure that meetings end at the proper time, and allowing a non-discussionable vote on 5 minute
extensions with unanimous agreement.

Although responsible for the performance of the team, leaders also work with mentors and coaches to pull out the best. In effect, the three roles or positions form a core evaluative and diagnostic group with the requisite professional level skills to generate a steady stream of cosmopolis-L groups. This advanced training is not necessary for participants, who require a working knowledge of the essentials; but it is for those seeking to enhance the formation and performance of such focused
intentional groups.

Things to Keep in Mind: Awareness

What does a team leader have to pay attention to? What can be safely ignored?

  1. Are participants able to apply Lonergan’s transcendental method of self-appropriation by being able to enter into the realm of interiority?
  2. Have they made a transition to living within the world view of emergent probability?
  3. Can they clearly and distinctly differentiate between different realms of meaning, noting when crosscontamination occurs?
  4. Humility: a willingness to listen and to learn, even if it goes against acquired beliefs.
  5. Patience: learning takes time; if people are not willing to take time they are not learning. 
  6. A sound knowledge of the various categories and cross-links of the Lonerganian Schematic: assimilation and adjustment.
  7. An assimilation of Lonergan’s notions of cosmopolis, including the problem to which it is a possible solution, and any personal adjustments that need to be made to meet this need or demand.
  8. Any evidence of specialized knowledge or interest involving key historical and geographical areas of knowledge that can be brought out and developed over time.
  9. Participants become willing to work for you if you demonstrate that you are working for them by helping in ongoing conversion and by meeting the necessities of our times.

The safest road to Hell is the gradual one—the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.

— C. S. Lewis

The Test of a Leader

Lee Iacocca

I’ve figured out nine points—not ten (I don’t want people accusing me of thinking I’m Moses). I call them the “Nine
Cs of Leadership.” They’re not fancy or complicated. Just clear, obvious qualities that every true leader should have.

A leader has to show CURIOSITY. He has to listen to people outside of the “Yes, sir” crowd . . . He has to read voraciously, because the world is a big, complicated place. . . . If a leader never steps outside his comfort zone to hear different ideas, he grows stale. If he doesn’t put  his belief to the test, how does he know he’s right?

A leader has to be CREATIVE, go out on a limb, be willing to try something different. You know, think outside the box. . . .  Leadership is all about managing change ... Things change, and you get creative. You adapt.

A leader has to COMMUNICATE. I’m not talking about running off at the mouth or spouting sound bites. I’m talking about facing reality and telling the truth. Communication has to start with telling the truth, even when it’s painful.

A leader has to be a person of CHARACTER. That means knowing the difference between right and wrong and having the guts to do the right thing. Abraham Lincoln once said, “If you want to test a man’s character, give him power.”

A leader must have COURAGE. I’m talking about balls. (That even goes for female leaders.) . . . Courage in the twenty-first century doesn’t mean posturing and bravado. Courage is a commitment to sit down at the negotiating table and talk. If you’re a politician, courage means taking a position even when you know it will cost you votes.

To be a leader you’ve got to have CONVICTION—a fire in your belly. You’ve got to have passion. You’ve got to really want to get something done. How do you measure fire in the belly? (How many vacations taken?)

A leader should have CHARISMA. I”m not talking about being flashy. Charisma is the quality that makes people want to follow you. It’s the ability to inspire. People follow a leader because they trust him. That’s my definition of charisma.

A leader has to be COMPETENT. That seems obvious, doesn’t it? You’ve got to know what you’re doing. More important than that, you’ve got to surround yourself with people who know what they’re doing.

You can’t be a leader if you don’t have cOMMON SENSE. I call this the Charlie Beacham’s rule. When I was a young guy just starting out in the car business, one of my first jobs was as Ford’s zone manager in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. My boss was a guy named Charlie Beacham, who was the East Coast regional manager. Charlie was a big Southerner, with a warm drawl, a huge smile, and a core of steel. Charlie used to tell me, “Remember, Lee, the only thing you’ve got going for
you as a human being is your ability to reason and your common sense. If you don’t know a dip of horseshit from
a dip of vanilla ice cream, you’ll never make it.” 

The biggest C is crisis
Leaders are made, not born. Leadership is forged in times of crisis. It’s easy to sit there with your feet up on the desk
and talk theory. Or send someone else’s kids off to war when you’ve never seen a battlefield yourself. It’s another thing to lead when your world comes tumbling down.

People and priorities: It’s that simple
In my forty-eight years in the auto industry, I probably made six hundred speeches about management. Since my retirement, I’ve made many more. And I’ve always said the same things: “Here’s what management in about:  Pick good people and set the right priorities.” For the most part my audiences thought they were getting their money’s worth. But sometimes I had to shake my head in disbelief. They’re paying me for that?

The point is, there’s nothing magic about it. People and priorities. It’s that simple. This advice applies whether you’re running a company or a country. If you think about it, it holds true for every organization and institution. . . . If the people are bad and the priorities are screwed up, nothing else works. Period.

Here’s the thing I learned as a CEO. You succeed or fail based on your team. If you want to succeed, you’ve got to have a group of people that knows what they are doing. Vince Lombardi was a friend of mine, and he used to tell me, “Teamwork is what makes the Green Bay Packers great. People who work together will win —period.” But he also stressed that the raw material had to be there first. You had to start with the talent.

Lee Iacocca, Where Have All the Leaders Gone?
(New York: Scribner, 2007), pp. 6-16.
Iacocca’s italics.

Civilization has been aptly called a ‘thin crust over a volcano.’ The anointed are constantly picking at that crust.

— Thomas Sowell

Basic Stages

There are four essential stages to complete a full project: conflict, dialectical analysis, foundational discernment, and engagement. Any leader needs to know what is to be achieved during each stage and how they are building together to achieve a satisfactory solution.

Actualizing freedom and liberty through ongoing conversion requires conflict, disagreement, fractions. Any cosmopolis-L project has to meet three requirements: finding blind spots, identifying rationalizations, and clearly differentiating between insights and oversights, progress and decline. All this starts with some differentiation among orientations via an encounter with true value. Without anomalies, paradoxes, differences of opinions, things go on as usual without any real learning or growth taking place.

Once a set of conflicting positions have been identified, it becomes time to set them aside and focus on understanding the issue(s) using what can be ascertained from intellectual, moral, and religious conversion. This process starts with the foundational level of the schematic, namely the world view of emergent probability, before moving on to intentionality analysis via Lonergan’s transcendental method, the invariant structure of the human good, and human life cycles. (Recovering the past.)

If the differences are truly fundamental, than the problem shifts to one of foundational discernment: within what orientation (horizon and intentions), what general and special terms and categories, what foundational positions, can positions and counterpositions be identified? Ultimately, it becomes a decision concerning true and sound terminal value. (Facing the future.)

The resulting objectified position/counterposition statement can then be used as a starting point in critiquing and intervening in the existing state of the good of order. This is itself a three-fold process of understanding the orientation of various stakeholders, evaluating and diagnosing the underlying problem(s), and estimating scope and constraints on policies and plans derived from the position statement. Then it is off to meeting intelligent people of common sense within one or more of their fundamental patterns of experience: biological, dramatic, aesthetic, and intellectual.

Handbook: Leading